Out-Of-Office Messages

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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 [email protected].”

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.


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. 


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.


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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