Notifying who is In-Office or Out-of-Office

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January 2, 2008

We are a 600 employee company with at least 15-25 members being out of office at any given business day due to reasons beyond control like:

  1. Out for work
  2. Personal Days
  3. Vacation
  4. Maternity Leave
  5. Sick Days
  6. Jury Duty
  7. Military Obligations

There are multiple instances when other team members have some work with a person who is out of office (on that very day). We have set appropriate policies for employees who are out of office. They need to:

  1. Fill out an out of office form and submit it to the HR after approval from their Team Leads
  2. Update their Email with an Auto-Responder (Vacation Message)
  3. Set the External and Internal Greeting in the Phone System describing the out of office message
  4. Send an email to a predefined out of office designated email address which notifies the team leads.

What we realized is that our method of communication was only a two way communication where-in the employee taking an out of office leave is communicating it only to the HR and the Team Lead. The problem lies when a colleague of the out of office employee tries to contact the employee. This is what happens:

  1. The caller remains uncertain whether the out of office colleague is out on a break for coffee or is out of office
  2. There is wastage of time and effort due to the fact that the caller assumes that the other employee will respond to the callers needs in a timely fashion (which is not going to be the case)

To eliminate this confusion we have:

  1. Designed an module on our intranet website “Helpdesk” which will allow all employees to see a list of employees out of office.
  2. The HR team has access to add/modify this list daily (hence keeping this list updated all the time)
  3. We run periodic reports to check whether the data on the Helpdesk matches with our Payroll system (thus keeping both the systems integrated together)

With appropriate planning and policy definitions we have been able to educate all our company members the new policies and are able to save employee time by displaying them who is In-Office and who is Out-of-Office.

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