Out of the office or out of touch? Workers share auto reply pet peeves

Editor’s Note: ‘Happy Hour’ is an HR Dive column from Reporter Ginger Christ. Follow along as she dives into some of the offbeat news in the HR space.

As workers head back to the office after a long weekend or extended holiday break, down come the out-of-office messages tacked up on the digital walls of their inboxes. While seemingly innocuous, some away messages are more cringe-worthy than others, according to a survey of Canadian employees by online language learning platform Preply.

The worst offense, according to 22% of the 1,000 people surveyed, was not giving clear information on the return date. That was followed by a slew of holiday-themed offenses, ranging from using a generic holiday greeting like “Season’s Greetings” (17%) or a holiday-themed sign-off like “Jingle all the way” (15%), to sharing information about holiday travel plans (15%) and attempting humor with holiday-related puns (15%), per the survey. 

I’m getting big Grinch (and go to bed before midnight on New Year’s Eve) vibes from these results, but as an exclamation point power user, I admittedly might not be the best judge of email etiquette. 

My out-of-office message over the holiday break this time was succinct, but I recall (over)sharing about hiking and vacation plans on previous occasions. And I have definitely shamelessly included photos of my adorable cats in away messages gone by. (I have zero regrets; you’re welcome for those pictures of my furry monsters.)

But, if you, unlike me, want to learn from your out-of-office message mistakes, Preply offers three tips.

  1. Clearly and briefly share how long you will be gone and when the recipient can expect a response.
  2. Maintain a friendly, professional tone, but shy away from being too casual. 
  3. Provide an alternative contact person or other resources during the absence. 

Happy New Year, ya filthy animals!