Engaging While You Are Away

In a post earlier this summer, we looked at a few out-of-office messages that are a bit more creative than the standard email stating the duration of time away and generic languge thanking the author for understanding. The key take away from that post is that we have several opportunities to engage others, and that engagment can be asyncronous.

Email can be like a bumpersticker, in that it tends to be a proclamation instead of a conversation. However, if you take a deliberate approach with your email, especially out-of-office replies, you can engage people even when you are not at your desk.  As a follow-up from the post at the beginning of the summer, we thought it would be fun to bookend that post with a few more creative ways to engage others with out-of-office replies.

Interesting Reads

What is on your professional bookshelf right now? We should always push ourselves to have at least one book we are currently reading to grow as professionals. Sharing your reading list not only pushes others to keep up with the industry, it also pushes you to keep updating your list.

Thanks for your message. I am spending the week on the beach without my laptop or phone. While I am disconnecting and catching up on my reading by the ocean, you may be interested in catching up on your reading as well. Here are some books our team is reading to stay on the bleeding edge of our industry.

The Accidental Instructional Designer (Cammie Bean)

Make It Stick (Peter C. Brown)

Performance-Focused Smile Sheets: A Radical Rethinking of a Dangerous Art Form (Dr. Will Thalheimer)


What Are You Up To?

Team retreats and conferences take us away from our desks to achieve some sort of goal. Auto-replies in this situation give a chance to let people know why you are out-of-office and what goals you are striving to achieve. If you are speaking at a conference, add information about your topic and session information. If you are at a retreat, let others know what outcomes you expect from the meetings.

Thanks for your message. Our team is working together this week to put the finishing touches on our new tool, Soapbox. To keep focus on this exciting tool, we are eliminating distractions and avoiding email during most of retreat.

To check out what we we are working on, see more information about Soapbox by visiting this link.


A pithy email can usually take care of most of the information that is in an auto-reply. A Haiku with some follow-up information is a great

Subject: How about a Haiku?

I am out this week

Relaxing, no email

Be back on Monday

Did you know writing haikus is a great approach to anchor activities in training? Check out this blog post for this and other activities to add to your next training.


As you take vacation time and long weekend over the next few months, what will be your approach to auto-replies? Are you really using these tools or are you just staying connected all of the time? Let’s talk about that and anything else on your mind about this topic in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “Engaging While You Are Away

  1. Great article! Since I’m one of the “generic” out-of-office auto reply people, I really like the idea of adding something to the message to keep people engaged – and remembering you! I’ve learned how to disconnect without guilt, and for people who haven’t yet learned how to disconnect without feeling guilty or having a panic attack (haha), this practice can help them feel like they’re not slacking off and can give them a sense that they are still giving others access to them, and staying connected with work related individuals. Kudos!

    • You bring up a good point, Laura. I wonder how many people actually disconnect and how many check their email daily (or more often) while away. Taking this approach may help ease that anxiety. There is a lot of cultural issues that go along with staying connected, but this can be a good first step.

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