Lately I’ve noticed friends and colleagues writing much cheekier, quirkier out of office emails.
I have one friend who detailed her entire itinerary in her out of office message, down to which kayaks she was planning to rent in Costa Rica.
Another colleague recently wrote about all three conferences she was attending, and that she might even try to “steal some days of vacation during all this travel.”
A third colleague let me know he was brainstorming, reading and writing while on planes all over the world to attend to clients.
Which led me to think: Why am I so boring in my out of office messages?
Next Wednesday, I’ll be observing Yom Kippur, the “Jewish Day of Atonement.” I won’t answer the phone or check email.
I’ll put on my automatic replies and it will say something like this out of office message example: “I am out on Wednesday, September 23. I will not be checking emails or voice mails. If you need something please contact and so on.”
And no one will know or care what I am doing that day, except to know that I’m unavailable. Should they?
Why have we moved toward being more casual?
In business in general, we’ve all noticed a movement towards conversational language. Gone are the days of MBA speak and jargon. People are human and they want to be spoken to as humans. The same is true in out of office message examples.
Society on a whole seems to be moving toward the gold standard of authenticity. But is it too much? I mean if I listed all of my sins and how I was thinking about the type of person I should be in the next year in my out of office message for Yom Kippur, would that be too much? Or would that give the person receiving my email more insight into who I am?
I suspect that we are more casual with these emails because they are yet another boring white space that the creative among us can color. And the language we use on social media has led us to believe we have to let it all hang out—so why not in our out of office emails? Two factors combine—the cool kids are doing it and it’s fun—so why not?
For me, I struggle though: Do I want my clients and employees to know exactly what I’m doing while on vacation or observing a religious holiday? Is that information they need to know? Would knowing I’m renting a kayak in Costa Rica provoke annoyance or good humor?
So, I dipped my toes in these choppy waters by letting people know I was observing the end of the summer with my family in West Virginia. And amazingly, when I came back, people did ask me how my vacation was with my family. They seemed genuinely interested. In fact, I had more questions about my vacation than ever before.
Maybe there’s something to letting people in more. It’ll be interesting to see if more professionals jump on this bandwagon and decide to leave descriptive, colorful out of office emails.
What do you think? Keep the out of office message professional or give people insight into where you went and what you’re doing? Have you seen any engaging out of office message examples? Let us know in the comments below.