Open Thinkering


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

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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
* 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

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

  1. “Issues resolve themselves” means someone else resolved the issue, perhaps increasing cost, efficiency, and productivity.

    1. Some people are lazy and take the easy way by contacting not necessarily the right person. Though I would have thought emails do not require instant feedback, ditto Twitter – that’s why they are free.

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