If you still haven’t decided on whether out of office (OOO) emails are good, here are a few things you should consider. For how long are you away? What about your company? How available is it? Are the OOO emails really necessary? Is there any risk when sending out these messages?
No one really wants to get their inbox filled with automated out of office replies (OOOR), especially not with those that are sent just for the sake of sending one. So what’s the purpose of using OOO emails when the sent information does nothing for the email receivers, but rather annoy them.
Below are some of the most relevant thoughts to keep in mind for why you shouldn’t use out of office emails.
You are unavailable just for a short period of time
Going away for a couple of days (or even hours) is not that strong of a reason for you to start sending out of office emails. Such replies will do no good, and will only irk people. Think of receiving an OOOR where the email sender is away just for the day delivering a keynote talk. Or that he/she is caught in a meeting. Would that be of any interest for you? I highly doubt it. Sending an OOO message for short periods of unavailability comes across as unprofessional. Shutting down or limiting all communication for a few days is not considered less professional. But sending unnecessary OOOR most certainly is.
I know that out of office emails are business standard, but ask yourself, is external communication important for your company? If the answer is yes, then you should consider not using OOO emails. They can harm your business and create an overall bad experience for the customer. Imagine someone is working in customer support, leaves for 2 weeks, and starts sending out OOOR. Would you as a customer be satisfied with that company’s services? I would assume no. This unpleasant experience might reflect badly on the company and scare customers away. Knowing they have problems and there is no one in the whole company taking care of them, will make them re-think their decision of using the services provided by that company.
For example, at Mailbutler, the info email is shared by multiple persons so when someone becomes unavailable, then another person will take over his incoming communication and deal with his/her emails. Finding a replacement to manage incoming inquiries for employees on vacation or for those away for work purposes would ensure your customers a pleasant experience with your company.
Of course, for a single person company who is not available for more than two days, it is recommended to let clients know that during this time support cannot be provided. In this case, there is no other way than to use out of office emails.
There is also the issue of security. If you have any contact information (e.g. email address, work and phone number, the supervisor contact info) or your signature added to the OOOR, it could help scammers piece together elements needed for identity theft. When your auto-reply is turned on and someone sends you a message, your mail server will send the OOOR back to the spammers, confirming that your email address is a valid one. In turn, they will get confirmation that their spam reached a real live target. Your address will likely be added to other spam lists as a confirmed hit.
By replying that you are on vacation at [location] and coming back at [date] you are offering vital information to others. By admitting that, some might even make a move either by breaching your home or even your company. Imagine letting people know that everyone in the company is away for one week during the holidays. Or that your family is not at home because you are flying out for a two weeks vacation. This information may help others to break into your company or home and steal things of value. Better be safe than sorry! No out of office emails, no risks.
If you want to avoid putting yourself at risk and avoid creating an unpleasant experience for your customers, better talk to one of your colleagues to see if he/she can take over your external communication while you are gone. Of course, if you are away for a longer time of period and no one can take care of your emails, then you would need an out of office email. But keep in mind when composing your OOO message that complete strangers, spammers, and scammers may see and crawl your automated OOOR. Don’t put any personal info (e.g. phone number, address, name, etc.) in the email if you normally wouldn’t give it to strangers.
There are a lot of reasons for you to not use OOO emails, such as sometimes being really unnecessary, posing a security threat or the size of each company. But on the other hand, there are situations when an OOO message is really needed. So, if you really have to send out of office emails and are not exactly sure how, check this article which will guide you through the do’s and don’ts of writing out of office messages. If you want to send OOOR emails, at least send good ones.
So what do you think? Are out of office emails unprofessional? Or a security threat? Or are they a complete nonsense?
I am eager to hear your views in the comments below.