inside the weird world of out-of-office messages

With many people squeezing in vacation time before the summer ends, this is the season of out-of-office messages – most of them comprised of similarly bland boilerplate (“I am off work until the 7th and will answer your message upon my return”) but some of them decidedly more interesting.

In a sea of generic out-of-office auto-replies, the ones that deviate from the norm can amuse, baffle, or in some cases make us really uncomfortable.

At Slate today, I look at how out-of-office replies can go wrong. You can read it here.

{ 270 comments… read them below }

  1. pleaset cheap rolls*

    I’ve got some amazing ones from contacts in Europe, including one about travelling the fjords for the next six weeks.

    1. ampersand*

      Yes, same! “I’m out of the office for the next six weeks on vacation and no one will be replying to your message during that time” is one I saw recently. I can’t even imagine saying that, but I admire it very much.

  2. Scully*

    I’m really vibing with this one: “One guy quit and left up an out-of-office message with stupid quotes from all of his bosses and seniors over the year—attributed to them by name. Because our IT is so notoriously bad, it took well over a week from them to fully disable his account so that the out-of-office stopped being sent.”

    1. RC Rascal*

      I second that this one is up there with the Cod Quit.

      I would so like to read this message…..

    2. InsufficientlySubordinate*

      I’m inclined to think that IT slow-rolled getting that “fixed” on purpose.

  3. Mental Lentil*

    I have a screenshot of one that just says “I am currently out of the office and don’t plan on returning.”

    1. Quantum Hall Effect*

      ooooo… I just left my job. My last day was just to turn in my computer and badge, and I entered pto into my timesheet. My email was still active that day, since I was still an active employee. Boy did I miss an opportunity there …

  4. Grestan*

    I’ve taken to saying something along the lines of “due to the number of messages I get I will not see your message and won’t be able to respond. I get back on xx – if your email is urgent please resend it with URGENT in the subject line and it will be filtered so I see it when I get back”

    This lets me deal with important stuff when I get back and have a way of not spending days catching up on thousands of emails

    1. Doc in a Box*

      Curious if you get a bunch of people responding with URGENT messages even when they are not necessarily.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        Probably. But that requires that somebody got the reply, read it, and understood it. You’d be surprised at what percentage of useless email that will eliminate right there.

        1. lost academic*

          Maybe – or it just delays the resend. When I get an out of office bounce, I often don’t really read it -I assume, and appropriately so – that if what I sent wasn’t urgent and could wait then it will be answered in due course when said person returns. If I read an email response like yours I’d be pretty annoyed that you seemed to be telling me if I didn’t send you two emails that you weren’t going to bother to answer it because I sent the first when you were out.

          1. Gresten*

            @lost academic, I suppose that is what I’m saying – but I wouln’t say it’t not me ‘bothering’ to read an email. It’s a way of managing down what would be an overwhelming and unproductive workload after a period of being away, that hasn’t (so far) seemed to adversely affect what I get done, while also giving me the benefit of not returning to work to be immediately swamped. I think everyone wins.

      2. Gresten*

        Not really – I’d say I get about 1 URGENT for every 100 emails I find filtered into my ‘vacation’ email folder. It’s worked pretty well so far!

      3. Rayray*

        This was my exact thought. I’d say more people than not in my department think you have to mark every single email urgent. It’s incredibly annoying. I think it’s one of those things that someone thought was a good idea a few years back and got everyone doing it. I think there’s other new-ish people like me that don’t but I know I was trained to do so.

    2. Asenath*

      The closest I have seen to that is “I will be out of office for DATES. I will not be checking my email during this period; please send emails after Date Back. I didn’t use this one, but I did always leave contact information for people to use if something was urgent, since that couldn’t wait for me to return.

    3. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I think thats a good way to just have all of your emails be marked urgent. Everyone is going to think that their situation is more important or urgent than what it really is for you.

      1. Curious*

        That works … once, maybe a couple of times. But it has its limits. See Aesop, “The [Child] who cried wolf!”

    4. JB*

      Urgent is relative. Unless there’s a distinct measure, people will think their matter is urgent. Even then they will insist on it. I’ve done my share of circular conversations with people who don’t grasp their matter doesn’t qualify for urgency.

  5. Amber Rose*

    Mostly I only ever get “I’m away on X dates, please contact Wakeen in my absence.” I wish I’d get the more interesting ones! I feel like I’m the only person who realizes I can set different ones for coworkers vs external emails, so my internal away message is usually more casual.

    1. Been There*

      I wish there was a way to be both witty and professional in an OOO, but I feel like the text based nature of the email doesn’t lend itself well to that type of communication.

  6. CatCat*

    Man, I REALLY want to use this one right now: “Today I will be disconnecting from all things work, and going for a walk to smell the roses and soak in the sunshine.”

    1. lb*

      Yeah that one & the “working on my tan lines, not my emails!” are cute/funny in a vacuum, but would be SO AGGRAVATING coming from someone as awful to work with as what the LW describes.

    2. Exhausted Trope*

      I greatly admire this one even though it’s a typo “on pot for the week of the 15th.”
      I really want to use it this week just to see if anyone notices!

    3. Rayray*

      I really liked this one too. Everyone deserves a break once in a while and I like to take breather mental health days. Just because I’m not going out of town doesn’t mean I can’t take a day to simply enjoy myself.

  7. OwlEditor*

    I just had a frustrating experience with an OOO message. Project manager needs to get me this document by Friday, but it doesn’t come in. So I’m writing him an email and his OOO message appears at the top of the email (as it does in Outlook). However, I can’t see/read the whole thing to see who to contact. So I have to send the email and the message comes back and reads “please contact Sarah from this date to that date and Ryan from this date to that date.” No last names. No emails. No phone numbers! My employer has about 6000 employees. There are a lot of Sarahs and a lot of Robs. It took me and my supervisor several minutes to figure out which Sarah he was talking about (and she was OOO!) and finally we contacted the correct Rob (this guy’s boss). Who didn’t know anything about the project, so we had to wait until the PM came back anyway. Oy!

    1. Irish girl*

      The part about someone covering and they are also out bugs me so much. Why even put them there if they are also out? Unless it is an emergency.

      1. sofar*

        At some companies it’s expected that you’ll include a “contact so-and-so in my absence” line. However, there have been times where anyone who can conceivably cover for me will also be out (or maybe they take a sick day while I’m out). So me and that other person just put each other in our OOO messages to check the box and then peace out and let everyone figure it out on their own.

        I’d honestly rather just put an honest, “Anyone who could conceivably help you is also swamped and/or also out of office, since it’s a holiday week. None of this is life-or-death, so just wait for me to get back.”

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, at my job, people generally put an alternate contact, and so do I, but not times when everyone is out (the Friday before a long weekend or something). Then I’ll just say I’ll get back to you when I’m back.

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          Yeah, in past jobs the whole team would agree on auto-messages that said “In case of a system outage, please file a Priority 1 ticket at [URL]. All other requests will be addressed in order after the end of the business closure on Jan X.”

      2. Emi*

        If the first person is on a long leave, they might not have known when they left, even if the second person’s leave isn’t an emergency.

        1. Jennifer*

          I’m pretty sure I was my boss’s “contact if urgent” while she was on maternity leave.
          I quit a month before she came back.

        2. Birch*

          But then it’s really the responsibility of the first person to make sure the second person knows they’re the contact for the first person, and the second person’s responsibility to put a reasonable alternate contact for themselve. Are people really putting alternate contacts in OOO who don’t know they’re alternate contacts?! Because if so, that’s bananas.

      3. Wheee!*

        I once had a whole chain like this. It was Easter, and the folks in the office I was emailing had both Good Friday and Easter Monday off. I hadn’t even realized it was Easter. I emailed Esme, whose out of office sent me to Steve, who sent me to Sam, who sent me to Grace, who sent me to Esme again!

    2. Bobina*

      FYI, usually in Outlook you can click the preview OOO message for it to show the whole thing? I dont have a way to test it at the moment (wooo, no work laptop!) but you should definitely be able to see the whole thing without having to send an email and wait for the actual response.

  8. Heidi*

    I don’t know why, but the one that just said, “I am not here,” made me laugh so hard. There is an almost surreal quality to it.

    1. I’m screaming inside too*

      Yeah, that one makes me want to go totally Dadaist for my next OOO message: a reply that consists of a picture of a pipe and the caption “This is not a pipe.” I know it would confuse most people, but it would give the artsy types out there a good laugh.

      1. Caboose*

        My dad has a shirt with a little graphic of the death star on it that says “Ceci nes pas un lune”. It is one of the most delightfully nerdy things I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of delightful nerdy things.

        1. Catt*

          When I was very pregnant, I wore a shirt for Halloween at work that was a giant Death Star graphic over my large belly with “This is no moon” over it. It was such a fun shirt to wear and I got a lot of laughs out of my co-workers.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      That was my favorite one! So existential.

      I feel for the boss in that situation – I resorted to an OOO template for my team because some of them DO need explicit instructions.

      1. Paper Jam*

        Don’t feel bad for me, it was hilarious and fairly low stakes – one of the joys of managing new college grads!

        But yes, we did have a nice chat about specifically what the message should say after that.

    3. Paper Jam*

      That was my employee – she was just a super literal person in everything she did. So when I said “you need to put up an out of office message to let people know you aren’t here”…that was the result.

      The second half to that story is the next time she went on vacation, after I told her she needed to be a little more specific and include a return date and coverage, she did so, but also printed a copy of her out of office message and taped it to her monitor, as well as a color picture of her destination. Made our whole team smile!

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        That was actually quite smart! Letting people dropping in to discuss something in person know when you will be back is helpful, least to your coworkers who’d have to answer “where is Wakeen?” otherwise.

    4. Magenta Sky*

      Reminds me of the answering machine message a friend had for a while. Which is to say, no message. Just ring, ring, ring, beep.

      He assumed that if you couldn’t figure it out, he didn’t want to hear from you anyway.

      1. Tessie Mae*

        I left an out of office message on my phone directing callers to call my colleague Wakeen if the matter was urgent, and included his number. Someone left ME the following message: “Wakeen, please call me . . . ”

        Sigh. They were not the first person I called back upon my return.

      2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        I hate it when the answering machine does not give me some positive identification. I deal with fairly confidential information from time to time so I can’t leave a message unless I am reasonably sure that I reached the correct party. A robot rattling off a phone number does not qualify, as I may have a wrong or outdated number – and who can verify 9 digits said in a monotone voice anyway without having the number written down.

    5. BurnOutCandidate*

      I’ve used that! “I am not here. I will be here on X, though, so I’ll reply to you then.”

    6. MerelyMe*

      I’m on “vacation” this week (mostly it means I’m not reading emails, but people still text me). I was tempted to put up a message from a photo I have on my desktop: “In case of absence, I am not here. If you’re not here either, nobody is.”

  9. lost academic*

    Being hyperavailable on vacation is too common in my industry so I’ve definitely had to create a message that said “I am out of the country, I do not have cell service, I do not have internet, and I did not bring my laptop. Please contact…… (long list of people for various needs).” Because the out of country thing hasn’t always worked – I had a client get pissed off for not emailing him back as soon as I got to the airport on my way home from Africa once. Because he knew I’d have internet there so obviously catching up on work email was what I should be doing!

    1. Alexander Graham Yell*

      My great-grandboss is the type to go wandering through the Amazon on vacation and so, while she is definitely the “work until way too late at night” type of person when she’s working, she’s set the expectation that we not be available AT ALL on trips. We’re client-facing so it’s really nice that she backs us up on that because I have definitely had clients who had very, very unreasonable expectations around our team’s availability. (Including one who would schedule 5 or 6am meetings, saying, “I’m the client, this is when I want to meet, I ran my own company for a long time and we didn’t accept excuses. You are here to help us, we don’t cater to your schedule.”)

      1. AnonInCanada*

        And my cynical reply to the client who demanded the 5 am meetings: “Correction, you were the client.” I wouldn’t care how much business they bring: if they set unreasonable demands like that, they’re not worth keeping. Simple as that.

    2. Magenta Sky*

      An attorney friend regularly gets calls from clients asking if he’s read their email while his email client is still downloading the several hundred page attachment.

    3. Sleepless*

      Somebody at my previous job called me about something trivial, that could have been handled at least as easily by one of my coworkers, as I was boarding the ferry to an island with cell service that was spotty at best. Two minutes later and I would have been unreachable for a week. I was still getting used to the culture at that place, which was that it was totally reasonable to call people on vacation for ridiculous things, so I was pretty taken aback.

    4. tamarack and fireweed*

      Ah, in my line, being on fieldwork is kinda effective. Because this could mean literally unable to receive normal email by any means.

    5. JamieG*

      I’ve always found it odd when people say “I am out of the office and will not be checking email.” I mean, the second part of that sentence should be redundant in any rational setting.

      1. AnonymousAndroid*

        I used to travel a lot to meetings and whether I could check emails on my work phone depended on the journey / meeting type. So I used to put a message saying either “out of office but will be checking email periodically” or “out of office and unable to check email”.

      2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        I can be out of the office but attend to email (e.g. on a train to an on-site job), Out of office and quite unreachable (on a flight, asleep, or in the hospital) or on vacation.
        I prescribe myself an annual “digital detox” where my cell phone, computer etc. are fully powered down. I carry the phone solely to call 911 in case of need. This I will put in my internal OOF message; external contacts get a redirection to a suitable coworker.
        My boss knows the reception’s phone number of the hotel for real emergencies. Never got used so far.

  10. Daisy-dog*

    For the one that sends a response about being in client meetings all day – maybe they saw that in use from someone else in a different role where it is necessary. They may have copied it not realizing why it is important for some and not others.

    I worked very closely with an assigned customer service rep with one of our vendors. Because it was an external company, I couldn’t use a chat feature to see if she was available and I would often send urgent emails. Her OOO message would say that she wouldn’t see the email until the end of the day, so then I would reach out to her back-up rep or call into the service line.

    1. lb*

      My thought is that it was a hold-over from a previous job for this person, that may not have actually been necessary in the current role, but was so ingrained in them that it was hard to quit.

  11. Aphrodite*

    Please, please STOP saying “I am away from my desk or on the phone.” It got old when the second person ever to use it used it..

    Just a simple “You have reached _______. Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”

    Or if you are out for a day or more: “You have reached ________. I am out of the office and will return on _________. Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can, or if. you need immediate assistance you may call __________ at extension ____.”

    1. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      A long time ago, when calling was far more common than emailing in the workplace, my voicemail message said, “I’m away from my desk, but the chain around my ankle isn’t long enough for me to have gotten far, so please leave your name and number and I’ll get back to you shortly.” I thought it was hilarious (I was young) but no one ever commented. I think people just tune out whatever happens before the beep :-)

    2. Me*

      I get it but people use it to distinguish that they are merely away from their desk vs being away from the office for an extended time.

      People will stop using it when people who get voicemail don’t start calling around to other people trying to find out where the person they called is.

      1. Treefrog*

        Some industries also have an expectation of hyper-availability – when I was in law it was standard for the lawyers to set a daily voicemail message saying “it is [date], I am in the office but away from my desk, if you leave a message I’ll get back to you when I return or if it’s urgent press 0 and ask to be transferred to my assistant”.

        1. Tessie Mae*

          I’ve gotten a lot of those, and I appreciate them.

          What I don’t appreciate is when people forget to change their outgoing message and in June I’m advised that they are out and will return on January 4.

    3. lost academic*

      Or not? People aren’t using that response to be novel and special and entertaining. They’re using it because it’s a stock and universally understood response for voicemail or for email. That’s important.

  12. Construction Safety*

    I fancy, ” I am out of the office time traveling. If I didn’t call you back yesterday, then it will be a week ago Thursday when I’m in the office next”

    1. Annie*

      This happened to me! I worked in customer support and came in to work one morning to find that our help desk auto-reply had been going back and forth with a client’s auto-reply all night to the tune of thousands of emails – almost completely crashed out server before IT could fix it.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        At least you only had two fighting it out. The third one is when the replies go exponential.

      2. Magenta Sky*

        That is a misconfigured auto-reply. They should be configured to only send *one* to a given email address, at most, once per day.

        This has not always been a best practice, though.

    2. Lyudie*

      We had a similar situation with voice mail at the company I worked for on 9/11. People were (understandably) trying to reach friends and family and putting strain on the phone system. A recorded message was pushed out to employees’ voice mail asking us to avoid using the phone if possible to allow for emergency calls to go through. But you had to call an outside number to reach your voice mail to hear the message. Then you’d get the recorded message again for dialing out. Which you had to dial out again to hear. Finally they turned off the the autosend on the recorded message.

    3. Art3mis*

      That happened at my old company too. Email from client came into unmonitored inbox which then got sent to our imaging queue for reps to work. Email goes out to the client to say “Thanks, this inbox is unmonitored, etc.” and we got a reply from client saying “Thanks, this inbox is unmonitored, etc.” which then got sent to our imaging queue. And we replied with an email to the client. Who also replied. On and on all night for about 9 hours until someone at one of our companies noticed and turned it off. By then we had over 20,000 useless emails in our queue and nothing could be done about it other than manually marking them all as complete.

    4. NoviceManagerGuy*

      My company had a whole day of this about eight years ago where somebody scanned a document (I think it was an extremely bare-bones schematic of a storage tank) and sent it to an inscrutably-named list that apparently included everyone in the company.

      At one point somebody responded “Is this an Aggie joke?” Being from Texas originally, that one made me laugh and laugh.

    5. L.H. Puttgrass*

      Ask anyone who has worked at Wells Fargo for a year when Holly’s birthday is.

      I’d post a link, but to avoid the moderation queue, I’ll just say that a “Happy birthday!” e-mail went out to all 250,000 employees. The results were…predictable.

    6. Not really a Waitress*

      Meanwhile, I would be the one screaming every time my email pings




      I worked for the COB at a medium size University once. This happened alot within the college, I couldn’t imagine how it would be for the whole University….. until now.

      1. AnonInCanada*

        And this is why the “Ignore Thread” feature in Outlook is something that I cherish from the bottom of my cold, cold heart.

  13. Anonymously Yours*

    The out of office loop from hell.

    Helen says to contact Susan.
    Susan says to contact Fred.
    Fred says to contact Joyce.
    Joyce says to contact Helen.

    Make sure your POC is going to be in!

    1. sofar*

      I’ve been in situations where this is impossible (holiday week) or someone who says they’ll be in takes sick days while I’m out. I make sure to delegate very specific, ongoing important things to someone (and make sure clients have that person’s contact info), but, for new and incoming requests, I’ve given up making sure those get handled 100% while I’m out. Unless things are life-and-death, I think companies need to normalize letting people just use an external OOO that says, “I am out until X date and will be unreachable until that time.”

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      I experienced a version of this today. Anne said to contact Sally. Sally said contact John. John said contact Hotdog…wait, what? I guess it explains some of the odd calls and emails today, but does this mean I’m expected to sit here and talk to myself all week?

    3. Can't Sit Still*

      I particularly enjoy those loops when I am trying to respond to Helen for something that she said was “urgent – need by (the date/time I am sending the email)” and she doesn’t respond until she’s back in the office and showing off her vacation pictures.

    4. CargoPants*

      This happened to me recently with a couple of coworkers. They are both analysts on the same team, and I guess they didn’t coordinate their PTO that week, because the OOO messages each referenced the other analyst.

    5. Aqua409*

      At my company, this is known as the circle of $h!t. It is your responsibility to confirm the your OOO cover person is available before using said person.

      Otherwise, we have an easy OOO input internal site that has a script for email and voicemail.

    6. HS Teacher*

      I had a colleague once who listed me as his contact in his absence. The problem was, he and I did not work closely together, and he had an assistant that should have handled urgent e-mails in his absence. His reasoning for doing it was that I was better at my job than his assistant. He had no authority over me, and the whole thing was just bizarre.

  14. turquoisecow*

    Back before blackberries and smartphones were a thing there was a guy at my old company who had an interesting out of office message up all the time. This was the corporate office for a retail business and he was out in the field frequently, and he was also in a small satellite office apart from most of the rest of the company, so it kind of made sense that he wouldn’t be at his desk when you emailed, but his message said something like “I am in the office but I have a lot of emails and a lot of work to do so I don’t always see emails immediately and I probably won’t respond to you right away.”

    My boss found it infuriating but he never got on well with this guy anyway. Boss put most of the task of communicating with him on me to save them both the stress, and I would promptly email him to let him know I had done work, as he requested (another thing that made Boss mad) and even though my “this is done” emails were obviously not important, he almost always replied immediately anyway, despite the out of office message, just to say thanks.

    A year or two later the satellite office shut down and they moved him to the main office and gave him a blackberry.

  15. Blymey*

    A colleague of mine has an out of office message that reads, verbatim: “I am out of the office until [DATE]. For help, please send me an email.”

    Yes, thanks.

    1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      My email address was the one given to the public for our entire (small) department. It had the department name, not my name (although I had a secondary email address in my name). If I wasn’t there, someone else would check it regularly. For the phone, I’d leave a message to call Coworker.2 in my absence, but I’d still tell them to email the regular department email address.

  16. Pounce de Leon*

    I am surprised not to see my favorite OOO reply blooper, which is a rather common one: “I will respond to your email at my earliest convenience.”
    Well alrighty then

      1. Entitlement is a Disease*

        How entitled are you to find this response rude? If I’m out of the office, I’m getting back to your emails when i can sort them out and prioritize them. So yes, it’s at my earliest convenience.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I guess I’m super-entitled because I find that phrasing really off-putting as do many people I work with to the point I’ve been asked by higher-ups to tell new people not to use it in OOO messages, particularly in outward-facing OOOs that might go to clients. I work in a client-services industry where responsiveness and service are high priorities and conveying you take client’s needs seriously is fundamental.

          “At my earliest convenience” sounds like you’ll get to it when you get to it and the sender can just cool their jets until then. “As soon as possible” basically means the same thing – when you’ve had a chance to review and prioritize emails – but without the connotation of “I’ll get to you when I feel like it.” or “You’re not the most important thing in my queue.”

          1. Nerdybird*

            *raises hand in shame* I was one of those clueless newbies once upon a time. I copied someone else’s message, and assumed it was professional. A client left a guffawing, sarcastic message calling out my mistake. I still cringe thinking about that.

          2. allathian*

            I’m not sure ASAP is any better.

            I think the most entitled person is the one who thinks their request should always get top priority, no matter what other requests the CSR has in their queue.

        2. Me*

          Sounds like you need a vacation.

          At my earliest convenience is a fancy way of saying when I feel like it. Generally speaking in the business world we don’t tell people we’ll get around to it when we feel like it, even if that’s the case.

          Not another manager explains it well below. Whether you like it or not it is rude.

          1. Llama face!*

            “At my earliest convenience is a fancy way of saying when I feel like it. Generally speaking in the business world we don’t tell people we’ll get around to it when we feel like it, even if that’s the case.”

            Except that this is not what that phrase means (see my comment below). Unfortunately you and other commenters are getting offended by a misinterpetation of the phrase. So, while do I agree that Entitlement is a Disease was rude to call you entitled (not okay), they are correct in saying that your response to this longstanding phrase is problematic. Probably we should just shelve the phrase to avoid more misunderstandings but, until that happens across society, it is just going to create unnecesary conflict to take offense at a phrase that is- when understood correctly- not meant to be offensive.

        3. Unkempt Flatware*

          Do you suppose you could have replied without the snark? “How entitled are you….” is quite rude in most situations so please don’t do that here. It truly does not help advance the conversation at all. Did you also make a user name to express your irritation? Please don’t.

      2. ThatGirl*

        I guess I don’t understand why that’s rude? If I can’t reply immediately, I’ll reply when I’m available/it’s convenient?

        1. Me*

          Saying you’ll reply when you can is fine. When you add the phrase it at my earliest convenience, it goes from I’ll get to it when I can to I’ll get around to it when I feel like it. You’re saying you will respond at you convenience aka when it’s convenient for you. Would you tell someone you’ll get to it when you feel like it? Or yeah I’ll do that when it’s convenient for me? Probably not.

    1. Llama face!*

      I think this one is a miscommunication based on a dated English phrase: The phrase “at my/your earliest convenience” means “as soon as I/you can reasonably get to it” but people see the word convenience and mentally translate it to “I’ll get back to you when I feel like it/when it’s convenient for me”.

      1. Imtheone*

        It’s polite when you say, “Please reply at your earliest convenience,” but rude to say,”I’ll reply at my earliest convenience.” I think that’s where the difference lies.

        For the first, I am offering to help when it is convenient for you. The second means I will help when it is convenient for me, no matter how urgent it is for you.

        1. Llama face!*

          People are getting caught up because the word convenience is there but the phrase *doesn’t* actually mean “when it’s convenient (for me)”. It looks like you are falling into the same misinterpretation. But don’t just take my word for it! If you google it, you will see multiple dictionaries define the phrase “at [someone’s] earliest convenience” to mean “as soon as possible”. It’s specifically a formal phrase used in letter writing and it applies in both directions (my convenience/your convenience). As I mentioned above, I think it may be good to retire the phrase because of the misinterpretation risk but it would be wrong to assume people meant it in the offensive way because that is twisting the phrase from its actual meaning.

          1. Kal*

            I personally know it by the first meaning, and it always brings Victorian England to mind for some reason. So while I don’t think its rude, it comes across to me as someone not knowing how to say ASAP in a polite way and really overdoing it in that way that a lot of corporate speech does.

            This definitely seems like the thing where if you interpret it one way, it comes across as a potentially overly-formal/outdated way of saying “as soon as possible”. If you interpret it another way, it reads as “I’ll get to it when I get to it”. The latter is never really going to be acceptable in a business context, and the former is going to look somewhat out of place in a number of contexts (and will only have specific benefits in certain specific contexts). I would guess that the first meaning being largely outdated is what leads to people being unfamiliar enough with it to instead see it the second way, so it seems like its largely going out anyway (at least in some regions), and would agree that retiring it overall would help people to not be perceived in a way they don’t mean to be.

    2. AnonInCanada*

      Oh yes, the “I’ll get back to you when I feel like it” tone of auto-reply. That one irks me, too.

  17. I'm A Little Teapot*

    The instances where someone forgets to turn off their OOO, or more likely their voicemail greeting, can be funny. Wonderful that you took a vacation 3 months ago, but it’s really no longer relevant as to where you are.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      The best thing we ever got in our OOO systems was the ability set and end date/time. I no longer get a week’s worth of VMs that start, “Hey, your OOO is still on…” before the meat of the message.

      1. AnonInCanada*

        Me too. Though it’s a bit of a bitch to set up (if you use RingCentral, you know what I mean!) at least you have the ability to set start and end dates and times for your “on vacation” voicemail and not have to worry about turning it off (or worse, re-recording your outgoing message) when you get back.

    2. Art3mis*

      I had a Walmart pick up order a few weeks ago. For some reason the app wouldn’t let me check in so I called the number listed at the parking spot. It told me that they would be closed for Thanksgiving.

    3. Asenath*

      That used to happen all the time with some of my former co-workers. If they said that they weren’t working over the Christmas holidays, and it’s now June, you could be reasonably sure they were working now (unless they’d gone on summer holidays without updating their message), but sometimes they didn’t even give the dates they were going to be away, or the date they would be back.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      One of my clients has an admin assistant who has their voicemail STILL starting with “Hello, it is March 15, 2020. We are going to be out of the office due to COVID for the foreseeable future”, and their voicemail is full.

      I mentioned the issue a couple of times, but it has never been resolved. I’ve given up and just reach them by email.

  18. Part-timer*

    So, I work three days a week as a librarian at a college. I have liaison duties to instructors and to students. Normally jobs like mine should be full-time (and instructors generally assume I am), but the college is cheap, so I’m part-time. I have an autoreply set up for the days I’m not working that says something like:

    Thank you for your email!

    As a part-time librarian, my hours are as follows:

    Day one hours
    Day two hours
    Day three hours

    Unfortunately, I am not able to respond to emails outside of those hours, but will get back to you as soon as I can.

    If this is an urgent matter, please contact [general library email].

    Thank you for your patience – I will do my best to get back to you as soon as possible!

    Best regards,

    Is this ok? Is it overkill?

    1. Lyudie*

      Personally I’d really appreciate that! If the assumption is that you are full-time, seeing this would be super helpful so I would know when you are actually working.

    2. OyHiOh*

      I’m part time, and I have my in office hours on my signature. There are times when I need to remind someone, but for the most part, “my regular hours are X days and Y times” works pretty well, without need for an OOO.

    3. ecnaseener*

      I think it’s fine, you could shorten it a tad maybe. Stating your hours is fine, but then you don’t need to also state that you’re part time. I would go with:
      Thank you for your email! My hours are [days/hours]. If you need immediate assistance outside of those times, please contact [general email].

      The closing is more than I personally would go for, but it’s not grating or anything.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I actually think stating the hours and the part-time status is smart. A disappointingly high number of people won’t make that connection.

        1. T J Juckson*

          Agreed. I’ve found it necessary to emphasize the part-time thing because I emphatically am not working outside of my scheduled hours. The number of people who try to schedule things on my non-working days is a continual frustration, and the rise of hybrid schedules has made this much worse. I’m not “working from home” on Fridays– I’m not working (or being paid), period.

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            Yeah, I think it’s important to include the part-time part because otherwise people will tend to assume that your stated hours are your “office hours” or similar and that you’re just protecting the rest of your week for other work (but can be scheduled/contacted for “really important things” like whatever it is they’re contacting you about).

    4. Lance*

      To me, it seems perfectly fine; you’re clear on what people’s general expectations should be, offering them an alternative, and the message isn’t very long.

    5. T J Juckson*

      I’m also part-time– in a job that people assume, and should be, full-time– and I do something similar, mostly because I’ve learnt people just ignore the signature.

      But mostly, it’s because my boss is an idiot and can’t remember my hours and will send 17 frantic messages (usually a combination of emails and voicemails) if I don’t respond. Sigh. He’ll also respond to the automatically generated OOO not understanding it came from the computer, not me, and wonder why I responded without answering his question.

      1. Jay*

        I work four days a week. I have an OOO message set up for the day I’m off, and after some unfortunate experiences when I first changed my schedule I now have a status on Teams as well. Nothing like coming back from a restful day off to a slew of increasingly frantic messages culminating with a lecture from my boss on professionalism (“we expect you to be available and answer promptly during regular working hours.” Um, I am. Those were my regular NON-WORKING hours. Which he signed off on.)

    6. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      I can be out of the office but attend to email (e.g. on a train to an on-site job), Out of office and quite unreachable (on a flight, asleep, or in the hospital) or on vacation.
      I prescribe myself an annual “digital detox” where my cell phone, computer etc. are fully powered down. I carry the phone solely to call 911 in case of need. This I will put in my internal OOF message; external contacts get a redirection to a suitable coworker.
      My boss knows the reception’s phone number of the hotel for real emergencies. Never got used so far.

  19. fposte*

    I was once dealing with two different email clients and didn’t realize that precedence meant my out of office message said I’d be back two years ago.

  20. PJS*

    That really short one really resonated with me. I have an employee who gets lots of emails from coworkers, vendors, customers, etc. She usually doesn’t set up an OOO message, so when she was leaving for vacation last month, I made sure to remind her to do that and that she could tell them to contact me. I figured she’s seen enough messages from others to get the idea. The first email I sent her while she was out came back with “please contact PJS” That was it. No mention of being out or when she’d be back. I thought about sending an email from a personal email just to see if that’s what was being sent to external people too since they would have no idea who “PJS” was or how to contact me. I guess I’ll have to be more specific next time.

  21. Kevin Sours*

    Anybody else getting malicious compliance vibes off of the lady setting OOO for bathroom breaks?

    1. ecnaseener*

      I was actually thinking “learned weird habits in a toxic workplace” type thing, but you could be right.

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      My thinking was that she previously worked for a micromanaging boss or a toxic workplace that demanded to know where she was every moment of every day.

      1. Elle*

        I worked at one of these! We were simultaneously expected to be available every moment (in or out of office) but also not have our phones on us/check them. I could never figure out how to instantly respond to emails when in another office without my phone or even from client meetings.

      2. Never Boring*

        I once had a boss who literally had the receptionist chase me into the bathroom to tell me to see him immediately. Ummm, I think I will finish peeing first, thanks.

    3. Tessie Mae*

      I wasn’t, but I like that idea.

      Except I don’t have the energy to do that. Think of the wasted time involved.

  22. pretzelgirl*

    I have posted this before, but an old company I worked for had very strict OOTO replies. We had to put one up everyday after we left. It was supposed to be updated daily, with the date and time you were expected back in the office. No generic, sorry left the office for the day. We were also supposed to do it with our voicemail. Eventually I got tired of it and either did’nt do it or just did a generic one. The company was also notorious for grossly under paying us. Not one person noticed I stopped.

  23. Kevin Sours*

    “I have a co-worker 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.”

    Honestly, consider the life experiences that lead to them thinking this was necessary and have some sympathy.

    1. Elle*

      I have a continual OOO that explains I check emails at set times. Without that, and sometimes even with, people get angry at not getting a response within minutes. Overall, even though it likely annoys some people, it’s necessary to set appropriate expectations.

      I also remind people not to expect responses outside of set days and times, give a timeframe for responses (business days), and provide a contact method in emergencies, with an explanation of what constitutes an emergency and that non emergencies contacting this way won’t get a response immediately.

      All of this through experience.

  24. Charlotte Lucas*

    I worked with someone who did the “I only check my email 2x/day” message. Super annoying because she did not have a position that required it, we didn’t have chat functions & email was our communication method, she didn’t work in the main office, & she expected everyone else to drop everything if she called them. (And she was Queen of the Gotcha Phonecall where she’d try to trap people into going alone with her out-of-left-field ideas.)

    To top it off, she often traveled for work but left really useless OOO messages those days. I know you’re gone, but tell me how long. And when to expect you back

  25. LizM*

    I love when I get in an OOO loop. This happened last year right around spring break.

    I email Joey, get an OOO saying to contact Rachel while he’s out. I call Rachel, her voicemail says she’s out, call Monica. Monica’s email says, she’s out, email Joey in her absence.

  26. PT*

    My favorite OOO was my boss who put up an “I will be out and about the next few days, running errands and attending to some family business,” when she was actually suspended for bullying and harassment.

    Yeah, try to play it off like you’re having some fun PTO days shopping and visiting your family, we all know you finally got busted for being a monster.

  27. A nice fish*

    I worked at a company where the standard was that your OOO included either “I’m on annual leave” or “I’m at a conference” (we did stands at lots of scientific conferences so it was a common reason to be out, but the person would generally check emails in the evening so having the distinction was helpful) . One time my colleague’s OOO specified “I’m at a conference in Hawaii” and we all found that very funny. He had been EXTREMELY happy about being on the rota for that one!

    1. quill*

      So the first year I worked closely with international colleagues was also a year that Lunar new Year and the start of Lent were back to back… so I couldn’t interact with southeast asia or latin america AT ALL for the end of January / beginning of february. Nobody remembered to let me know ahead of time…

  28. First time listener, long time caller*

    I really dislike the pet peeve that people shouldn’t do OOOs when they are only unavailable for a few hours, unless you’re the person’s manager. YOU may not care when they can’t respond to you for only a few hours. But you have no idea who else this person communicates with. Maybe there is just one hard-to-manage client who really needs to get this message. Maybe they have one task that you don’t know about that requires urgent replies.

    If you don’t like the OOO, just delete it.

    “You don’t know other people’s situation” is such a common refrain here. But apparently we just forget that entirely when it comes to OOOs.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Amused that your pet peeve is a pet peeve. Nothing wrong with it, just giving me brain giggles.

    2. A Pack Leader*

      I think part of it is by setting an OOO for only a couple of hours, you’re normalizing that clients should expect that level of IMMEDIATE response, and that’s something worth pushing back on.

      1. Curious*

        But, as “… Long Time Caller” said, that depends on the specifics of the employee’s situation — in some, perhaps many, cases, that expectation is entirely unreasonable, while in others, perhaps only a few, a “level of IMMEDIATE response” is necessary and thus appropriate.
        Not everyone would want the latter type of job, and that’s fine — but it is important to respect the fact that there are a diversity of circumstances, and of employees.

  29. Free Meerkats*

    Regarding the minutiae updater, in $previousjob, the rule was if you were going to be away from your desk for more than 3 (yes, three! Not 2 and not 4, but 3!!) minutes, you had to set an out of office email and phone message. The director there was the most anal engineer I’ve ever known, and I work with engineers every day.

    1. Princess Orange*

      SO curious about how this was actually enforced! What if you went to grab something off the copier and it jammed, so it took longer than you thought? What if you went to the bathroom and someone stopped you to chat in the hall? “Sorry, can’t talk, I’ve already been gone for 2.5 minutes and I didn’t set an OOO message so gotta run!”

      Did you boss monitor you? “Hey Free Meercats, I noticed you making tea in the break room. I don’t need anything—I’m only sending this email to find out if you enabled your OOO first, since any decent person knows it takes more than three minutes to make PROPER tea.”

      1. Free Meerkats*

        Monitoring was hit and miss because he ran a group of about 50 people. But you’re not far off.

    2. No Tribble At All*

      Wow, I’d have to set an OOO every time I went to the bathroom. Too bad you can’t set up a specific OOO for one person, cos I’d set my message for him to say “I’m out of office because I have to take a shit”

      1. SarahKay*

        You could set up a rule that generated an auto-reply for a single person. And for this director I think I’d really, really want to!

  30. Entitlement is a Disease*

    If I’m slammed in meetings all day, i will set up my OOO. Same if I’m working on a critical project. Although a lot of you chirped in with “24 HoUrS tO rEsPoNd!” not every company follows that rule, i have same day acknowledgment for anything received by 4 pm. So for those people, they know I’m in meetings or working on a critical deliverable and not just ignoring their emails. Plus, if they complain to my Director, there’s that paper trail. It’s not overkill, it’s called communication.

    1. LizM*

      I also do this.

      The vast majority of the emails I get are fine if I wait 24 hours. But I do get some that need quicker response. The people sending those emails have my cell number and know to shoot me a text if they get that OOO.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “if they complain to my Director, there’s that paper trail”

      I think the schools of thought on this probably depend on your work experience. There are offices where this kind of CYA will be more necessary than others.

  31. Phony Genius*

    Anybody here think that maybe the one who said they’d be “on pot for a week” may have been a Freudian slip?

  32. Meep*

    I work at a university whose unofficial school song is a bluegrass tune that references a mountain landmark. Many employees incorporate part of the song in their auto reply messages, complete with music note emojis. Think “wish that I were on ole landmark!”

    It’s kind of cute and school spirited the first half dozen times you get those auto replies…and increasingly annoying after that.

    1. CTT*

      I went to law school there and on the one hand I’m thinking that’s cute and I wonder if my old profs did that, but on the other I know I will have the song stuck in my head for the rest of the day, a once-regular occurrence I do not miss.

    2. Delta Delta*

      I’m going to throw this challenge out there: next time you’re going on vacation, do one of these referencing sipping drinks on the beach and work in the line, “get [my] corn from a jar.” Hee hee hee!

  33. Eldritch Office Worker*

    Well timed, I just realized my boss’s OOO is a flurry of emojis followed by a long list of things she is doing while on vacation that reads like a Spring Break manifesto

  34. Scary Terry*

    My coworker once clearly called his assistant and told her “put my out of office on, tell them I’ll be back tomorrow.” I know this because that’s exactly what it said if you emailed him. If you emailed him, you got a bounceback message that said:

    Put my out of office on. Tell them I’ll be back tomorrow.

    I still giggle at this one.

  35. Emi*

    I accidentally left a rather testy “I am out of the office due to a lapse in government funding” response message on my voicemail for like six months after the new continuing resolution was passed.

  36. H.C.*

    I empathized with the ‘humans make typos sometimes’ one so much… esp since I’ve created this doozy “If you have any urgent inquiries while I’m out, please contact the pubic affairs office…”


    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Public is one of those words I always proofread multiple times before I post or send in an email. Same goes for Bobby; I wonder how many emails the Bobbys of the world get with their name spelled unfortunately incorrectly.

      1. Teapot Librarian*

        The first thing I do when I get a new computer is go into the spelling settings in the Microsoft software and set up an “autocorrect” from pubic to public. There are very very very few situations where I could conceivably NOT mean public. And after getting an email from someone whose signature said that they worked for the [City] Pubic Schools, this a high priority correction for me!

        1. SarahKay*

          That is genius, and I have just done it.
          I’ve also set shit to autocorrect to shift, after a colleague once sent an email that should have said “For attention of evening shift employees”…. but didn’t quite!

    2. COHikerGirl*

      My major contains the word Organismic. I accidentally send out a resume with Orgasmic. Luckily it was my very first time having that on my resume and I have checked it to death after that.

  37. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

    All of these are at least real out-of-office. The letter on this topic that really set me off was the employee working 80-hour weeks for years whose boss refused to let her have an out-of-office message at all because it might signal to clients that she wasn’t dedicated enough. He also refused to let his employees have automatic forwarding when they were away, so even on vacations they were required to cull their emails and either respond to clients or forward them to other people. Don’t know how that guy missed out on worst boss nominations…

  38. HailRobonia*

    My favorite OOO response was from a lawyer (barrister? soliciter?) from the UK, it said “I will be on trial all next week and my responses may be delayed.”

    Evidently “on trial” means something different in British English than American English.

    1. BubbleTea*

      Not as far as I know! Typically that phrase refers to the defendant. Presumably they meant in court?

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Brutal honesty? (I’d not be able to resist asking on trial *for what* as part of my message.)

    3. allathian*

      I think “I will be in court all next week…” would be less likely to be misunderstood.

      AFAIK, in American English to be “on trial” only refers to the defendant, whereas in the UK, it can refer to the legal team as well? What do you native speakers in either the US or the UK say?

      1. londonedit*

        I’ve never heard ‘on trial’ to mean anything other than ‘being tried for a crime’ (in the UK) but I’m not part of the legal world so I don’t know whether lawyers would give it a different meaning. The lawyers I know use ‘in court’ or ‘at court’ to mean ‘I’m attending court to represent a client’.

      2. Never Boring*

        I am a native U.S. English speaker and work in the legal industry in the U.S. Lawyers talk about being “on trial” all the time when they are talking about representing someone else in a trial.

  39. House Tyrell*

    One of my workers has an OOO message for every single day starting at 4:50pm and going until 9am the next day and then also all weekend letting us know that he is not working after or before hours or on weekends. But none of us are save a handful of senior senior staff because we all work a standard M-F 9-5 so it’s incredibly unnecessary and frankly annoying to get the message if I send him something at 4:55 when I wrap up my day that I don’t expect him to look at until the next day when we’re all back. We all just roll our eyes at it because it comes off as a little precious to be honest.

    1. cabbagepants*

      I can see two reasons to do this:
      1) Teams in many different timezones who legitimately forget
      2) Passive aggression at a boss who gets snippy about not getting immediate answers to after-hours emails

  40. FloralWraith*

    I work with academics in a professional services role at a university. I usually have to clear out our faculty inbox, whenever we send internal newsletters, of all of the auto-responders. Some are useful. Some are irritating. There’s one in particular that annoys me to no end, which is they just put the days they are out in number date format. Like this is what we’d get for this week: “30/08/2021-03/09/2021”.

    I’m less annoyed personally and more so that our academics will then turn around and complain that people never contact them about their work. I’m sorry, your out of office is off-putting.

  41. TaxLady*

    I am a one person business dealing with clients who often very suddenly decide they have an emergency and need me, so the 2 or so times a year I won’t be checking my emails for more than a couple of days, my OOO message screens by guilt trip: “I am on a much needed vacation and will not be checking email until DATE. If this is something that absolutely cannot wait until then, text me at NUMBER and I will look at your email.” I used to use a softer version and got lots of texts, this last time got none!

  42. nicolamj*

    So… I took a vacation day on Wed and just quickly popped on a super fast OOO that said “Hi Folks – I’m out Wed 8/25 but I’ll be back in the office on Thursday.” and a vendor rep said it was her favorite OOO she had ever seen!! I was surprised! Yes, it’s short and to the point but did I inadvertently give another vibe here?

  43. Delta Delta*

    Very timely, I got two OOOs today. One said, “I’ll be gone til the 7th and I’ll respond after that.” That was fine and I know situation. The other I got said, “I’m home sick and maybe I’ll check emails or maybe not.” I suppose I appreciate that honesty, too.

  44. OOO tales*

    Joe’s not here, but you can try contacting Fergus, who doesn’t know he’s being fwded Joe’s mail, and doesn’t know how to do Joe’s tasks. You could try contacting Larry, who might know how to do it, but probably won’t help you because he and Joe don’t get along since the Donut Incident of 05.

    1. cabbagepants*

      Haha so common at my last job. Or better yet, Fergus is also OOO with Joe listed as coverage.

  45. KayEss*

    My all-time favorite is the one from the last thread of these from a religion professor on sabbatical that included “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!” and “your need to communicate with me is probably imaginary and, possibly, a sign you should spend more time in prayer.”

  46. NoLongerMonitored*

    Yikes, bad memories! My department used to have a bunch of different shared mailboxes, and my boss gave me the job of putting a “this mailbox is not monitored, do not contact it” autoreply on them all. I, being 24 and never using outlook before, did not do it correctly because for the next YEAR that autoreply would show up sometimes on my own mailbox as well! I’m sure it was my own fault, but I never could figure out what exactly I was doing wrong, and IT treated it as low priority since it came and went. Eventually they just reset my whole account after too many people emailed my boss concerned I’d quit suddenly.

  47. Marspar*

    Reminds me of a funny voice mail situation from some years back. One day I went to call an out-of-town friend and by mistake called his office number for the major tech company he had left ONE YEAR BEFORE. Crazily enough, I got his voice mail! “You have reached the desk of John Llama at Teakettle Company. I am away from my desk right now,” etc.

    So, not really an OOO message, but the person certainly was about as Out of the Office as you can be. This was a major, established technology company… so absolutely insane that they had not disconnected his phone/VM.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I wonder if they recycled the number and whoever got the number didn’t change the voicemail.
      Had this happen at work. Luckily the extensions are not published outside our department.

      1. Sm*

        One time I was working temporarily in a position that required I make calls out, but I didn’t need incoming calls – everything was by email or in person. So they gave me someone’s old line and told me not to bother changing all the information on it but at some point to clear the voicemails (so the boss didn’t have to). Well, turns out that this person had a LOT of voicemails over the year and a half or so since he’d left, or since they’d last cleaned the inbox, including multiple people very confused that he was still at the job they thought he’d left. The voicemails were amusing, at least.

        Another time I started a new job and changed the voicemail over – it was from someone I knew who had worked there until about a year prior.

        Both big companies where apparently dealing with changing a line was more annoying than confusing people!

  48. pieces_of_flair*

    My predecessor at a receptionist job had recorded a greeting that would play during business hours if no one answered the phone. It was a rather abrupt “I’m in the bathroom.” This was the main line for the entire company, through which all incoming calls were routed.

  49. JamieG*

    My favorite out of office replies are those that refer to the sender in the third person, such as getting a reply from Jane Doe that reads “Jane Doe is out of the office this week. She will respond when she’s back.”

  50. I'm just here for the cats!*

    On the opposite side of the specturm are people who put don’t put out of office messages on. Just had this happen and luckily I was able to catch it about a week later. I scheduled a meeting with someone. I looked at thier calendar, and they looked available. There were some times blocked off but not entire days. I sent a calendar invite to meet. Didnt get a response. Waited a week and at that time I found out she was out of office and for the forceable future will be working remotely. Would have been nice if she had put something up before hand.

    I still haven’t gotten a response, but at least I know she is out until later this week. Then if I don’t get a response I will try again

  51. Recovering Museum Professional*

    At my last job the PRESIDENT/CEO (!!!!) emailed my supervisor, CCed me, and said I shouldn’t start my OOO with “hi team” because “I would think (or at least I hope) the social media manager gets a lot of external inquiries.”

    I explained the difference between external and internal OOOs and (perhaps with too much snark) let him know that I would never address an external contact with “Hi team” because I have in fact been working in an office setting since I was 18. (Not exactly how I worded it but you get the idea.) this email was also full of condescending remarks about our social coverage for the time I was out – my supervisor let him know scheduling posts was a thing and we had already worked on the plan together. Again, this was the CEO!!!

    There were lots of things before and after that incident that led me to quit but that was definitely the turning point. It was my birthday lmao.

  52. Amy the Rev*

    I have something like,

    “I am on vacation/study leave/etc and will return to my emails on X date. It is unlikely that I will make it through EVERY email in the backlog, so if you don’t hear from me within a reasonable amount of time after DATE, please do not hesitate to reach out again!

    For urgent pastoral concerns, contact COVERAGE PERSON by calling our pastoral emergency line at NUMBER. For administrative matters, please contact our parish administrator, NAME, at EMAIL/NUMBER. “

  53. cabbagepants*

    What about the one that swings and misses at including important details? Stuff like “I am out for the next 8 days, in my absence, please contact Slim” only you don’t know when the message was set so you don’t know when they’ll be back and Slim is actually a nickname for a person listed in the address book as Robert J. Henderson.

  54. Maybe Received?*

    I recently received one that said something very similar to, “I will be out of the office from X date to X+10 date. Possibly I will return X+8 date. Someone will be monitoring my email; I will also check it when I return.”

    On my notes for this project I was working on, I wrote, “Maybe received?”

  55. Amethystmoon*

    Depending on the job and the frequency and urgency of requests, I can see using the “I’m focusing on a project right now and will get back to you later today” auto response. Had a job where many things came through that were drop everything now to work on them urgent. But I also had to do some reports in the role which were also urgent, so my boss okayed using that kind of auto response.

    For my current job, we have a group e-mail account, which is always listed in my auto responses, but I only use them when I take PTO.

  56. Cat Toys*

    I’m working in another department where I shouldn’t “need” access to my email so my OOO reply is “I’m working in that other department until further notice. Contact my manager if the matter is urgent”.

    Don’t know what people are doing if the matter isn’t urgent…


    Okay, can I just love on the Papyrus font a little? I mean, it’s terrible in this context, but *gloriously* terrible.

  58. Blarg*

    I’ve always enjoyed the separate internal vs external away message for things like mild vacation gloating — though I’ve also worked at gov agencies where people seem to think that internal is their own unit instead of, say, the whole county government.

    My fave though was a coworker who wrote a haiku as her final internal OOO when she moved to a new job. The last line was “you should try [her boss].”

    1. allathian*

      Internal means everyone on the same email server. In my case I work for the national government, and for us, the internal OOO applies to everyone else in government, both in central government, and in all governmental agencies. So I use the same, fairly impersonal OOO for both.

  59. Sleeping Late Every Day*

    I rather like the slightly mysterious “I am not here.” It makes me wonder if the person is levitating too high to reach the phone, or has been abducted by aliens, or if it’s merely a philosophical statement.

  60. Not a Blossom*

    When I started at my job, I was shocked to find that no one was using out-of-office messages. What?! I basically forced the issue, but then I had to teach them to add more information. It was a small office and everyone had been there for decades, and so some things just didn’t filter in I guess (although they received OOO messages, so who knows?).

  61. Dutch*

    I had a manager change hers from generic to specifically referencing a really bad blizzard that hit one day. 4 months later one of her clients contacted me to ask about the freak weather we were having!

  62. Feline Fine*

    My favourite was one from a colleague on maternity leave (year long). It simply said “I am currently on maternity leave with a planned return in October 2019. Messages received before this date will be deleted.”

  63. Apocalypse How*

    Just got an autoreply: “I’m presently on vacation on August 30. I’m off-the-grid in a yurt on a sheep farm, and won’t have access to email.”

  64. Margaret*

    I sometimes will put an OOTO message as something like “I am trying to focus and will be working off-line most of the day to minimize distractions. I’ll be checking my email periodically, but if something is time sensitive, please text or call ###”. Would anyone think this is weird if they got it?

  65. HesAllThat*

    I always put that I am OOTO until whatever date, and then I write that I will not be checking my emails or voicemails. I have no idea why anyone would get an OOTO message and reply with “I expect you’ll be checking your emails on annual leave, so blah blah blah.”

    Um, no. Never. EVER. I’m getting paid to not care about work.

  66. vampire physicist*

    At my first ever office job, which was heavily client focused, external-facing OOO messages were disabled at the system level for obscure management reasons. It was incredibly frustrating – I would email my contacts if I was going to be out, and my manager would email them if I called out sick, but it felt like every single time someone missed the message.
    On the other hand it meant people felt like they could go absolutely wild with the internal OOO messages. My least favorite was when people were a little too open about the nature of their sick day (eg, “I am ill in a way that could ruin keyboards” but my favorite was “I am having an out-of-office experience.”

  67. Doozy OOO*

    I wish I’d saved this one as it got forwarded around to quite a few people in our office. We were working with a vendor and we did not like the one of the people assigned to work on our website (She was lovely, just not great at her job). She was out on vacation to Mexico about the same time as children were being separated from their parents at the border. She wrote a long OOO about how her boyfriend (who’s from Mexico) and her were going to enjoy some time there and how what was happening at the border was awful and if it were her bf who was trying to come for a better life, she’d walk to the ends of the earth and swim oceans to support him. She closed the email with some nonprofits people could donate to to help the cause.

    It was just so….bizarre. I mean, I agreed with her politics but it was so out of place and weird in an OOO. And just irrelevant (and I should note we lived in a city where this was a hot topic, where people generally aligned on this, and where we were directly impacted by children being sent to centers in our city).

  68. Ñbrevu*

    Since I don’t work with clients and the people who might send me emails during my time off are just my team colleagues, or at the very least people from my company who have known me for a while, I always put something absurd. Things like “As part of my side career as a mad scientist, I’ve created a time machine and I’ve used my laptop to test it. The laptop is scheduled to come back to our timeline at , but until then I won’t be able to answer emails. Please contact if there is any urgent matter”.

    I accept that it might come off as not too professional, but I’d still rather do that instead of something more formal or bland.

    1. Ñbrevu*

      D’oh. I should have realised that using angular parentheses would be intepreted as HTML tags. The message should read “As part of my side career as a mad scientist, I’ve created a time machine and I’ve used my laptop to test it. The laptop is scheduled to come back to our timeline at [date my time off ends], but until then I won’t be able to answer emails. Please contact [manager’s name] if there is any urgent matter”.

  69. Fluff*

    Any DragonCon goers out there? I’m not going this year but in 2022, I can’t wait to write my ooo then:

    “At DragonCon, will not be checking email, X is covering, see you Tuesday.”

    I found that got me some awesome geeky work friends !

  70. Brain the Brian*

    At the start of the pandemic’s office closures, I set up an auto-reply for external e-mails only that specified our office was closed due to local public health orders. It’s still on because I’m now afraid that turning it off will give clients the impression that we’re back at our desks when, in fact, we remain completely banned from setting foot in our office without days and days of arduous paperwork and approvals.

  71. Trixie, the Great and Pedantic*

    I suspect something like this is why my manager has sent our entire team the out-of-office template twice in a week.

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