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I’m Out of The Office, Off The Planet

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Today, Christy Runningen discusses the mystery of auto-response messages. As she puts it, with so many possible interpretations and no clear definition, I have no choice but to assume it means you have left the planet.

Thanks for your message! I am currently out of the office and will not be checking email regularly. You may experience a delay in my response as I will only have intermittent access to email. However, I will do my best to get back to you as soon as I can!

Someone, please tell me what this means. This auto-response thing is out of control. I get different versions of the above response many times a week, and it always leaves me perplexed.

First of all, what does ‘out of the office’ mean in 2014? Last time I checked, in many industries, work can and does get completed outside an office building. I talk to hundreds of people every month who regularly do work outside of weekdays and traditional office hours. If you’re ‘out of the office’ does that mean you are not working at all for an extended period of time? Should I contact one of your co-workers for help? Or maybe you’re working in a coffee shop or your own living room today (and honestly, I don’t care if you are.) With so many possible interpretations and no clear definition, I have no choice but to assume it means you have left the planet. Good luck on your space mission.

Shuttle launch

© Flickr user Matthew Simantov

The terms ‘intermittent access, ‘delay in my response,’ ‘not checking email regularly,’ ‘get back to you as soon as I can,’ and the endless variations are utterly pointless. They don’t convey any information about what I can expect from you, and in fact leave me wondering if: 1) this explanation from you is simply a way to avoid getting back to me if you don’t have to 2) an excuse to fall back on when you forget to respond to me for two weeks or 3) a catch-all phrase designed to make me think you are really, really busy and I’ll be lucky to hear back from someone so important.

Please stop the madness. This auto-response should be employed only when you are unplugged completely from your work and/or not responding within a reasonable amount of time (which, by the way, you need to figure out based on your role), and you need to assign a backup while you are unplugged. That’s it.

Feel free to use mine as a template:

You have reached the email box of Christy Runningen of Culture Rx. I will be responding to these messages starting on X Date. If you need assistance prior to that date, please contact Jody Thompson at XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Simple. Clear. Specific.

From now on, think again before over-using that ‘Out of Office’ tool. If you have access to today’s technology, are using it to respond within an acceptable amount of time, and are affected by the gravitational pull of the earth, you are IN.

Onward, ROWE friends!

Christy RunningenChristy, once a “lifer” in Corporate America, has now joined the ROWE movement. At Best Buy, she was fortunate to live the ROWE lifestyle for 4 years and is now manic about getting everyone across the globe living the dream. She comes armed with MA in Counseling Psychology, BA in Child Psychology, and is SPHR Certified.

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