At about 10 a.m. central time today, July 4, the weekly email message is sent to Everyday EMS Tips readers. Because it is summer and a holiday moments later my inbox will flood with messages informing me that so and so is out of the office and will either be “not checking their messages” or “checking their messages infrequently.” I will also be offered the opportunity to contact someone else if my need is urgent.
Origin of the Out of Office Email
The out of office email must originate in our anxiety that email messages should be read and replied to seconds or minutes after they arrive. Although notification icons, previews, blinking lights, and buzzes make email messages appear urgent they rarely are urgent. And even less often are they important.
You are Checking Your Email Anyway
The out off office email is even more irrelevant because you are still checking your email. In the last week I have heard at least five times from business colleagues “I will be off next week, but I will be checking my emails and responding to emails that are urgent.” Then what is the point of the out of office message that is automatically sent 30 seconds before your actual reply?
With the increase in smartphones and tablets most of us check work email on the weekend or when we are on vacation. I do it. Mostly because it is a habit. Also because I don’t want “messages piling up” while I am gone. How often do you check your work email on a day off?
People that Matter Know you are Away
The people, work or family, that might need to contact you with something that is important and urgent already know you are away and likely know how to contact you. If your level of knowledge and importance to the organization is important pre-plan the reasons work can contact you and how they can contact you if you are away. For the rest of us, just let our emails and phone messages pile-up. If my message is urgent and important I will use Google and my detective skills to find you.
Send Out of Office Emails Straight to Trash
Depending on your email client you can create a rule or filter that will send “Out of Office” emails straight to the trash can. My experience is to only filter emails with “Out of Office” in the subject line. When I was filtering “out of office” in the message body I was deleting too many emails from people that I actually wanted to know that they were out of the office.
Are you checking messages today or are you really out of the office?