Oh, sweet, sweet summer time. The days are longer, the nights are shorter, and the emails are getting unreturned. Some of us are lucky enough to get out of the office for a few days, and rightfully so – it’s 110 degrees out, and we deserve a time to cool off and unwind.
Majority of the time a vacation means a little extra work before and after skipping town, but I think people would agree that it is all worth it once that Out-of-Office reply is set. There is something about that digital answering machine that allots an employee a certain amount of freedom – which is why I found Dayne Steele’s post on Fast Company “9 Signs You’re in Out-of-Office Hell” a bit extreme.
While I must agree, certain out-of-office replies can be off-putting (i.e. The Bragger: “I’m off exploring Europe, eating delicious food and absorbing more culture than you’ll ever get to experience in your sad, time clock punching existence.” or the M.I.A: “I’ll be back on Friday, July 12” while the date is now the 17th) but I think Steele is experiencing a wee bit of in-office rage.
The second paragraph reads:
“Either check your email while you are away, or have someone do it for you. You should be able to check your email anywhere in the world on your mobile phone or, at the least, on an iPad, laptop, or other tablet device. If you can’t, then I’m not sure you are sufficiently up with technology or up to the task of taking care of my business in a timely and professional manner. When the NASA astronauts were finally able to check their email on the International Space Station, you ran out of excuses.”
Well, here are times it is acceptable to not have access to your email:
1) Seeing as 99.9 percent of us don’t work for NASA, having a cellphone or tablet doesn’t guarantee service. In fact, an average person wouldn’t be able to get reception MOST places in the world. What if you’re camping? Cruising? Spelunking? Heck, in a recent trip to San Diego from Phoenix, I was without service a good three hours of the five hour drive through uninhabited desert. I certainly hope that doesn’t instantly make me “(not) sufficiently up with technology or up to the task of taking care of my business in a timely and professional manner.”
Unless the person who is so desperately trying to get ahold of me is willing to pay a hefty international service fee or for some fancy portable satellite, I think it is perfectly acceptable to be without access while traveling.
2) Vacation, paid time off, time off with no pay – regardless of the exact agreement you have with your employer, it is implied that you will be GONE and NOT WORKING. Some businesses even go as far as to require employees not to work during their vacation hours, save any future issues of claiming those hours shouldn’t count towards their PTO. So, isn’t it only courteous to let people know with an OOO reply?
3) The average full-time employee spends nearly half of their waking life at work. Some may say their coworkers are like a second family. Don’t you think an employee’s real family deserves some time with them? In the grand scheme of life, taking a week to completely unplug from work will be far more rewarding than taking care of business during these precious moments. I respect this from people I get OOO replies from, and I would hope they would feel the same.
4) You are deathly ill. While it’s not vacation, an illness may take enough time out of your work schedule to constitute an OOO, and regardless of what the emergency is chances are an individual’s well-being is more important.
5) Even though I certainly have nothing to hide in my email, asking a fellow employee to monitor my inbox while away is ridiculous. “Here, I’m already going increase your workload with my absence. Would you mind also making sure that everyone who tries to contact me gets a quick, personally crafted reply?”
Sure, my employers have my password, and have every right to access my email in case of a pending deadline or emergency. That’s fine. But to imply that you should not have an OOO reply and have “someone do it for you” is a great way to get your coworkers to despise you that much more (after all, they kind of already do a teensy bit while you’re on vacation.)
What do you think? Should Out of Office replies go wayside? Or is this blogger in desperate need of a vacation?
If she is, she can take the advice from another FastCompany post “3 Ways to Really Put the Vacate into Vacation,” ironically linked at the bottom of her article.
Photo via CreativeCommons