Out of office emails don’t work any more

This blog has been inspired by travel this week.

In an age where we each carry multiple mobile devices, and mobile networks are often better than office networks, I think it’s about time to retire the out of office email.

It’s obsolete, a hangover from the late-80s and 90s when personal computers, and their users, were shackled to a desk.

I’d argue that out of office means you’re likely to be more connected and responsive, rather than less.

Whenever I’m travelling I find that I make an extra effort to keep up with family and friends, pay greater attention to social networks, and my business email.

It can be incredibly productive. I do most of my writing on the move. It also maintains an important social connection with home or the office.

I don’t think I’m unusual. In 2014 whenever and wherever you travel, whether by air, land or sea, you’ll see people checking their devices and tapping away.

It’s also an issue of changing workflow. We’re as likely to engage with colleagues and customers via email as we are via a collaborative or social form of media such as a community or network.

As our habits changes out of office emails aren’t respected by either the recipient, or oddly the sender.

I frequently get an automated out of office email from an individual informing me that they are out of the office at an important meeting. It is frequently followed by a response to my original message sent in transit or during a break.

Recipients are wise to this trend and will ignore automated responses and continue to send emails regardless.

There are some people in my network who send fantastic out of office automated responses. They’ve turned it into a sort of virtual postcard that tells you where they’ve gone and what they’re up to.

I’ve tried it myself and it always generates a positive response.

In the past I’ve made the mistake of calling the death of automated email responses, most recently to my Twitter network a few months ago.

Inevitably it prompted a backlash from people in my network claiming that automated emails were an important way to manage expectations, particularly during holidays.

They have a point.

It’s important to completely switch-off and recharge every so often whatever you do. Perhaps the automated holiday email response is the last meaningful form of the genre.

For the record, I’m out of the office.

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Professional advisor for agencies and communication teams, Wadds Inc. Author: #brandvandals, Exploring PR and Management Communication. #PRstack, Share This, and others. Visiting Professor, Newcastle University.

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  1. Out of Office notices only make sense when the person is switching business off for a while or is in a meeting or travelling when they cannot be interupted, which remarkably still happens on the odd occasion. But I totally agree that OOF makes no sense when we then reply despite saying we can’t, That’s like a modern equivalent of leaving an answering machine on a phone as a filter for unwanted calls.

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