Out-Of-Office Messages

When you travel for business, or take vacation time, do you turn on the out-of-message auto-response in your email system?

If you do, people who send you an email are likely to get something like the following from you:

“Thank you for your email. I am out of the office until Tuesday November 13 with limited access to email. If this is urgent, please contact my assistant Fred at fflintstone@mycompany.com.”

If you do this, I have something to say to you, and I’ll apologize up front for being blunt and direct: You’re a liar.

It’s 2012. The only people who truly have limited access to email any more are those who go on missionary jaunts up the Amazon River and my buddy who goes fishing in Alaska every year and really does leave his cell phone at home.

The out-of-office message is the 2012 equivalent of your mother’s note which got you excused from school on a day that you could have gone in, but didn’t because your mother was too busy to fight with you that day.

The out-of-office message is simply an excuse for not responding promptly to emails.

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Personally, I’m thinking of leaving the out-of-message response on permanently.

Out of 1,000 emails I receive, here’s the breakdown by category:

Basically, there’s a less than 1% chance that an email I get is going to benefit me.  That out-of-office message buys me time to respond to the endless stream of requests from people who want something from me. 

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Is the most frequent intruder on your time your boss? And does your boss know when you’re in the office, and out of the office?

You’re screwed.

You might want to take a look at the post I wrote about the joys of working from home

Whether or not you work in an office or work from home, if you want to try the Out-of-office Message Work Avoidance Strategy, you have to be smart about it: No Facebook posting, and no tweeting!

If you’re going to claim limited access to email, you better not be on social media.

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We should really just be more honest. Instead of saying we have limited access to email, we should tell the truth. Here’s what my next out-of-office message will say:

“Thanks for your email. I’m currently attending a conference, so there’s a pretty damn good chance that as you read this, I’m on my sixth glass of Macallan scotch, and I’m simply in no condition to respond to whatever it is you want from me. You’d be better off finding another sucker to do your work for you.”

If you’ve got a good idea for an out-of-office message, let me know. I’m always looking for good ideas to steal. 

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17 thoughts on “Out-Of-Office Messages

  1. Ron, i always liked the “I am currently out it the office till date. Upon my return I will delete all emails. If this is important please resend after I return.”

  2. Unless you were dumb enough to accept a Blackberry to extent your 9-to-5 loan slavery to a 24/7 servitude you really wouldn’t have access to company email unless you were in the office. You see, there is something called “confidentiality” in the banking business and giving anyone unfettered access to the network is something from the 20th century. Calling people a liar just because they value their family life just shows how narrow minded you are.

  3. When I travel for business, I don’t use the OOO reply. I agree with you in that scenario. When I travel for vacation, though, I really don’t look at my phone and tend to leave it in the hotel whenever possible. So, limited access is more about access the (temporary) lifestyle allows and less about technically could I have access. I can’t access my email because I’m on this zipline. I can’t access my email because my hands are both clutching frozen cocktails. I can’t access my email because I am trying not to get killed while driving on the opposite side of the road. I can’t access my email because I’m spaced out staring at this beautiful wonder of the world.
    Also, I’d like to note that pretty much no one ever uses the Plan B option I supply in my auto-response. Which makes me realize that everyone who insists their emails are oh-so-urgent are the actual liars…

    • Good for you for not checking email when you’re on vacation. Sadly, I’d bet you’re in the dwindling minority. Although, that last statement might get a bunch more people to speak up and sat that they don’t check it either when they’re on vacation. But I have my guesses on the age range of those that don’t check email on vacation, and let’s just say I don’t think it’s the Gen Yers.

  4. Hey Ron, how about actually using a doctor’s order to make your non-responsiveness (i.e., complete lack of interest) look all official and warranted? Something like this?

    “Hello and thank you for your email, which I’m sorry to have missed. NOT. I am presently on vacation and under doctor’s strict orders to reduce both the stress, and corresponding BS, that has consumed my life. Ergo, I will not be responding to your email now, or likely any time in the near future, lest my precious serenity be sacrificed. Cheers!”

  5. I agree with most of what you said, Ron. It is a little silly to get the OoO reply and then almost immediately thereafter receive a response from someone’s iPhone.

    However, I will agree with the third response to the post in part. Our shop has a 10 year-old Exchange server and not only are we not allowed external email access, but we don’t even have the capability for external email access if we were allowed. I think that in most smaller credit union environments that view pinching pennies on technology as a virtue, this could be the case more often than not. As a workaround, my IT staff has given me a gmail account that pulls emails from outside senders from my work address when I’m on the road. Unfortunately, it’s hit-and-miss and I come back to a lot of stuff that fell through the cracks.

    So, to respond to your humorous rant, there definitely are some folks in the email-sphere that still (unfortunately) have “limited” access to emails.

  6. OOO notifications, whether on email or voicemail, are a way crooks identified a long time ago as how to determine when people are away from their homes. They now have your tweets and other social media postings to add to those notifications (as well as myriad other resources to more easily determine where you live)…

  7. My favorites are those that are out of office until XXX date and it is actually days after that date. Did they get eaten by a shark? Did the get gobbled up by quicksand? Did they zipline right off into space? No. They were quick to turn it on before leaving for vacation as the anticipation set in, but could careless about turning it off now that they are stuck in the office with the rest of us. Just the other day I received an automated response from someone that was still out for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Really? I want their PTO plan…

    • Hard to believe someone hasn’t changed their status since Thanksgiving. I can’t help but think that that reflects pretty badly on that person. Bit of a loss of credibility in my eyes.

  8. I desperately want my voicemail message to direct people to text me or send me an email and please not put me through the terror of listening to their voicemail message.

  9. You inspired me to write this for my Thanksgiving OOO this year:

    “I will be out of the office the week of Thanksgiving November 25th-29th, as I take time to give thanks for all of the blessings in my life. I will not be able to respond to my email during this time…as I’ll be making pumpkin pie with my mother, teaching one son (again) how to chop onions, skyping with other son from his new home in Toronto, and nervously watching my husband hang Christmas lights from the roof…all with a fabulous glass of American Rhone varietal wine in hand!

    I will respond to your email when I return on Monday, December 2nd (albeit still in a food comma).”

  10. Pingback: 11 Rules For Becoming A Better Blogger | Snarketing 2.0 by Ron Shevlin

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