Read Thanks for your email // Part 1. I maintain out of office messages are some of the most boring and annoying emails you can get. Either the person you’ve emailed are on holidays #jealousy or they’re sick – both of which don’t help your cause. You sent them an email because you needed their assistance. I try to look on the bright side. If you make your out of office a little entertaining, your colleagues/clients will excuse your absence – and maybe even ask how your holidays was! #win Join my cause – make a change for the better. Offices need more humour. Start small and go from there. A few of my recent messages: 13 July “Play netball,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said. Cue these friendly folk. I’m working remotely today, as i overcome a fear of doctors to get a dose of radiation pumped through my ankle – make sure it’s all intact etc. Please continue blessing me your requests and i’ll attend to them as i can. If something is urgent, xxx is a topnotch manager. I’d give her a holler at xxx@sydney.edu.au Hoping I’m back in office tomorrow, Melanie Ps. It was 100% me who decided to play and said the above to my partner in crime sister. She’s nursing a broken finger after the war zone on Saturday. Oops. 2 July Thanks for your email. I’m not sure when ‘chucking a sickie’ became ‘taking a mental health day’, but I’m taking neither. I’m taking a day of annual leave to stop and breathe – a spiritual health day, if you will. I’ll be back on Monday 6 July, so you can ask me how Hillsong Conference was then, or just annoy me to get on to your recent request. I’ll happily do either. If you can’t wait until then, contact xxx  – she’s pretty friendly too. Have a great weekend folks! Melanie 21 May Hi there, Thanks for your email. Today is TEDxSydney at the Sydney Opera House. It’s been months of planning in the lead up and we’re excited it’s finally arrived.  I’ll be out of the office all day Thursday 21 May, and then Friday 22 May. But don’t let me make you jealous, you too can be part of the TEDxSydney action: 1. Watch it live online 2. Watch in on campus at our Satellite event on Eastern Ave 3. Ask a question of the TEDxSydney and TEDxYouth speakers on Twitter or Instagram with #curiositycoffee I’ll be back on Monday 25 May ready to tackle your latest request and see Vivid Sydney at the University of Sydney come to life in the evening. If your matter is urgent on Thursday, God help you. I kid – call me xxx If your matter is urgent on Friday, email xxx See you Monday! Melanie 5 May Hi there, I have switched out the tap tap tap of my keyboard with a clickity click click of a camera today. Translation: I’m out of the office at an all day photoshoot. If you’re feeling particularly photogenic today, please feel welcome to get it in touch. Be assured,  I’ll make sure we photograph your good side. Alternatively, I request your patience and I’ll attend to your email when I’m back at my desk on Wednesday 6 May. If your matter is urgent, contact xxx Until then, remember to smile! Melanie 21 April Good day, I’m out of the office today Tuesday 21 April unwell. Like Sydney, I too struggle to operate as normal during inclement conditions and likely not to respond to emails until my return – hopefully tomorrow. (Also praying God heals Sydney on a similar timeframe!) If your email requires immediate attention, contact xxx Thanks, Melanie Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
**If you just want to look at the pretty pictures, scroll to the bottom** A few years ago I made the decision to embrace seasons – Christmas being the best and most important of all. From commandeering tree and house decorating to playing Christmas carols at any opportunity (from 25 November onwards!), I love Christmas. With my first full year at work nearly under my belt and feeling fairly confident in the office, I was unashamed in love of Christmas during the 9-to-5 humdrum. I decided it was time to spread the Christmas cheer. Here’s a how to guide for a festive office: 1. Table a ‘Christmas office decorating competition’  I was chairing a meeting of representatives from the various marketing teams in the University. After running through the various other items on the agenda, I opened the meeting for AOB. A largely nominal agenda item, with much enthusiasm I brought up the competition. Apart from a political correction to make it the ‘festive office decorating competition,’ it was met with resounding positivity. I recruited another person to the cause. The planning begun – both for the competition and my teams creation. I had high expectations! 2. Send unexpected jovial email to break up the constant dreariness of requests that usually fill out inboxes 2.1  Create competition visual identity – because EVERYTHING needs a logo. ‘Twas the end of November, when all across campus Not a space was merry, and we started to get anxious. The tinsel was hung around the poles with haste In hopes that would be considered good taste. The workers were all slumped over their desks, While the visions of the jolly afternoon took its effects. Whole new worlds were built to mask the pain, The dull throb of too many bottles of champagne.  When out in [building name] there arose such a clatter We sprung from our chairs to see what was the matter. Away to the corner we raced only to stop in shock The reality of the action dropped like a sedimentary rock. The lights hanging from the roof in a line, The teams should have read it like a sign. When, what to our wondering eyes should appear, The two spaces decorated exactly the same – oh dear!  With a little chuckle, we knew what was at stake, Their little hiccup was our chance to overtake. It’s bigger than the world cup and fueled with action: The Marcomms festive office decorating competition! Yes, all you grinches, you heard it right, our offices are getting a transformation. From Cumberland to Engineering to [building name],  we’re all getting into the festive season. It’s no secret there are many in Marcomms who love a good competition so a breakdown of the rules are below (and attached). May the most festive team win!  3. Create terms and conditions like any good marketing specialist Details Competition Marketing and Communications is celebrating the end of the year and the beginning of the festive season with a decorating competition. How to enter Teams can enter by: Staking out your space with those around them Decorating to your heart’s content Posting photos or a video of your space on Yammer. Prize(s)Three edible prizes will be given awayCompetition periodDecorating can commence Friday 28 November, with the exhibition period 1 December – 18 December.Who may enterEntry is only open to persons who, during the competition period are: part of Marketing and Communications ready for a jolly good time prepared for solid competition willing to take down any office Grinches Maximum number of entries per individual entrantEach Marcomms team member should be part of only one teamAdditional entry instructionsAny disagreements or contests should be resolved with a public sagacious match of scissors, paper, rock.Judging process[CMO’s EA] will tour the spaces in the final week of exhibition and determine the winners.Judging criteria3 categories: Originality and creativity of theme Extensiveness of decorations Quality of execution Judging dateJudging and winner announcements will occur in the week of 15 December.Winner notificationWinners will be notified via Yammer, email and cheers across the officeClaiming your prizePrizes will be distributed in the office. Winners should be cautious of their seagull-like colleagues hovering ready to pounce.Special conditionsThe judges decision is final. Bragging rights can last as long as your colleagues allow them to. 4. Encourage and participate in trash talk, both on and offline No sooner did the email go out when the trash talk began. Persistent and untamed. Feeding wrong information (re: theme) to the enemy, interrogating drunk colleagues at the Christmas party. 5. Start small and build suspense to the big reveal It was a slow start but slowly the decorations went up. Brown paper over hideous yellow walls, a spot of tinsel and strings of fairy lights. 6. Send reminder email about judging Worried about the slow take-up, I took pen to paper again: A reminder email went out: Judgingement day is coming – Monday 15 December Jingle bells, jingle bells. Jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to work In a festive office now! Dashing through the snow, Is the student marcoms team. Over fields they go, Their efforts are a scream. Santa’s Media team have moved in, To make our spirits bright. What fun they have to write and spin, The news from the land of all things white. Jingle bells, jingle bells. Jingle all the way. Oh what fun it’s gonna be To see the winners announced! Details Post a photo/s of your entry on Yammer to be included in the competition. The competition is in no way limited to central Marketing space. We look forward to seeing the festivities from all over campus. Our judge will tour the spaces (she’ll lock in a time for the divisional teams) on the afternoon of Monday 15 December I have it on good authority that the judge cannot be swayed with chocolate…although wine is a different story! 7. Organise award ceremony  My boss arrange a Christmas bake-off  for judging day (yes, another competition!). And the entries posted on Yammer (read: institutional social networking site). 8. Eat food and (playfully!) question the final decision! Sadly my team didn’t win. I think we went out to strong to early. A colleague compared us to Will McAvoy and ACN’s Newsnight. A strong second, but then slowly dropped down the ranks (of course, his team was first!). Others said we were robbed. Alas, I’ll be sure to include a ‘people’s choice’ next year. We definitely would have won that. 9. Create certificate and add ‘annual’ on the sly  A very good use of time, certificates were created and printed (not before having to reprint them after spelling decorating ‘decorating’!). I was sure to slip in ‘inaugural annual’ competition to build 10. Enjoy the amazement of visitors to the office The faces of visitors to the office was priceless. Employees from other areas, our ad agency and clients alike. Festivity was widespread and appreciated. Overall I was quite surprised by the investment in the competition. Going in with low expectations for pickup, it was super fun to get competitive and loosen up at the end of a long year – despite the work seeming as constant as the 11 months previous! Sadly my team didn’t win, but as a pick-me-up from my team’s loss, my colleagues awarded me the ‘brain-child award,’ an award practically akin to a school  ‘Encouragement Award.’ Alas, I also received a packet of Hershey kisses which will feature on this blog in due course! But without further ado, here are some of the entries. Enjoy. This slideshow requires JavaScript.   Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
“The closer you can get the divide between your day-to-day and your faith, the more effective you will be for the Kingdom – and the greater joy you will have in your work.” – Mike Baird, Premier of New South Wales, Crusader Business Breakfast 29 October 2014 Today I stood in Church Street Mall Parramatta and asked people what they thought leadership meant, or other questions to that effect. For sharing what they thought leadership was on social media using #ithinkleadership, I gave them a voucher to get free food.  It’s all part of ‘Food for thought‘, a brand activation for a current campaign at work. I must have spoken to at least 400 – 500 people today, reading or listening to them as they explained what they thought leadership was. There was the expected answers: an ability to listen, honesty, charisma, understanding etc. Being in the heart of a labor electorate, the critiques of Tony Abbott were frequent and far from positive: not Tony Abbott, he’s a liar, he doesn’t listen, he changes his mind. There were the ill-thought out responses and a good number of complete uncertainty. It is a great question and I think it’s a great concept. It is also an extremely labor intensive concept to explain. My mind wandered as I stood and waited during the lulls of engagement. I looked around the (nicely renovated!) square and saw the faces of people who had no basis for understanding good leadership and no reference point of a great leader. As they sat on seats, benches, under trees and milling about the area I realised the huge opportunity that square was for sharing Jesus. I realised the huge potential to turn the conversations I was having to Jesus. The remark to shift the direction of the conversation was in the deep of my heart and on the tip of my tongue: “What if i could tell you, I know the perfect leader?” “I agree listening is a good attribute, the greatest leader I know listened to even the least of men.” I realised this was the divide – the divide between my faith and my day-to-day. The yearning to share the good news, but the reality I was not there to do so. What would it look like to do that? If my heart is there, why shouldn’t I pursue the direction that would enable me to evangelise? About halfway through the day a middle aged man came up and I explained the process to him. He was wearing a Moore College polo shirt and keen for an 8-hour slow roasted beef sandwich with fancy ingredients that essentially make up coleslaw. As he stood to the side and crafted his thoughts, I waited in expectation. He gave me a little pick me up – the hope of a meaningful response.  A few minutes later he showed me his post – it was as generic and vague as the rest. Looking to engage and also a little deflated, I said: “Oh I was expecting something about Jesus?” He looked up with confusion: “Sorry? Why did you expect that?” I pointed out his Moore College shirt. We made a few more words of small talk before he left (a little embarrassed, i think) to collect his sandwich. A few hours in and I was exhausted. It was 30 degrees and I couldn’t handle another gripe about needing to actually do something before receiving free good.  My colleague and I dismissed our other colleagues and volunteers for the day and started to mentally pack up for the day, while in reality waiting for another hour to pass and in hope of a post-school crowd that we had promoted the activation to. My mind digressed again and I started to think about what I needed to do when I got home when a young couple and an adorable little boy wandered over. In classic small talk style, an art I still need to perfect, I spoke to the little boy in the pram first – way too young to actually respond – before turning to his parents and start explaining the concept. The conversation flowed and the man started to explain what he thought leadership was. I quickly noted the John 3:3 tattoo on his arm and started to the trawl through my bible knowledge to narrow it down. The man’s response was one that I by and large agreed with,  so I decided to ask what the reference was in hope of a fruitful conversation. “…Jesus explaining you must be be born again…” He didn’t need to finish before my acknowledgement was enough for him to realise I knew what he was talking about. The conversation flowed and we introduced ourselves – much like long lost family members do – jobs, home church, how we came to know Christ, similar circles etc. I was very aware of my colleague behind me likely listening to our conversation but continued to engage. I shared my angst in wanting to shift the leadership conversations I was having to Jesus. He shared that he and his wife had previously done walk-up evangelism in the square and thought I was perfectly placed to do so: undercover working in the activation and a great lead in question. “Except that I may lose my job,” I remarked. Appreciation of that reality, the conversation came to an end. I realised they were hungry and I probably should do my job. The conversation played on my mind for the afternoon. My job today was to raise the profile of the university amongst the people of Parramatta within an overaching framework of leadership. Closing the divide between my faith and day-to-day could not look like the exercising the yearnings of my heart to shift the conversation to Jesus. Closing the divide today looked like being patient with the men and women who knew little English and had no understanding of the overall concept. It was responding graciously to those who grumbled to themselves after determining it was too hard to participate and we were unreasonable in not just giving away the food. It was listening (via his friend and makeshift interpreter) to the depressed Irani-asylum seeker who had been waiting jobless and homeless for a permanent protection visa for more than five years and understandably had little respect for the Australian leaders who kept him in this holding pattern. It was then responding with a brightness of spirit, giving him a voucher for free food and from afar praying for him while he ate it. It was letting my colleagues eat lunch first, despite my shared and equal hunger and exhaustion. It was working with integrity (not leaving early and going straight home) and generosity in staying to the end of the day, working through blisters and an aching back when there was an option to leave. It was praising God for meeting a brother and sister who could and did do what I was unable to do today. As Mike Baird found himself, closing the divide may not look like what you expect but rather living and persevering faithfully in all that you do – whether it’s leading a state or giving away free food raising the profile of an institution. “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8 A shout out to the lovely Dave and Sam Jensen – I trust we’ll meet again one day! Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
I’m not offended easily but if there’s one sure way to offend me, it’s to call me busy. “Oh I’d love to catch up, but I know you’re busy” “Mel, you are so busy – you do too much.” And today’s “Hi Mel, I know you are busy, but I have another busy thing for you to think about.” I don’t think calling someone busy is a common way to offend, but it strikes a chord with me because it involves a judgement. In one’s assumption that I am busy, or too busy, they are assuming I am not interested in them or that I don’t have time for them. More than that, I think I interpret them as questioning my priorities and my ability to balance them. The reality is I’m not busy and I’m definitely not too busy. Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when I have been stressed because I had a lot on my plate. I remember to a time about three years ago when I was studying full time, worked two part-time jobs (saving for exchange to America), lead Sunday school at church and helped out an afternoon kids program and lead a bible study group at university. I also managed to attend evening church, two bible studies and play netball one afternoon a week. Every day for five months I just moved from one thing to the next, familiarising myself with the quiet hours of the morning to complete essays. That was a time when I was too busy. Friends told me I dropped off the face of the earth. And I see now I did. But now, post-study and working full-time, I question Rowan Kemp‘s statements that “At uni, you have all the time in the world. You will never have as much time as you do now.” He said it many times during my four years at the University of Sydney, but I’m just not feeling it. I don’t have assignments to do when I get home, I’m no longer leading in energy intensive roles for the Sydney University Evangelical Union and I don’t move from one thing to the next. Days now are very routine. I wake at 6, leave at 7. Start work at 8.30. Take lunch at 1. Leave at 4.30. Arrive home and eat at 6. Go to sleep at 10. I limit myself to two, max three evenings out midweek and must must must be in bed by 10.30pm so I can function and be a good worker the following day. What is unaccounted for is two hours commuting and two or three hours each evening, a total of five hours per day midweek and then weekends. I’ve got more time now than I’ve ever had before! Today, I told someone today not to think of me as busy, but engaged, active and/or energetic. Unfortunately I did turn down the request for my assistance because I’ve just taken on a new project that will stop me from doing today’s request well. Working full-time means making decisions about how to spend your time, what and who you invest in.  I’m still working it out. But while I do, please don’t think I’m too busy. The nights where I sit at home drinking a glass of wine, reading a book or catching up on the latest episode of the latest tv series are no longer few and far between. I love people. I love to chat with people. I love to do things for people. I love to bake for people. I love to organise people. Please don’t think I’m too busy for you. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
…but i’m currently out of the office. I will respond to your email when I return. Out of office emails are poorly formatted , incredibly boring and, truly, a double edge sword. 1. Their immediacy is annoying. Annoying because you sent the email because you need something and now you find out you’re going to have to wait longer for the recipient to respond. 2. But, their receipt is genuinely helpful – well, when a timeframe is given. Recently Mashable posted ‘The 9 best out-of-office emails to get you ready for vacation,’ causing me to reflect on this very boring but office staple. I try to be an fairly upbeat person in the office. I smile. I laugh. I listen. I tell stories. It’s makes the office a much friendlier environment. When I am on leave from the office, I try, in a roundabout way to be the same. I try to weave in a polite but amusing statement in my out-of-office response, in hope I evoke at least a smile on the people who email me (and get frustrated by my absence). Most recently, I returned from the snow to have someone say in the first 30mins, my auto-reply made them laugh and she actually passed it on to another few people in the office. That’s my aim: make the small and banal just a little bit more interesting. Here’s two recent replies: “Hi there, Thanks for your email. Unfortunately for you I’m in sunny Perth right now and will not be returning to Sydney until Wednesday 4 April. I will be sure to respond to your request then. If your email is urgent, please contact… Enjoy the rain, Melanie.”   “Hi there, Thanks for your email. I’m currently on leave carving up the slopes – the snow was too good to pass up. I will be back in the office on Monday 7 July. If your email is urgent, please contact… See you on the flip side, Melanie.”   Yesterday my boss was sick. Her out of office was something along the lines of: “Hi, i’m out of the office sick today however I will be responding to urgent emails. Thanks.” Professional but uninteresting. Here’s a smile worthy version: “Hi, I’m out of the office buying shares in Lemsip today. However, I will be responding the urgent emails. Thanks.” Try it out. Aim for professional, but smile-worthy. UPDATE 2 OCTOBER 2014 Thanks for your emails. Your email is important to me but remaining upbeat, energetic and smiling is more important so I’m currently enjoying a few days of unplugged annual leave. But please don’t fret, I’ll be back recharged and at your service on Thursday 2 October. If your email can’t wait until then, please contact… UPDATE 19 DECEMBER 2014: Here’s my Christmas/New Year 2014/15 out of office message: Deck the halls with boughs of holly, Fa la la la la, la la la la. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, Fa la la la la, la la la la. We’re now finished and the uni closed, Fa la la, la la la, la la la. A welcome break that is 100% unopposed. Fa la la, la la la, la la la. We won’t be open ‘til two zero one five. Fa la la, la la la, la la la. January five is the date we will back alive, Fa la la, la la la, la la la. But I’ll be hiking down a small hill called Kozi, Fa la la, la la la, la la la. I’ll return on Tuesday 6 Jan, you see. Fa la la, la la la, la la la. Your emails can hopefully wait ‘til then, Fa la la, la la la, la la la. Because really, truly there’s no real option, Fa la la, la la la, la la la. It’s been a great year for us in Marketing, Fa la la, la la la, la la la. I look forward to all that the new year will bring. Fa la la, la la la, la la la. Merry Christmas and a happy new year!   Update 4 March 2015: Aloha Thanks for your email. I’m out of the office at the moment. You can find me: a)   At a beach b)   On a boat c)   On a beach or boat with a mai tai in my hand d)   Or somewhere else entirely. Yes, unfortunately for you I’m in Hawai’i. I’ll be back on Thursday 5 March to attend to your every need. If your email can’t wait until then, please contact … Mahalo! Melanie Update 25 March 2015: I’m out of the office today lying horizontal in a dark room. It’s unlikely my aching head will be able to process your request. All medicinal drugs considered, I’ll hopefully be back tomorrow – Wednesday 25 March. If your email requires immediate attention, please contact … Melanie Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)