Before you take that summer vacation or deal with an unexpected family emergency that鈥檚 going to take you out of the office for a few days, there are a few final things you need to take care of. You鈥檝e gotta fill your boss in on the status of your current projects, return any outstanding phone calls, and check the final empty box on that all-too-full to-do list. You鈥檝e gotta wave goodbye to your work BFF and grab all of your lunch leftovers from the fridge. And last, but certainly not least, you鈥檝e gotta make sure you鈥檝e posted an out-of-office (OOO) email message so that people aren鈥檛 shouting into the void when they reach out to you over the course of your absence.

It seems like a fairly simple process, but 鈥渟imple鈥 doesn鈥檛 always mean 鈥渆asy鈥 or 鈥渋ntuitive.鈥 In the interest of helping you continue to do things flawlessly, we鈥檝e brought in an expert to share some specific dos and don鈥檛s of the OOO. Claire Bissot 鈥 a senior professional in human resources and managing director for CBIZ HR Services 鈥 offers some practical advice to ensure you鈥檙e heading into your time away as professionally as possible. Keep scrolling for all of her tips.

The Dos

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1. Do keep it short and sweet. You can squeeze all of the necessary information into a nice, concise package. Use this as your rule of thumb, and keep reading for all the specifics on how to pull it off effectively.

2. Do specify the time period. This is less important if you鈥檙e only posting an OOO message for a long weekend, but if you鈥檙e planning for a longer absence, Bissot recommends that you explain clearly when the recipient can expect to hear back from you. Include an exact date 鈥 not just 鈥淚鈥檒l be back next Tuesday!鈥 鈥 so there鈥檚 no doubt.

3. Do use a different message for internal and external senders. Popular email platforms like Microsoft Outlook allow you to set a different auto-reply for people who work within your organization versus those who work outside of it. This is worth considering, especially if you鈥檙e tempted to make your OOO fairly informal. Your colleagues can stand to get something a little more relaxed and detailed (with more backup contacts, etc.). But even then, keep things professional. One of the big bosses could still receive it!

4. Do include contact information for a colleague. Make sure recipients know who else they can contact on your team while you鈥檙e AFK, particularly if you鈥檙e going to be away for more than three days or if you鈥檙e planning to totally disconnect from phone and email while you鈥檙e gone.

5. Do give people advance warning. Bissot recommends that you add a line about your upcoming OOO time to your email signature two weeks prior to any absence longer than one week and one week prior to any absence longer than one day. 鈥淭his helps significantly with the volume of emails while you are out, as most people want to get what they need you for [done] before you鈥檙e out of the office,鈥 she explains.

The Don鈥檛s

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1. Don鈥檛 give a lot of details. While you want responses to emails to feel complete even while you鈥檙e on vacation, you don鈥檛 owe anyone TMI in terms of where you are or why you鈥檙e out. It might feel friendly and personable to drop a mention of your vacation destination, but your email responder is not the right place for it. If you鈥檙e away from your desk for an unplanned reason, keep things vague with a line like 鈥渇amily emergency鈥 or 鈥渦nexpected absence.鈥

2. Don鈥檛 overwhelm your colleagues with additional emails unless it鈥檚 necessary. Yes, we did recommend above that you include back-up contact information for a colleague who can help the email鈥檚 recipient in your absence, but allow us to play the other side for a hot sec. Keep in mind that any one of your coworkers who is looped into your OOO will likely have a lot of (potentially not urgent) extra work heaped into their inbox while you鈥檙e away. If there鈥檚 a way to avoid this, you should! Assuming you鈥檙e not taking a major vacation and will be checking your email, or if you鈥檒l only be out of the office on a Friday when you don鈥檛 expect there to be any urgent issues, you can probably skip the coworker contact info.

3. Don鈥檛 wait until the last minute. You might want to consider setting up your auto-responder one day before you actually leave the office. This will give you a little padding so you can focus exclusively on highly important emails before you pack up for your time away.

How do you phrase your OOO message? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)