Out of Office

This blog post will generate lots of responses. They will almost all be automated emails from subscribers that let me know the recipient is out of the office for some time over the holiday season. 

When I first entered the workforce, there was email, but there were few cellphones, no smartphones, and you didn’t assume that people had home computers they might use for work purposes. All of this meant that there were built-in limits to when you might expect to hear from people; there was no such thing as an after-hours email or text that you felt you simply must check and then act on. If someone really needed you, they called you at home and left a message on your answering machine if you were out at a movie.

Over the last twenty years, as our work lives have expanded to reach into our dinner hours and vacations, the only limits placed on when someone can reached you are dictated by the cell service in your location. And if we’re not going to be checking our phones, we feel we owe those who email us an explanation.

What would it look like to expand the out-of-office mentality further than a couple of vacations a year? What would it mean to add to one’s email signature: “I dedicate most of my work time to X and Y, and I find email distracting, so I’ll be checking email only at the following times…”

I confess I’m not quite ready to take this step, but I’m going to be thinking about it, and reading Cal Newport’s newest book, A World Without Email.

Let me know what your thoughts and ideas are! Do you use an out-of-office response? Have you noticed that you sometimes receive work emails from people whose out-of-office responders are on? Have you ever been that person?


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