My “Out of Office” Problem

What happens when an Automatic Reply fails?

April 19, 2015
Dear everybody that sent me e-mail from 4/11 to 4/19. I was “Out of Office”.  
If you e-mailed me between 4/11 and 4/19, however, you would not have known I was “Out of Office." Why? For some reason my Office 365 settings refused to stick. My bet is user error. As they say in the trade, PICNIC: Problem in Chair, Not in Computer.    
The Out of Office message you should have received was:
"Hello. I will be off campus with limited e-mail access until 4/19.
Thanks, Josh
This is of course very embarrassing. I’m a technology professional, right?  
Why didn’t my Office 365 “Automatic Replies” stick? I double checked before leaving that an e-mail from my gmail account received the out of office message. Maybe checking my Outlook e-mail from my iPhone turns off the Automatic Reply? Maybe I logged on to Outlook before leaving, and that accidentally shut off my out of office message? Or perhaps I just did it wrong. Any ideas?
What happens when colleagues think that you have been ignoring them for a week? We have grown accustomed to almost instantaneous e-mail response. What is the longest that you go before returning an e-mail from a colleague? From your boss? How many of you try to return all e-mails that day that they are sent, answering e-mail late into the night?
What is the proper etiquette when you mess up an “out of office” message? When I do return the e-mails should I apologize for my communications snafu? 
If I’ve learned anything in two decades of academia it is that nobody is all that important. We can all be replaced. 
We tend to think that our work is critical, but really the world goes on without us. 
I think that one of the reasons that we all spend so much time on e-mail, so many nights and weekends, is that we are scared. Scared that if we don’t answer right away that we will be seen as less than responsible, less than responsive. At least I am.
Anyone who has lived through layoffs and downsizing knows just how insecure modern employment has become. We all compensate for our underlying (and unspoken) existential fears by being always available, always on, always online. At least I do.
How many of you stay on e-mail during vacation? (I’ll admit that this past week I scanned every other day by iPhone to check for any crisis - although what value I could have added from 3,000 miles away is questionable at best). 
What do folks do with their social media presences when on vacation? Do big tweeters stop tweeting? Does a week away from micro or macro blogging kill one’s Klout score? (Does anyone really care about Klout anyway?).  Has social media bound us even more tightly than e-mail to screens, making escape (and silence) all the more costly.
This past week was a natural experiment of sorts. No “Out of Office” message was sent out. We will see what the repercussions are on Monday.  My guess - not much. E-mails will be returned. Meetings will be scheduled. Nobody will ever remember the e-mails that took a week to return.
What are your “Out of Office” stories?


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