Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at news-sentinel.com.
Q. Karen, what type of message, if any, should an entrepreneur with a home office do if he or she leaves on vacation out of cellphone range?
Because of the capabilities of the iPhone, I'm aware that clients now expect us to check our messages —even though we have the requisite “out of the office” tag on our emails and voice mails. They don't expect people to be out of cellphone range.
A. These days of instant and constant communication have made many in the business world impatient with the expectation that everyone should be available 24/7. However, that is not the case and, in fact, I don't recommend making yourself available every minute of every day. Whether you work from a home office or a more traditional one, maintain business hours — 8 a.m.-5 p.m. We all need a break from our daily work routines. Taking that break helps refresh us and allows us to give some undivided attention to other aspects of our lives.
So, here are some ways to graciously become unavailable:
•Put an auto response on your email with a date as to when you will be able to respond to messages. If you have an assistant and he or she can field your messages, leave that email address as an option.
•Change your voice mail response. Let callers know that you are out of the office and when you will be available to return calls. If you have an assistant who is managing your calls, leave that number.
•Don't give out too much information as to where you are. For instance, broadcasting that you are out of the country can pose a security risk for your home.
•Tell anyone taking your calls and messages to just say that you are out of the office until a certain date. Again, avoid offering too much information.
•Also, it is important to keep in mind that people who work from a home office are really working every day. They may have more flexibility than in traditional settings and that is one of the beauties of working from home, but be as respectful of their time and schedules as you would with anyone else. If you learn that someone is out of the office and not returning calls and emails until a certain date, then don't expect a response until that time. If you get one sooner, it's a bonus.