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"Out-of-office" automated reply

posted Mar 25, 2016, 2:13 AM by Tomislav Rozman   [ updated Sep 20, 2016, 4:28 AM ]
Well, it's summer and vacation time again. Some lighter topics to read on your tablet on the beach wherever you are wouldn’t hurt, would they?

Last year I’ve written a short article about “Out-of-office” automated reply. A year passed by and I’m even more convinced about the necessity of such message. I’m posting again a slightly modified version of the article.

Out-of-office automated message appeared quite some time ago, in the times of the "Internet History".

There were two main reasons to set Out-of-office automated response:

  1. People physically had to go to the office to check their email or
  2. companies had closed intranet and email system, which was inaccessible from the outside.

The purpose of OOF message was (and still is): Dear sender, this email address works, email box not full, I received it, but I'll answer it few days after I get back from the vacation back to officeRight after I answer 600 emails before yours.

Nowadays, in the time of mobile phones, tablets, wi-fi networks and mobile networks, our office is always with us. Even on the vacation.

The question is: Is it still appropriate to set Out-of-office reply?

Yes. Because your clients, colleagues, co-workers and friends matter. Because email is still most used communication medium for business purposes.  

But on the other hand, we have the right to be offline when on the vacation.

For example: In last 2 weeks (mid of July) I sent some more inquiries for home renovation to various companies.  Yes, a house renovation project is still in progress after a year and it's active mostly during my vacations.

Still (and again), none of them had out-of-office reply set. 1 of them replied. What about others? Are they alive? Are they on vacation? Will they respond? Do they have interest to send an offer? I still don't know. It's a pity, because they lost potential client.

Is it still appropriate to say in OOF response: "I will have limited or no access to emails"?

No. Because it's simply not true. Even if I travel to Mongolia (or Croatia, more realistic), I'll find some free hotspots to connect to internet. Which I’ll use it to post beach and sunset pictures on FB, not replying business emails. Because replying to business emails costs a lot of ‘brain cycles’ and I’m on vacation to recover some, not spend them.

In reality, it means: “I'll briefly check your email's subject on my mobile phone, but I will not answer it unless my life (or existence) depends on it.”

Therefore I suggest the rephrasing: Out-of-office should become "Let-me-rest-I'll-reply-when-I-refocus". I promise, after my rest I’ll be attentive, focused and productive.


Simply follow the strategy of my friend (btw. I don't use it, I'm not courageous enough):

Delete all emails when you return from the vacation. The important ones will come back anyway.

At the end you would probably be interested, what's my OOF responder?

Here is:

"Dear sender, I’m currently out of the office, probably on some conference, 
workshop, coaching session, meeting, some creative pursuit or vacation.

I'm trying to be as responsive as humanly possible. Therefore it can happen 
I will not reply your email immediately, but after DD.MM.YYYY.
Stay tuned, if you're getting this out-of-office message, it means I have 
your email. 
If you have an urgent request, please call or send SMS to xxxxxxxxxxx."

What are your thoughts about it?

Why do / don't you set your OOF responder? How do you resist replying emails on your vacation?