When The Out-Of-Office Message Is TMI

When is an out-of-office message too personal? That’s what Brian R. Fitzgerald tackled on the WSJ’s blog, The Juggle.

Fitzgerald was psyched this week when he learned he’d be able to work from home on his kids’ first day of kindergarten.

“My kids had asked me numerous times if I would be there to pick them up,” he wrote, “so I was pretty excited to convey the change of plans.

“In that burst of enthusiasm, I crafted an unusually detailed out-of-office message. I wouldn’t just be out of the office, I would be out so I could take my kids to their first day of school and for some celebratory ice cream afterward! It would be a grand day.”

Too much? One colleague later told Fitzgerald that she’d tried to get the same work from home deal but couldn’t. Was he rubbing it in the face of other parents? But a corporate message with just the bland facts can be pretty soulless. Fitzgerald asks: “How much detail to put in such messages? Should you say you’re on maternity leave? Or that you’re away for a funeral? Does it help humanize the workplace, and help make contacts or colleagues more understanding or sympathetic? Or does it seem unprofessional and over-sharing?”

Out of office messages are rife for mishaps. Funny that that should be considering how unimportant they often are.

Here’s a collection of oddball ones that no-one in their right mind would ever use, including “I will be out of the office and returning next week. I have incredibly easy access to a phone and email, but I assure you, it will not be used for work purposes.”

And here’s an out of office message that ended up on a road sign. No joke.