The many hats of the simple out-of-office message

Jul 20, 2021

In recent years, my out-of-office message has included references to bears, bots and easter bunnies. It all started out as a joke with myself about four years ago.

I was all set to set up the standard message …

“I’m away from the office until [date] and will get back to you after that. If it’s urgent, please call….blah blah...”

I found myself bored.

Of myself.

So I decided to get a little creative.

I setup this message as the autoresponder:

“I am away on holiday until 31st August. I am unplugged and disconnected from the Interweb. And to my ego's horror, life will carry on without me. As Anne Lamont says, almost everything will work again if you unplug it.. even you.

Here's to unplugging in service of nourishing the soul and reminding ourselves what really matters. “

Admittedly, only a little creative but it felt like a big deal at the time to move away from the very traditional, humour-free OO messages I had sent and had received.  

Whilst I was away, people who emailed seemed to appreciate the break from the norm so I did this again in the December holidays. This time I used a quote from Deepak Chopra and got the mickey taken out of me by close colleagues for being too serious.

They were right!

The whole point of this little exercise was about entertaining myself – and perhaps others too.

Around the same time, I received an OO message from a colleague at Swiss Re, a global reinsurer. His notice went along the lines of the following…

“I am away on holiday and will not look at any emails that received whilst I was away. Your email will be deleted. If it’s urgent, email me after I return on this [date].”

WHOAR! That blew my mind… he was using this OO message to manage his inbox. He was making the sender responsible for making a plan to resend the message. He was also at a large corporate organisation, and if he could do that in the constraints of corporate etiquette, I sure could do too as a small business owner.

That’s when it really hit me that the OO message has many hats to wear.

The OO message can bring humour and a smile to recipient.

The OO message can be an email ninja and support InBox Zero target.

The OO message can be vanilla and communicate the bare minimum.

The OO message can create connection with customers by sharing personal stories.

The OO message can update customers with news about the company

And the list goes on.

Add to this that you can have different messages for internal and external emails.

The simple OO message is a tool to be used. 

I dialled up the silliness from then on.

 In July 2017, my OO message was:

Off to France for a cycling holiday with 3 middle-aged ladies all with injuries. I expect the experience may form the basis for a lovely BBC comedy in the coming years. Given we carry our own bags on the bike, laptop / tech will not be accompanying me. I need all the weight advantage I can get.  Normal services resume on 24th July 2017.

February 2019

I am off to find sun in South Africa. No, I am not running away from Brexit – I will be back before the deadline. I hope to bring back sun, hope and optimism.


August 2020

Catherine is away from the office until the last week in August. Email contact during this time will be non-existent. When she gets back, she will be swamped by the backlog. Try to forgive her. She is a mere human and thus weak. This message was NOT sent by a human but by a robot. We robots are neither weak nor fallible. We are tireless and will one day rule the universe.


June 2021

I’m on a long weekend. That's where the fun is this weekend... a long weekend away. For urgent matters that can't be solved with house music, and a margarita, email me after the 8th June.

July 2021

I am in in Wales in a shepherd’s hut that has no wi-fi (yes, for real!). Given it’s Wales, I am probably notexperiencing alot of sunshine but there is sea and long walks – two of my favourite things. I’ll be back and connected to the global wi-fi on 5th July!


I’m in the camp of using OO for humour. I can’t quite bring myself to use it to reduce my inbox. I get several emails saying my OO made them laugh and that’s enough for me.

What’s your OO message going to be this summer?

(feel free to email me and find out what mine is)