I’ve written here before that the out-of-office email auto-reply is a political act.
Never more so than this summer, when so many of us have many loved ones to reunite with, and few work-related fucks to give.
I asked one of the most committed communication pros I know the other day how he’s doing, and he hesitated before admitting that, normally he loves to get up at 5:00 a.m. to work with the chirping birds, “But I find I’m not doing that these days.”
I’m going to be doing a lot of traveling this summer—some to visit friends and family, most to visit colleges with my high school daughter.
In preparation for making sure I can give my whole self to these trips, I’ve been looking back on some resounding out-of-office messages I’ve seen over the years.
“I am OoO, on leave in a hut.”
“Rtn 19 Jun” [She must have been in a hurry.]
“I have retired.”
“I am out of the office and not checking email,” a magazine editor’s auto reply said. “I will return Tuesday, March 24. Anything sent during this time will not be read.”
Williams College Chief Communication Officer Jim Reische sent this one out last year: “I’m a writer. I write. I’m writing. After this morning I’ll go back to being an e-mailer who e-mails. I’ll respond to your message as promptly as I can after that.”
My pal Sharon McIntosh sent this one out a couple of years ago: “Hello — I’m out of the office on vacation for the next few days, so I won’t be checking email. (Now that we’ve all had a good laugh, you and I both know I’ll be checking, but my response time might be slower than lightning speed.)” She’s in Chicago this week to co-host a conference with me and to ramble around town. I can assure you her responses will be much slower than lightening speed. And maybe less reliable, as well.
A joke was going around Facebook this week—two out-of-office messages—one European and one American. European: “I’m away camping for the summer. Please email back in September.” American: “I have left the office for two hours to undergo kidney surgery but you can reach me on my cell any time.”
After what we went through last year—after how much so many of us worked, and how much we missed—I’m making the many auto-replies I’ll write this summer sound more like that European message. Even if I can’t quite make my American reality match.