Month: September 2014

An (Almost) Existential Question Before You Leave On Vacation or a Business Trip

“To Out of Office or Not to Out of Office, that is the question.”

For some people the answer is an easy “Yes,” or “No.” Either way, they know where they stand. But for more of us than you probably realize, the use/non-use of out-of-the-office messages (OOOs) borders on being an existential question.

The best OOO message I have ever seen features the perpetually handsome Sean Connery in the picture on this blog. Under the two pictures of the seemingly ageless actor dated 1989 and 2009 the email OOO message reads: “I am on vacation in an attempt to slow the speed of my aging process to that of Sean Connery. I will return in two weeks and I hope to look exactly the same.”

out of office photo 2

There actually is, however, a somewhat serious ongoing debate about whether using an “out-of-the-office” notice when you leave the office is a good idea.

One school of thought argues that OOOs should be turned on any time you are out of reach for more than a few hours. You do it as a courtesy to those trying to reach you and/or as a defense against losing business while you’re away. That equals good will won or maintained. And if you’re paid on commission, your customers may be more likely to wait patiently for your return rather than place a quick call to your competitor.

But the other school of thought says that using OOOs is a sign of executive weakness, neediness or, worse, lack of commitment. C-suite executives, after all, almost never use OOOs. They have assistants who handle their calls and screen their emails when they’re away. Thus, your use of an OOO calls attention to the fact that you aren’t all that important within your organization, or you’d have a live person handling your calls and email while you’re away.

Too Honest OOO Message

As for me, if I really need to be out-of-pocket for a deep refresh, then I’ll put an out-of-the-office message on my phone and email. But normally I don’t because I am not a big OOOs person. I use them only when I know that I’m going to be really out of touch for more than one day in a row, or 12 business hours. If I think I’ll have e-mail access every 6 to 8 hours, even while on vacation, then I don’t use one.

Of course, having now said that, I think I’d like to see more people use OOOs. It could help foster more corporate cultures that understand, accept and support the need of workers to unplug, get out of today’s 24/7 business mindset, and escape into the amazingly beautiful and stimulating world that too often we overlook because of our preoccupation with work.

Now I’d like to know what you think. Do you use OOOs? Why or why not? And I’d love to see some examples of good – and some maybe not-so-good or just plain funny – OOOs you’ve used or encountered. What are your guidelines for when to use/not use OOOs? Does your company have a policy on the use of OOOs? And what tips can you share that could make the OOOs more effective, more engaging, funnier, or maybe just more acceptable as a way to protect our time when unavailable?