With summer vacations about a week away, you are likely to see more and more out of office (OOO) responses to your emails. Those messages reveal insights about the cultures of the companies that employ the authors of the OOO messages.
And a review of nine kinds of OOO messages highlighted by the New York Times, could help you figure out what kind of OOO message would work best for you and your company.
1. Just give the facts.
Based on the OOO messages I've received, my guess is that most of them are all about efficiency -- and devoid of personality.
As the Times reported, such OOO messages "
2. Brag about how important you are.
Some use OOO messages as an opportunity to brag about how important they are. As the Times wrote, their OOO messages reveal that "it takes three people to cover for me! Here are their email addresses."
If your company's culture values internal competition among rivals for the top jobs, such OOO messages could be a signifier of who's up and who's down. I'd rather work in a company that encourages teamwork and collaboration.
3. Reveal that you're out -- but not really.
Some OOO authors are confused about whether they want to unplug while they're away. Their messages say they are away -- but they reply to many messages they receive -- ultimately deciding that they can't really get away from work. So they turn off their OOO messages early.
This situation strikes me as a bit sad -- because it means that their authors can never really get away from the office. For them, OOO messages allow them to ignore some messages -- but not enough to really get away from work.
4. Amuse readers with your poetry.
Some authors amuse their readers by channeling great poets in their OOO messages.
Dan Kois, a Slate editor, wrote a Chaucer-flavored OOO message. According to the Times, he wrote, "Today I travel, if fortune be fair; I am armed with Virtue; I shall make the Journeye from Tampa to Charlotte and then, anon, to Washington National. Neither Ice nor Wynd shall delay me, and I shall not be waylaid by Ruffians. I may not see your Emaile, however, until Tomorrow."
If your company thrives on creativity -- you should encourage such OOO messages .
5. Make readers laugh.
Some authors combine humor, obnoxiousness, and bragadoccio in their OOO messages.
This one -- from publicist Paul Bogaards -- cracked me up. "OOOOB. EWR > ARN (akvavit, gravlax, ligonberries). + blondes (!) Will be looking at email intermittently. Maggie is here (ready, responsive)," noted the Times.
If your company wins due to the cheekiness of its employees, such OOO messages are great. If avoiding offense is a higher priority -- try the first OOO message above.
7. Write a mini-auto-biography.
Believe it or not, some authors use OOO messages to tell the story of their life in a few paragraphs.
A case in point is Dallas Morning News book critic Michael Merschel -- who concluded his mini-auto-biography with a paragraph on the pain of dropping his daughter off at college.
"I want you to imagine a middle-aged man who fell in love with a beautiful baby girl almost 18 years ago, and now he is driving her to a gigantic college in a distant city filled with all kinds of people who do the things people do at college ... and he has to leave her there. And drive home alone. In the dark. In a minivan," wrote the Times.
8. Be honestly rude.
The opposite of such an OOO message is an incredibly short and rude one.
Jane Eyre author Mallory Ortberg's OOO included the subject line "nope." According to the Times, the body of the message said: "I am currently on vacation and not accepting any emails about anything. I'm not planning on reading any old emails when I get back, either, because that feels antithetical to the vacation experience."
Such a message will keep anyone from wasting their time trying to reach you -- but in most companies, you would offend just about all your readers.
9. Skip the OOO message.
People might not even know you're gone -- especially if you keep checking in and responding during your absence.