when out-of-office messages go wrong

A reader writes:

The question last week about “thanks in advance” had me wondering about your thoughts on this person’s manager’s out-of-office reply in this video. I found it to be super condescending and way too much. What do you think? Would be interested in readers’ out-of-office messages.

First, here’s the out-of-message for people who don’t like watching video (although the person in the video is funny and really brings the message to life):

Oh shoot. You need something and I’m unavailable today. Here’s the good news: you have options.

Option 1: Wait it out. Ask yourself, “Is this urgent and important?” If it isn’t, take a beat and give me a chance to respond after I dig myself out of my inbox later this week. You and I will be better off with this expectation set now.

Option 2: Get help sooner. If you answered yes to the above question, don’t wait. I have a team of competent humans who look out for me and one another. They can help you too. Work with (insert names here) accordingly. If you need help with scheduling, cut straight to my assistant.

Option 3: If it’s an inferno, skip the line. Is everything burning and only a master of existential threats could help? First, flattered you even contacted me. Now get going and contact my supervisor. He is the elusive one you’re looking for.

Okay. So, it’s not to my exact personal tastes — to me, it’s overly wordy — but it’s probably fine for their culture and I’d be mildly amused if I got it. I see where you’re seeing condescension, but I think you can read it without that too.

I’d be happier getting this than one of the out-of-office messages that provides waayyy too much detail — “I’m at home nursing an unhappy stomach, hope to be in tomorrow, but meanwhile am resting and checking email in between bathroom runs,” etc.

But let’s talk out-of-office messages: overshares, excessive detail, the ones that self-aggrandize (I once had a coworker whose auto-replies often said he’d be in late because he “pulled an all-nighter” on various work projects, etc.), the ones that never get turned off, people who don’t use them at all, and other pet peeves.

Readers, what do you like and hate in out-of-offices replies? Any stories of particularly off-key ones?

{ 728 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    It’s possible I might quote from some responses to this in an upcoming column, so please note if you don’t want me to do that with yours!

  2. Dust Bunny*

    I just want short and sweet. Mine says, “I will be out of the office until X Date. If you need assistance before then, please contact my department at email@email.org or (000)000-0000. I will reply to messages when I return.”

    1. Lusara*

      I agree. I think this one is way too long and comes off as trying to be too cute.

    2. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I don’t know what to say these days – I’m still working from home so “out of the office” doesn’t sound right any more, but ‘off work’ seems like too much? I’m probably way overthinking it but I’ve felt stuck every time I need to write one lately.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I think people still understand that out of office can refer to home office as well. But you could say “unavailable” or “away from work”.

        1. Anonym*

          I’ve been using “away from work”. Clear yet accurate, prompts no questions.

          1. akc2000*

            too short, though – most of the time you should give a date of return to set expectation (and so I don’t bug you again before you’re back)

            1. AA*

              They weren’t saying that’s the entirety of their message, just that that’s the phrase they’re using instead of ‘out of office’

              1. pandop*

                It’s wise to check they aren’t though. A colleague once had an out of office from an academic that simply said ‘on fieldwork’. Just those two words.

      2. GothicBee*

        Just tell yourself it’s a metaphorical office ;)

        But really, I think people who know you WFH will get your meaning and people who don’t know you WFH won’t care or feel misled if they find out you really work from home.

      3. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        I’ve been saying ‘offline’ for the days I’ve taken off.

        “I’m offline and have sporadic access to email until X date. For urgent matters contact Colleagues A and B. For true work related emergencies you can call me at Cell Number”

      4. The Librarian's Cat*

        I’d probably say something like “I am unavailable until X date. Please contact [colleague] or [colleague] if you need assistance. Thanks!”

      5. Dust Bunny*

        Eh, figuratively. It’s like saying I’ve gone to lunch even though I’m still right here eating at my desk–the point is that I’m unavailable to do any work.

      6. Tired of Covid-and People*

        I say I’m off-duty, or in non-working status, but I come from a DOD background. I no longer like to say out of the office. Unavailable is good too.

      7. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I think there must have been a discussion about this here in December, because when I recently came to set my OoO recently there was some previous wording along the lines of “I will be spending time with my family during the festive season and will not be checking my email until (date)”. I’m annoyed with myself for deleting it without saving it somewhere, because it was much better worded than that and I’d like to be able to use it again!

      8. TheSüperflüoüsUmlaüt*

        Mine says something along the lines of “I’m currently away from my desk, and will be back online on Monday, 7 July…” and (if it’s a longer period and not just the next working day) perhaps also something like “If your enquiry is urgent, please resend to…” so someone else can deal with it.

      9. allathian*

        My phone just sits there gathering dust, so the only OOO message I need is the one I put in my email. Something like “I’ll read my email again on X. If you need assistance before then, please contact my colleague NN.”

    3. Clisby*

      That’s exactly how I set up mine, except that ordinarily I’d have several options, like: “If you need help with X, call A. For help with Y, call B. For help with Z, call C. For anything else, call my manager at extension 000.

      1. Kiwi*

        Though you were ending with a “for everything else, there’s Mastercard” for a moment!

      2. Drago Cucina*

        Because I used to get phone calls that defaulted to, “I need the director”, I had my out of office mail set to:
        For circulation contact…
        For youth services contact…
        For all else contact assistant director…

        The list was actually longer, but starting with me didn’t get “you” help faster.

        1. Drago Cucina*

          I meant email. The phone calls were similar, but a whole other problem. Your overdue notice? Did you discuss it with Head of Circulation (who knew the background)? No? Let me transfer you.

    4. wordswords*

      Agreed! A bit of warmth is fine, sure, but it’s not the place for chattiness — that’s for talking to an actual person. I want an OOO message to tell me that the person is out, when they’ll be back, and who I should contact in the meantime if need be. No objections to multiple options there, whether it’s “X for llama grooming issues and Y for llama tea parties” or “X for routine questions, Y if it’s urgent, Z if it’s an emergency,” but I want to be able to absorb the useful info quickly and move on.

      1. wordswords*

        The big issue I have with the example in the post is that not only is it unnecessarily long-winded, but you have to listen through all the chattiness to get to the “here’s who to contact in a real emergency” part. The tone does rub me wrong, but I’m willing to roll with that as a personality/company culture thing.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Very true, if the options came in reverse order (or maybe emergency first followed by not-urgent followed by urgent) that would be a little better.

      2. Autumnheart*

        Yeah. The overly cute OOO message reminds me of the overly cute messages people used to leave on their answering machines back in the day. “Hi, this is Jim. Hello? *pause* Hello? Is anyone there? *pause* Just kidding, I’m the one who’s not here! Please leave a message after the beep.” or whatever. Like, it’s funny the first time, then it’s just annoying. Just let people know what they need to know.

    5. A.*

      Yep. When I was at an on-call job and sometimes had to check email while I was off it was a little more tailored; I would specify whether I had access to email or not, and give more detailed info on who to contact for what if I didn’t. Nowadays this is fine. And fine for me on the other end as well. I just need the relevant info, it’s not remotely a big deal if someone’s out.

    6. tamarack and fireweed*

      Yes! I would roll my eyes *a*lot* at that message – it comes across as someone taking themselves way too seriously.

      Over time I’ve pared my OOO messages down more and more to the absolutely essential. The main issue was whether to use first or third person. Either is fine, but it comes up because it’s nice to have the name of the OOO person in front of one’s eyes if one sends a lot of email and then finds stray OOO messages among the mail … “hmm, what was THIS one in response to…?”.

      Things I have recently used:
      – “I am absent the office today and will attend to your message by Monday, August 17.”
      – “I am traveling during the week of Monday, July 1 and may be unable to respond to your message immediately. For issues concerning the [operational project in remote area], please contact [co-worker]”
      – “Tamarack Fireweed is on leave from [date] to [date] with reduced access to email. Urgent messages can be routed as follows: For project X, please contact [person1]. For project Y please contact [person2]. For questions about [academic program] please write to [general alias]. “

      1. Lego Leia*

        I think that it depends on whether or not that OoO was going to people in the company, who new your personsality and would appreciate the humour/personal touches, or to everyone, always. If I got the from OoO from a quirky co-worker, fine. It I got it from an outside contact that I have had little contact with? Unprofessional and a bit off-putting.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          I think humor is fine (the hard-to-misunderstand kind), but definitely less than 100 words of it.

    7. Cas*

      Same. Keep it short and to the point. Mine currently says:
      “I’m out of the office returning Thursday June 10th. Please contact (shared mailbox email address) for support or call (person name) if the matter is urgent.”

  3. Quickbeam*

    My pet peeves are too much personal information (no need to tell me your cousin had a hysterectomy) and the ones that are carbon dated, e.g. from 2018.

    1. Czhorat*

      The problem is that some people will just keep the old message, with contact information for their coverage and whatnot. If you do this, it’s important to change the date.

      1. Quickbeam*

        Yup, that’s what I meant. Hearing or reading”Happy Halloween!!” in June is annoying.
        Also, crazy fonts on OOO e-mail responses. Save it for your scrapbooking club!

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          hahaha, yeah, I use the same basic OOO, but I do always update the dates.

          My favorite thing is setting my OOO to only run for a specific amount of time. I will absolutely forget to turn it off if I have to do it manually, but we can just set a date/time range for it to start/stop. So I usually start it around 4 pm the day before and end it at 7 or 8pm the night before I return.

            1. anonymouse*

              So much better than sliced bread.
              No more, “btw, your OOO is on. Wanted to make sure you are here!”

          1. A Poster Has No Name*

            The ability to schedule your OOO replies was literally the best feature ever to come to Outlook, and it took way too long.

            1. Funny Cide*

              I’m a huge fan of the scheduling. I give myself up until 8am the day I return, since that way I’m covered if someone is emailing me early in the morning and will know why it might take me a bit to get back to them as I sort through the backlog for triage even though I’m back in the office that day.

              1. Sparrow*

                I do this, too, especially if I’m out for longer than a day or two. I like giving myself a bit of breathing room to dig out of the inbox.

              2. Teapot Wrangler*

                I start work at 9.30am but always leave the OOO on until at least then and schedule it until 10am – that way if the backlog is terrifying, people who email me that morning will know why I’m not replying straightaway. Similar to how some people mark their first day back from a few weeks off as out of office so they don’t have meetings (which is a great idea although I rarely do it).

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            Greatest update to Outlook, ever. We also got this feature for our office VM, and, as a chronic forgot-to-reset-my-VMer, it’s great not to have the first line of EVERY VM my first week back be, “Hey, your OOO message is still on….”.

          3. Stephanie*

            I actually hate that feature – I LOVE manually updating it myself but I know most of my coworkers benefit from having it that way.

          4. allathian*

            Yes, me too. It’s a lifesaver. Although to be fair, Outlook announces the fact that you’ve got an OOO message going out with a big yellow banner, so it’s quite hard to miss.

      2. Kes*

        Yeah, that bugs me because a) now I don’t know when you actually will be back, and b) leaves me unsure what other information in the message may also out of date

    2. Phony Genius*

      My boss had this problem (outdated message), but it wasn’t his fault. No matter how many times he changed it, it kept reverting to the original message and dates. Even IT couldn’t figure it out.

      1. Sunslant*

        I had this at my old job, but only for internal calls. It was a completely different person on an old job site. IT couldn’t figure out how to fix it. Only one person complained at least, no matter how many times I told her I couldn’t fix it.

    3. Safety Dance*

      I’m on a couple of mandatory company-wide email lists. None of these ever have pertinent information, but they’re required.

      If those weren’t bad enough, if anyone on that lists sets up an out-of-office message, it *automatically* replies all. If the email bounces back, it bounces back reply all. One guy left the company and his email had a permanent out-of-office auto reply. The list was quite busy for a month or so and the message popped up multiple times a day.

      It got bad enough that others began begging someone to cull the list. Reply all, of course (thankfully it didn’t turn into an explosion of replies all). Someone finally did remove the email from the list.

  4. The Original K.*

    Not an out of office reply but a voicemail greeting: at a previous job I called someone and her voicemail greeting said that she would be out of the office from Day – Day and that her voicemail wasn’t accepting messages during that time, click! The time in question was six months prior. Plenty of people she worked with and for could have called her on it and apparently had not, so she just … didn’t get voicemails. Like, that was not a way you could communicate with her.

    1. Pants*

      As a person who hates voicemail, I applaud this. Send me an email. Give me a paper trail.

      1. Cranky lady*

        Our senior leadership has admitted to not checking voicemails since we started working remotely…almost 15 months ago. It made me feel so good. I hate voicemail.

        1. Anon4This*

          Same. I’ve been out of the office for over a year and did not change my voicemail message on my desk phone, nor have I checked it in that year. To be very honest, I didn’t usually check it even when I was in the office.

          1. WonHungLo Heavy Industry LTD*

            To be honest, if it wasn’t for the bloody flashing red light I’d never bother with it. Can’t stand the flashing light.

        2. Midwest Academic*

          My outgoing voicemail message says “Please don’t leave me a voicemail, send me an email instead”

          1. SpaceySteph*

            A couple work friends and I banded together years ago to fill each others’ voicemails so it would be impossible to leave us new voicemails.

            1. calonkat*

              When we were working from home (we’re mandated to be back in the office now), my voice mail message was something like “I check voice mail, but if you want a faster answer, please send me an email at calonkat@businessname.org” And it’s amazing how much more to the point emails are than voice mails! Much less “Well, this is unusual (it’s not) and needs the whole backstory (it doesn’t)” and 15 minutes later getting to the actual question (“can I do this thing that a regulation clearly indicates I can’t do”)
              I miss that :(

      2. Not A Girl Boss*

        Seriously, literally, anything but a voicemail. I’d take “sharpie on a dirty napkin delivered by carrier pigeon to my island vacation” over voicemails. I can’t flag voicemails for later. And also, we have this cool new feature where you can see missed calls. I do not need a voicemail just saying “Hey its Bob, call me back.”

        1. The Rural Juror*

          I do enjoy the transcribing of voicemails, so a lot of times I read that (and try to translate the weird interpretation from Siri). I rarely need to actually listen to the voicemail.

      3. Twenty Points for the Copier*

        My husband does this with his phone (not a number he uses for work). My parents do this as well and I can’t figure out if it’s due to lack of tech skills or not wanting to deal with voicemails (I think it’s a combination). I had surgery a couple years ago and had to give the hospital all three numbers and then my brother an hour away as backup since he’s the only one besides me with functional voicemail.

        1. No Longer Looking*

          I will always assume it is an inability to interact in an adult fashion with the world of technology. There is no good reason to avoid voicemails so aggressively – those that are doing so should probably be seeking therapy to overcome their issues with technology and/or the human voice.

          1. Nanani*

            This is needlessly aggressive and initializing.
            A lot of us process text faster and more accurately than speech, especially poor-audio-quality speech recorded by someone who didn’t bother to leave all the relevant information. Most voice mails are bad.

            It is entirely possible to enjoy a podcast and hate voicemail, nothing about issues with human voices.

            Plus the world of technology has moved on from answering machines (which is all voice mail is) so… nice vintage projector you got there

          2. KoiFeeder*

            Dude, my brain is not friends with my ears. It’s not psychological, my brain’s just less reliable than Siri at transcribing your voicemail. No one wants me calling them back explaining that I don’t handle the otter scriptorium inks when really they wanted a chocolate teapot.

          3. Spencer Hastings*

            I’m guessing that this comment was gratuitously cruel on purpose just for the lulz, but I’ll give it a serious response anyway:

            Voice mail is a strictly worse medium than almost any alternative. You don’t get the opportunity to converse and ask questions back and forth like you do with a phone call; you can’t extract information efficiently from the message like you can with an email (the old “ugh, I have to listen to this entire message over again just to check one thing he said at the end” scenario).

            1. Two-Time College Dropout*

              I wouldn’t hate voicemail so much if people were better at leaving voice mails– If your voice mail is much longer than 30 seconds, you’re doing it wrong! If it’s just “It’s Bob, call me back”, you’re also doing it wrong! The voicemail sweet spot is something like this:

              “This is MY NAME [from COMPANY] calling about REASON. Call me [by DAY/TIME] at (844) 387-6962 [pause, then repeat the number very slowly] that’s eight four four… three, eight, seven… six, nine, six, two.”

              1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                This is how my voicemails to my doctor’s office, my son’s doctor’s office, his daycare, etc. all go. Actually, the few times I leave voicemails beyond that, this is how they go.

                My dad will call and leave — legit — a 5 minute voice mail where he will tell me that he has something to tell me, that it is really funny, that he can’t leave it as a voicemail because I won’t get it, or maybe I won’t find it funny, that’s fine, I don’t have to call him back, it was stupid anyway, it probably isn’t funny….. He goes through all of the stages of passive aggressive behavior before ending with “Anyway, call me back.”
                I hate those voicemails.
                But I keep them, because even so, I know someday I will miss his voice.

              2. SpaceySteph*

                Yes! I HATE the voicemails that are like “can you give me a call back?” Like… give me some context so you can end up on my to-do list in the right place. People who leave these voicemails automatically go on the bottom.

            2. Roeslein*

              Voicemail is also horrible for non-native speakers. I’m reasonably fluent in German but have to listen to voicemails at least 3 times to get everything. Why people can’t just type a text message is beyond me.

      4. GothicBee*

        One of the only reasons I get voicemails is because our system is set up to send new voicemail messages to your email as an attached file. Now if only it would send the voicemail as a transcript, I’d be set. I don’t mind returning calls, but listening to voicemails is obnoxious, especially because people are really bad at leaving voice messages.

      5. Esmeralda*

        My voicemail is set up to forward to my email. I did this years ago, way before the Late Unpleasantness. And it’s perfect for working remotely. (I have trained my students to use email. My colleagues hate voicemail too, so we use email and gchat. Or walk down the hall when we’re live and in person)

      6. NerdyPrettyThings*

        Our office VM sends an audio file to our email. I love it, because I can apply all the filing and prioritization functions of my email inbox to the voice messages. It’s the only way I ever check my VM. I don’t even remember how to listen to messages on my phone.

    2. Perfectly Cromulent Name*

      This is the dream. If I could do this, I would! I hate voicemails (and the phone in general) so, so much!

      That said, I do realize that I can’t just not use my phone at work. I’m surprised she has not been called on it by her coworkers yet!

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My personal voicemail says that I prefer emails or texts when possible, and please leave a voicemail only as a last resort but either of the other two options will have a much faster response rate. I think I’ve gotten two voicemails in the last year.

    4. Cedarthea*

      I run a summer camp and i can’t convince IT to forward the phone off season (and I forget to check those voicemails when they aren’t flashing in front of me), so the voicemail there says “You’ve reached camp, we are closed for the season, and voicemails on this machine are not checked. you can contact me at our head office at X or email me at x@x.com, repeat info, thanks!

      I feel like this is the only reason to do this, otherwise its just a big piss off.

    5. Filosofickle*

      I managed to get through 9-month contract roles at two different workplaces without ever setting up voicemail. Even though they were not phone-oriented workplaces I’m a little surprised I got away with that! Interestingly, in all that time only one person ever noticed and said something.

      1. BubbleTea*

        My project is entirely phone based and we don’t have voicemail, either for the project line or individual staff lines. We used to, but we found we spent so much time returning voicemails and getting people’s voicemails that it led to us missing calls and going in an infinite loop.

    6. Moonlight Elantra*

      I worked with a guy years ago who would update his voicemail greeting literally every time he left the office. So the bare minimum would be that he’d record a new message when he arrived in the office in the morning. Then, when leaving for lunch he’d record a new greeting listing the time he would be back in the office, then he’d record a new message when he got back from lunch, then a new one at the end of the day saying he would be back in the morning. That’s not even counting the times he was out of the office on work business. It was deranged, especially since he had the type of job where he would normally be in and out of the office often.

      1. anonymouse*

        I worked with a guy years ago who would update his voicemail greeting literally every time he left the office.
        you are using that word…omg, you are serious!
        that guy would have to be so off-kilter as to be…
        Like the guy with his first desktop PC moving icons around because he could.

        1. Moonlight Elantra*

          I have no idea! He was pretty quirky, but in a harmless way. Like, he didn’t expect other people to spend that kind of time on their VM greetings, and he took our good-natured ribbing about his unusual habits in stride.

        2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          What’s wrong with moving icons? They’re meant to be moveable, so why not?

      2. MsMaryMary*

        I had a coworker whose former employer required them to update their voicemail message every day. “Hello, you’ve reached MaryMary. Today is Thursday, June 3rd. I am in the office all day but may be away from my desk for meetings. Please leave a message and I will return your call as soon as possible.” She got in the habit and still updated her VM everyday. Occasionally I run into someone elsewhere in our industry with a daily VM message and know they used to work at the same place.

          1. Lime green Pacer*

            My bank still does that, and it seems to serve a good purpose there–I appreciate knowing if I should call someone else to get things done that day.

        1. Gatomon*

          My old job was like that! It was so, so annoying. I understood requiring us to update our voicemails if we were out of the office that day, but it was just a waste of a few minutes every single morning.

        2. Irish girl*

          We had to do this at my prior position so that agents knew that we were in the office that specific day. Now i dont even use my phone as most internal people call me on Teams.

      3. Ollie*

        I used to work at a place that required me to update my voicemail EVERY SINGLE DAY with my schedule for the day as in Hi, today is xyz and I will me in a meeting from 11-12 and at lunch from 12-1 and be in the office all other times.

      4. ThatGirl*

        I’ve seen similar things with OOO messages where people would update them practically daily. “I’ll be away from my desk from 9-2 with intermittent emails and then on a call from 3:-3:45” and ….dude. We don’t need that much detail every day.

      5. Lizy*

        Oh my gaaaaawwwwdddd my mother used to do this. Like, her work voicemail was “Hello, you have reached Lizy’s Mother, Job Title at Company Name. Today is Thursday, June 3. I am in the office today, but away from my desk at the moment. If you’ll leave a message with your name, phone number, and reason for your call, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”

        Not that I had to listen to it 20 million times….

    7. Forgot My Last Username*

      One year my organization mistakenly left me off the phone directory. I made no attempt to correct that. The only people who could call me we’re those who knew my number; everyone else had to use email.

      It was bliss.

      1. Zephy*

        God that sounds amazing. I have the opposite problem. When I started, I was basically the de-facto receptionist/office assistant (my title was “coordinator”); my direct line was the public department phone number that went out on correspondence and social media blasts, my name in the phone directory was “[Department] Office” instead of “Zephy,” I made general calls on behalf of the department to follow up with clients and make appointments for other people. 18 months in, I transitioned to a more specialized role and they didn’t backfill the role I left. My name was added to the directory and everything! Except nothing else was changed. My number still goes out on official documents and I still get calls that should be transferred to people based out of a whole different county, to say nothing of city or campus.

      2. 3co*

        When I started at my old job, they gave me a phone number in the directory but forgot to actually issue me a phone for several years! It was great.

    8. Aggretsuko*

      I wish I could block my voicemail. I would so get fired if I had a message like this and was caught, though.

    9. Zephy*

      The best voicemail greeting I’ve ever encountered went like this: “If you’re hearing this message, please hang up and send me a text. I haven’t checked my voicemail since 2010.” And true to form, the mailbox was full and not accepting messages at that time. I appreciated her honesty!

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        That’s pretty good.

        The best I ever heard was simply “Go.” as in “Go ahead and start talking.”

        1. Mark*

          I used to have this on my personal voice mail, back when voice mail was used often since internet was over phone lines. I stopped using it because it confused too many callers. Invariably the first message would be “Hello? Hello? Mark? Fu-” (click). Then there’d be another call with a proper message.

    10. Rainy*

      I had a colleague who simply never answered her phone or set up her voicemail. She still listed the number on her business card and email .sig, she just never answered or checked voicemail. When she took a new job another colleague inherited her phone number and when he went to set up his voicemail there were basically eight years’ worth of messages left for her that he had to delete.

    11. Emi*

      I accidentally left my slightly-more-than-professionally-testy “I am out of the office due to a lapse in government funding” voicemail greeting up for a couple months after funding was restored, oops.

    12. Workfromhome*

      I have been out the office working from home for more than a year now. After a few weeks of remotely checking VM (and sometimes forgetting for days) I simply changed my phone setting so you cannot leave a message. I have not regretted since. On very few occasions people have clicked 0 and gone to reception. Reception can IM me and ill call or email the person back if I want or they can give them my email. Everyone else either emails me or if they already have it call my cell. Internal people never call my phone they use IM or video chat. No one internally has had an issue with this and this eliminates the whole hey call me back to spend 30 minutes talking about something that I could have answered in 2 minutes in an email.

    13. mdv*

      In my office, most of the phone lines just didn’t even have voicemail, because we already got enough abuse in regular phone calls (university parking office). When we switched to VOIP, that went away, but at least now they get *badly* transcribed into our email boxes…

    14. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I got the original voice mail on my landline when it became available for home use. It replaced the old voicemail recorder you could buy.

      I cancelled it at the end of the trial period and they asked me why so they could improve their services.
      I surprised myself by bursting out, “messages, messages, messages! I cannot take it anymore!

      I truly hate voice mail.

    15. Rp44*

      I have a colleague who directs people to email an alternative email alias when she’s on leave. This alternative email alias? Yup goes to her. Don’t know why she does it. She’s also set a rule in her team that they have to answer each others’ phones of someone is away from their desk. Inevitably, the person answering the phone can’t help and tells the caller to send an email. It drives me up the wall.

      1. Mel*

        OMG. When I was in college, my mom got me a summer job at her office. All I did was send faxes, get faxes back, and put dates in a spreadsheet.

        One day, the boss said I needed to start answering phones, and did not accept my pushback.

        It was a commodities trading firm. I still barely know what they do. But, I would answer the phone, listen to whatever they said, understand not much and then I would say “lemme put you on hold” and then I would turn to the nearest person not on the phone and I’d say something dumb like “They’re calling about like…salt maybe?” And then I’d transfer to that person and they would figure out who it went to. (They all knew who was trading what that day. Nobody ever told me.)

        It was very inefficient but I was making $3 above minimum wage and it was air conditioned. So no argument from me. They took me back for the winter break and would have had me every other summer except I did internships, so I guess I didn’t do too badly.

    16. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I have a message saying I don’t listen to voice mail, because I only see that a message has been left after several days. No idea why the lag, it’s been the same despite going through two phones and two operators. There are always other ways to contact me. Last time I got voicemail it was the police, the officer was calling from a landline so he couldn’t text. Luckily it wasn’t urgent (he needed a witness statement, but I hadn’t witnessed anything of interest to the court).

    17. PersephoneUnderground*

      Wow- that is rude of her. If you have a phone, you should have voicemail! It’s unprofessional (or at least inconsiderate) to have a mode of contact that just says “sorry, I know you already contacted me, but I want you to contact me again a different way”. Especially if she’s out of the office it doesn’t make sense to turn it off. The entire point of voicemail is so you can listen to the messages when you return…

      I say this as someone who used to have a chronic problem keeping up with my personal voicemails. But I got voicemail transcription set up so I can read them now, because just ignoring important phone calls has consequences. I can’t imagine trying to just duck them in a professional job where I had a phone number, and therefore an expectation that people can call me!

      I’ve run into the “no voicemail” thing at a few businesses where phone was the main mode of contact too, and it was hugely frustrating. You call your doctor to ask about, say, a billing issue, and it turns out they’re closed, but then it just says the office hours and “goodbye *click*”. Seriously? Sorry, /end rant.

  5. pretzelgirl*

    I worked somewhere that required we use them when we left for the day or if we were in meetings all day. It was rather annoying to do every single day. Now I am not at a place that requires it thankfully. I will often put one up if I leave early or if I am arriving late. Also if I am actually out of the office I will also put one up.

    I do find the above quite amusing, but it would never fly at my place of work! lol!

    1. The Original K.*

      When you left for the day?! I could maybe see that if you were dealing with different time zones (although I worked for a company with offices on both US coasts, in the UK, and in Asia and no one did this), but it still feels really excessive. I would guess the work/life balance situation would be bad at a place that required this.

      1. pretzelgirl*

        Yupp! At this particular place we had a client who could not get a hold of someone. They made a huge stink about it and this became company policy. We also had to change our VM every night. We also had to reply to any emails we received within 4 hours. Even if we didn’t have an answer.

        I actually stopped changing my VM and out of office right before I left, bc I just did’nt care anymore lol. This was only one of a number of things that this company did that was bonkers.

        1. Cendol*

          Oh gosh. You’ve just reminded me that I was supposed to change my VM before every vacation or holiday at my old job. Something I completely forgot to do after the first year. Whoops!

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          We also had to reply to any emails we received within 4 hours. Even if we didn’t have an answer.

          While this sounds kind of onerous, I don’t think it’s actually a bad idea to say “I don’t have this info but I’ll get back to you when I find out” if it’s going to take a while.

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        That really does feel excessive. I think most people are savvy enough to think, ‘Huh, it’s late in the day for pretzelgirl, I might not get a response until tomorrow. Business as usual.’ Being out of communication for a day – travel, meetings, days off – doesn’t require an out of the office alert, either, just a response as soon as possible.

        Going to be out of communication for a few days? That’s another story.

        1. Elenna*

          IDK, I try to change my OOO if I’m out for a day. It might not be completely necessary, but I’d rather inform people, and it doesn’t happen often enough to be annoying for me.

          Changing it every evening is definitely too much, though. I would assume the vast majority of people sending business email understand the concept of working and non-working hours…

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I set my OoO for individual public holidays, because I know they’re not global, and I get emails from lots of different countries.

            Literally just “Please note that (date) is a public holiday in (country). I will not be checking my inbox until (next working day).”

            I often see people put public holiday notices in their email signatures a week or two in advance, especially where there are multiple affected dates in a row. We are a very date-dependent field, though.

    2. Anna Badger*

      we had something similar at one phone-heavy place I used to work and it was actually extremely useful – everyone set their voicemail when they got in, and people would include if they were offsite (so worth ringing their mobile) or likely to be otherwise unreachable, and who to contact if your query was urgent. only took a minute to set, and was super useful to me as someone who had to talk to maybe 10-20 people on the phone in a day.

    3. Cookies for Breakfast*

      There’s a department at my workplace where this is common practice too. My old department worked with clients in similar ways, and I was half expecting we’d also be required to do it, but luckily that never happened. Further proof that, at this (generally progressive, flexible-working) company, your actual work-life balance heavily depends who manages you.

      I feel for the people who have to cover others’ out-of-office for a few hours or a day, just as much as I feel for those who have to arrange cover whenever they’re out for a meeting. If the purpose is showing demanding clients that they can get a quick response to their issues at any time, then…won’t talking to someone who doesn’t have any context about their business piss them off even more? It all feels like unnecessary stress to put on people.

    4. hbc*

      Ugh, I wouldn’t mind changing daily if I could have a couple of prepared responses for normal circumstances (i.e.: “I’ve left for the day, but I’ll be back in the office tomorrow morning to return your call”) to select from, but having to create a new message for Tuesday night when the info for Monday night is the same? Rage inducing.

    5. Nanani*

      Oh my god, that would be such a nightmare. Excessive inbox clutter, too.
      Email is asynchronous, you KNOW you’re not going to get an instant reply and sometimes you email knowing fully well that it won’t be seen until the next morning/week/whatever. Why on earth mandate an auto-reply for that?

      Your former workplace baffles. Boggles even.

    6. Dog Coordinator*

      My boss requires us to put a nightly OOO message up, and I HATE it. I pushed back on it for months at first, because people know and understand that the reason no one is responding at 8pm is because the business is closed (or at least, they should understand that…). It wasn’t worth the fight, my boss thinks it’s so important, so I caved and just turn on the message every night. I think it makes us look immature and like we don’t understand business norms, but it’s not the hill I’m willing to die on.

      It also doesn’t help that gmail has no ability to create an OOO schedule… like why can’t I have gmail turn on the message every day at 5pm, and turn it off every morning at 8am? We have the technology!

    7. Teapot Wrangler*

      That would drive me mad. I’m okay with in meetings all day but if you’re just going home at a normal time that’s ridiculous!

  6. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

    I’ve started going really, really simple on OOO messages – literally just “I’ll be out of the office until ___, please contact ___ for questions about ____”

    1. The Original K.*

      Me too. I don’t say why I’m going to be out when I take time off either, unless it’s a vacation I’m really excited about and just talk about naturally.

    2. Ali G*

      Same. All you need to know is I am not available and you are not going to hear from me until such and such date and contact so and so if you need something sooner.

      1. Jack Straw*

        Exactly. It doesn’t matter if I’m sitting on the beach, on my couch, or in a hospital bed–I’m not reachable and you’re gonna have to wait until I get back or contact someone else.

    3. ENFP in Texas*

      I’ll add “with limited access to email and voicemail” if I’m out because of work-related stuff (back when we used to have offsite meetings!), and “with no access to email and voicemail” if I’m truly on PTO.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes, qualifiers can be helpful. Limited vs no email access, out of the office versus working off site, regular out of the office versus extended leave, etc.

        I’ve named the conference I was attending a couple of times in my out of office. That particular conference is a big enough deal in my field that some of the people emailing me were probably also in attendance, which made it worth specifying, in addition to setting expectations about email response times and overall availability.

    4. Jay*

      Yup. That’s almost verbatim what I do. It’s the standard around here and now I’m grateful for that!

    5. glitter writer*

      Yup. Well, I do specify I will have “sporadic/intermittent” access to email or “no” access to email, because there is a difference. But short and sweet is the way to go.

    6. SomebodyElse*

      The only thing I add to that boilerplate is if I’m working but mostly unavailable.

      I’ll be at a work off-site and will have limited availability by phone and email until ___, please contact ___ for immediate needs about ____ otherwise I will respond as soon as possible”

      I will also add if I will be available by phone or if I’m completely off grid.

      I do think mine sometimes gets a little wordy because I generally have 2 to 3 people that I direct people to depending on need. But, I figure it’s less hassle than only going through one person and getting shuffled around.

    7. Bagpuss*

      Yes, mine (for external e-mails) typically says somethingalong the lines of “I’m out of the office until [date/time] and messages to this address are not monitored in my absence. I will respond as soon as possible on my return. If your message is urgent, please re-send to my assistant [email address] or telephone [assistant’s number]”

      Internal it will usually just say “I’m out until [date/time] pass any urgent enquiries to [co-workers] ” although my assistant and a couple of others have my home number and personal e-mail so can get hold of me in a genuine emergency, and I will sometimes speak to them in advance if I’m willing to lower the bar on what amounts to an emergency, but I would not expect any of my employees to do that !

    8. MI Dawn*

      That’s basically my OOO message also. I’ll admit, I haven’t checked my office phone in weeks for VM, because anyone internally (or externally with any brain) would IM or email, and any spam calls can just sit in my VM.

    9. Anon100*

      I do that for most cases. Occasionally I’ll change it to “I’m out of the country and will not have phone or email access.”

    10. MK*

      I think simple is best, and also safest. I found the message in the post amusing as an AAM article, but if I had contacted this person on a serious and/or urgent work matter I would probably be annoyed by the comedy skit. And I was contacting them because they had messed up somehow, it would land very badly.

      Also, you need to know your audience if you are going to go eccentric. Alison mentions that this message is fine in their culture, but it wouldn’t npbe appropriate for my somewhat formal field. And even if your workplace in general is casual, you might be contacted by someone outside. (In a tiny provincial courthouse I served in the past, there is a story going around that in the 80s a junior but elderly clerk used to address phone callers as hun and sweetheart and generally speak very informally. Most people thought it was funny, and then the President of Supreme Court called and… he didn’t).

      1. Cathie from Canada*

        Yes, I phoned a dentist office late in the day for a reinfected root canal problem and got a cutsy “humphrey bogart” fake reply on their voicemail — I thought it was extremely inappropriate for a business office to use something like this. It was hard to find it funny, especially because while calling me “sweetheart” and all that, the message didn’t actually tell me when they might return my call (later that day? Next day? Next week? Never?) nor did they offer any options for emergency contact with another dentist.
        I found another one on my own, and that’s the dentist I still go to.

    11. chewingle*

      Same, and I leave this template in my settings so all I have to do is change the date. Simple, to the point, and no one can say they didn’t know what to do while I was out.

    12. Kittymommy*

      This is the standard reply I’m my org. Occasionally there is something about not being able to check emails while away (or being able to) but that’s about it.

    13. cubone*

      My new job provided a template OOO as part of the onboarding brand templates package! I’m sure it might seem like overkill to some, but I’ve had tons of nervous first-job employees ask me what theirs should say, so I loved that they just gave a sample to go from. Also goes a long way in communicating that unique office culture stuff that is usually unspoken/not formalized.

    14. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

      I should add that I actually WISH I got more exciting OOO messages and/or that I felt like I could be more exciting with mine!

    15. Momma Bear*

      Same. I also have a version that is customer facing/external and one that is internal. My coworkers get a little more info.

    16. Insert Clever Name Here*

      That’s my practice, too, though I only use it for times I’ll be out for a day or more. Some of the work I do and support can be very time sensitive and it’s really the most efficient use of *everyone’s* time if I spend two minutes before I leave setting up OOO so that they are quickly directed to the right person instead of having to go check my calendar, see I’m out for a week, try to remember who it is that’s my backup, etc.

    17. Rock Prof*

      I do this when I’m on personal vacations. When I’m doing field work for research, I do tend to add a statement that I won’t have access to email/phone because I’m doing field work in X location.

  7. Murphy*

    Unfortunately I didn’t save it, but I once received of office reply that included a synopsis of the “comedic novel” they were working on during their time off.

    1. WFH with Cat*

      This just made me laugh. (Hope their book was good enough to make people laugh.)

    2. Esmeralda*

      Edmund, A Butler’s Tale. A giant rollercoaster of a novel in four hundred sizzling chapters.

  8. Sami*

    My favorite one that I’ve heard is from TV. “You’ve reached {name}. I can’t answer. Don’t waste my time.”

    1. it_guy*

      The one from “Central Intelligence” with the Rock that I love is is (paraphrasing) :


      Can you hear me? Is this thing on?

      Just kidding! Leave a message?

      1. Dog Coordinator*

        I had a voicemail greeting like that in High School!! I can’t imagine an adult having that kind of VM greeting; it would definitely annoy me coming from anyone older than like 20.

    2. Campfire Raccoon*

      I think my personal VM still says, “Ahoy, ahoy!” In my best Mr. Burns voice. I’m a woman.

  9. TotesMaGoats*

    I had a peer whose auto-reply included “I will respond at my earliest convenience.” Along with other personality traits, this grated on me like nothing else. It was oddly formal for our organization and always came across as “I’ll get back to you when I feel like it.” My advising team, especially during peak times, has auto replies that sets reply expectations. With each person doing about 300 students, it makes sense even though I don’t love it.

      1. Le Sigh*

        See, in my head, “as soon as possible” reads simply as a more formal way of saying “I will respond at my earliest convenience.” Like, either way, this person is getting back to you as soon as they can, whatever that actually means.

        I dunno, this is one of those areas I feel like people overanalyze. Like, yes, there are definitely some away messages that make me raise an eyebrow and I really don’t want anyone’s medical history. I’m not a huge fan of the one from the LW cause it’s a bit cutesy and takes too long to get to the point — I prefer short and sweet. But some people also just…struggle with how to put together an away message and copy what their boss does. Or they’re like me — I need a message that works for clients as well, so mine needs to be a little more formal, even if my office isn’t.

        People also hate it when some people sign “Sincerely,” but also a bunch of people hate “Thanks” and “Best” and “Toodles” — almost any signature you pick someone will hate. This is one of those areas of language that feels really subjective and culturally dependent and also…isn’t that big of a deal?

        1. Storm in a teacup*

          We can set up a separate OOO for internal and external emails. So much easier

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          I think the problem is that “at your earliest convenience” is a formulaic convention that uses explicit, almost exaggerated politeness to basically issue a stern direction, meaning “as soon as you possibly can”. When you turn it into “at my earliest convenience” it’s unclear if you mean “whenever it’s convenient for me to get to it” (what the words say) or “as soon as I possibly can” (what the meaning of the formulaic original is). Or else it sounds like you didn’t quite understand how “at your earliest convenience” works.

          So it’s better avoided to use the formula in the first person.

          1. TheAG*

            YES. I was actually just going to go on the weekend thread and ask if I was the only one that really hates this term.

            Admittedly the several people I know who do this are also very lazy so I may be reading into tone? Because it definitely was going to be whenever it was going to be convenient for them, not so much for the business.

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I just say “following my return to the office” because saying “as soon as possible” isn’t actually when I’m going to respond — I may have other priorities when I get back that take precedence over responding to a week old email that wasn’t important enough for them to contact my backup. That said, it doesn’t bother me when other people do it!

        1. Empress Matilda*

          I say “as soon as possible,” which to me means “as soon as possible after I get back to the office, make myself a coffee, throw out the milk I forgot in the fridge, chat with my colleagues a bit, check in with my boss, and triage all the new emails and VMs that came in while I was away.”

          So, not the literal first second I’m back at my desk. But as soon as I can, depending on where you land once I’ve taken a look at everything and set some priorities.

      3. Esmeralda*

        You can’t do that when students are emailing (well, you can, but you shouldn’t). Our office requirement is “within 48 hours during regular business hours.”

        1. allathian*

          Well, if you become too sick to work for longer than that, what happens then? Surely there’s some backup. If not, you’re not always going to be able to keep that promise.

    1. RegBarclay*

      Yes! I hate the “at my earliest convenience” for the same reason – it comes across as “I’ll do it when I feel like it”. I would only use that phrase at work in terms of someone else (ie “at YOUR earliest convenience”).

      1. Van Wilder*

        Agreed. I think some people don’t analyze the individual words when they hear the phrase. It’s fine to say “please let me know at YOUR earliest convenience” but it’s weird to say “I’ll get back to you at MY earliest convenience.”

        1. Dizzy Belle*

          Yes – it’s become a stock phrase that people think sounds polite but they’re not grasping the nuance of it.

      2. Yes Yes Yes*

        Exactly! This may be the type of person who hears a phrase that sounds polite when referring to another, but mangles it and uses it to refer to themself so it becomes the opposite of polite.

        I work with such a person. So instead of something like “I’m writing to ask if you would graciously consider serving on our committee”, she will send a message along the lines of: “I am graciously writing to ask you to serve on our committee.”

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      This would go over like a lead balloon at my company, and, were that person on my team, I’d tell them to change it. It does have a connotation of “when I feel like it” about it, and most of my team is not high enough up the food chain to take that sort of stance (and the ones who are high enough up are client-facing and have the good sense not to do so).

    3. Momma Bear*

      I’m not bothered by it, but I use “when I return” instead. I don’t want people to think I’m checking emails when I’m out.

    4. Julia*

      Hahaha. This sounds like somebody thought the phrase “at X’s earliest convenience” sounded vaguely businessy and professional, but didn’t realize the pronoun is always supposed to be “your”. It’s never “my”, for the reason you mentioned.

    5. Absurda*

      I’ve had several co-workers over the years use “at my earliest convenience” and it’s always rubbed me the wrong way. It just sounds kind of dismissive like, “I don’t care when you need it, I’ll get to it when I get to it.”

    6. Blymey*

      I suppose it’s better than a colleague of mine who’s out of office is always: “I am out of the office until XXX. Please email me if you need assistance.”

    7. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’ve heard “please respond at *your* earliest convenience,” but never the other way around.

  10. HR Exec Popping In*

    I found the video funny and would actually laugh at the sense of humor in that out of office message.

    As for pet peeves, I hate when someone doesn’t turn off their out of office or it has out dated information. As in I’m out of the office until 1/5/1999. UPDATE YOUR MESSAGE or TURN IT OFF! :)

    1. CatCat*

      I have a colleague that does this with their voicemail. Almost always forgets to change the message once they’re back in so if you call, say, on Thursday, June 3, and you get their voicemail, you will hear how the person is out of the office from May 24 to 26 and who to call while the person is away.

      I should note that our voicemail system has a pretty straightforward feature to put an end date on an out-of-office voicemail message. I am baffled why this person does not use the feature.

      1. Le Sigh*

        I might be your coworker. I don’t get a lot of calls so it slips my mind constantly. Email I just set up a timer and it’s so much easier that way.

      2. Two Dog Night*

        My husband’s voice mails says “…if you need immediate assistance call Mary at ####…”, only Mary retired something like eight years ago. I mention this to him every once in a while. It hasn’t changed.

    2. Jay*

      Co-sign. HATE THAT. We use Outlook and there’s a banner across the top that says AUTOMATIC REPLIES ARE BEING SENT. Just click the button to stop them!

      1. Van Wilder*

        I have a coworker that purposely leaves them on the first day that she’s back in the office (even though it said she would be back today) because she thinks it signals that she’s still unavailable (while she needs some time to catch up.) I think it’s a bit confusing.
        I personally would feel weird doing it because it seems like I just never came back from vacation.

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      That’s also annoying because if it’s not someone I interact with regularly I will wonder if it’s been left on by accident.

    4. Kaylin Neya*

      I agree about the out of office reply. Made me laugh. Given that I work a high stress job, I can always use some laughter, so I actually don’t mind it.

    5. TheLinguistManager*

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought it was funny and not annoying! I’m with Alison that it’s probably just a little wordy, but there’s no problem with the humor.

      My OOO messages are always pretty casual, and the last line in the list of “for X, contact Y” is always something like “for chili recipes, contact Z”.

  11. EvilQueenRegina*

    Former coworker: “I am out of the country from X until Y. Please do not email me during this time as last time I came back to about 250, and reading them all takes up a lot of the time I have left before I retire.”
    Some people thought that was funny. The director who received that in response to an all staff communication? Not so much. Coworker got a talking to by his manager when he got back to the UK.

    I think this was from some outside contractor: “I have decided to retire to Pluto. Please send all work related enquiries to Cecil.Mongoose at llamagroomers dot com, or if you prefer an intergalactic means of communication my personal address is fergus at pluto dot com.”

    1. TimeTravlR*

      It’s kind of a ridiculous OOO anyway since by the time I get it from you, I have already sent my email.

      1. Elenna*

        Depends on the system. Our Outlook is set up so that if you’ve got someone with an OOO in the “To” field, a note shows up saying that they are sending automated messages, and you can see the message. Convenient, since then I can add the person covering their stuff to the email without sending a second email.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          That’s the way ours is set up, so anyone who was emailing that guy at the time would have seen it.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      250? That could easily be only 2-3 days of emails. You can’t declare “email bankruptcy” for only a few days worth of emails.

      1. 3DogNight*

        Right! LOL
        I average about 200 a day, so if I was on vaca and came back to only 250 mails, I would be putting in a ticket with IT, thinking something was broken.

      2. Van Wilder*

        Yeah, that’s not enough to stress over. Try coming back to tens of thousands after parental leave.

    1. mcfizzle*

      Right?! If it’s a 3 day retreat, that’s one thing. But not being around for an hour or two shouldn’t be any kind of BIG DEAL.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I find some meetings are the best place to catch up on my email correspondence….

      2. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. Every time you are in a meeting is overkill. For some people they are never not in meetings.

      3. Aggretsuko*

        If they have to leave an OOO message for being out for an hour for a meeting, clearly it is A Big Deal in that office :(

    2. Jay*

      I don’t do them for meetings. I do have one that I turn on every Tuesday afternoon since I don’t work Wednesdays. In our culture it’s not uncommon for people to check EMail when they’re off. I don’t do that so I need to let people know. I also put a status message up on Teams. I work with a team of 40 people and I can’t expect them all to remember when I’m there and when I’m not!

    3. Anonosaurus*

      What’s the beef against part time staff? I am part time and I think it’s a courtesy to let correspondents know when I am at my desk. I also appreciate getting it from other people as I can either escalate or make s mental note of when I expect to hear back.

      1. TimeTravlR*

        Agree that part time staff was odd to include here. I have no idea if you are part time. I don’t keep track of other people’s schedules. I would find it helpful to know you aren’t available the rest of the day in case I need something sooner.

        1. T. J. Juckson*

          As a part time person, I now put an OOO on my non-work days since I was getting snarky comments about slow response times. (People don’t realize I’m part time and my position is not suited at all to it.) Dude, I didn’t respond because I don’t get paid to work on Fridays.

          1. Undine*

            “Dude, I don’t respond because I’m not paid to work Fridays.”

            How I wish that could be an actual OOO message.

      2. Haha Lala*

        I’m betting Ace means part-time staff working their regular schedules. So if you work regularly work 30 hrs a week, I don’t need your OOO for the other 10 hrs (assuming a 40 hr week), but if you’re on vacation for multiple days or a full week, then yes, use an OOO message.

        1. Le Sigh*

          Well, but as others have pointed out, that depends on the part-time job and the industry. If you don’t work Tuesdays and Thursdays, but those are considered standard hours in your business, clients or other folks outside the office might email you on Tuesday morning with something important, not hear back and not know why — and get irritated. If they get an OOO, they now know what to expect or they have a backup option if the matter is urgent.

          So, to me that really depends!

          1. Hydrangea McDuff*

            We have one key administrative assistant who works part time and I always forget — I appreciate that she sets an OOO every day because her department is very deadline driven and it helps me to remember that if I need something from them, I need to connect with her in the morning.
            We also have some staff who work the school year calendar and others who are year round; the OOO is so helpful in the summers!

      3. Ace*

        I have nothing against part-time staff. But, if they only work until 4 PM until 5 PM, then the OOTO replies aren’t as helpful. If we had staff that only worked on certain days, then knowing that it may be more than one business day before a reply would be useful.

      4. introverted af*

        Same. There are a few people that are regularly in charge of things I need from them, but are part time. The vast majority of our office is full time. I have no idea when they’ll get back to me, or if I should email someone else. If I saw an OOO message every time they were gonna be gone Th-Fri, I would learn their schedule faster, and hopefully have the most up to date info about “oh, they changed their schedule due to Memorial Day, I can email them and get a response quicker this week” or whatever the issue is.

      5. Frideag Dachaigh*

        My mom works part time at a library in archives, where her personal work email is also the general archives email (ie LibraryNameArchives @ email . com). She has an out of office response that replies with her work hours (since she’s the only employee in the archives) so people know when she’s in the library and can respond or when they can come in and visit her.
        The only frustrating thing is that her email either isn’t capable of, or she doesn’t know how to, turn off the OOO email when she’s actually in the office, or doesn’t trust that she’ll remember to turn it back on. She’ll send me an email about something, I’ll respond, I’ll get an OOO response, she’ll respond, I’ll reply, I get an OOO reply, etc etc.

        1. Sue D. O'Nym*

          That sounds like she’s using an auto-responder, not an Out of Office. The primary difference, as far as I can tell, is that an auto-response will respond to every email, whereas the OOO message will only reply once per sender when it’s turned on. (Turning it off and then back on resets it)

          She may want to talk to her IT folks to see if they can help her switch this around.

        2. BubbleTea*

          This seems like information that would be better in an email signature than an OOO, really. That’s how my organisation does it.

          1. Esmeralda*

            The problem with that is people just don’t look at your signature. Whereas they are reasonably likely to notice the OOO message in the email subject header.

            1. WonHungLo Heavy Industry LTD*

              >The problem with that is people just don’t look at your signature.

              Not just that, but some e-mail systems (Gmail comes to mind) have taken to hiding the signature underneath a little expando-button. You don’t see it unless you go looking.

    4. OyHiOh*

      I’m part time. I don’t use an out of office message, but I do have my hours in my signature, and sometimes include that information in the body of email. Many of the people I correspond with frequently need things turned around quickly – postings for public meetings need to go out so many days ahead of said meeting, and similar. They need to know when I’m available to get the work done!

      1. Jack Straw*

        The hours in your signature is a great idea! I’m about to have a non-standard work schedule to accommodate medical appointments. Totally stealing this idea!

    5. EPLawyer*

      until you have the client who calls, lvm, then when they don’t call back in an hour emails to complain they can never get hold of you.

      Of course, I had one POTENTIAL cient who got the “I’m in court and can’t call you back” repeatedly calling and demanding to know why I wasn’t calling him back. Like “I;m IN COURT DUDE. The JUDGE takes precedence over you.” He really expected me to tell the judge to take a recesss so I could call him back. I eventually got back to him with an email “I think you might be better off with another attorney.”

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      Eh, my team’s instruction to put them up if they’re going to be away from email/voicemail for more than an hour (standard lunch break). I have a ton of staff, and we’re in a business where a high degree of responsiveness, especially during the business day, is expected and few of my staff have mobile email. We’re also a larger organization with mixed project teams, and not everyone knows who’s PT/FT or on nonstandard hours.

      Before I implemented this system, I got *way* too many calls asking if so-and-so was out of the office that day when an OOO tells them that Bob will be back in three hours and to call Sue in the interim. The OOOs have reduced status check calls to practically zero, and the OOO preview pops up in our system as soon someone’s email is entered.

      1. Emilia Bedelia*

        I think in an industry/company culture where that kind of responsiveness is expected/normal, that makes a lot of sense!

        My pet peeve is OOOs for the afternoon/an appointment when the person who set it up is NOT good at responding to emails in a timely fashion. If someone usually requires multiple reminders and follow up emails for me to get a reply to an email after 2 weeks, I don’t really need a notification that their responses will be delayed an hour until they get back from the doctor. It makes me think “who are you responding to that quickly, and why can’t you reply to me that fast??”

    7. MsMaryMary*

      I set mine for long meetings (half a day or a whole day) or if I’m traveling. I do have clients who email about time sensitive issues and it’s better for everyone if they know I might not see their message for a few hours.

    8. Mister T*

      Half of the auto-replies I get are for very specific chunks of time. Like, if you are out of the office for three hours I don’t need to know, dude.

    9. Campfire Raccoon*

      I deal with this all day. I feel like some property management companies make their managers announce when they’re going to use the bathroom via auto-reply.

  12. RaeofSunshine*

    I came across a woman’s Maternity Leave OOO message which said “All emails will be deleted upon my return. If it still urgent after (return date), send another message.”
    I always admired the attitude of that one.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I’ve seen those before (also for maternity or for people who were taking extended leave). I really appreciate it, personally — it basically lets the sender know that the ball IS still in their court, which I don’t see as inherently offensive or attitudy.

      (Obviously, it wouldn’t fly in all cultures, but I do think this should be more normalised.)

    2. leeloo*

      I mean, this is what I pretty much did upon returning from my maternity leaves but I would never put it into an email!
      My maternity leave OOO was the vague “I am on extended leave and am not anticipated to return until X. Please contact Joe or Fergus in my absence.” X being a vague time-frame based on my due date and the length of my leave. No one is waiting 3+ months for an answer so I did get to delete most of the 500 emails I got during my most recent leave!
      I did once have someone internal tell me I should say maternity leave rather than leave, but really, what does it matter? I’m gone for a few months and no one outside of the company really NEEDS to know why.

      1. TimeTravlR*

        It is absolutely no one’s business why you are out! “Extended leave” is more than sufficient.

      2. SuperDiva*

        That’s weird! I would specifically not say maternity leave, since I don’t want to invite a lot of questions about the birth, baby, etc. when I come back to work. Just let me focus on catching up on my job! (I work with a lot of external clients, though. Internal-only would be different.)

      3. Van Wilder*

        I try to substitute “parental leave” for “maternity leave” whenever possible. Trying to normalize it as a benefit to all employees (at my company) rather than a special lady-vacation.

    3. glitter writer*

      I didn’t actually put that in my maternity leave out-of-office, but it is what I did when I got back.

    4. Massive Dynamic*

      That is kind of glorious. And it does make sense when the person you’re emailing is gone for months. I did something similar my last mat leave except I didn’t explicitly state it, and lo and behold, people figured out that I wasn’t going to catch their email from a month or so earlier unless they brought it up again.

    5. Bagpuss*

      When we have people go on maternity leave we normally arrange with them for mail to be forwarded directly to the person covering their leave, (but I’m in the UK so normally they will be out for 6-12 months)

      1. BubbleTea*

        I’m four weeks away from going on maternity leave for six months, so I’m in the process of divvying up my clients between colleagues, or finishing off work and closing cases. I will need an OOO for anyone who pops up again having been closed in the past, so this thread has been useful to get me thinking about it!

    6. Ann O'Nemity*

      I did something similar the second time I took maternity leave, actually. I didn’t explicitly say, “I will delete all emails,” but instead I shared my backups’ contact info and invited people to contact me again when I was back from leave.

      The reason I did it was that the first time I took maternity leave, I came back to thousands of irrelevant emails. It was a chore to sort through them, and finding the ones that were still relevant was like finding a needle in a haystack. And it wasn’t just a waste of *my* time – I often had to reach out to email senders only to hear that no further action was needed, so I was wasting their time too.

    7. Nonprofiteer*

      I think this makes a lot of sense for a 2-3 month absence, when there wouldn’t be much point in reading and responding to things when you get back. Questions will have been answered and issues resolved by different means.

      But I’ve also seen this tactic used for a week’s vacation, which seems… aggressive.

      1. Olives*

        Yes absolutely! I would be really annoyed if someone did that. I would probably have to set a reminder for myself to resend that email (or emails), which is more work for me. If I’m sending the email to several people, I’d also have to ask myself if I should resend it to everyone to follow up, or maybe just wait to send it. This would stress me out that something might slip through the cracks.

    8. Joy*

      Hah! Maternity/parental leave is often 1 year here, so there is zero expectation you will read or “catch up” afterwards. We keep our email addresses during where I work (Canadian government), so it’s standard to put an OOO that just says “on parental leave. Please contact X instead” with no reference to actually reviewing any of those emails, and often not even a projected date of return since people often flex their return date or take extra time, or just return to a different position entirely (out of choice).

      Except since we usually have a strict 2 GB inbox limit, that usually lasts about 2-3 months at best and then nobody can send you anything at all so it works out. (In-organization they’ll still see the OOO when they put you into the address bar, so it works out that it’s not TOO much to delete when you return.

    9. TechWorker*

      My colleague does that just for holidays.. it does say who else to contact, but tbh if I’m emailing him a couple of days before he’s due to return then I’m not massively impressed at the insinuation I should take the action of remembering to resend it… in reality I think he probably does read *some* emails but clearly views the OOO as a way to absolve responsibility if he misses something..

    10. please do not refer to me*

      This makes a lot of sense to me, since surely in the 3-4 months people tend take as leave in the US, your issue would have been resolved. Also for parental leave, most people delegate ongoing projects to some specific person, so anything that’s still going to be going on months from now when you return is getting handled by someone else.

    11. Sarah*

      I had a manager who did exactly that for his paternity leave. I was floored, because I never thought it was an option. His attitude was that if it was important enough, the person would send it again.

  13. Sled dog mama*

    This is so timely for me as I begin a 2 week vacation in 15 days (no I’m not counting days or anything).
    I have been agonizing over how much detail to share in my Out of office message as I will be completely unreachable during this time.

    1. RaeofSunshine*

      I’d just stick with “I will be OOO without access to phone or email from XX/YY to XX/YY, returning on XX/YY.”
      And then whatever directions for directing to your support/backup while you are out.
      I find that specifically saying ‘without access to phone or email’ sets a good expectation of non-response.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Yes. We do it that way in part because someone might be at a satellite office but out of OUR office and still be able to access emails, OR they might be completely offline at the beach. Saying you’re not answering emails can be helpful.

        1. DontCallMe*

          I took two weeks off recently and put together a google doc of anticipated things someone might need to know. I slacked it to our whole team with instructions not to call me unless we’re about to lose $1 million or more (we’re a small office and I wear a lot of hats so lots of small things could have been a problem). IDK if anyone actually read it, but it set a tone of “don’t think you can reach me for the next 2 weeks” and let me keep a short OOO response.

      2. hbc*

        Yeah, that’s all I need to know when I’m trying to contact someone who’s out. 1) When you’re coming back so I know if my issue can wait, and 2) Where to go if I decide that it can’t.

      3. Absurda*

        This is typically what I do. People don’t need to know where you are or what you’re doing. It’s really none of their business. They just need to know how long you’ll be out, that you won’t be checking email or vm while you’re gone, and who to contact instead.

    2. Xavier Desmond*

      “I will be out of the office between date and date. If your email requires urgent attention please contact Insert Name Here.” Imo that’s enough

    3. Karo*

      Even if I do have access to my email while I’m vacation, I typically do “I’m out of office with no access to email or voicemail until (date). For anything requiring immediate attention please contact (boss).” If I happen to check my email I can still forward the important ones, but otherwise hopefully people get the message that I will not be responding.

      1. JustMyImagination*

        Same! If I’m on vacation then I say I have no access to emails. Even if I’m just sitting on my couch all week.

        But traveling for work, then I say “intermittent access” so that I only need to respond to the urgent emails and can ignore everything else for a few days.

    4. WonHungLo Heavy Industry LTD*

      You’re welcome to steal mine:

      Gone Fishing. Will return Friday, Smarch 32nd.

      Urgent Matters: Phone [Contact Name] at [Main Line] or e-mail [Shared Mailbox]

      Take Care and God Bless,
      Elwood Blues

    5. Marillenbaum*

      I feel this so hard! I am 14 days away from my PCS (permanent change of station), and will be on leave for a month. I’ve been drafting my OOO multiple times, not just out of a desire to edit but because it reminds me that I am LEAVING my current terrible office.

  14. Pants*

    This OoO has to be in the tech sector. I can see something like this as an (internal only) OoO at my workplace. I actually kinda love it. Yes it’s wordy but it also makes the recipient take a beat and consider the importance of their issue and where to go if needed. It will also cut down on interruptions to the “catch-all” person in the standard OoO, which is generally the Admin. I have always hated being the go-to on people’s OoOs. I spent more time trying to find info on what Urgent Emailer insisted was URGENT than I did doing any actual work. And the urgency was never really necessary.

    1. Ali G*

      I struggle with naming a contact too. My current job doesn’t really have emergencies, so while my second in command could handle stuff I normally would, should she have to? Also, 98% of the people that would get my OOO would know who to go to anyway if they actually needed something urgent. I hate to make someone else’s life harder for my own convenience when it’s not even needed.

      1. Pants*

        I’m new to tech but have watched my friends in tech with envy up until now. Worth the wait. I may be in the minority but my company actually assumes we’re all adults and treats us like human beings. So different than working in the myriad corporate dronehouses I’ve been in up until now. Finally, a place I can have my pink hair!

  15. Ali G*

    Apparently it’s a thing where people say in their out of office that they do not intend to read any emails that came in when they were out and your email will be deleted. If you still need assistance you need to resend your email after the person’s return date.
    While I get it, I’ve been in those positions where you get over 100 emails a day and if you are going to be out and unplugged for a week or more, trying to wade through all the junk and find the stuff that actually needs your attention, I do find this…rude? I don’t know the word I would use, but I have a negative reaction to it.

    1. Ashley*

      I find it rude, as well. If someone is emailing you (the royal you), it’s because they need something. Saying you’re just going to delete it without also giving that person a Plan B contact is totally rude. It sucks having to go through emails, it does. But it’s part of the job. In my role, I get requests from internal colleagues and from external partners. Even though I provide those partners with an alternate email to send their requests, it’s still my responsibility to make sure that the requests that were sent to me in my absence were handled. Saying “everything I’m sent will be deleted” just Would Not Fly in my industry.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I’m not sure I agree. Just as it’s part of the job for someone to handle their emails, it’s also part of the job for the sender to make sure that their request is sent to someone who is available.

        For many roles, of course, the sort of OoO described wouldn’t work. But there are a lot of roles where people would survive just fine letting their requests sit for an extra week before forwarding again. And especially at smaller companies where there they might be pressed for coverage when people are out, I think it’s great to normalise that a job is basically ‘off-line’ for a week or two so that the employee can rest and recharge.

        I know a lot of people who never vacation for more than a few days because the email backlog becomes incredibly stressful upon their return; this is one way to meaningfully combat that which is somewhat in the employee’s control.

        1. LQ*

          But this is where it becomes a power thing. The OOO person says that everyone else wants stuff from them that the sender can’t get elsewhere and you need to grovel to get it from them.

          I’ve seen that from vendors. Sorry, you’re not the only shop in town and if you can’t be bothered I’m using my power of my dollar and noping away from your company.

          1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            I can’t agree that holding on to a request for a week or so is akin to groveling.

            Again, this will depend HUGELY on what sort of role it is (an external-facing vendor, for example, should probably not use something like this). But for many internal requests, it is not power-tripping to ask someone to either redirect their email or wait until a later date to send it.

          2. Wisteria*

            It doesn’t say you have to grovel to get what you need. It says you have to ask again when they are in the office to get what you need, which is perfectly reasonable.

        2. Marillenbaum*

          If one were concerned about the message rubbing people the wrong way, it’s certainly something that can work with a bit of rephrasing: “I’m out on leave from X to Y. All messages received during that time will be deleted. Please resend your request after Y, or else contact Z for urgent assistance.”

      2. Eden*

        The plan B is to send it again when they’re back though. I think there are a lot of situations where I emailed them and someone else from the start and someone else answered, or I found someone else in the 2 months span until they’re back, or did it myself, or it’s too late to help…. So it does help them avoid following up on things that don’t need following up on.

        I guess my first instinct might be thinking it’s rude but having seen it a few times I do get it. It really makes sense for people who get dozens or hundreds of emails a day and are gone for extended periods of time. It’s more courteous to be up front about it than silently delete like some people said they do (though I get they maybe just didn’t realize they’d need to do that).

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’m with you. It comes across as a bit scold-y, like chastising someone for emailing while you’re out and treating them as if their issues aren’t important.

      Something like, “I will not have access to email while I am out and will get back to you when I return. If your issue is urgent, please resend your email after X date,” would be… more polite, I guess.

      I work in a role where someone else has to cover when I’m out, so most things do get taken care of. I have never been in a position where I could delete all emails without ruffling some serious feathers, so while I appreciate the motivation, it’s a completely foreign option to me.

      1. Properlike*

        Or provide one of those downloadable calendar reminders in the OOO response that says “X is back from leave; okay to email!” Then at least you’re being helpful and proactive while you’re deleting everyone’s email.

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Honestly, I like when people do this. I think it’s straightforward and it makes it clear that I still am in ownership of the problem (as opposed to wondering whether the other person has/will see it and what their timeline is).

      I wonder if this was more normalised if it would feel less rude?

      I’ve only seen it used for certain roles – usually admin-type ones – where people are fielding a significant amount of requests, so the potential vacation backlog could become prohibative and discourage people from taking time off.

    4. I should really pick a name*

      But if it’s actually what they’re going to do, it’s good to know that up front.

    5. M*

      See, if it’s a long period of leave and there’s an alternate contact provided, this is just… the sensible thing that should happen?

      If I’m out for three months, *someone* is doing each bit of my job in that time. Me coming back and wading through three months of emails where the majority of them will involve someone seeing the OOO and promptly emailing my cover instead, and trying to track down which ones did that and cc-ed me, which ones did that and *didn’t* cc me, and which ones fell off is just a terrible use of getting-back-up-to-speed time.

      I’d side-eye if an OOO for a couple of days off said that, unless someone was in an unusually time-sensitive role. But if someone’s out for long enough that there’s an alternate contact provided, that’s long enough for them not to be wading through missed emails when they get back.

      1. BRR*

        Yeah I think it’s fine if someone is out for a long period of time. It’s simply too much of an endeavor to find the few relevant emails out of thousands. But for a week or two, I’m sorry but you have to manage your inbox. I know, it sucks. We all get too many dumb emails.

    6. JB (not in Houston)*

      I can see why you’d have a negative reaction to it–that’s how I felt the first several times I heard about these kinds of emails–but I don’t think it’s actually rude (unless they’re saying “if I get emails from Ali G, I’m deleting them”). The wording of the email can be rude, but the general concept of this kind of email isn’t.

      Being told that you’ll need to email them at a later date instead of now can feel off-putting I guess, but I think it’s just because we’re not used to emails working that way. We tend to think the emails allow us to shift responsibility for something to the recipient, and this email is telling you that you can’t, and we tend not to like that because it goes against our expectations. (I don’t mean we try to wrongly shift our work onto others, I mean things like “I am responsible for getting this information to/from this person, and by sending this email I’m doing that”) And, like a lot of roadway interactions, it’s an easy thing to take personally when it’s not. But if the email says when the person will be back, you can either wait to send the email then, schedule the email to be sent then, or look for someone else to help you with the matter. Knowing that the email isn’t going to be read if you send it now is useful information, and deciding that we should be able to dictate how that person manages their time and priorities when they are back in the office, deciding that they should be willing to spend their work time sifting through 100s of emails that could have waited, gone to someone else, or not been sent at all seems, to me, more rude than this kind of email.

    7. LadyByTheLake*

      I personally like it. Of course, the emails that I’ve seen still say what to do if the matter is urgent and needs to be handled now — but as a person who gets 100+ emails a day, whether I tell you I’m deleting all of them when I get back or not — if it is in the thousands of emails that might accumulate in the time I am off, I’m not going to see it or respond. Better that I tell you now that you are going to have to resend the email after I return (or get my backup to handle it now) than you sit around waiting for a response that is never going to come. It is actually pretty common in my industry for any absence two weeks or more.

    8. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yeah, announcing you were going to delete emails unread and expecting the sender to resend when you return would NEVER fly in my office. I’d get executive complaints about that, especially if it went to a client or outside party – if a client can’t reach you, they will reach out to someone else who may not work at your organization and you lose business. I feel like this delete-it-all philosophy would only work for an entirely internal role where timelines are more relaxed, and even then, I feel it’s a bit unprofessional to foist your own catch-up work onto others, especially if they’ve been backfilling for you while you were OOO.

      I do typically come back to hundreds of emails, and I prioritize what to read – things from my boss/leadership are first, followed by communication from my direct reports. I also sort them by conversation thread and read the end of them first, which reduces the burden.

    9. Momma Bear*

      I find it rude because if I emailed them, it might be an FYI but requiring no action. If they just delete it, they might then be confused about project status later. I would be annoyed to have to re-send a message after the fact because they don’t think ANY email during their time off has value.

    10. hbc*

      I don’t think it’s rude to do the deletion, but it’s pretty rude to not give some sort of Plan B besides “Wait until I decide I am ready to deal with you.” I’m sure it feels lovely to set up if you’ve usually got a lot of annoying people clamoring for your time on matters that aren’t nearly as urgent as they think, but to not even offer a “in case this is urgent, contact X” fig leaf just shows you don’t care.

      Not to mention, there are all sorts of oddball situations where you might wish you gave another option. No chance that a call from a big client, the CEO, or a supplier might get routed there? Not to mention enforcement agencies that are often “we sent the required notice to the contact info I was given” before they issue a citation or pull a license or tow the company van.

    11. Aggretsuko*

      Well, on the one hand, it’s rude, on the other hand, odds are at least fairly high that the person ended up having to reach out to someone else to get it done. Or that it’ll take the person another week or two just to find their problem in a thousand emails that came in while they were on vacation.

    12. Absurda*

      To my mind, it’s just a really bad idea to mass delete stuff that comes in while you’re out. You never know if those emails contain important (though non-actionable) information that you’ll need. You really can’t expect people to resend information like that once you’re back, especially if you were cc’d on something.

      Also, IMO, it’s putting the burden of knowing and managing your schedule on the other person. You expect them to be paying enough attention to you to remember when you come back and to resend their request. That’s not reasonable.

      It’s really on you to stay up to stuff, manage requests coming in, manage your time and workload. You shouldn’t expect all your coworkers, customers, people you work with to cater to your personal schedule.

  16. mcfizzle*

    Honestly, what drives me crazy is after someone has emailed me, gets the out of office, then *does* email someone else instead of waiting for me to get back. Yet said someone doesn’t email me back to say “see you’re out, person X got it taken care of, you can disregard my email”. So then I waste time seeing the initial request and following up. Has anyone found a good wording / other solution to know if the request was completed by someone else?

    1. Techpup*

      If the person keeps you on the message thread in which they then contact someone else (ideally, the person you stated in your out of office message as the one who’s handling urgent issues in your absence), you are literally kept in the loop and can see for yourself that all was handled when you get back. Of course, this works even better if you check the most recent items in your inbox first when you get back.
      A good OOO message has two parts:
      – Dates that you are unavailable
      – Name of the person to contact while you’re out

      1. mcfizzle*

        The OOO definitely has those two pieces. But it could be 1 of 4 people who handle things when I’m out (depending on what it is) and they may not know at all that the requestor had reached out to me first / forget to cc me.
        So, I’d see this as me adding to my OOO “if you contact person X, please keep me cc’ed on the message you send to person x”?

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          I think you talk to person X and ask them to cc you when they are dealing with things sent to them because of your OOO.

    2. ENFP in Texas*

      When I’m back in the office and going through emails, I’ll sometimes send a note of “I’m catching up on my emails and saw you had XX question – did you still need help with that?” before doing any in-depth research.

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Ehhh, I think this depends a lot on your role and who’s emailing.

      The best solution, in my experience, is for the person covering your work to cc’ you on responses to the forwarded request.

    4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I think that’s on the person who covered for you –presumably they are in your department. If I take care of a client for Fergus while he’s out, I let him know the problem that came in, solution, and any still pending information.

      1. Yorick*

        OOO says “I’m out this week, you can contact Vickie with this type of question.”
        Emailer emails Vickie. May not just forward the message that they sent to or received from me.
        Vickie gets these kinds of questions every day, doesn’t know it has anything to do with me, just answers the question.
        I get back, see the message, and may not realize Vickie has already handled it. That’s not Vickie’s fault.
        I think ENFP in Texas has it right above – before starting the work, you can ask the sender if they still need this.

        1. Momma Bear*

          When I return from a break, I talk to the people who have acted in my stead and get the rundown of what happened/what needs to still be done. That’s part of my whole “back to work triage”.

          1. PX*

            This. I’m surprised more people dont havent mentioned this, but this has always been my back to work routine – and sometimes if vacations overlapped, I’d find a summary email of “While you were away, X,Y,Z happened, I covered A, but you might want to check on B and C” which was always very helpful.

          2. Marillenbaum*

            That’s generally what happens in my office as well. I was handling a coworker’s portfolio for about three weeks while they were away, and we did a quick call both before (to outline the general workflow and division of responsibilities in that area) and after (so I could fill him in on any sensitive or outstanding issues that needed his attention) and it worked just fine. After the call, I forwarded the email threads for outstanding issues with a reply all so everyone involved knew Petrarch was back and handling the issue from here.

        2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          I would follow up with my coworkers before I follow up with an outside client. “I see an email from Wakeen asking for a copy of the 2020 TPS report. Before I follow up with him, did anyone get him the copy?” It just make a department look dysfunctional if they can’t communicate internally and get their act together before contacting an outside person.

    5. Bagpuss*

      I think that’s maybe something you need to deal with internally with the person/people who you’re asking people to speak to instead – I think if you start to ask the original sender to update you or cc you then it’s going to start to annoy people that they are doing the running around, plus not everyone will do it.

      If instead you ask your co-workers to cc or bcc on replies then you will know which have been dealt with. (I think for internal mails it’s more reasonable to ask that if the original person contacts someone else, they cc you so you know who is dealing – and in smaller organisations where people know you personally you could also send a mail round the day before you leave to say you’re going to be out and to ask that any enquiries are directed to [name]in your absence, to try to avoid them coming into your inbox in the first place.

    6. OneTwoThree*

      I don’t know what to put in your OOO message to encourage this.

      However, when I email the backup person I also cc the original person. If the issue gets totally resolved, the original person is well aware. If the issue is not resolved, the original person can pick it up pretty easily.

    7. hbc*

      Sounds like it’s clear in your mind what you want to happen, but I’ve heard plenty of people say, “Of course you took it somewhere else, that’s what I told you to do, and now I have two action-less emails to trash rather than one.”

      I’d add a little more detail to your message just to make it clear what will happen in your inbox. “If I don’t hear otherwise, I’ll assume that your issue was handled by my colleague” or “Please cc me if you contact Jane, and I’ll check back in on my return if I think your issue is still open.”

  17. Snow globe*

    I don’t usually read the messages anyway, I just take it as information that the recipient won’t see my message right away. If that will cause issues, I’ll contact someone else.

    Pet peeve: a fe people I know use the OOO reply to say something like ‘Have a great day!’ It is on all the time, and for no helpful reason.

    1. Pants*

      If I got an OoO just to tell me to have a good day, I would find that person and throw water on their computer. They’re obviously not qualified to operate one.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Right, Outlook has that auto-display of OOO messages, so at least I know so-and-so won’t be seeing it for days and I either adjust expectations accordingly or I just email someone else.

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      While not QUITE as annoying as “Have a great day!” there are several people/departments who use an auto reply for the most frequently asked questions or information for their department…something along the line of an IT auto response that says: “To submit an IT request or check for an updated status on a request, please visit request.business.com”

  18. Purple Loves Snow*

    My workplace is super strict about out of office replies. We have 3 scripts we are allowed to use; and we are only allowed to change our name, job title, and return to office date. If you veer off script, management will have IT turn off your out of office as it does not comply with their standards. They are also super strict with messages on our voicemails, again with the option of using 2 scripts and changing your name, job title, and return to office date.

    I also kinda want to sit here with popcorn and read all the shenanigans that are about to roll in.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I give my folks scripts because, otherwise, I end up with long winding OOOs that talk about why they’re out but not what the writer/caller should do to get help (staff is 1/3 entry-level with varying degrees of professional office familiarity). I do not have the time to micromanage to this level, though – if I see an off-spec OOO, I send the how-to guide and remind them that they need to tell people who to call while they’re out or to mention the specific dates, but most of them have good judgment enough not to be totally inappropriate to the point I need IT to intervene.

  19. NYWeasel*

    My European colleagues get an extended summer holiday all at the same time, which means we get OOO notes like this:

    (Fergus) I will be OOO from July 1-31. If you need immediate assistance, please contact Jane.
    (Jane) I will be OOO from July 1-31. If you need immediate assistance please contact Sansa.
    (Sansa) I will be OOO from July 1-31. If you need immediate assistance please contact Fergus.

    If it’s not that infinite loop of autoreply hell, you get the “I will not be reading or responding to any email sent during this time. Please resend your request after August 1st.” dismissal.

    The kicker is that they all get back on August 1st and are mad that their projects haven’t moved forward.

    1. HR Exec Popping In*

      Oh my gosh, yes! This also drives me crazy. The game of emailing 15 people because they are all out and pointing to each other as their back up. Infuriating.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        My coworker tends to set his OOO for people to contact me, but he never bothers to tell me he’s going to be out of town and people may be contacting me. I’ll find out when I happen to email him and get the response. Not a huge deal, but the heads up would be nice! What if I was also on vacation?

    2. SomebodyElse*

      That’s why I instituted group email addresses/boxes for this use (I had to fight with IT to have one created in the early days). Yes, everyone has their individual email in addition to the group mailbox.

      It’s so much easier for everyone to have an OoO that says “I’m gone- please contact PaperClipSortingTeam ‘at’ spacelyspacesprockets for help while I’m out.

      An old boss had a pet peeve about this so I became very conscious of making sure that I listed out who to contact on what day… before the group email. So it looked something like this:

      “I’m gone…blah blah blah Please contact the following for immediate assistance:
      George Jetson 1/3-5
      Jane Jetson 1/6
      Judy Jetson 1/7-9
      Elroy Jetson 1/10-12

      I always tried to avoid this, but sometimes couldn’t be helped.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Above a certain level in my agency managers have to designate an official delegate when they’re out, which can easily result in out of office messages like what you’ve listed. Not the most elegant, but clear and useful!

        1. SomebodyElse*

          That’s what I always reasoned… better to annoy with too much information that saves hassle on the backend then be brief upfront and sentence people to OoO purgatory.

      2. Momma Bear*

        This is also good. I have two group emails for standard tasks. The SOP is that if someone uses those, one of the people on that list will indicate they have it and reply all when the task is complete. That way we all have status without anyone having to remember who is OOO that day/week.

    3. Indisch blau*

      One of your European connections here. When I know the person covering me will also be away for part of the time I’m gone, I get another colleague to cover for those dates and put that in my OOO.
      Saying “Your e-mail will not be read” or similar is really off-putting. The youth worker at my church does this and I find it infuriating. Of course it won’t. That’s the point of a holiday. When I get an answer from someone who reads his e-mails on vacation I’m pleasantly surprised.

      1. Mizzle*

        > When I get an answer from someone who reads his e-mails on vacation I’m pleasantly surprised.

        Interesting! I’d be unpleasantly surprised and tempted to scold them for not taking a proper break.

        Different culture, I guess. ¯\_ (ツ)_/¯

    4. hbc*

      Oh man, I mostly loved my European colleagues, but the “we were gone for a month, why haven’t you done more?” made me so, so stabby. That or the whole “hey, you really need to work harder to get this done by June 25th because none of us are going to be around to take care of our part by July 1.” So, I’m working 65 hour weeks for a month so you don’t have to spend 8 hours of your vacation working? Sounds fair.

      1. Jem One*

        I get why that would bug the hell out of you. But on the flip side, having worked with a lot of European colleagues who do this, it’s not that they’ll have to 8 hours of work on vacation, it’s that they won’t be working at all. So if your bit isn’t done by X date, then their bit won’t get done until they return. That’s just the culture there.

        I suppose I’d rather know that and be able to factor it in to my schedule, irritating as it is, than not know and get caught by the month-long delay.

      2. SleepyKitten*

        I know you’re just blowing off steam, but the problem is that you’re working 65 hour weeks, not that they get proper time off! If labour laws were fair everywhere we could all have a proper uninterrupted rest.

    5. I take tea*

      That’s just sloppy. We always check who will be available, because usually someone is. We also have a service address, and usually use that for OOO–messages. Then the ones working are responsible for those messages. That said, in my branch nobody seriously awaits an answer in July, but I’m in academica.

    6. SleepyKitten*

      Yeah this sort of chain is why we got an out of office address for each department. It went to the managers who were never all off at the same time.

      We also had company wide announcements that all of Spain was going on holiday in July, and then France would be gone on August, so please wrap up any business for the summer before then :’)

  20. Letter writer*

    I am the LW! It’s interesting, having Alison type out the OOO reply comes across less condescending than how it did in video. I’m sure it works for their office but it also says a lot, potentially, about their culture that she’d need to write something out like that in the first place! Usually “I’m OOO from X to X, please contact X for (reason)” should suffice.

    1. mcfizzle*

      That message was definitely too long, and while I see it was meant to be funny/snarky, I can see where it would be grating / easy to misinterpret.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I dunno – I think it says more about the writer than the culture. I worked in tech where there were always a handful of people who would do stuff like this, but most people would keep it basic. I just think some people love putting funky or gimmicky twists on rote stuff.

      Personally, I’d get a kick out of it, but I wouldn’t do something like that myself.

      1. Letter writer*

        True, but maybe the OOO writer has had issues in the past with people needing things while she’s out, incessant following up, not going to the right people, etc. She could also just think it’s funny though.

        1. Super Doctor Astronaut Peter Corbeau*

          I think I started following that Tiktok account after this video and, if I recall correctly, the OOO writer is an SVP who is trying to reset a company culture that has very little work/life balance. I always liked it, but that background info made me love it that much more.

          1. Zidy*

            I agree, especially coming from a SVP. It’s not just a funny OOO message then. It’s a subtle reminder that if someone that high feels they can step back away for a few days without things falling apart without them, chances are the same could be said about you. Leading by example indeed and in a way that gets their point across to probably lots of people that may not have noticed otherwise.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          I thought it was funny but could never get away with using something like that at my org. I loved the “competent people who work for me” part – I make this joke all the time. We have some people who feel that they should have a manager personally attend to them and, at least in my case, my highly competent team is in the weeds of that work a lot more and are not rusty (like I am).

          Given free rein, I’d absolutely love to tell people that needing me to show them how to do X in Excel is actually not a vacation-interrupting emergency and there are tons of free videos that would explain that, if they did not want to contact the actual departments who handle tech support and training. Or that this project they’ve known about for a month but decided to keep under their hat until it became an emergency is something they’ll need to resolve themselves. But that would not fly at all.

          1. Mizzle*

            “A lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine.”

            Even if you can’t say it out loud, just thinking it helps.

      2. Reba*

        I’m the same. I don’t find it condescending, it’s kinda eye-rolly but also kinda charming! I get why it could be annoying if you need info quickly. But really, why not inject a little silliness into boilerplate messages like this, as long as it’s not disrespectful or really out of step with your field culture?

        Like, I don’t feel confident enough to do it myself, but the OOO writer is probably a known Quirky Person and I admire that to an extent.

    3. Bernice Clifton*

      I didn’t watch the video, but reading the transcript I got the vibe that the author is one of those people that thinks they are a lot more clever than everyone else does.

      1. OtterB*

        The science fiction writer John Scalzi says “The failure mode of clever is asshole,” which seems to apply here.

    4. Xavier Desmond*

      I didn’t like it either. The implication seems be be that the person can’t trust their colleagues to know what to do if they are not around.

      1. pancakes*

        Same, I think it’s patronizing to talk people through their options as if they can’t make a decent choice without having their hand held every step of the way. There are plenty of people who can’t, of course, but I don’t think a long, verbose message is necessarily going to help.

    5. I mean.*

      It definitely sounds like something my boss would write and I laughed at it. In our work, everyone thinks that they’re a special emergency all the time. Stopping to think “if I don’t have this in the next two days what will the actual consequences be” is a thing that should happen more but doesn’t.

      1. Cookies for Breakfast*

        Anything worded like Option 1 would never fly at my workplace, exactly because of this. I have colleagues who complain to upper management if their non-urgent tech support questions (that a whole troubleshooting website already answers) don’t get an answer from me or my boss within half a day. And oh, did I mention our job is not actually tech support?

      2. Aggretsuko*

        I used to know someone who had a snarky message about how “if this is an emergency, there are no actual emergencies in my field,” and then encouraged someone to Google for “goats in trees” and calm down. Yes, she was allowed do that in her office.

        …. Now I actually wish I worked in her office that would allow her to do that.

        Unfortunately, literally every single thing in the world is an emergency in my office :(

    6. Allypopx*

      I think that’s part of the problem! Tone in text is hard – and while sure you could read it is as fairly benign and jovial, if not a little obnoxious, you could also read it the way it was read in the video.

      Especially if this is an external message – just don’t be cute.

    7. Willis*

      Ha – I didn’t watch the video but still definitely get the condescension! It’s a LOT of extra explaining and direction when something like, “if you need immediate assistance, please contact Fergus at…” will do. In my opinion, cutesy stuff like this is mildly entertaining at the beginning but gets dumb/annoying shortly thereafter. Not just with OOO messages, but other instances where companies try to make being “cool/funny/laid back” parts of their brand in really obvious ways.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes – this might amuse me if I got it once, but it would get old very fast . Maybe as an internal message if it fit the office culture. If I were an outside client or contractor and got something like that I;d see it as unprofessional (although I get that cultures and industries differ)

      2. Kes*

        Yeah, I have to agree. It’s a lot of explaining of things that are likely to be obvious to many people, as though they haven’t considered these options, but that they have to sit through anyway in order to get the information they need about who to contact. And the people who most need to listen to it probably won’t.

    8. Eden*

      I’m with you, honestly! When the end was “she’s So great” and not “she’s so [sime negative adjective]” I was actually surprised. I thought it was annoying and condescending and all around extra. But I guess I see why some people (including the ooo boss) would think it’s funny.

    9. Tara*

      The use of humans is weirdly condescending to me, like people who say ‘doggo’ sincerely. It seems incredibly off at work.

      1. Martin Blackwood*

        Agreed, the whole quirky-cute thibg annoys me, but human drives me up the wall. I cant articulate what about it grates me.

    10. Tuckerman*

      I think it’s irritating and condescending and could have been funny if only one of the goofy elements was incorporated, instead of trying to make a cohesive comedy bit. It seems like the points should be reversed. Most urgent to least urgent. If I have a truly urgent issue I don’t want to read through that I should ask myself if it’s important and urgent. If it’s something that can wait, I’ll just expect a delay. If it’s not important or at least worth communicating, I wouldn’t be sending the email.

    11. OyHiOh*

      I think the OOO you wrote in about is hysterically funny. I also think it would be out of place in a lot of offices (the board of directors that oversee my org would emphatically not think the message was funny).

      I do feel like the person who wrote it may have some issues in their organization with, oh let’s call it fire fighting. People who don’t necessarily think through the process of who would be most effective at dealing with the problem at hand. This reads like the message of someone who is used to getting everything dumped in their email and this OOO is an attempt to manage expectations and distribute issues to the people most able to quickly and effectively deal with a range of problems

    12. meyer lemon*

      I can see how it would be annoying to some people, but at least it has a bit of personality to it. Maybe I’m just tired of sending so many rote emails in business speak, but I do find it kind of refreshing if only because it’s a different kind of artificiality than I’m used to.

    13. mreasy*

      I would be SUPER annoyed to get this! I agree it seems condescending and it’s just too long.

    14. Orange You Glad*

      I read it as coming from a person who was overly frustrated with their regular OOO being ignored. It’s one of my pet peeves – the OOO clearly says I’m not there and to contact Bob, yet the sender continues to reply, never contacts Bob, then blows up at me when I return that their work is delayed. I would love to be able to send something like this message in the letter but it wouldn’t fly at my office.

    15. Disco Janet*

      Did you look at the comments on the TikTok? Because the overwhelming majority love it and are asking if her company is hiring. So it doesn’t seem like most people find it condescending even in video form.

      1. pancakes*

        Not exactly a neutral audience, though. A number of people following the account, if not most, will be following because they share the same sense of humor. Likewise people @ed by friends.

  21. The Cosmic Avenger*

    I take advantage of the ability to send different OOO messages to internal or external addresses. Internal addresses get a couple of people to contact if it’s urgent, usually my direct report and my backup person, since between them they can cover pretty much everything I do, or at least they’ll know who can. External addresses get a more general notice: “I am temporarily out of the office. If your message is regarding the Llama Care project and requires a prompt response from our Llama Grooming Team, please make sure that LlamaGrooming@company.com is one of the recipients of your message.” Probably not the most elegant phrasing, but we have a distribution list for this very reason. Even requests that they know only I handle are supposed to go to the LG list.

  22. Watry*

    I have literally never seen an OOO that wasn’t “I will be out of the office until DATE/further notice. Please contact X or Y at EMAIL/PHONE if you need assistance.” This is fascinating stuff.

    Our auto-replies to outside people are two or three paragraphs long though, which feels ridiculous but is actually necessary.

    1. Heather*

      Seconded, with one exception: I got one once from a distant coworker which said “I have broken my arm in a kitten-related fall and will be out for (…)”. Everyone else uses boilerplate language so that one definitely stood out, but I thought it was the right level of mildly amusing.

    2. Pants*

      This is what I’ve seen most often in my career. Problem is, the contact is almost always the admin. I’m the admin. Everyone’s idea of assistance is different. Often, I didn’t have the knowledge about the issue in order to be of any assistance. I wound up spending more time running around looking for answers than actually working on what was on my own plate. It’s exhausting.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        YUP, that’s my job right there.
        Otherwise known as “please don’t call us for unicorn problems when we handle llamas. Literally, we can’t do anything for unicorn problems.”

  23. EvilQueenRegina*

    Something that actually was an issue with my employer ages ago: at one time there was a policy that out of office would only go to internal people, and nothing would be sent at all to anyone external. Apparently this was felt necessary in order to mitigate risk of burglary, so people wouldn’t know that “John Winchester has gone on a hunting trip” and that his house was empty.

    There was a lot of pushback on this, discussion about how big a risk was that really anyway, people saying that John could word his out of office in such a way that people didn’t have to know he was actually away, and if something really was an emergency people would like to know that they have the opportunity to “direct queries to Sam or Dean” so they could be actioned, or make the judgement call that something could wait for John to return.

    Eventually it was changed so out of office could go to external emailers.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I have always been flabbergasted by people who include vacation details (especially if they’ll be out of the country) in their OOO messages. I’m not a burglar, nor do I know any. (I hope!) But the people with the message don’t know that!

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        I don’t think a lot of people working there made a habit of doing that, which is why a lot of people felt the no external OOO policy was excessive.

    2. Jean*

      My department still doesn’t allow us to send OOO auto-replies to external recipients because of one incident years ago (a customer tried to contact a sales rep about an urgent order, got the rep’s auto-reply, and in their ensuing panic, somehow got escalated all the way up to the company president). Any external emails we get are auto-forwarded to a centralized mailbox and (ostensibly) handled by another rep while we are out. It bothers me to know that my external contacts won’t get a reponse from me while I’m out and may think I’m just ignoring them.

  24. Fricketyfrack*

    Huge pet peeve – several of my coworkers still have COVID-related out of office notifications. I didn’t find them necessary in the first place, since everyone was still working from home and should have been checking emails normally, but it’s especially weird now that we’re officially back in the office a couple of days a week. It feels like they’re making a preemptive excuse for responding slowly. I’m surprised management hasn’t said something, honestly.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      We have people who do this whenever they are teleworking, regardless of the circumstances. Teleworking is working and by putting OOM’s on, you are signaling that perhaps you are NOT, in fact, working. Stop it!

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        That’s weird. I’m technically teleworking almost all the time (our office doesn’t really have the space to fit us all in anyway) and I’m next to my computer nearly the whole day…

      2. Fricketyfrack*

        Yeah, it’s very strange. I understood changing voicemails to explain that the line can’t actually be answered, but someone is checking the messages and will respond (though that was also only an issue for the first few months), but they had no reason to even mention it for email. I started my job 3 months into lockdown, and by that point, procedures were in place to pretty much allow us to operate normally, albeit with a lot more done electronically than before.

  25. Kari from Up North*

    Three years ago, my daughter and I went on a 3 week tour of Europe. Below is my OOO. I had a lot of emails – ‘I was told to email you to get your OOO.’

    I am out of the office, July 18th – August 6th. I do not plan to read any emails during that time. No need to despair, though!
    Assistant and Intern (5654, she’ll be answering my phone and checking voicemail) will be around to help.
    If your request for laminating or a folder delivery is urgent, there’s no use letting it sit idly in my inbox. Please call a volunteer at the ** and they will gladly help you.

    If you super, duper need to contact me, you can find me on Facebook or Twitter and use the hashtag #I’mGonnaRuinYourVacation

    I’ll be back in the office on August 7th and if all of the stars are in alignment, I’ll respond to this email before Labor Day.

  26. You can call me flower, if you want to*

    I hate the overshare. It drives me nuts. I’ve seen a lot lately that say essentially “After this crazy year I’m spending some much needed quality family time with Jane and the kids doing abc.” yada yada yada. It seems like overkill and way too familiar. You’re spending time with your family-that’s not noteworthy. Just say I’m out this date though this date. Contact person if you have something urgent.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Amen. I have a co-worker who’s out of office message is always “spending time with my kiddos.” I don’t care. Just tell me who to contact and/or when you’ll be back.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Probably a lot of overlap with the same type of person who feels the need to justify every sick day to all their coworkers, like they’re afraid of being judged for being absent. (Yes thank you Jane I don’t care that you were up half the night with a plumbing issue, you don’t need to convince me that you’re tired enough to take the day off)

  27. TimeTravlR*

    Not a big fan of this overly wordy version, but at least the OOM-writer gives you contact info for the people who might be able to help. My pet peeve is “I am out of the office until the 12th of never” with no indication of who might be able to help.
    But… we also have people who turn on their out of office while teleworking. WHAT?! You’re working. No one cares from where.

    1. ecnaseener*

      That’s so weird! Email is the correct way to reach a teleworking person, that’s the worst place for an OOO message. Stick an OOO sign on your physical office door, by all means!

  28. Meredith*

    I’ve never had a funny / pithy OOO. Clearly I’m missing out! It’s literally, “Hi, I’m OOO from x to x, and will be returning x. Please contact Fergus if you need immediate assistance.” Maybe I should live a little!

    1. 3DogNight*

      Okay, that story is gold, but the replies are even better! OMG!
      I actually had that happen while I was on vaca, a travel agency e-mailed me with an update about my vacation from a no-reply mail box and triggered my auto reply, which triggered their “This is not a monitored mailbox” auto reply to the tune of 80,000 messages in my mailbox. It completely filled up my “available” space, so everytime I logged in and thought I had them cleared out, more would pour in. It took DAYS to delete all of them.

  29. cubone*

    Oh I had a former coworker who was FULL of weird out-of-offices, including:

    “Working on my tan lines, not my emails!”

    “I am spending time with family today – some things are MORE important than work.”

    “Celebrating [childs name] birthday today with a dinosaur themed party and reminiscing on this sweet baby I brought home from the hospital 8 years ago #momtears”

    “We all need breaks from time to time. Today I will be disconnecting from all things work, and going for a walk to smell the roses and soak in the sunshine.”

    I think important context here is that no matter what the details added were, it always had this aggressive tone of “I’m taking a break and breaks are IMPORTANT”. Which I agree with, but it felt like it was almost aggressive/accusatory, and more importantly: this person was without a doubt the meanest, cruelest, least understanding and empathetic person I’ve ever worked with who ran her staff into the ground with urgent demands and expectations.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      This is so funny to be because I would chuckle getting those! You have personal context which is how you know that there is an aggeressive/accusatory tone….but without that context I would interpret these as boundaried and light-hearted. (With the exception of the ‘momtears’ one, that would feel overly personal to me.)

      I can see how they would annoy given her character at work though. There is something especially cruel about advocating for your boundaries while disrespecting other peoples.

      1. Properlike*

        “There is something especially cruel about advocating for your boundaries while disrespecting other peoples.”


      2. cubone*

        Yeah, I do think some are pretty funny (eg tan lines) and some are not so terrible, but I honestly think she took them incredibly seriously and wasn’t trying to make her colleagues laugh as much as just ….. put out an air of “look how personable and authentic I am”.

        She also lamented that other people’s OOOs were “rigid” and why couldn’t people have fun?! Which again, sounds not so bad but was someone who would regularly ask prying inappropriate personal questions, so it came across less like “let’s loosen up” and more like “why won’t people tell me the specifics of why they’re off today, because I deserve to know”.

      3. ecnaseener*

        “some things are MORE important than work” definitely comes off as aggressive to me. “How DARE you email me when I’m doing something MORE IMPORTANT, and for that matter why aren’t YOU spending time with YOUR family?!”

    2. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

      Oh my gosh, this is funny! It does sound kinda like, “some things are more important than work, JAN.”

      1. cubone*

        That’s what always got me! There always seemed to be an air of preemptive defensiveness? I’m definitely reading a lot into it based on other ways this person showed up in the workplace and how they treated others. Also I completely agree that some things are more important than work (!), but there was something about the way these were phrased that made me feel like ……… okay?? I know??? It just felt … performative.

    3. Yorick*

      This is too much. If someone said something like “I’m at the beach until Jan 5!” instead of “I’m out of the office until Jan 5,” I’d appreciate the slight personal touch. But don’t share too much. We just need to know that you’re not gonna answer our email for a while.

    4. Allegra*

      Oh, this reminds me of the best out of office I ever received. It was three years ago, but it was so funny I saved it. All of it was gold but the sign-off was “Hoping that you are at least a little bit jealous (why else should I go on vacations to begin with?), I remain truly Yours, etc”.

  30. animalshelterlady*

    I work at an animal shelter and I have included a picture of an adoptable pet when I’m on vacation – I don’t know if that comes across as annoying or not, what do you think? Basically, it’s “I’m out until X and I’ll return your message when I get back. In the meantime, take a look at Fluffiekins here (picture, link to bio). Will she be adopted before I return?”

    1. BeckaBeeBoo*

      I love this! I don’t think its annoying at all– its literally sharing the mission of your work.

      I work in fundraising for after the standard Im out until X, contact Y in the meantime, I also list ways people can give, since thats my job.

    2. Reba*

      A former coworker used to always include a kitten picture when she submitted invoices.

      In your case it’s actually related to your work! WHOMST would not like a cute pet picture, what a bonus?!

      1. Anon for this*

        I used to work at a place where we would occasionally send reports of network misuse that sometimes included inappropriate images the user had stored on work devices. One person had an email system that was somehow set up to make any attached images the profile pic for that account. So she would end up with random pornographic images as the profile pic whenever she received reports from us. She said she had no idea how to change it and could we please help? Since she was not part of our company, and I have no idea how that could even happen, I just started sending her kitten pictures after every report that included an image. Problem solved.

    3. I edit everything*

      I think it’s brilliant. Anyone emailing an animal shelter should appreciate a cute animal pic.

    4. Pants*

      What would be annoying would be receiving multiple emails from me to see if the pet changes each time the OoO is triggered, along with follow-up emails from me inquiring about Fluffiekins’s adoption status. :-) Otherwise, this is BRILLIANT. And on brand.

      (Aside: at my job, when you open a new browser window, a random picture of employee pets pops up. It changes every time. I could just refresh all day long.)

      1. Louie*

        I misread that at first and thought you’d said that a random picture of a employee popped up, and was momentarily horrified at the thought of my face appearing on my co-workers screens!

        1. Pants*

          I physically recoiled at the thought of my face appearing on a new browser tab. UGH. The pets do say who their humans are (usually just first name) and what the pet’s favourite things are. My phone is now filled with memes and photos of my monitor as I send pet photos to friends.

    5. The Prettiest Curse*

      That sounds both totally adorable and entirely appropriate for your workplace!

  31. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Out-of-office auto-replies that keep happening over and over on CC’ed email threads.

    Don’t know if those happen due to bad software, or a bad configuration decision, or just careless users, but those exhaust me.

    1. IndustriousLabRat*

      The eternally mind-blowing story of the company-wide email, OoO messages, and reply-all autoresponders that took out a 30,000 employee university email server one summer, comes to mind here…

      Every time I read it, it just gets funnier. On r/talesfromtechsupport, filter by top posts of all time, it’s on the first page. The punch line is … *chef kiss.

      1. Anthony J Crowley*

        I’ve gone there and filtered to top posts of all time but can’t see it! Help?

        1. IndustriousLabRat*

          No reddit on this rig, but “company-wide email + 30,000 employees + auto-responders =” as a search should get you there. Totally worth the hunt.

    2. Bilateralrope*

      They happen when you have at least two auto-reply systems set to respond to every single email that somehow start messaging each other.

      Definitely misconfigured.

  32. Chocolate Teapot*

    My personal favourite:

    I am at an opera house in the countryside (i.e. without reception) and shall return to the office on XX.

  33. Midwest writer*

    I worked at an office where we used OOO messages on voicemail pretty regularly and if we forgot to change the message, our callers were quick to tell us the outgoing message was outdated. That end date feature would have been a big help for us!

  34. The Prettiest Curse*

    (This made it into the news, I’ll see if I can find the link.)
    A local council in Wales needed to get a road sign translated into Welsh. (All official signs in Wales have to be in both English and Welsh.)
    They got an out of office message in Welsh from the translator they contacted, assumed that was the translation and printed the out of office message on the sign. They didn’t realise their mistake till a Welsh speaker pointed it out…

    1. Phony Genius*

      I would like to think that a professional translator would think to provide their out-of-office message in all languages that they translate. If anybody here is one, is that standard operating procedure?

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        There were a lot of bilingual staff at my last job, and they always did their out of office messages in both languages. But who knows, maybe the Welsh translator was in a rush and forgot.

      2. Nanani*

        Translators are not, by and large, a standardized bunch.
        An agency that handles government translations like road signs might be expected have such rules. On the other hand, never underestimate the boneheadedness of the monolinguals. Especially English ones.

        1. SleepyKitten*

          Loads of translators work freelance because it’s very easy to do from home, so yeah I’d not expect then to be standardised. I’ve received English and native language replies, but never both.

          It’s also expected that if you’re in Wales you put the effort in to at least try and read Welsh, but tbh I can barely read English before 10am.

      3. Marillenbaum*

        Not a translator, but I do work in a field where bilingual offices are pretty common, and I have not done my OOO in our second language–mostly because it is a non-Latin alphabet, and I do not have the secondary keyboard installed. I’m pretty sure my voicemail is in both languages, though.

      1. SleepyKitten*

        There’s a video game that got released with hatch as in trapdoor translated as hatch as in escape from egg.

        And an autotranslated website that had the go button labelled as walk

  35. HotPocket*

    I agree that the reasons are not relevant. But at my last company, a coworker had overly short out of office messages. Examples: “out of office today.” Or “out of office until Monday.” With no additional information about coverage, etc. Those always felt overly curt to me and made me wonder, is this person okay? Was this OOO planned or are they on the verge of a mental breakdown? (It was a very toxic culture so this wasn’t out of the question). I would be curious to hear others perspectives on this. Is too little information just as bad?

    1. Ashley*

      Too little info is frankly worse, IMO. All you need for an OOO is date you are coming back, and who to contact in your absence if it can’t wait for your return. If it doesn’t have that, why bother having one at all?

    2. Let me be dark and twisty*

      I had coworkers (and people up my chain of command) that did/do this. The thing all those people had/have in common is that they came from the military. So I always took it as a military thing. Curious if that particular coworker had a military background.

    3. A Person*

      That reminds me of a peeve: the yard sale signs that just say “TODAY!”

      When was today? Did you leave the sign up or is it freshly posted? Etc. People, use dates!

  36. Rage*

    I had a coworker once who hated it when she got somebody’s out of office message. I asked her why it got her so bent out of shape. “Because then I have to wait until they get back to send the message again!”

    I had to explain to her that the email was still there, just like a voicemail, they’d get it on their return.

    Suddenly – BAM! – she’s a fan of OOO messages and would even agree to use hers.

  37. LurkNoMore*

    Company President doesn’t want sales to use ‘out-of-office’; they’d prefer that the customer feel we were always available for them – 24/7. They also say that vacation are just nicer places to read emails….

  38. Inferno Annie*

    My colleagues have this weird habit of not using out of office messages, but instead, sending all staff or all manager emails before they go on vacation letting everyone know they’re going to be gone for x amount of time. It’s really odd. I do not do this.

    1. LCH*

      I could see the benefit if someone needed to ask something before they left. It seems courteous?

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      We used to do this at my old job in addition to OOO messages. I found it useful to know in advance how long people were going to be gone. There’s nothing more annoying than needing something urgently from the one person who can help and then getting an auto-response saying they’re out for the next 2 weeks.

    3. Heather*

      One nice compromise I’ve seen is that some people add upcoming PTO to their email signature for a week or two beforehand. That way the people you’re working with right then get a heads up without needing to spam everyone with the information.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That doesn’t sound odd to me at all, depending on the company. I used to send a staff-wide note because they needed to know I would be out and they could plan accordingly if they needed anything. At my current company I wouldn’t do this, but that’s because it’s massive and I only directly work with a small team.

      I once worked somewhere that required an all-office email if you were going to be late, if you had an appointment, etc. I hated that. No one needed to know I was going to the dentist, but it was policy so I did it.

    5. Eden*

      I am annoyed when people send a “fergus ooo” outlook invite! Maybe that’s the (annoying imo) style for your team Fergus, but our nearest common ancestor is 3 or 4 people up, you’re not that important and I don’t care!

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m guilty of the “pre-vacation warmip” email…but I send it on Wednesday so Last-minute Louie can contact me before I go out on Friday. (And it’s not all-office!)

    7. Shan*

      We do OOO messages, but also send an email to the department and other relevant people, so that part doesn’t sound odd to me. I want to know if someone is going to be away next week, because then I can plan accordingly instead of sending them an email about something important Monday morning and find out I’m SOL until the following week.

      The email I send out always says something along the lines of “I’ll be away Thursday and Friday, so if you need anything from me, please let me know before noon on Wednesday. Thanks!”

    8. meyer lemon*

      My office has a shared vacation calendar, which I think is a more helpful way to handle this.

    9. Mockingjay*

      Isn’t that what the shared calendar is for?

      Of course the people on my project never use the calendar for work trips. I don’t find out that someone is on travel until I get the OOO autoreply. Weirdly, everyone puts their personal leave on the calendar and includes the reason, especially doctor visits. I don’t need to know why you are absent.

    10. Emilia Bedelia*

      My immediate team does this with calendar invites for our scheduled PTO (set to “Show As Free”), and I actually find it really helpful. I certainly wouldn’t want to get an email from dozens of people that I may or may not need to get in touch with, but if I am quickly looking at my calendar to set up time with my team, it’s helpful to have a reminder of who is out and who is not. I definitely wouldn’t remember if my teammates sent an email or a chat.

    11. Applesauced*

      My team does this with calendar invites , and I think it’s helpful.
      I’ll invite relevant coworkers to an event called “Applesauced on PTO” that shows up as free on their calendar, and make a separate event for myself to be marked out of office in the system

      1. Teapot Wrangler*

        I much prefer a team calendar that I can check rather than loads of Free invitations at the top of my calendar taking up space. My previous team did the former and I tried to get my current team to change to it but it didn’t stick unfortunately.

  39. Kassie*

    A thing my employer does is when someone leaves, they just shutoff the email. So someone goes to the trouble of writing an out of office explaining that they have retired or accepted a job somewhere else and where someone can go for help and IT just nukes the email address 24 hours after the person leaves. Then whomever was contacting them has no idea where to turn next. It is a terrible policy.

    1. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

      We do this. It’s horrible. Especially if someone is termed. They should forward the mail to someone. Nope, it just goes *poof*

  40. shuu_iam*

    I actually think that’s a really helpful out of office message? I appreciate how clear it is about who to contact in which circumstance (so you’re not having to do the awkward dance of trying to track down the right people while not inconveniencing the wrong ones), while maintaining a friendly-but-firm boundary around the vacationing person’s time (since none of the options include things like “here’s my cell phone number!”).

  41. MissGirl*

    A literary agent I follow told the story of a long argument her autoreply had with a would-be author. She’d set up the outbound email while out of town and apparently an author who queried her with his book took offense to it. He replied back in frustration that he didn’t get a personal response. Her autoreply sent back another automated message, which he then in increasing anger kept responding to.

    She’s not sure how long that author would’ve argued with her computer until she turned it off.

  42. NYWeasel*

    On the funnier side, my vacations tend to be trips to either see my favorite band in far flung places or going to conventions for my hobby, so for a while I added a checklist at the end of my OOO that said:

    During this time off I will be:

    __ At a concert
    __ (doing hobby)
    __ visiting family/friends
    __ On an actual vacation
    __ Fixing up my house

    I’d then check off all that applied—people would laugh each time they saw it bc I’m such a predictable nerd, one or both of the first two lines was almost always checked off…and usually both!

  43. anon for this*

    I get really annoyed at people that don’t have put up OOO messages and I am left wondering if they are out or just ignoring me. I collaborated with a woman who was out frequently but never put an OOO. She also got very prickly if she felt you were going around her. So anytime we didn’t get a response from her, we had to go through this guessing game of “do we wait, do we talk to someone else, how important is our request.” I was glad when she moved on.

  44. Nye*

    My favorite OOO to set is something like this: “I’m at sea from X to Y with very limited bandwidth. I’ll reply to urgent emails as soon as possible (but there may be a delay); if you don’t hear back from me by Z, please resend you message.”

    As a side note, I put a similar message on my work and cell phones, and once I didn’t change the cell message back for nearly a year. (It was my personal cell number, and only my parents ever left messages.)

  45. A Simple Narwhal*

    I had a coworker that (pre-covid) had an out of office set up any time she worked from home. She didn’t operate any differently than when she was in the office, and there wasn’t any information in the message, just “FYI I’m wfh today”. It was weird to keep getting those messages, since her working from home had zero effect on your correspondence with her.

    What was weirder is that it took a couple weeks after covid hit for her to turn the message off – which meant that when the entire company was wfh, we would still get an fyi message from her that she was also working from home.

    Harmless, but weird!

    1. TechWriter*

      Ha! Maybe she was short-circuiting someone who would send an email and then come over to her desk 5 minutes later to “see if you got my email.”

  46. Economist*

    At my old job we had a short script for our voice mail messages including whether we were in the office or out of the office. We were specifically told not to say why we were out of the office for personal privacy and protection reasons. However, an exception was soon made–for jury duty. Callers were getting freaked out when they got the message “I’m out of the office and don’t know when I will return.” They would be worried about the person they were calling and worried about whether or not they would be able to get the info they needed. So if on jury duty we would say, “I’m out of the office on jury duty and don’t know when I will return.”

  47. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    The one that gave a personal cellphone number (they didn’t have a company phone or were required to use it for work) while out on vacation, with a comment like “I’m out on vacation from date x to date y and in my absence please contact Jane Smith but if you don’t get any joy please call my personal number if it’s urgent”.

  48. T. J. Juckson*

    My boss does not understand OOO and thinks I saw his email and sent the reply personally and does not understand why I didn’t answer the actual question.

    1. A Poster Has No Name*

      Oh, that’s maddening. I just checked Outlook, and it doesn’t look like you can set up a rule not to send OOO replies to a particular person, but you can reply with a template. I wonder if sending just your boss a message that says “Hi boss, this is an automated reply that I set up a rule to send. I’m really out of the office and I really didn’t see this message. See you when I get back on Monday!” or whatever. Probably won’t help, but might be fun.

      1. T. J. Juckson*

        Oh, it’s part of a much larger set of problems. He will put in the subject line “don’t read until Monday,” also not understanding that when I say I do not look at my email on my off days, I really do not see them, because I don’t open my work email out of work. And that I have a personal email account, that is not my work account?
        Yes, it is maddening.

  49. Let me be dark and twisty*

    Hoo boy, have I got some PTSD from Old Job about out of office autoreplies. Exboss was such a stickler for them and actually enforced her expectations as official policy. Meaning if you didn’t do it to her exact specs, she’d call you back to the office to do it (which no one did) and read you the riot act afterwards while threatening to write you up for insubordination. She demanded them any time that we were away from our desk for longer than 30 minutes and for anything other than a meeting. So training in the conference room down the hall, a work lunch with teammates, leaving an hour early for an appointment, arriving late for an appointment, even working from home, all required OOO alerts.

    And her template for our messages were ridiculous. We had to specify exact dates/times and very specific people to contact in our absence (which couldn’t be her because it wasn’t her job to babysit our work, and that’s a direct quote). So “Meredith Grey is out of the office June 1st through June 3rd. She will respond to your messages when she returns on June 4th and expects to be in the office around 9am. If you need help with Project X, contact Cristina Yang at email and phone. If you need assistance with Project Y, contact Derek Shepherd at email and phone. If you need help with Task B, contact Karev at email and phone, but only to June 2nd and beginning June 3rd, you need to contact George, who’s available at email and phone. For all other matters, please contact Izzie Stevens at email and phone.”

    But interestingly enough, exboss never set her out of office emails when she was out of the office or teleworking. Curious how the rules never applied to her. So glad to get away from her. This isn’t even the tip of the Toxic Boss Iceberg that was her.

    1. irene adler*

      Geez! Were the projects so time critical that they necessitated such detail?
      Cuz, I’m not gonna listen through all of that (no offense!).
      You are unavailable until x date, and I’ll get back to you after that date. Done.

      RE: your boss
      Excessive ego perhaps?

      1. irene adler*

        Nor am I going to read it either!
        (sorry, didn’t think about email OOO stuff. Hey, it’s the 90’s here at my work place.)

      2. Let me be dark and twisty*

        haha no offense taken. No one wanted to read (or even listen!) to all that. We only did it so she’d stop ruining our Mondays with epic 1-hour rants about what terrible people we are. And no, none of the projects we worked on were ever so critical or time-sensitive!

        She definitely had an excessive ego, and she was also a narcissist who loved to micromanage so it was a really toxic place under her. We used to love it when she went on vacation because the office was quiet, calm, and drama-free.

  50. HailRobonia*

    One of my favorite OOO messages I ever received was from a customer who was a barrister or soliciter (not sure the right term for an English lawyer). It said he would be unavailable because he is “on trial.”

    Of course he presumably meant working on a trial – yay for regional preposition differences!

  51. KayEss*

    When I worked at Nightmare Small Business(tm), a coworker went on maternity leave with (privately shared among the staff, but not with the owner) the intent to give her notice at the end rather than return. She left a very professional, concise and informative out of office message. The owner proceeded to log in to her email and change the message to include saccharine references to both the pregnancy/baby and how much she “missed” being away from clients and how excited she was to return soon.

    Not sure how that particular storm shook out, but it was a classic example of the owner’s narcissism and need to have all of our lives centered around her business “family” with no boundaries.

  52. Lindsay*

    I want to know how everyone who works from home is wording their OOOs. Are you saying you’re out of the office? Away from your computer? Have closed the door to your home office?

    1. Reba*

      I go with “offline” or “away” (away…to my couch). I like closing the door, though!

    2. A Poster Has No Name*

      I just say out of the office. It helps that I have a room that, among other things, functions as an office, but I don’t think that would change my reply. Whether its a real or metaphorical office, you’re still not at work, so it counts.

      I had a coworker for the first 6 months or so of the pandemic set an out of office status on Teams that he was working from home and could be contacted at x number. Dude. We’re all working from home, and those stupid status messages are distracting!

    3. Let me be dark and twisty*

      Was required to do this at my last job and our script was to say “I’m working from home today. If you need to reach me urgently, call me at (personal/home/cell number).”

      The boss’s thinking was that people who did drivebys looking for you would then email you, see your OOO, and then be able to call you to talk about whatever they were driving by for. No one liked putting their personal contact info so we never worked from home (pre-COVID and pre-VOIP implementation) or told people to IM us and we’d call them.

    4. Similarly Situated*

      Just say you’re away from your desk! Or if you’re out for more than a day, just say you’re “away” until XYZ date.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I still say “out of office.” “Office” can be a state of mind, right? :)

    6. CatCat*

      I just say that I’m out of the office. Practically, it makes no difference where this office is located.

      1. Cookie D'oh*

        Yep. I work with people all over the US so I have no idea who is at home or actually in the office.

    7. AvonLady Barksdale*

      No difference! “I’ll be out of the office” is what I use. I find “away from my desk” a little too available, as if I’m only out for an appointment, but I think either one works.

    8. Liseusester*

      I’m mostly back in my actual office now, but I went with “away from my computer between X and Z” a couple of times and just straight up “I am on annual leave between X and Z” a couple of times.

    9. drpuma*

      I recently described myself as being “out of the virtual office.” Away from the virtual office” would probably have been even more precise. I think whatever you say, people will understand what you mean.

    10. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I still just say “out of office.” It doesn’t matter where my office is :)

    11. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

      I have always said that I’m taking annual leave so that still applies for me – but that’s pretty standard for my company.

    12. mreasy*

      I say “I am out of the office without access to email” to avoid the expectation that I’ll check on vacation. With a contact for anything urgent given.

      1. All the cats4 me*

        I say I am “away from my desk”, or “unavailable”. To indicate I am working, “I will be at my desk from xhour to yhour on xday”.

  53. J!*

    When I’m out for a day or longer, I like to schedule my out of office message to run all the way up until the start time of my day when I return, since we have people who start emailing three hours or earlier before I even get to my desk. If it’s a Monday and I’ve been out for two weeks and they’re emailing me at 6:30am my time, I want people to know that I’ve been out and will be wading through my inbox and might not answer them right away at 10:01 their time like I typically would.

    This used to drive my supervisor crazy, she’d email me “it looks like your OOO is still on.” I had to explain the rationale a few times before she understood.

    1. Forget T-Bone Steak, Let's Eat T-Rex Steak*

      I do this too! Depending on how busy my inbox is that day, I’ll also set it to start around 4:30 pm my last day in the office before going on vacation. I have a lot of people that email me at 4:56 expecting to be #1 on my list the next morning so I try to catch them that way.

  54. Eleven*

    I have a coworker who has an “always-on” autoreply stating that she “is busy with client meetings during the day” and therefore only checks emails at 9am and 3pm. I understand wanting to set the expectation that people won’t get an immediate response, but it really baffles me. If you are still able to respond within 24 hours, why does anyone need this information? To me it feels like some weird self-help tip or power move that they read somewhere that serves no actual function.

    1. A Poster Has No Name*

      Or they work with one or more of those people that call you 5 minutes after sending an email if you don’t reply.

      1. TheAG*


        We had someone today that sent an inquiry about something (this person is not a client, more of an outside business partner). Dude sent, within about an hour and a half time frame, 7 emails. Calling out one person on the DL multiple times within a half hour, then proceeding to call out the rest of the DLs (ALL in the original copy list) to try to get an answer to his question.

        We have an office with a phone number and 4 people that work in it to specifically answer these inquiries.

    2. I edit everything*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s had experiences in the past with people not getting an immediate answer then upping the urgency–we’ve had letters about such coworkers here. There’s an email, then a followup email, then a chat message, then a phone call, then they walk over, all within ten minutes of the initial email.

  55. An American(ish) Werewolf in London*

    My grandboss used to put in his OOO: ‘I’m out of the office. If you need x or y, contact Andy or Jane. They know stuff.

    But the best OOO (actually, an autoreply) came from Ryan Reynolds – you know, the actor and gin company owner. If you emailed him, you got this (I think there were others too – this is the one I got):
    Thank you for your interest in Aviation American Gin! You’ve reached my Out Of Office Mission Statement.

    As owner of Aviation Gin, my mission is to never speak to you like some out of touch Hollywood A-hole. My job is to remain accountable. Down to earth. Hard working.

    Why is Aviation the best damn gin on the planet? What sets it apart from other gins on the market? Do people who ask and then answer their own questions have an above average IQ? Probably.

    Most of the time, experts describe Aviation in pompous, flowery terms which alienate the average hard working gin drinker. I’ve heard them wax poetic about its restrained notes of juniper. Others have said it’s the subtle lavender and wet, boreal forest earth notes which make it so whimsical.

    Who talks like that? A blowhard, that’s who… I promise, gentle customer, you won’t hear garbage like that from me. I’ll tell you why I like Aviation… Because it tastes like somebody finally made a gin for everyone.

    I don’t need some fancy, forensic gin-juggler to tell me why I like something. Just keep it simple. And real happiness is about simplicity.

    After a long hour at work, I like to get home, kick my slippers off and watch my wild dolphin, Jasper-Barnaby, swim in the moat. There’s nothing more relaxing than observing a wild dolphin at play in one’s backyard. My personal vocal-coach, Lyndon, once said that watching the sunset on my estate is the closest he’s ever come to God. I believe him.

    For me, life isn’t just about having my brain cryogenically frozen so I can be revived two hundred years after the apocalypse to dance with the chosen few along the gilded path to Valhalla.

    It’s also probably about other stuff.

    — Ryan Reynolds.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      As an occasional gin-drinker, that actually makes me curious to try it.

      It is better than Green Lantern, right, Ryan? Please?

  56. ScienceLady*

    We had someone at my old job whose auto-reply stated that they were at a “White Privilege Conference”. Granted, the conference was about dismantling White Privilege, but to someone outside our work who didn’t know that, I imagine that got quite the reaction!

    1. knitcrazybooknut*

      Every time the grocery store clerk asks, “Would you like to donate to breast cancer?” I have to bite my tongue.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          In the normal times, my friends and I used to do “Crawl 4 Cancer” which is a bar crawl (aka debauchery day) where all proceeds go to cancer research. It’s great! But…yEEah, we’re not crawling FOR cancer…we’re very much against it! We laugh about it every year and the jokes never get old.

    2. OyHiOh*

      My parents ran a furniture refinishing shop when I was in school. There are workshops and conferences for this trade. I attended a private high school that was primarily a boarding school. Once, when my parents needed to attend a middle-of-the-week event, they arranged for me to stay overnight in the school dorms. Upon being asked by the house mother where my parents were, I said they was at a stripping convention.

      I did not fit into the private christian school culture very well . . . . .

    3. Rob aka Mediancat*

      I have the same thought when I see my company’s annual Fraud & Abuse Training.

    4. HBJ*

      When I worked in a federally-regulated industry that required drug testing, we always tended to say “our drug program” when we should have been saying, “drug abatement program.”

  57. A Poster Has No Name*

    I pretty much never pay attention to out of office replies, just note if there is one. If I really need something urgently I’ll look to see if there’s another person’s contact info, but it’s rarely that urgent. I might also look for a return date, if that matters to me. It would annoy me if I had to wade through a wall of text to find either of those things.

    My OOO is almost always “I’m out of the office and will be returning on x date.” My email sig has instructions along the lines of “for questions on x, email this list” for a couple of the more common areas people would contact me about that might need an urgent reply (as the lists go to more than just me, obviously), but most people have finally figured out to contact those lists to start with, anyway. If I were in the middle of a project or something that needed to be moved along in my absence, the project teams usually know when we’re out, but I’d put a back up in that case, if needed, but generally there’s not much to be gained by a longer OOO from me.

  58. Djuna*

    The only thing that isn’t boilerplate in mine is the inclusion of “But what if I have a word emergency?” before the who to contact stuff. I removed it at one point and people asked me to put it back in because it made them smile.
    And yep, we’re writers so the only emergencies we deal with are ones related to words.

  59. CatPerson*

    “You have reached [Sandy and Bill’s] voice mail. Please leave your message after the beep so we can call you back if we want to.”

  60. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I don’t use the OOO. If you’re supposed to be able to reach me by email, I have already proactively notified you of my absence. If you’re not supposed to be able to reach me by email, your email is already in the junk folder and I think it’s cruel to offer you false hope I’m going to read it upon my return from the rare PTO I take.

    I also tend to check my email 2-3x per day while I’m out for my own sanity and will respond to important* ones if not doing so would hold something big* up. Not using OOO avoids some of the self-righteous nonsense from people with nothing better to do than try to micromanage my personal time.


    *110% subjective & intentionally vague.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I don’t set my voicemail message, either. If you have the number, you know me. I think my last voicemail message on my personal cellular phone years ago was not even in English. Again, if you knew me, you’d more than half expect it.

      Professionally, I just try to be as boring as humanly possible, except in comments embedded in code.

  61. Roscoe*

    I’ve never been a fan of the ones where people basically say “I’m working, but super busy right now, so I won’t get to your email for X (hours, days, whatever). Like, are you THAT busy.

  62. cactus lady*

    Once I got an auto reply from a stakeholder on a project that said something to the effect of “Thanks for contacting me. Due to the large volume of email I receive, I don’t read them all. If I haven’t responded within 3 business days, please try again.”

    I emailed this person 3 times and never got a response. Thankfully they weren’t upset when we moved forward without their input.

  63. Picard*

    OMG if I got this OOO message I would pee my pants laughing! I think its brilliant! (But perhaps thats my weirdness popping out again… shoo shoo get back)

    In general, because of my position (C suite) my OOO messages are boring and predictable. I’m out from xx date to xx date. If you need help in my absence, please contact xyz person. Otherwise, I will reply to your email upon my return. blah blah blah

  64. TeaRex*

    I am not able to set OOO messages at all. Most of the people who are contacting me do so through custom aliases that then come to our team, who each handles specifics. Even if I’m out someone else is available, but I can’t know who is supposed to handle that specific email to be able to redirect without naming everyone, and then confusing things more when Client A gets the same reply as Client B but one needs to go to teammate C and the other to teammates D & E. Then to make just that bit more complicated, there are the clients who think that going around the system to email the teammates directly at our personal email addresses is better but pitch a hissy when we’re OOO but they didn’t get a notice? I just set rules to forward those.

    Personally, I’d think it’s funny to receive an OOO like was in the video, at least the first time. It wouldn’t fly AT ALL at my company, but it’s at least interesting. All I really want to see is how long you’re out, and who I need to contact instead.

  65. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    I pretty consistently just do “Greetings, I will be out of office from (date) to (date) with (limited/no) access to email. If you need assistance, please contact (boss) at (email address) – otherwise, I will follow up with you upon my return. Thanks!”

    The one exception: When I was out for a week and a half on my wedding/honeymoon, I included something about “Additionally, I am out of office getting married, so shortly after my return my name will change from Red Bookworm to Red Reader.”

    I only set my out of office if I’m going to be gone for more than one full day. Like, right now I don’t bother if I’m going to be out for one day, because in general the people who email me either know I’m out for a day or are unfazed by waiting 24 hours for a response. The last time I went out of office for a week, I came back to about 65 emails, 9 of which would have actually required my attention when I weeded through them. If I got a higher email volume, I’d do for a single day though.

    I have a couple people that I work with though who set them for outside their normal work hours, like they automatically kick on at 4:30pm and off at 8am or whatever, and then there’s the one special snowflake who sets her out of office not only when she leaves for the day every day, but also when she takes her half hour lunch or her fifteen minute break, Jesus wept.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      That 15minute breaktime message screams “past experience with a toxic company” to me.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        She’s been with our org for 32 years, haha. And our departmental email policy for the last at least eight of them has been “check your email at least twice a day.” Definitely no expectations of a 15 minute turnaround.

    2. Anonomatopoeia*

      No. NO.

      Good lord. I would develop an irrational need to reply to the OoO with like, are you okay? It’s been 14.8 minutes.

  66. bananab*

    It took me far too long to realize that trying to be funny at work is overrated, and this reply kind of encapsulates that perfectly. I would just about bet people will like you more, AND they’ll be more likely to follow the guidance you’re offering, if you just do a concise, “normal” OoO.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yes! I remember reading here the phrase: the default mode of clever is asshole. Meaning when trying to be clever backfires, you end up just looking like an asshole. I’ve given up the need to get laughs at my clever sense of humor while at work. I really hope that out of office message is for internal emails only, because the risk of this landing badly is too high.

      1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

        I thought the phrase was “the failure mode of clever is asshole”

  67. StressedButOkay*

    My biggest pet peeve is the opposite – people who NEVER turn on their OOO! I’m not saying for a day but when they’re out for an extended period of time and I’m reaching out to get a deliverable.

    Or, worse, when someone has left the organization and the organization hasn’t bothered to put up an OOO, so I’m just emailing a blackhole until I call or someone finally checks that inbox.

    1. Square Root of Minus One*

      Sometimes it’s not their fault.
      I never fail to set up my OoO reply, and yet most of my external contacts don’t get them.
      Let’s say I work for LlamaCombs, with an name(@)llamacombs.com address, and this is a company who has two clients AlpacaBrush and VicunaShampoo. I work primarily with the second, and their internal directory lists my contact info as name(@)vicunashampoo.com. It works because any e-mail sent to the second address is auto-forwarded to the first.
      Except it messes up OoO replies big time. Because the auto-reply is sent to my own alternate address, not to the original sender, and I have no way to change that.
      I learned that two years into the job. It explained a LOT.

  68. Generic Name*

    Some of my coworkers have started putting “Thank you for your email” at the beginning of their out of office replies. Management loves it, but I think it’s too ingratiating and I cringe when I read it. These are junior-level staffers, so maybe it makes sense in that context? Anyway, I refuse to put that in my out of office messages.

    1. mreasy*

      I say “thanks for your message” because it feels to brusque without a greeting – but I can see it either way.

      1. Generic Name*

        That makes sense. I normally say “Hi, I am out of the office on DATES. If you need to reach someone…….” or whatever.

  69. Deborah*

    I follow this TikTok account and she has a TON of these. I think it’s a culture thing. It would be inappropriate in many places but clearly it isn’t there.

  70. Savannah*

    My mother who is still working at 70 has the best out of office emails. As a nervous millennial I tend to be like ‘hi I’m having surgery but will still be checking my emails’ and hers are just ‘I’m taking a break from work. Be back June 2″

  71. Beatrix*

    I once had a coworker who would put up OOOs for absolutely everything, and it irked me to an unreasonable level. Spending the afternoon working with a colleague on a project? OOO. Just returned from vacation and trying to catch up? OOO. A lot of meetings that day? OOO.

    It was just this colleague – it (thankfully) wasn’t the culture of the office, and I never saw anyone else abuse the OOO like this.

    1. Generic Name*

      We have some field staff who have out of office replies set up for when they do fieldwork. On one hand it’s nice I guess, but on the other hand, they aren’t dealing with urgent matters only they can handle (they don’t manage projects or deal with clients), so it seems a bit unnecessary? No one has been disciplined for not responding to an email the same day. But maybe I’m just a crabby Gen-Xer, and a client can stand to wait a few hours or until the next day to get an answer from me.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      I can just about see having two OOOs: one for the actual leave time, and one for the first day you are back in the office, so people are aware you are digging yourself out of the emails and to please call or IM if it is time-sensitive.

  72. lalalindz*

    Former boss used to put an OOO for EVERYTHING. Like, “I’m doing interviews today and will reply tomorrow.” Nothing was ever on fire so it could have indeed waited until tomorrow without the OOO – people probably wouldn’t have noticed.

    At my current workplace, I got an OOO about someone being on sabbatical and off driving a vintage VW bus. Loved that one. But also got one about someone bringing a tiny human into the world – that was a weird overshare.

  73. DataQueen*

    I like that you can sometimes tell the team dynamics by the OOO. In my experience I’ve seen that:
    – “If you need something, contact a member of my team” = I trust my crew and probably would prefer you email them all the time, TBH.
    – “If you need something, contact my boss” = I don’t trust my team and think my work is #higherlevel, OR my boss is a micromanager.
    – “If you need something, text me” = I hate my boss and don’t trust them to handle my work OR I think I’m very important and the company can’t function without me.

    Of course that all depends on if you have employees, etc., but i’ve seen those dynamics recently and think it’s interesting to see who someone leaves as their OOO contact. What do you guys think? Am I reading too much into it?

    I personally always leave my employee as my contact because a) I trust her completely, b) I’d prefer people email her anyway, so this is nice practice, c) My boss is the CEO so please for the love of god don’t email him about your data entry issue, d) the people who are emailing me about sensitive things that my employee shouldn’t know about also know enough to have that discretion.

    I also do not have an OOO for external people – only internal. I always monitor my email enough to be able to forward important external emails to the right person to handle. IDK why, I just don’t like them having the burden of emailing someone else if I’m out. I’d rather my employee contact them and say “Hey, DataQueen let me know you were having an issue and asked me to connect with you.” My last CEO was out for a full year and almost none of our clients knew (we weren’t trying to hide it, it was just not pertinent to them).

    1. KayEss*

      I usually put my boss in my OOO, because if something is so urgent that it needs to be delegated RIGHT NOW then it’s urgent enough that my boss should know about it, and he’s also in the best position to know who on the team to delegate it to based on everyone’s workloads and what can be dropped. But the most likely result is that whoever is emailing me either waits for me to get back because it’s not that urgent or goes to the next/backup person based on our central documentation about who to contact for particular issues.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I include my boss because I have different backups for five or six different parts of my job, and my boss is more likely to know the nuances of which one is the appropriate contact than the person sending the email, so it’s more likely to get to the right person if she redirects than if the emailer tries to guess which one of the six contacts I listed is the one who can solve their problem. (My specialty is the “other things as requested” section of my job description; I’m sort of a jack of all trades around here. :) )

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      In my world, “please contact $Manager” is recognition of a staffing level problem. $Manager will have to decide what project to defer if a crisis comes up while someone is OOO.

  74. office worker bee*

    I once emailed a colleague in our main office and got an OOO reply that said just:
    “I am currently out of the office. Please press 0 to reach the operator for assistance”

    She retired shortly thereafter, and I was left with so many questions. Brain hiccup? Or did she actually think our email and phone systems were integrated somehow?

  75. Maggie*

    Total and utter cringe! Sounds like something a cheeky 11th grader would think is the epitome of word smithing. If someone sent this out at my work everyone would make fun of them and HR would make them change the message.

  76. CollegeSupervisor*

    This is my favorite, from a now retired Religion professor: “This is a robot response. I am on sabbatical leave. Consequently, I am unavailable until [date]. I cannot promise consistently to respond to e-mail until that date. [School name] email will automatically filed until that date. Frankly, after that date is also a bit iffy. If this is a emergency requiring the services of an Old Testament exegete, I urge you to get a grip and reassess the priorities in your life! There are no interpretive emergencies. Luther had great confidence in the Holy Spirit’s ability to “call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify” all of us. Consequently, your need to communicate with me is probably imaginary and, possibly, a sign you should spend more time in prayer. So pray a little. Have a cold beverage and chill out. Consider consulting your physician about some sort of mild tranquilizer. I will get back to you when I return. Or not. The likelihood is, whatever you wanted to tell me or have me do will have ceased to be important by then. It sort of makes you wonder about a lot of life’s busyness, doesn’t it?”

    1. CollegeSupervisor*

      I kept it even though I received it four years ago because it made me laugh so much!

    2. Dr. Rebecca*

      I would very much like to meet him, and I don’t know if that proves or challenges his point…

    3. New Bee*

      I saw a version of this on IG that was an old school (paper) OOO from an associate pastor. It has a line like “if this is an emergency and you must speak to someone, Jesus is always available on the mainline.” Too funny.

  77. Zolk*

    I have a deep paranoia about out of office messages ever since a previous (bad) job. Every year I worked on a huge project that took nine months, and three separate weeks (or more) of that involved correcting, editing, and reviewing a dense 300 page document.

    The problem was that this had to be done on deadline and people wanted me to do other things for them that weren’t time sensitive. So I put up an internal-only out of office that basically said “hey sorry I’m working on project X and we have a tight deadline. If this isn’t urgent I’ll get back to you next week. If it is urgent, let me know!”

    The head of llama engagement called my boss and reamed her out for my “poor behaviour” and then called me and reamed me out, too. She said it didn’t matter if project X was the biggest thing our company did all year – her requests took precedence.

    I still hate that lady. She made one of my coworkers cry until she had to leave work because it turned into an unstoppable panic attack. I later had one too.

    1. Zolk*

      For comparison my current (not great) boss sent an out of office recently detailing how he would be out because he was on his personal sail boat all day, sailing from vacation destination X back to our port city. At length. In a pandemic. When we all had our wages frozen at the start of the crisis.

      1. LurkNoMore*

        I’m with you on this one. Management has access to a mansion and a townhouse in two different fabulous vacation destinations and it burns my butt every time I see an out of office from one of them (98% white men) going on about how they’ll be enjoying this perk. In the meantime, a few years back we had to eliminate free coffee at the offices because business was not good enough (it was eventually brought back after company president realized after a year that people were really pissed).

        1. Aggretsuko*

          Hahahahaha, reminds me of the time the entire giant department (hundreds of people) had to sit through a SLIDE SHOW of a higher up’s trip to Europe, in person. They sent a survey afterwards–thankfully anonymous–and I said it was extremely inappropriate to make us sit through his holiday snaps when most of us can’t go on vacation at all and it was supposed to be a WORK meeting.

  78. SomebodyElse*

    I’ll add my shout out to MS and Outlook for not only being able to schedule OoO auto replies, but for having internal and external facing options.

    I’ll also admit to not changing my voicemail for OoO in the past 3 or 4 years. I rarely get calls anymore it’s just not worth it… I figure if they don’t reach me by phone they’ve already emailed me or will email me after the voicemail.

  79. Properlike*

    I ran a nonprofit organization staffed entirely be volunteers (I was one). After one too many people incensed that we did not follow up to their emails within two hours, we had to include an OOO message that said we were a volunteer organization, and any request may take up to two weeks to process. Please email again if you have not heard from us by then.

    The incensed people also tended to be the type to submit things at the very last minute or want an immediate answer that could’ve been solved via google.

  80. Wrong Name*

    My coworker went out on disability for surgery and left an ominous OOO saying she would be out and did not have a return date, multiple people contacted me bc they were freaked out. The message suggested people reach out to me in her absence and spelled my name wrong, we’ve been working together for 4 years.

  81. row row row your boat*

    I worked in a call center for Big-Evil-Bank for five years, and every new manager would have a different OOO policy/pet peeve that they would require phone-miners to follow. In particular, the memory of the six month period where we were forced to put an OOO up if we left our desk for so much as ONE HOUR smacked me in the face when I saw question. That was by far the worst/strangest/most tedious OOO policy I have ever been forced to follow.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I wonder if anyone ever calculated how much time was wasted producing those messages.

  82. WantonSeedStitch*

    I like to know when the person is expecting to be back in the office, and whom I should contact (and how to contact them) if I have something urgent. Additionally, if the time the person is expecting to be out of the office is inclusive of a day or days that the ENTIRE office will be closed, I want to know that, too. My own OOO message is along the lines of “I will be out of the office from Thursday, June 3 through Friday, June 4. If this is an urgent matter, please contact Wakeen Garcia at [e-mail address].” Or for a time when there’s a closure, “I will be out of the office from Monday, June 14 through Friday, June 18. If this is an urgent matter, please contact Wakeen Garcia at [e-mail address]. Please note that [Organization] will be closed on Friday, June 18 in recognition of Juneteenth.”

  83. CatPerson*

    About a month ago my Outlook OOO went like this: “Goin’ birding! Back May 11th.”

    1. Eat My Squirrel*

      Every November without fail, when I take a week off for deer season, I start my OOO with “GONE HUNTIN’!”

      I invariably return to several coworkers asking me if I bagged anything. lol.

      Other than that, I keep it simple like most folks here, but back in my younger days I had one that started something like “I am out of the office on vacation until (date). I will not be checking emails, voicemails, (work queue system), or generally thinking about this place at all…”

      In my much, MUCH younger days, I printed out a photo of a cruise ship with an arrow and “I am here” pasted on it and taped it to my monitor…

  84. Bex*

    I guess it’s relatively minor, but I once emailed a local government official with a question about building permits (just as a citizen, not work-related) at about 10am on a Monday and got an out-of-office reply stating she’d be back “Monday” with no date. So I had no idea whether she was already back and hadn’t turned off the message yet, in which case, not urgent, I’ll wait, or was out for a week, in which case, I’d like to ask someone else. Not a big inconvenience, but it was so illogical not to give a date that it really drove me crazy

  85. Liseusester*

    Oh heavens no. All I ask of an out of office is that it tells me when the person will be back (if known) and who I can contact in the interim.

    I have a colleague who usually does different ones for internal and external: internal will be “I’m currently in the pouring rain in a tent in the Cotswolds. I get back (hopefully without trenchfoot!) on Monday Date. Whilst I’m getting soggy please contact Email Address.” and external is just “I’m on annual leave between X and Y and will not be accessing my email. Please contact Email Address if you need assistance during this time.” We all really like their internal ones.

    Mine tend towards the latter for both internal and external and only get a little more expository if it’s a closedown period and I’m adding leave to one end of it, but that’s a simple “The organisation is shut between X and Y. For emergencies during this time please contact Team. I am on leave between Z and B and will not be accessing my email during this time. Please contact Email Address if your enquiry is urgent otherwise I will attend to your email as soon as is practicable upon my return.”

  86. Weekend Please*

    I hate unnecessary out of office messages. You don’t need to tell me you will be out for two hours. If it was that important, I would not be using e-mail!

    1. The Rural Juror*

      That’s how I feel about OOO for when I’m only gone one workday. Very rarely am I dealing with anything that can’t wait 2 business days. I only set up OOO replies if I’ll be gone longer.

  87. Keymaster of Gozer*

    The worst one I ever received was from a coworker (senior to me, but not my manager) many years ago. I’ll paraphrase it as my memory isn’t great:

    “I’m not in the office. I’m spending time with my children and that’s far more important than absolutely anything you could be after”

    She, if I recall, had a few comments from people when she got back regarding her words (she was on annual leave on holiday, it wasn’t a family emergency or anything that might excuse the tone). It rubbed quite a few people up the wrong way (most of them parents themselves!). Don’t recall more of an outcome though, I wasn’t at that firm long.

  88. JustMe*

    Not an OOO issue but the comment about PTSD from OldJob reminded me of this. I am a recreational sailor who often made longer offshore trips as my vacation. OldBoss INSISTED that we provide contact instructions. Mine was some variant of “Dial O and ask for the Marine Operator. Give them [name of boat], [call sign] and [approximate location by date] along with your name and credit card number. We will be monitoring Channel 16 at these times…..” Never got a call. Word spread and there was a sudden epidemic of sailing vacations in my office!

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Just because I’m that person, I may have actually contacted you with a “Hope you’re having a great time!”


      On a serious note… sailing vacations are the best for no access/contact vacations. I heartily endorse them!

  89. not that kind of Doctor*

    I think this one is hilarious. :D

    I definitely hate the overshares. And I have one coworker whose rigidly precise & formal language comes off as pretentious and condescending. She sets up an out of office every time she leaves slightly early, so I get them A LOT.

  90. Mental Lentil*

    My favorite was one the one that said “I am out of the office and don’t plan on ever returning.”

    1. Red 5*

      My fav is the one I got that was “I’ve retired and I won’t be checking this account EVER AGAIN!”

      That was it, the whole email.

  91. Anonymooose*

    Bleh….that person seems terribly self-absorbed.

    There are some places where the culture absolutely embraces this type of…expression so it may be that it works just fine.

    But it seems a bit too chock full of dismissive, thinky veiled put-downs really. I wouldn’t want to work for someone would lump the people who work for them as competent humans (oh-em-gee, thanks), is that the best they can do to describe people? Oh wait….they look out for her (is she a princess) and each other (should I start applauding now?). No one needs to call me or anyone else a rock star, best teapot decorator in the multiverse, or amazing humans all the time but the best she could crank out was competent + humans. I get the attempt to be witty but it’s really sad that she isn’t more generous.

    And describing their boss as elusive….taken in context with the rest of the message…seems a bit of an attempt to say, “I run this ship solo so good luck with getting them to “help”, lol”

    Just bleh.

  92. Finally Commenting Because Ugh OOO*

    I use a basic OOO message – “Hi! I’m out of the office x date(s). I will return your email when I’m back at my computer on x date. If you have an urgent matter, please contact x or y. Have a nice weekend/holiday/etc!/Thanks!” My office WANTS us to use more personal and witty OOO messages like this article’s message. And that stresses me out. I don’t want to spend time worried about whether my OOO is witty. I don’t want to annoy other people just looking for basic info like when am I back and who they can contact in the meantime. I correspond a lot with third parties on serious matters (legal), and I don’t think a message like that is appropriate. So, I just keep using my basic message and hope my supervisor’s supervisor doesn’t email me and see that I’m not “trying.” Ugh.

    1. WellRed*

      Hopefully they drop it because it doesn’t seem appropriate. If they don’t, I’d suggest something like Today is National Pirate Day, today is John Lennon birthday under your signature. It’s a fun random fact without being offensive and easy enough to do. Yet also a pain in the ass of course; )

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Goofy dad joke that doesn’t require changing with the calendar. “What do you call a cephalopod carved out of ice? COOLAMARI.” You’re set for at least three vacations on that one.

  93. knitcrazybooknut*

    I was once horrified as an HR person, and amused as a normal person, by an OOO from an employee who had left the company. They had booked vacation for their last week or so, and while I can’t remember the exact text, it said that they were no longer with the company and they were happy to leave and never come back. I think “to this hellhole” was only implied.

  94. IEanon*

    I had a boss that required OOO messages anytime you left the office. A single sick day, leaving four hours early, coming in two hours late, etc. This at an org that didn’t require quick email responses, and at which people typically only put up OOOs for multiple days out.

    Boss would put up an OOO when attending an event off-site, but would still be answering their emails, which meant that I would get “Boss said you were the correct contact, can you help?” Inevitably, I would respond and, two hours later, Boss would too, cc-ing me on the original email in which they shared the exact same info I had earlier that day. It was MADDENING.

    The reason for the OOOs for staff taking half-days? They didn’t want to check the shared office calendar where our time off was recorded. UGH

  95. Red 5*

    I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m really tired of the ones that are basically “I’m in a meeting for an hour and I’ll check my messages when I return.”

    If it’s anything less than a business day, it just becomes this extra beacon of our completely toxic and out of whack work culture that insists we be reachable every second.

    Anybody that might need me that quickly should have access to my calendar and can see I’m in a meeting. Anybody that can’t see my calendar shouldn’t expect a reply in an hour unless I’d said I’d be available or something.

    But nope, we’ve created a world where “I have a dentist appointment and won’t be in until 10 today” is cause for alarm.

    1. Jana*

      Completely agree. I have also recently have seen multiple out of office messages that say something along the lines of, “Please be aware that I may be slow to respond to emails today.”

    2. Nanani*

      If it’s that time-sensitive, why is it an email? Asynchronous communication tools shouldn’t be smashed into the roles of real-time ones, and vice versa.
      Don’t call when it could be an email, don’t email when it needs to be a call.

    3. JelloStapler*

      Add college students to the mix and it gets crazier…

      Student emails at 3am Saturday morning, then is sends an email Sunday night, miffed you didn’t reply.

      Usually also right before a deadline, after ignoring warnings about said deadline for 3 weeks.

    4. Karate Saw*

      COMPLETELY agree. Every time I see an OOO for a two-hour doctor’s appointment I have to fight the urge to reply with “How much are you paid?” because I know there is no scenario in which I would have to explain myself if I don’t answer an email for a few hours and if you are that important you better make a LOT more than I do.

  96. Sleeping Late Every Day*

    Way too long, but so hilarious. I don’t get condescending at all. I’m drooling while imagining I had this on my work phone when everyone thought their requests were life or death. Actually, I wanted my message to say, “I realize you think your request is vitally important, but I’d like to reassure you: I worked in a hospital years ago, and good news! It’s really not.”

  97. oh my*

    Not quite an OOO, but a former boss had an email signature that said she was doing field work so her email responses would be delayed.

    She didn’t do field work. She was just really bad at replying to emails.

  98. BlueberryFields*

    I think this is great. A little too long, but it would work well as an internal reply in a large office with the right kinda culture. I’m imagining how useful it would be in my previous office with 300+ people that always had some “fire” or another to put out. I also appreciate how it protects the sender’s time off–at no point does it say “ok, fine. contact me.”

  99. HGNFP*

    I’ve started using one that’s short/sweet but still has a little bit of JAZZ. I can’t take credit for it – I saw it on Twitter a few years ago. It’s been received well both inside and outside of my organization. Here it is. If it speaks to you, please yoink it and use it as you wish:

    Research shows that vacations are beneficial to our physical and mental health, work performance, and productivity. To replicate this research, I’m conducting a participant observation study until DATE, and will be out of the office. In the interim, if you have an urgent request, please reach out to EMPLOYEE. Otherwise, I’ll be in touch upon my return.

  100. Anonyperson*

    One of my reports ***NEVER*** sets their out of office. I have gotten pushback with, “Oh I just check my email while I’m out and forward if it’s important,” (NOT THEIR PLACE, PLUS THEY ARE HOURLY AND LEGALLY SHOULD NOT DO THAT). I have tried to remind which, I think ONCE over the last 6-7 years has worked. I should NOT have to remind someone of this. The one time they actually did it was a NIGHTMARE. Instead of Googling how to do it, they expected me to tell them how.

    This person works remotely and wants to continue to do so, but I think I am going to have to have a conversation about them using the technologies at our disposal that make this possible. Including out of office and second take-home monitor.

    1. Morning Glory*

      I don’t think OP meant condescending to the person’s teammates so much as condescending to the reader. The person over-explains each option and I can see how it would read as ‘wow, you are really dumb and obviously need some handholding to figure out simple decision-making!’
      That likely wasn’t the intent, I understand, but I get why people might take it that way.

      1. K. M.*

        Thanks for explaining, that makes sense. To me, it seemed like a well-communicated coverage plan and I would have especially appreciated the setting of expectations on how soon I could expect a response so never would have even considered that to be condescending.

  101. Tessie Mae*

    I can’t remember if this was just an outgoing voice message before routing you to an individual, or for a voicemail, but I remember a fun December phone message from a small company (I think an insurance agency) sung to the tune of a Christmas carol–something like Jingle Bells. The content was something like: you’ve reached our office during this holiday season, hope your holidays are happy, please 1) leave a message or 2) press X for who you want. Other than the tune, it wasn’t overly holiday-centric (for those who don’t celebrate the holidays) and it was cute.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      I remember a phone tree that at the end of the normal boring options there was “To hear a duck press 8”

      When you pressed 8, you did indeed hear a duck quack.

  102. Richard*

    Several of my coworkers still have page-long “Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, our department will be…” auto-replies set up 24/7, even though the basic function of our office has barely changed. I’m currently working odd part time hours right now, and if there weren’t so many of these annoying emails going around, I’d have one that clarifies my email timelines, but I don’t want to be another spammer.

  103. PDX GRL*

    My employer uses Outlook and it has an option to display all OOO messages when you add the person into the To/CC/BCC fields of an email, prior to sending it. It’s pretty great and actually saves an email sometimes because I can see who I should contact and just go to them.

    My pet peeve is when people put a contact in there but then don’t include their contact info, assuming anyone would have it. I don’t always and that’s super annoying.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Yes, I do like that option. I can either redirect off the cuff, or if the message isn’t urgent, delay delivery so they get it after they get back.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Oh you see, I do that on purpose. That way I can use the same OOO message internally and externally. Anyone within our company can find us in the global address book. Anyone outside our company who has done business with my department has my email address & my manager’s.
      Anyone making unsolicited contact will be out of luck.

  104. Budgie Mum*

    Not me, but a friend of mine once received an OOO that simply said “I am having an out-of-office experience.”

  105. Nora*

    Here’s my OOO nightmare: when I was a graduate intern a few years ago, there was a volunteer with severe, marginally treated mental health concerns. Her behavior toward me was inappropriate to the point that my school assisted me with a safety plan. I obviously blocked her on everything I could think of. Unfortunately while I was on winter break she emailed my agency address from an account no one knew about, got my OOO message, assumed it meant I was open to communicating again, and proceeded to have a monthlong meltdown in my inbox when I didn’t respond. To this day I am grateful for my city’s utter lack of public transit, which prevented her from trying to find my home and family.

  106. Isabel Archer*

    Here’s my pet peeve: OOOs that specifically state the person “won’t have access to email.” It contributes to this pervasive idea that an employee who might technically be ABLE to check her work email while OOO better have a damn good reason why she won’t be doing so. Which calls back to the reason someone’s OOO is no one else’s business. Whether you’re OOO because you’re on your honeymoon, having your gall bladder removed, or robbing a bank, OOO should automatically imply unavailability for work stuff. Full stop.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I dislike it, too. But I add it, because we have managers who do check their email on days off & respond. That’s above my pay grade as far as I’m concerned, but I don’t want people to think that I might be checking.

      I don’t have access to email because I don’t have a work cell & I don’t open my work laptop on my days off.

    2. mreasy*

      I do this because my industry’s norm is that people check their email on vacation, at least once or twice, but I don’t do it. I don’t have work email on my phone so it’s technically true.

      1. TheAG*

        In our company it is very much the norm (though some don’t and it’s not looked down on. It’s just we kinda know every handles the ridiculous amounts of email we get in different ways that suit them).
        And it’s the norm of the people who so to put that in there because 1. if you go anywhere north of where we’re at, you’ll get zero reception and 2. other people we work with know you normally do.

        It’s really only meant as a courtesy but if your culture is different I can see where it’s eye-roll y.

    3. Guacamole Bob*

      There are some types of work or office cultures where I think this makes sense. Sometimes enough people use OOO messages for work travel, conferences, and similar that getting the OOO doesn’t really mean you won’t get a response until the date specified. It can help to clarify.

      I’ve used language like “I’m out of the office at a conference” before and that doesn’t mean I’m not checking email.

    4. Orange You Glad*

      We are encouraged to put up messages that say we have “limited access to email” and alternative contact for things like travel between offices and conferences. We’re technically working those days, but it may be hard to reach us.

    5. Delta Delta*

      Part of me would really appreciate an OOO that says, “I can’t get back to you today because I’m out robbing a bank.” Part of me would dread that, because I’d probably become that person’s court-appointed attorney.

    6. Nora*

      I mean, sometimes I put up an OOO because I’m on vacation and not checking email. Sometimes I put one up because I’m travelling for work and will only have sporadic access to my laptop, but might get to check once or twice a day. In my role, it’s important to make that distinction. Maybe it’s not so important for other people.

    7. Aggretsuko*

      People expect it if you’re high up enough. But I’m not salaried, so heck no.

  107. IrishMN*

    I wish I’d copied it, but once a co-worker in sales had an out of office that was long and rambling and talked about how she and her family were “going to visit Mickey.” I didn’t know what to make of it, especially since it could go to prospective clients.

      1. IrishMN*

        Yup pretty sure. I remember stuff like they’re going to visit Mickey, they miss him, they haven’t seen him in a long time…honestly it read to me like someone under the influence of something when they wrote it.

  108. IrishMN*

    Oh I also saw one from a person who used to be my manager (thank goodness that nightmare is over). She had:

    – Multiple misspellings.
    – An extra space in the email address to contact in her absence, which would create a bounce back if someone tried to use it as she typed it.
    – Had a date that was clearly a “fill in the blank” that she didn’t look at, because it was something like “3th” instead of “3rd.”

    Top of the iceberg though. Oh, and she also works with external contacts, including prospective clients.

  109. Hopeful*

    This isn’t about an off-key OOO message, but one where a rogue OOO message drove our department insane for a day and a half.

    I used to work at a call center where we both took calls and answered emails from customers. The emails from our customers didn’t go through a normal email client, they instead came in like one of our phone calls. Our phone would ring and we would pick up the phone and then quickly hang it up (caller ID would show that it was an email so we didn’t hang up on an actual person.) Around holidays, our company would send out promotional emails but we would get the occasional OOO message. But, one of these OOO messages glitched and it started sending us a copy of the same auto-reply messages every two minutes. Since the previous Saturday. We found out about this when we got into work on Tuesday (it was a 3-day weekend.) So we had hundreds, if not thousands of these emails coming in and we had to pick up and hang up the phone for every single one. We literally couldn’t do anything else except deal with these emails. Thankfully our phone system was designed to bump any actual calls to the front of the queue but most of a day and a half was just picking up and hanging up the phone. Over and over and over again.

  110. Charlotte Lucas*

    I used to work with someone who had a message telling people she only checked her email twice a day. You pretty much needed to call her if you needed anything outside of those times. (She worked in a remote office.) I think she had read one of those books on efficiency that recommended scheduled email time. But there were problems with this:
    1. She didn’t have the kind of upper-level position that advice was meant for.
    2. She didn’t work at HQ, so people couldn’t just stop by her desk.
    3. Our company did not do IM.
    4. My department often had to email attachments or text to illustrate our questions/concerns. And we were on deadlines. Reading a page of text over the phone was not an efficient use of anyone’s time
    5. She did outreach & was often out of the office on site visits, trainings, or travel to these places, but never ever set her OOO for these, because she was “working.” However, she was effectively not available to read emails from other staff until after hours on those days.

    I don’t miss her.

    1. Richard*

      This is hilarious. I always read those kinds of efficiency hacks and think “wow, I wish I had the kind of job that let me set hard, weird boundaries for myself that inconvenience everyone else,” and now I learn that I apparently could have just asserted it without it being appropriate at all.

  111. C.*

    I don’t think it’s condescending, but I do find it annoying. I have a coworker who sometimes writes emails in this tone of voice, and it’s honestly way too much.

  112. FD*

    Personally, I prefer out of office messages to do the following:

    1) Communicate when a person will be back, or if they are out for an indeterminate period of time, tell me who I should be contacting instead
    2) Communicate what I should expect. (For example, when I do my monthly reports, I have an out of office message that says that I’ll be slow to respond. I *will* actually check my email at least a couple of times, but I generally won’t respond to anything non-urgent.)
    3) If the person is in a job that handles urgent requests, list who I need to contact instead if it can’t wait until they get back.

  113. Michelle Smith*

    What I really hate is when I get back to the office and haven’t taken the 10 minutes to go into our labyrinthian voicemail system, remove the out of office voicemail message, and record a new one (without being interrupted, stuttering, etc.) and some SUPER DUPER HELPFUL person feels the need to InFoRm mE in their voicemail message that I sTiLl HaVe My OuT oF oFfIcE mEsSaGe Up!!!1!

    Like, relax. If the dates are outdated, you can probably safely assume I’ve returned already and that I’m spending my time getting back to people instead of worrying about my very clear out-of-office message. If you’re really concerned, you can contact the backup person whose information I provided IN THE MESSAGE to confirm or just, you know, text me.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      OMG, this!

      I’m tempted to make out a “SUPER DUPER HELPFUL COWORKER” certificate to hand to them.

    2. Orange You Glad*

      I’ve had people inform me that my OOO is up during a period that I was still away. Yea I’m aware my systems are set to send an OOO message, it’s doing its job if you got it.

  114. Charlotte Lucas*

    I worked for a federal contractor back during the Great Recession when government offices were shut down/working with a skeleton crew. I still remember getting OOOs from almost every email address in the agency we worked at explaining they were on furlough & to contact one specific person if the issue was urgent. We all assumed this poor person was hiding under her desk, rocking back & forth, with her head in her hands.

    1. Krabby*

      Yes! I once went through a chain of 4 people’s OOO and was finally directed back to the first person. It was our benefits broker and you can bet that was the year we decided maybe we should entertain other options before renewing our contract.

    2. Anonymous Hippo*

      This is one reason I rarely give a contact person. My company is terrible at communication, and not only could you easily be sent on a OOO chain, you could also be emailing someone who is out who didn’t even use OOO.

      The other being I did it once at my current job, pointed them to my boss, and he called me every time someone reached out to him. It was SUPER annoying, because not a single thing was time sensitive or really even remotely important, and if I hadn’t given a contact person they would have just waited. But I’m really the only person that does that I do, so when I’m gone, they just have to wait. :shrug:

  115. Squeeble*

    Years ago, I saved an OOO that I really loved. It was something like

    “Thanks for your email. I am out of the office today because

    [] I’m on vacation
    [x] I’m sick
    [] I’m traveling
    [] I’m at a conference

    and will respond to you as soon as I can.”

    I thought it was cute and could tell that the person writing it probably spent a lot of time on the road and needed a shorthand for updating their message.

  116. Van Wilder*

    I once had a coworker who attempted to put up an OOO for all of busy season that basically said “I’m busy with urgent deadlines, so please expect a delay in my response.” I think she was asked to take it down.

    I guess I generally dislike ones where the person is actually around but just might take longer than usual to answer emails (except in public-facing inboxes, etc.) I understand that if I’m using email, you might not respond right away.

  117. Orora*

    Not an out of office, but I had a sign I used to put on my closed door whenever I was head down on something and didn’t want to be disturbed:

    Do not knock unless something or someone is on fire.

  118. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    I typically say “thanks for your message, I’m out until blah date, with periodic access to email” or no access depending.
    I list contacts who are willing to pitch in if necessary, and list the day AFTER my return that I’ll be able to address messages.

  119. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

    i’m just waiting for the inevitable “Believe it or not, ___ isn’t at work. where could i beeee?” a la Seinfeld

    1. The Rural Juror*

      I had a friend in high school whose voicemail was him singing that song. However, I didn’t have cable at the time (living in a rural area in the early 2000s) and didn’t get the reference. I thought he was soooo clever!

  120. Krabby*

    When I was in university I set my voicemail to, “Hi, you’ve reached Krabby. I’m unable to come to the phone right now, but please DON’T leave me a message. They cost me like, 50 cents each. Mom, this is mostly for you because everyone else knows to text me instead like a normal human being.”

    I forgot I did that and it was pointed out by a recruiter who was trying to reach me to schedule a phone screen. Whoops, haha.

    1. calonkat*

      We were playing a family game once everyone was vaccinated, and a thing came up about “people who reply to a text message with a phone call” and my daughter and niece turned and glared at me…

      On behalf of all people who have trouble typing on the miniature keyboards, my apologies :)

  121. Extroverted Bean Counter*

    I know I’m so late on this, but my FAVORITE one I’ve ever gotten was from one of my company’s Presidents (so a very high up muckity muck type).

    “im not in the office get karen”

    ‘Karen’ is his executive assistant. Who he really should have had craft that OOO message.

  122. Orange You Glad*

    I hate when senders ignore the instructions in my OOO message. Usually, my message is something simple like: “I am out [Dates], returning to the office [Date]. Please contact Jane (jane’s email address) in my absence. General [department] questions may be sent to [general dept email address].” To me that says if you are sending me anything then I won’t see it until I return. If you have something you need to be resolved right away, you can contact Jane or send it to our department inbox (where it should be going anyway).

    I still will get urgent messages from coworkers with multiple follow-ups during my OOO period. Then an angry call or email when I return that the response time was too long. When I check with Jane about the status she says she was never contacted about the issue. I always push back “Why didn’t you contact Jane?” but I think a lot of people in my organization like to shift blame when they are behind on their deadlines. If it was really so urgent, why did you wait a week just to get an answer from me?

  123. JLP*

    My OOO replies are relatively boring…usually state if I’m using PTO or at a conference, dates, who to bother in my place, etc.

    My trick though is to leave the out of office on for the first day after I return so folks know to expect delays while I get caught up/triage my inbox. Works for my company.

  124. Over It*

    I was recently on the receiving end of a very perplexing out of office message. It simply said, “I am currently out of the office.” No indication of when they would be back or who to contact in the meantime. Fortunately in my case this was someone I cc’ed on an email as an FYI and did not need any response from, but still–who does that? IMO a good out of office message says how long you’re out and who to contact in the interim if things can’t wait, no more and no less.

    1. Liz case*

      I’ve done this a couple times: on the 3rd sick day when it’s all I can do to just set an OOO, and I’m tired of updating the dates and feel like I’m never going to get better.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      Mine said this when I was in the hospital and I didn’t know if I’d be back in two weeks or six.

  125. workworkwork*

    Most awkward/painful one I ever saw was a former co-worker. ~10 years ago when he left on paternity leave, he said as much in his out of office. The baby was stillborn. It stayed up for the month or so until he returned. Those of us in the same office of course knew the situation, but we regularly communicated directly with multiple offices in different states and countries. The very first time I saw it I was overcome with dread about how many congratulations he would receive and have to tell the story to. I was much younger and afraid to rock the boat then, but I think now I would push his manager and IT to use their ability to access his account and change it.

  126. Former Employee*

    I thought this was great. It addressed the fact that when people call, it might be something that doesn’t need immediate attention, it could be important, or it could be critical. And it did it in a humorous way.

    If this is a good representation of this individual’s personality, then I think they would be a fun co-worker and a reasonable boss.

  127. Tessie Mae*

    Not a message, but relating to OOO.

    A few years ago we had a team meeting, with the typical agenda provided to all by our manager. One of the items was OOO and the manager’s name and dates of her upcoming vacation–of course, to give the team advance notice that she would be out. One of my colleagues did not know the acronym and was at first confused. His read: “Ooooh, Mary is on vacation for these dates and is so excited.” Which I am sure was the case, but . . . no, not exactly. Ha ha.

  128. Five Seven Five*

    Perhaps I’m you guys’ worst nightmare, but for the past couple of years I’ve been writing haikus for my OOO, which give a flavour of what I’m out doing. A couple of examples:

    When you love sleeping,
    Every train’s a sleeper train
    – back 1 October.

    Whilst the chiefs change thrones
    I’m off work – gone to Gotland
    Gone to look at stones.

    (first line in the second one refers to the new exec for our function starting that same week – an internal move). If I can get the date I’ll be back into the haiku I do, otherwise I put it afterwards, along with the person to contact in my absence. Obviously if I’m off sick or otherwise can’t be bothered I don’t do the haiku.

    For Christmas last year I got even more carried away:

    I’m away
    Six feet away
    Away in a manger
    Asleep on the hay.
    No Insights, just Silent Nights
    No MTPs, just Christmas trees
    On January 4th I’ll come back well-rested
    (If you have symptoms, get yourself tested).
    New Year and Christmas will be like no other
    No Yorkshires, no nights out, no kiss from mother
    I’m holed up, locked down, I’m a pig in a blanket
    Gee, 2020, it really stank – it
    looks like next year we’ll get out of this hell
    But we won’t get those models out of Excel.

    If you centre-align that it resembles a Christmas tree, and I coloured the font accordingly :D

  129. Esmeralda*

    This particular message is too freakin long and it makes me watch it, too. Har har, thanks for wasting my time.

    Short and to the point, please:
    I am out of the office until DATE and will reply to your message when I return.
    For questions about X and Y, contact NAME
    For emergencies, contact BOSS NAME

  130. TiffIf*

    If I am out of office for more than one day, I will update my email out of office message “I am out of the office with limited access to email until {X date}. Please direct any questions to {support department email}.”

    I have no idea how to update my voicemail message and I don’t actually know what it says. I occasionally get voicemails that are automatically forwarded to my email as sound files but I don’t think I have ever had a business related voicemail land there (it is rare that I get calls from outside the company and most people in the company if they can’t reach me on the phone will IM me directly–we use Teams for both phone and messaging).

  131. Tessie Mae*

    Proof that some people just Don’t Get It: in response to my out of office voicemail message directing callers to contact my co-worker for anything urgent, a woman left the following message on MY voicemail: “Co-worker, I am having this issue, blah, blah, blah. Please call me at X.” Yeah, I–not co-worker–got the message a week later when I returned.

  132. awesome3*

    I want to answer every question you could possibly have in my out of office message, because otherwise you’re going to text my personal number and disturb whatever I am out of the office for. NOPE.

  133. NumbBureaucrat*

    I have a co-worker who isn’t exactly known as a hard worker. To the point that the fact she’s still employed has been a real hit to the overall team morale. Anyway, she has an auto-reply that basically says, “I’m at work but I’m really overwhelmed by all the things I have to do today so I will get back to you when I can.” Makes us all even angrier that she still has a job.

  134. Liza*

    I once emailed someone I barely knew to check on some materials he was supposed to send my boss and I received an auto-reply letting the world know that he was away in Vegas with his “boyz” to celebrate his divorce. I still don’t know why he felt this was important to share with business contacts. “I’m away for the week” was all the information I needed.

  135. Over It*

    Had another experience with a friend in college. This was back when people were starting to get smart phones, but many still had flip phones, so most social communication was still through email rather than texting. Friend was working his first ever job, a full-time summer internship, and set an auto-reply on his official university email (not his work email) saying since he was working a full-time job, he may need up to 48 hours to respond to emails. After a couple weeks, a few of us eventually told Friend that his auto-reply was odd and annoying, and no one expected him to respond during business hours about our plans to go hiking that weekend or whatever. Friend was not American (we went to school in the U.S.) and was also on the spectrum, so he actually appreciated us telling him that having an auto-reply for a non-work email was weird and took it down. He was genuinely worried that people would think poorly of him for not responding to social emails while he was at work, and relieved to hear that his perfectly normal time frame of responding later in the evening was not something any of us batted an eyelash at.

  136. Junior Assistant Peon*

    I haven’t set up an OOO message since I got my first smartphone. My usual method is to glance at an incoming work email and forward it to the appropriate person, or maybe write a one-liner response saying I’m out and will answer next week.

    I was always a little bit skittish about OOO’s in the pre-smartphone days. I don’t like the idea of announcing to the world that my house is going to be unoccupied all week.

  137. Eco-Logical*

    The one I’ve always wished I was brave enough to write was the one I once got which simply said:

    “I am out of the office until X date. Your email has been deleted unread. If it is still important, please resend it after my return.”

  138. Delta Delta*

    This message is really long. I’d probably just hit delete and try to get in touch with someone else.

  139. BearBurns*

    Hijacking this with a question- what do you do when you no longer have an co-workers to serve as an out of office contact? I find myself putting up the OOO less and less, because there’s no one left to respond to anything in my absence (beyond my supervisor who has no knowledge of how to do the tasks of my job).

    1. Wisteria*

      Your ooo also serves to let people know when they can expect you to reply yourself. If that’s not a concern, then I guess you don’t need one.

    2. Anonymous Hippo*

      I don’t. They just have to wait. The people in my office that could have a legitimate emergency that requires my input have my cell number, and they’d just call me.

  140. Mike S.*

    I work for a hospital, in a role unrelated to patient care. My first out of the office message was just my name and department. After a series of increasingly plaintive messages one evening, I added, “If you are calling about patient care, you have the wrong number.”

  141. Ro*

    I always send something like:

    I am on leave and will be back on X date and answer your query shortly after that point.

    If it is more urgent please contact Wakeen at Wakeen@fakeorg.com for issues related to llama and Lucinda at Lucinda@fakeorg.com for issues related to teapots.

    Which to my mind lets people know when I’m back and that I will get back to them after that date, as well as who to contact for more urgent stuff. But every time, Wakeen gets teapot questions because people apparently can’t be bothered to finish reading and they both get questions on stuff that is not due for weeks after I return.

  142. EngineerMom*

    I work for a Japanese company which has a regular rotation of engineers who come over for 2-4 years so we get some enjoyable translations for all manner of communication.

    My personal favorite is from my rather strict boss who always has

    “I am outing office. I will return xx day”

  143. Former Teacher*

    I had a boss who was mad if I put his full name on my OOO. I was his deputy. He said people should know how to contact him if I just use his first name. He thought the public would get his info (public-facing office but we didn’t correspond with the public at our level, of course). It made me feel very very silly to comply.

  144. Dilly*

    As a “don’t try this at home” anecdote, last week we had an all staff retreat, and we were asked to put up away messages. I put a perfectly professional one up for outside email, but in a fit of whimsy, the internal mail triggered an away message that said “Why are you emailing? We are supposed to be paying attention to the retreat!” I figured, we were all at the retreat, so nobody would ever know. Of course, someone did email me 30 minutes before everything started, and triggered the message. Fortunately, he figured out it was an away message and thought it was funny.

  145. Art Vandeley*

    I don’t include this much detail on my OOO, but I do include if I am out of the office for religious observance, because I don’t use electronics on my holidays and want people to know that I really won’t get their message until the holiday is over. (Unlike the norm in my workplace that otherwise senior people are checking email even if we’re sick or on vacation. I know, I know.)

    I have gotten weird pushback on this that people are offended that I would say I am out for religious observance, as if it somehow implies that my reason for being out of the office is more important (or inviolable) than theirs. I don’t even know what to do with that.

    1. SG*

      I wouldn’t be offended or consider saying anything to anyone who included this in their out of office message, but even as someone who is in a religion that forbids use of electronics on most holidays, I still think this message is 1) TMI; 2) doesn’t convey what it needs to convey unless you are explaining that you don’t use electronics during holidays, in which case you can just include that you won’t be checking email without including the religious explanation; 3) would come across to me as inclusion of personal information I don’t need, which would therefore strike an unprofessional tone,and I wouldn’t understand why you felt the need to include that info.
      How about “I’m out of the office without access to internet or email until (date). If you need assistance before this date, please contact…”
      Like I said, I think your colleagues are overreacting, but in general I would advise to leave all personal information out of your auto-reply — vacation, medical leave, religious observance, etc. — people do not need to know why you are out.

      1. Art Vandelay*

        I work in a culture where even when you say you won’t have access to email, you are expected to be checking. I include this only on the internal auto-response, so that the people in my company know that when I say I won’t have access to email (which is also explained in the email), I mean it. Nothing else seems to work.

  146. TK*

    If you’re out for the day, I think you literally just need to say “I’m not in the office today, but I’ll respond to your message as soon as I’m back.” If people need an answer to something today, they’re smart enough to figure out they need to ask somebody else.

    If you’re out for several days, then sure, say when you’ll be back and leave info for who to contact in the meantime.

    But you don’t need to write an instruction guide for people as though they’re incapable of solving their own problems without you.

    1. Anonomatopoeia*

      Unless you work in an industry well known for grownups being good at smart and bad at practical. Then, you do.

  147. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    Ok, I actually love the out of office message here! It cracked me up!

    That said, I think it is the kind of thing that is funny with the right people and in the right situation. But an out of office message is an autosend situation, so the email system cannot actually assess if it is appropriate or if the person receiving it will find it amusing, or unprofessional, or apparently even condescending. So while it is a hilarious message for a joke, it would not be a good idea in a professional setting!

    1. Krabby*

      I agree! I’m in HR and all I can think of when I see funny OOO’s from people is, “How big of an a$$ are you going to feel when someone emails you about needing time off for a funeral and they get this nonsense back?”

  148. Abroad*

    An example out of office reply I used to get from
    one individual:

    I am currently on travel in Ethiopia. If you’d like to contact me, please write to me in Ethiopian (Amharic).

    [etc. for different countries)

    In a role where I got many OoO replies, I actually loved this. (And wrote back in said language. And got a reply!)

  149. Coffee Bean*

    My OOO auto reply is fairly detailed. I have links to information for products I work with, an alternate point of contact for people to approach, etc. It’s really a CYA thing. What irks me about some OOO auto replies is when the person who is out has an alternate point of contact who is also out. Both are obvious planned absences, and both people are on the same team. Don’t they talk to one another about vacation??

  150. PB*

    I like funny OOO – but I am a bad offender regarding these and may slightly overshare. I recently had to be in and out for eye surgery and this was mine:

    “Ahoy landlubbers,  Dr Pirate [Myname] is back again to get her second eye done.

    I am out for eye surgery on Monday 24th May and will have one eye covered. All going well I should be fine shortly after, however reading long emails or longer periods of screen-facing work will take some effort.

    I appreciate your patience while I get back to you.”

  151. jesicka309*

    We’ve gone into lockdown in my state again, and one of my colleagues (events) has put the following as her out of office:
    Thank you for your message, I am working however there may be a delayed response as we manage our current events that have been affected by the recent XXXXXX Lockdown. I will respond to your request as soon as I am able. If the matter is time sensitive that can not wait please contact me on my mobile:

    Something about it gets my goat up! Like she’s working and emailing me about things she wants me to work on, but her OOO is telling me to buzz off coz she’s too busy to get to my emails.
    Also she still has it set up and we’ve been in lockdown for over a week. How long does she intend to have her OOO triaging everything and making excuses for delays? We all know there’s a lockdown, that’s why everyone is scrambling for their events to be rescheduled – it just comes across as very self-important at a time where everyone is under stress. No one else in the organisation has this so it seems very bizarre to have an OOO while still working!

  152. Nursery Rhyme*

    I usually go with “Hickory, dickory, dock, I’m off the clock. When the clock strikes Tuesday, I’ll be back.”

  153. TIRED*

    I worked at a public agency and would have different out-of-office messages for internal and external. I was chastised for having a “too informal” message- because the idiot talking to me didn’t realize me saying “I’ll be back next Tuesday for the big staff meeting” (or whatever) was just for co-workers and not the public. I told them but of course it didn’t matter. So from then on I always made sure to start my internal OOOs- “Hello Company X comrade…. blah.” So it was clear which was which.

    Man, that place was dumb.

  154. Bibliovore*

    I wish I could put one that said
    I am not able to respond to your email promptly because my husband died. I will not be accepting zoom invitations. Please do not respond by suggesting future alternative dates. I don’t know when I will be able to speak without crying.

  155. Allura Vysoren*

    I received one from a coworker in middle management that said something to the effect of “I’m working on a large-scale project and will be unable to answer email until X date. Please contact [direct report’s email] with any questions.” This went on for well over a month.

  156. Emily*

    I find the out of office message from the TikTok video overly cutesy and long winded. It seems like that is the culture at that office, but I would roll my eyes if I got an out of office message like that. Just let me know that you’re gone, when you’ll be back, and who I can contact if I need something before then. I have gotten some out of office messages where it just says the person is out and doesn’t say who to contact instead, which is annoying because I have to contact a lot of third party companies, so it’s not like I just know-oh Jane is out so Fergus is covering. I have to call the other company and try to figure out who can help.

  157. A (Mostly) True Story About TMI*

    About the “overshares”: You linked to a previous column that mentioned this point, “Sometimes the over-sharing of plans can even come across as suspect — similar to how when someone’s calling in sick with genuine illness, they usually just say, ‘I’m going to be out sick,’ but fakers will generally give you a long list of overly specific symptoms, like they feel they have to convince you.”

    I used to hire a lot (hundreds) of freelance writers who would each be given a deadline by which their particular project was due. As these were large projects, they typically would have several months to complete them. I soon discovered that a significant number of freelancers (at least 25% if I’m remembering correctly) would email a couple of days before their assignment was due to report the sad news that they would be missing their deadline because “someone close to [them] had just died”.

    Over time, I began to suspect that those who might be telling the truth (of which I suspected there were very few), would mention their relationship to the person and possibly the cause, for example “My grandmother just passed away after surgery.” The ones who left it wide open (“someone close has recently died”) led me to imagine that it could be a random person in their city that they read about in the news, their goldfish, or perhaps a distant relative who had passed away in the previous few years.

    Then there was the occasional one who would do what Alison mentioned with the sickness excuses, and create a tale that read like a police report: “I must miss my deadline because, on the night of August 12, my 45-year-old sister was alone in her house when an intruder entered. He was a 6’1″ caucasian male wearing a black balaclava and carrying a candlestick. As my sister approached him, with the dog barking around her heels, she heard a distant car crash which led her to have a fatal … etc.” (This is not an actual excuse I received, just similar in detail to some of those that were submitted.) These ones I was pretty sure were a writing exercise, requiring time and effort that could have been put to better use on the actual assignment they had been given.

    At one point I considered whether I should advise our freelance writers to warn all their relatives that their lives would be at risk around the time of the writer’s deadline.

    1. A (Mostly) True Story About TMI*

      I wrote the above comment off the top of my head. I wish I had time to rewrite and edit it. I would have changed “their goldfish” to “a spider they accidentally stepped on”, and would have added more detail to the story of the sister’s death (e.g. “her Pomeranian yapping” rather than the less descriptive “her dog barking”). Unfortunately, I could not do the thorough writing job required for that comment because someone close to me recently …

  158. ponderosa_pine*

    Academia has the best for this. Recent examples:
    – The person whose out of office advertised his gig on the weekend, for anyone in travelling to [city]
    – The people in a certain department who have taken to saying things like “if you really need to contact me, call 000-YYY-XXXX where Y is the square root of [insert numbers] and X is the year plutonium was discovered.”
    – The ones where people have an auto response saying they only check their emails once a day between 1-2pm
    – The singing voicemails
    – “I’m on research leave and I may be slow to reply.” (Whereby it is guaranteed they will reply immediately, because academics do not *really* take breaks).

    1. Anonomatopoeia*

      LOL if I got the math/physics one I’d do the small amount of work to just to call them.

  159. Beatrice*

    I once worked with a guy whose out of office reply stated that he was out at an interview, and whether or not he returned depended on how the interview went. He returned, so I guess it didn’t go THAT well.

  160. Anonomatopoeia*

    I dislike when people put up OoO messages when they are away for, like, hours. So for example, Jane usually works 8-5 with a lunch hour at noon, but today she’s going to attend a training from 10:30-12 and also has a brief appointment that will extend her lunch hour, and so she will be away from her desk from 10:30 to 2. I feel like unless Jane has a job such that she can usually expect someone calling with an emergency that specifically requires her attention between 11 and 1:30 or something, the OoO message in that case conveys some suuuuper unreasonable expectations about how email is handled, you know? (and if Jane does have such a job, I feel like there must be a less awkward way to manage that, since daily emergencies seem like the sort of thing for which there should be a central contact that multiple people can see). I have a couple of particularly high-strung colleagues who absolutely do this, and while I think for them it’s that they have a kind of needy need not to be perceived as anything but 100% on top of things, I feel like if I didn’t have the context of interacting with them I’d be more put off than pleased.

    Meanwhile, I do sometimes put up long ones when I will be away for some days during a season in which there are a confluence of three or four very likely reasons someone would contact me, and who else they need to contact isn’t the same. Like, it’s high llama grooming season, and generally during this month I get two or three requests per week for each of llama bleaching (for which my backup is Stella), llama shaving (for which it’s Arturo), and llama perming (for which it’s Carter). My message says I’ll be out until blah blah, and if it’s not an urgent llama grooming issue, I’ll get back to you after that, but meanwhile, for urgent llama grooming here’s who to call.

    1. Birch*

      Yes, this, and when people use OOO message as a “do not disturb” but then email you back right away. That’s not how OOO or email works!

  161. Nina Bee*

    When people leave first name contact only as if we’re supposed to know who Susan or Frank are..

  162. BK*

    My absolute favorite was the one that literally said “hodilay”. Typo included, capitalization, or any other words, not.

    1. Birch*

      I love this and want to start using it. I am assuming it’s pronounced “hood-a-lay” and that said hodilay has already begun when the OOO message was written!

    2. Rob aka Mediancat*

      One of my co-workers, who was involved in a lot of committees and consequently got even more than the usual share of email around my place, put up an OOO message that said she was going to be “on pot for the week of the 15th.”

      — she meant PTO.

  163. Birch*

    The people who never change their holiday OOO message or only include half the information, if you’re lucky. I had one sent to me once that was along the lines of “I’m on holiday until August 12th and then again from August 24th.”

    Uh… until when? Who should I contact in the meantime? Also, at the time of my emailing this person it was March, so I had to assume that OOO was from last year?! I finally learned that the person had left to another job. So many questions.

  164. pandop*

    Those of us who are back in the office haven’t bothered plugging most of the phones back in. We aren’t in roles where we get phone calls, those people are still mostly WFH. There is one persistant caller who does not seem to comprehend ‘X is working from home – please email them’, but that’s the only call we ever get.

    We are having a temporary office move soon, and our head of facilities was delighted he didn’t need to find data ports for the phones as well as the PCs ;)

  165. Elephants*

    One thing that really bothers me in out of office messages is “contact my supervisor” without listing the supervisor’s name. I work in a company with 4 large service departments, and each department is broken into multiple smaller teams. I don’t have a great grasp on who is on or who leads which smaller team, and we don’t have an org chart with that much detail readily available. If you’re saying to contact someone, I think you should always include the person’s name and contact information, not just “my supervisor”, “one of my team members”, etc. !

  166. Teapot Wrangler*

    I absolutely hate this and it would definitely irritate me if received. I agree with the letter writer that it comes over as condescending and also a bit passive agressive in places. I’m definitely not the audience for this one! Presumably this is an internal only version and the company culture would find this cute / funny.

    My out of office is pretty basic. Some variation of:

    Thank you for your email. I am out of the office on annual leave/in meetings with very limited access to email until [Date]. If your query is urgent please contact [Team Shared Mailbox], otherwise I will respond on my return.

    People really just need to know that I’m either definitely not going to reply (annual leave) or might but delayed (all day meetings) plus when I’m back and who to contact if it is urgent.

  167. Karate Saw*

    I once left a kind of breezy, fun out of office message for “people inside my organization” that said the literal truth: “I am out of office this week at a mountain resort where I have paid many hundreds of dollars for someone to take my electronics away from me. I’ll get back to you Monday,” and a very normal and professional OOO for “people outside my organization.” Needless to say I returned to a message from a senior (but not, I stress, my boss or even on my team) colleague calling me out on it. People surely can make things their business.

  168. Zenaide*

    I had a colleague that managed to set up a rule for an OOO that would only get sent if you cc’d or bcc’d him, which basically said that all those cc mails would get automatically put in a separate folder and he may or may not ever read them – may the odds be ever in your favor basically.
    Drove me up the wall….

  169. TheAG*

    Ha reminds me of an admin here once who would leave like 10 bullet points on who to contact for what. We got a kick out of the point that was “for catering emergencies…contact…”.

    The kicker was when she left we teased apart all of what she had been doing and it amounted to about 10 hours a week worth of work (and she was putting in OT constantly lol)

    As for this one I think it’s fine for internal particularly if someone can “read it in her voice” and knows she’s quirky but I’d probably just do a short one for external (or none? because I’ve heard there is some kind of security risk with them?)

  170. Blooper*

    The worst Out if Office I’ve seen wasn’t about the wording, it was how it looked. For some reason, some lawyer decided to write their OOO in lime green font against a deep blue background. SO GARISH. I could not read anything. Highlighting the text didn’t help either. Had to copy & paste it somewhere.

  171. SleepyKitten*

    At my old job, you used to nominate a contact for when you were out of the office and there wasn’t an obvious person to contact. One department was so small that they all just put the all team email so they never had to change it. Trouble is, it turns out Outlook team emails by default only accept internal messages :X

    They only discovered this AFTER the Christmas rush. Thankfully there were no client meltdowns that year or it could have been a lot worse.

    1. SleepyKitten*

      My team had a standard Christmas OOO, because we had international clients who needed reminding that basically the entire country is OOO 25th-1st. The message itself was fairly boring, but the template had “xxxx” as a placeholder for your signoff, and every single year someone would say “I’m not sure I’m comfortable giving our clients that many kisses”

  172. broadbean*

    In the early 2000s I received an OOO which said “[very senior person] never reads his email, please resend your message to [his PA]”.

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