When it comes to the final days before vacation, people tend to fall into one of two camps: 1) those who watch the clock incessantly, and 2) those who are so busy before they leave, they might even forget to put up an out-of-office email message.
If you’re anything like I am, you probably fall into team two. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to get creative. But if you plan ahead, you might be able to craft some hilarity.
Out-of-office messages run the gamut. From funny, to clever, to snarky, we’ve come across some of the best — from Google, and from colleagues.
Here are some of the gems we found. And once you’re back from vacation? Well, not to rush you, but this email productivity guide can help you get back on track after your out-of-office time.
1. The Not-So-Tropical Getaway
We’ll give this guy first place, since we almost feel bad for him. Almost. Rather than using an out-of-office message for a tropical vacation, he used one to explain his absence during what would likely be a snowstorm. Not only did it give us a chuckle, but it also generated a certain amount of empathy — which is often the key to good content.
Source: New Relic
2. The Sorry-I’m-Not-Sorry
If your email client allows it, you could always just use an image to express your out-office-sentiment, like this one. After all, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words — and, visual content is still essential to successful marketing.
Source: Barry Moroney
3. The Popular Film Reference
Are you familiar with the film Field of Dreams? If not, allow us to fill you in. It centers around baseball and a family in Iowa, but saying any more might spoil the plotline.
Movie synopses aside, the opening line of this out-of-office message was taken directly from the Field of Dreams script — fitting, given the sender’s travels to Iowa. So before you leave, research some famous quotes about the place you’re visiting. It might test the recipient’s knowledge, but more likely, it’ll just make them smile.
Source: New Relic
4. The Scavenger Hunt
When my colleague Sam Mallikarjunan went on vacation, he set an out-of-office message that was both clever and smart. First, he sent the recipient on an imaginary scavenger hunt to “the highest peak of the tallest mountain.” He used humorous absurdity to make it clear that he would not be checking email while he was away.
Plus, he incorporated a delightful technique to let people know that if they really wanted him to read their emails, they should probably send them again after his return. Not only does that keep the sender accountable by saying, “If this is really important, you know when to reach me,” but it also helps Mallikarjunan truly vacate his work while he’s away. And that’s hard to do — And if you struggle with it, check out these tips.
Source: Sam Mallikarjunan
5. The Blunt Approach
Josh Kopelman, we salute you.
Not only did Kopelman manage to turn his out-of-office message into an epic poem of sorts, but also, he actually went through the trouble of creating a delightfully snarky, vacation-specific email address for his recipients.
Giving the option to contact an email address containing “interruptyourvacation” provides two things — 1) A dose of humor, and 2) discouragement from actually doing what the name suggests. Plus, he prefaces it with a request for empathy, by explaining that he promised quality time to his family.
Here’s where honesty is a helpful device. Sure, Kopelman is truthful about the fact that he’s on vacation, but he also lets the recipient know that he or she would be interrupting important family time if the first option is chosen. It states a point simply, and uses humor to avoid making it sound like he wants the reader to feel guilty.
6. The Third Person
When HubSpot Marketing Manager Karsten Köhler is out of the office, he doesn’t mess around. In fact, he’s turned his auto-responses into a running series of commentary for fictional cartoon character Troy McClure.
Each time McClure makes an appearance in these out-of-office messages, he “speaks” on behalf of Köhler and alludes to the previous auto-responses in which he starred. It’s a mild form of self-deprecating humor — as if to say, “I know, I’m out of the office again” — made only funnier by the made-up teaser title included in the last line.
As with the Field of Dreams example, don’t be afraid to use a pop cultural reference that audience would recognize. Instead of bemoaning your absence, they’ll have something fun and familiar to laugh at.
Source: Karsten Köhler
7. The Twitter Method
… and then, there was the out-of-office tweet. We’re not entirely sure where it originated, but it has two sides.
If you actually want people to be able to reach you, and you’re more likely to be checking Twitter than email while out of the office, it might be an effective way for people to reach you.
But if you tend to use social media during vacation and really do want to be left alone, we would suggest offering a different communication method in your auto-response.
8. The Liquid Update
We wish we could find the original source of this one. It’s made several lists, and its author is likely a legend within his or her network.
That said, even though we’ve been preaching honesty as the best policy, be careful with messages that are this transparent. Make sure you’re familiar enough with your audience — and your boss, for that matter — to know that this sort of out-of-office message will be met with a snicker, and not with concern.
I am currently out of the office and probably out-of-my-mind drunk. Enjoy your work week.”
9. The Guessing Game
There’s a term that we like to use around here called “snowbirds,” which is used to describe those who once resided in the northern part of the U.S., only to flee to warmer parts of the country during the winter.
And although I had mixed feelings about my own parents joining that population in Florida, I couldn’t be too upset when my dad suggested flying down from Boston for a Red Sox spring training game.
Naturally, I had to take the day off — and couldn’t let folks know with any old generic auto-response. Instead, I made a guessing game of it.
10. The Out-of-Office Mad Libs
If you’re feeling a bit stumped for inspiration — be it the eggnog or a full calendar of engagements to blame — there’s a template for that.
Luminary Labs, to the joy of those suffering from writer’s block everywhere, came up with a Mad-Libs-style out-of-office message generator that lets you simply fill in a noun, verb, or adjective to describe why you’re out of the office and when you’ll be back.
Might we recommend it as a team-bonding activity for your company holiday party? Here’s how one such exercise turned out: