The automatic email response – aka, the autoresponder - has become a ubiquitous part of our tech-driven society. When we’re away or tied up in meetings, having the ability to instantly let people know we’re not available allows us to feel that we’re being attentive and responsible. However, not all autoresponders are created equal. If yours doesn’t have the following components, it may be doing more harm than good:

A pleasant greeting. Your autoresponder should be pleasant and reflect your personality. Thank people for writing and assure them they will be taken care of in your absence.

An indication of why you’re unavailable. If you’re on vacation, let people know – they’ll be more likely to respect your away time. If you’re at an important conference or industry event, consider mentioning that as well. Business associates may be at the same event and can seek you out while there.

A clear explanation of your availability. There’s a big difference between checking email a few times a day and not checking email at all – so let people know exactly if and when they can expect to hear from you.

An alternative. Give clear direction as to who people can contact in your absence. Be sure to provide a colleague’s email and phone number – don’t forget the extension.

A solution for urgent matters. Consider leaving your mobile number for those who need to reach you in an emergency.

A date when you’ll be back in action. Let people know the date or time when you’ll be back and able to manage your email again.  

When executed properly, autoresponders can be a great way to reflect your professionalism and commitment to those you deal with. Spend a little time and put some polish on your next one—and don’t forget to turn it off as soon as you’ve returned.