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Just what should you say when leaving an out of office message? Should it be funny, apologetic or just short and simple? Last week, one BBC News magazine article asked the questionShould holiday email be deleted?” 

It got me thinking; I am going on holiday next week. Really I will be. It also happens to be the Summer Bank Holiday so there are likely to be thousands of others doing the same. On Friday afternoon, I was planning on leaving a simple out of office message saying “I am on holiday until 4 September and will reply to your email when I return. If you need to speak to someone before that, please contact xxx”.

However should I now follow the example of the Daimler employees in the BBC article and write instead “I am currently on holiday until 4 September and have been unable to read your email which has now been deleted. Please resend the email after I’m back in the office or if you need to speak someone before that please contact xxx. Thank you.”

It would save going through hundreds of emails when you arrive back in the office ‘refreshed but depressed’, leaving you able to get on with that large list of other tasks that are now much closer to their deadline than they should have been. Then there is also the fact that a large proportion of these deleted emails are likely to have been routine memos regarding past courses, meetings that were due, meetings that were cancelled, missing post, found post, some late trains and yes another office collection.

There is of course the risk that there may be some emails from clients or customers that will be important for you to read. A message telling them to resend would not mean that they had to rewrite the whole thing.

It seems like a pretty good idea and it was also clear that the automated deletion approach certainly had the approval of the vast majority of those who responded to the BBC article. Lots expressed their admiration of the German company’s policy.

So come Friday will I change my usual out of office mail message? 

Not a chance. Three reasons come to mind.

The principle of ‘Sod’s Law’ would strongly suggest that something you really want to see would not be resent. Just how many may not even read the out of office mail reply – it’s only an automated message – and then not realise their email needed to be resent?

Your boss might email you and will no doubt point out that the sender of an email should not have to go to the bother of putting in their diary the day you are back from holiday in order to get you to read the email? Not a good way to keep your boss or potential customers happy. After all, they could be on holiday when you are back next week.

Your first morning back after a holiday, desperate attempts to extend it with a lottery win have failed, so what better way is there to ease you back into the ‘work mode’  than looking through a couple of hundred emails with your finger on the delete button.

This post was edited by Christopher Davies. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.


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This blog is intended only as a synopsis of certain recent developments. If any matter referred to in this blog is sought to be relied upon, further advice should be obtained.