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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

The Honest Out-of-Office Message That No One Will Ever Really Write


It’s that time of the year when it feels like everyone’s on vacation and the majority of your emails are answered with an automated out-of-office message. And while you’re a big believer in work-life balance, you can’t help but be a little frustrated with the fact no one’s getting back to you on your timeline.

In fact, if you’re anything like me, you’re beginning to read a little bit too much in between the lines of these messages.

And you go from receiving an innocent response like this:

If you’re seeing this email, it’s because I’m on a family vacation from 8/27 – 9/3 and will have limited access to my inbox until my return. I’ll be responding to all messages as soon as I get back on 9/4. Please email Kelly at with any urgent issues in the meantime. reading it like this:

If you’re seeing this email, it’s because I’m on a family vacation from 8/27 – 9/3 and will have limited access to my inbox until my return.

I’m sorry, I just lied to you. It’s 2016 and I will most definitely have unlimited access to my email because I will likely spend a good portion of this fun-filled family adventure mindlessly scrolling through my phone. Do you think vacation photos upload themselves to social media?

So, let me re-phrase that, I’ll probably see every single email I get sent. But I will not be opening them, nor will I be getting back to you in any kind of desired time frame. But don’t worry, I’ll be responding to everything as soon as I get back on 9/4.

OK, you caught me, that’s not true either. If it’s important, you will hear from me on the fourth. But if it’s not, I’ll probably never respond. Then, when you “loop back around” in a few weeks, I’ll send you a lie back like, “Oh, this got lost in my vacation inbox and I somehow never saw it.” And we’ll both pretend like that’s what happened.

However, if you are a client and you do need something from me while I’m gone, you can reach out to Kelly at Just know that I forgot to ask Kelly for her permission before just listing her email here for all the world to see, so it’s likely she’ll take out her frustrations on my clear lack of communication skills and respect for her time via her response to you. Sorry in advance.

If you’re looking for campaign assets, you can reach out to, hm, no one. I’m the only one who has them and I specifically asked you (cough, Paul, cough) before I left to let me know what you would require for that presentation that’s due the day I return. So, don’t even think about sending me an “urgent” email.

If you’re the candidate I interviewed this week who’s following up because you’re still excited about this position, sorry to stab you through the heart with this OOO because it’s going to be yet another week until you hear from me. Best of luck sleeping restfully at night.

And finally, if you’re my boss, you’re going to want to sit down. You know how right before I left, I told you that I got everything in order and you wouldn’t have to worry about a thing? That may or may not have been a fantasy I spun for you. I think it’s probably because I have too much work on my plate to begin with, let alone to deal with a week in advance—but that’s probably a better discussion to have when we return.

To everyone else, have a great week!

P.S. If you follow up the morning I return with a “just wanted to get this on the top of your inbox” message, you will never see a response from me.

Does this feel familiar to you? As someone who loves checking items off my to-do list, it’s definitely a little annoying to receive one of these messages and have to put a project on hold. But, instead of looking at is an obstacle to getting your work complete, think of it as a mandatory break. Just because you’re not on vacation doesn’t mean you can’t take it easy, too.

Oh, and if you’re ever tempted to get a little more honest in your own OOO emails—don’t go with the one above, but instead check out these more creative options.

(And if you know my pain, tell me on Twitter!)