May 20, 2008

Automated Vacation Message - A Variation

If you ever use email, you've probably gotten one of those vacation away messages. You know, the automated ones that tell you someone is going to be out of the office until a specified date. They're useful for letting you know that someone is out of the office and will likely not respond to your email until they get back from whatever non-office-related endeavor they are involved with.

But what happens when a coworker, manager, boss or employee is supposed to be away from the office but cannot or will not stop sending email? Not automated email, actual email. Perhaps this person is sending you email to gloat about being on a beach in the south Pacific. Perhaps this person cannot help but micromanage from afar. For whatever reason, you may have received unsolicited email from someone who was supposed to be away. A vacation doesn't "take" if you're still sending email during it. Your email addicted coworkers may need help.

I have the solution.

When someone goes on vacation, you add their email address to a special list in your email client, with the date of their expected return. If you get an email from this person, your software responds automatically with the following message to the vacationer:

Please note that you are out of the office until [DATE OF RETURN]. Practice "be here, now" and focus on whatever it is you're doing. For matters needing immediate response, contact the people in your physical location for face-to-face communications, or pour yourself a good, stiff drink.

We look forward to your return; absence makes the heart grow fonder. Don't spoil it!

This is an automated reply intended to indicate that you have sent an email to the office when you should have been having fun, or making progress on some non-office-related project. Repeat attempts to contact the office will be considered a cry for help; a referral to a psychiatric specialist will be submitted on your behalf.

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Posted by James at May 20, 2008 8:59 AM
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Sounds like Patti's boss.

I on the other hand don't even tell people where I'm going (other than maybe a vague "to Maine"). I don't need people tracking me down when I'm away from the office (It has happened on more than one occasion).

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at May 20, 2008 9:36 AM

My ex-boss was like this. I would look forward to his frequent vacations, thinking that it would give me a vacation from his psychotic self. But nooooo, he'd always call in, wanting to speak to each of us to hound us about things which did not require his supervision. For example, he'd preemptively scold us about the urgency of some project which we had already completed on the first day of his absence, or which had already been canceled or changed by the moody company president, or whatever.

I suppose it wouldn't be a fun week for him if he couldn't go out of his way to be a pain in the ass.

Posted by: Julie at May 20, 2008 9:49 AM

I like it!

(The other variation that bothers me is when the "vacation autoresponder" sweeps the vacationer's inbox, and sends "away" messages to everyone whose mail is still there. I've gotten "hi, I'm away" messages from people to whom I hadn't sent mail in weeks.)

But, seriously, I really prefer to keep up with my email while I'm vacationing. Far from preventing me from disconnecting, it keeps my mind at ease and lets me relax better to know that (1) nothing nasty is growing that will bite me on my return, (2) the quick, easy answers are getting sent, so people don't have to wait, and (3) I won't have 1700 messages in my inbox when I get back.

You might call it workaholic behaviour, but consider: I don't send my own mail then... I only respond to what I get. I don't respond to everything, only selected things. I don't deal with stuff that will take significant time/effort/research, just the quick answers. I delete or file lots of it, and mark others of it to be dealt with first thing when I'm back.

It really does let me enjoy the vacation more.

Posted by: Barry Leiba at May 20, 2008 10:33 AM

Hahahah! That's awesome. Love it James.

Posted by: Chuck S. at May 20, 2008 12:33 PM

The last time this happened, it was like this. I knew my boss was on vacation. We're pretty close (which is why I'm devastated that she's leaving the company!).

I had sent her an email on something benign so that she'd have it when she came back and so that I wouldn't forget to tell her.

When I received a reply from her, I wrote back:

"Please _do not_ reply to my emails while you're on vacation!"

Sometimes I had to remind her to BE on vacation. Sadly, she's leaving. Truly a tragedy for me. Who will demand that she not work on vacation now?

Posted by: Patti M. at May 20, 2008 2:46 PM

Funny...wish I could relate...

In the Navy it's the other way around...CO goes on leave and wishes XO would just run the ship like it's his and stop emailing/calling every day. "Dude, I left you in command!"

I always tried to do this as much as possible when I was XO and, fortunately, my exec does the same thing now.

Posted by: Bull at May 20, 2008 8:56 PM

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