What I learned from turning my ‘Out of Office’ auto-replies on for a month

At the beginning of September, I decided to turn my ‘out of office’ auto-reply on for the whole month. Here’s what it said:


Thanks for your email. I’ll get to it during my morning ‘internet ablutions’ (as William Gibson would put it).

If you need a quicker response than asynchronous communication can provide, please do consider one of the following (in order of preference):

* IRC – I’m on the Mozilla server in #badges, #foundation and #learning (see https://wiki.mozilla.org/IRC)
* Twitter – I’m @dajbelshaw
* Skype – I’m doug_belshaw

Doug Belshaw
Mozilla Foundation

Current timezone: BST (GMT +1)


This was actually more for my benefit than for anyone else’s. It gave me a way to internalise that I don’t need to fret about emails at all hours of the day. Working for a geographically-distributed organisation like Mozilla can have huge performative issues if you’re not disciplined with your time.

So what did I learn?

  • People will seek you out if they need you urgently. But that only happened a couple of times and it was resolved quickly via Skype chat.
  • Colleagues respect work/life balance more than I tend to assume. If it’s 9pm in the UK then they don’t tend to expect an immediate answer.
  • Some issues resolve themselves if you don’t answer straight away.
  • Email is a chore to many people. Quite a few people expressed solidarity.

It’s certainly been eye-opening to me. I’ve taken my auto-responder off now (I don’t want to abuse it) but I’ll be employing it again during my impending Belshaw Black Ops.

Image CC BY Esparta


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