Stop Boring People with Your Generic Out-of-Office Reply


It’s coming up to that time of year where my out of office reply envy (yes this is real) kicks in — my team are all super creative, so my colleagues always have very unique out of office replies, whereas frankly my own are usually boring, generic and just plain old ordinary. But who reads them anyway right? Lots of people actually.

For many of us, holiday season is fast approaching — whether it be Thanksgiving, Christmas, annual shutdown, vacation or time out for another celebration.

Personally, my countdown to being out of the office starts when I turn on my out of office reply. I often do this a few hours early so I can choose to reply…or not, to those last-minute requests.

We learn from an early age not to be like everyone else and here at Cisco to be our true selves, so why do the majority of our out of office replies look identical? You know what I’m talking about. Alert: I am out of the office from [date] – [date]. Boring!!

In the spirit of giving, how about we kick off this holiday season’s ping pong of out of office replies with some more interesting auto-replies?

Here are some of my favourites from throughout the year.

The Disney World reply (the place dreams come true):

I packed up the family and headed to Disney World. I’ll spend a lot of time standing in line, a few minutes on super fun rides like the Tower of Terror (that’s my favorite), and poolside.

While one out of three of these activities allows me to peek at my phone, I’ll resist the temptation. That means no email, IM, or Webex Teams for me.

Urgent? Call Mickey Mouse!
Otherwise, I’ll be in touch when I’m back on [date].

The Email is covering for me reply (don’t panic the computers haven’t really taken over):

Oh hi, hello. Welcome. Yeah, I know it's a little crowded in here. You'll have to take your spot in line. We have a strict rule. No cuts allowed. Period. So, get comfortable. In YOUR spot. It's going to be a while.

The grapevine says Caryl's not checking email. Apparently, she's on PTO. Mexico I hear. Must be nice. While she's enjoying sunshine, surf, perhaps a margarita and definitely time with family, we're sweating it out in here. Just us poor little emails. Waiting for attention. Sigh.

We're looking forward to Oct. 25th when she returns. Maybe we'll have a little surprise of our own. Ever heard of the hamster effect? We multiply rapidly. Haha!

The Mixing Business with Pleasure reply (nice when you can tag on some downtime):

If you were expecting a speedy Gonzalez response, this auto response email is as fast as it gets.  Over the next two weeks, I will be traveling to the golden coast of California for both business and pleasure. Both instances will require my full and undivided attention.

My words of the year are mindfulness and intentionality. These words represent traits that I aspire to achieve in everything that I do. With that being said, I am practicing being present in every moment whether it is with Our People Deal Ambassadors at HQ or even with my family in sunny San Diego.

I will get back to you when I return to the RTP office on Tuesday, October 16.  Thank you kindly for your patience. You are appreciated.

The kids have no-school so I have no choice reply (are you pulling your hair out yet?):

My kids don’t have school today, so my choices were:

  • Keep them home and ignore them
  • Hire a babysitter
  • Take the day off

Or…and this is something that makes Cisco a great place to work…use my Time2Give for a family give back activity. So that’s where I’ll be with my hubby and girls for most of Friday. We’re working in the warehouse of the Lowell Wish Project.

Urgent? Spark me. But expect that I won’t see it until we’re done because I need to practice what I preach with technology when I’m around my kiddos.

The I’m at a conference reply (I must pay attention):

Another out-of-office message? Don’t make that face. 😜 I’ll still be responding to emails, but not as quickly as usual.

From June 6-8 I’m traveling to Chicago to speak about how the @WeAreCisco Talent Brand Team amplifies our employee voices as a trusted source for the amazing Cisco culture. 

THEN I’m heading to Orlando for Cisco Live! I have a #bucketlist goal to get a selfie with CEO Chuck Robbins while I’m there. If you see him, direct him to the blonde with purple highlights. If you’re there too – let’s connect in real life (IRL). 

What if you have something urgent?

“Carmen, there’s a new llama emoji! We’ve got to figure out a way to use it on Instagram TODAY!”

In that case, please email TalentBrand@cisco.com. They’ll be super helpful, as they always are. They’re really excited about the new llama emoji too and probably already have a plan for it.  

The I’m visiting HQ reply (I’m also jet-lagged and squeezing in some shopping):

Occasionally you get away from home to go to the office. Only someone who works from home can make that statement.

This week I am visiting the Cisco MotherShip to catch up with colleagues live and in person!
While I’ll check email, Spark, IM, and other forms of communication, I’ll spend most of my time talking to people instead of having my nose in my laptop.

P.S. While you’re still reading. Here’s some bonus content: 
Want to know more about Our People Deal Ambassadors?  Click here.
Our new principles show us how we can all live the culture Our People Deal describes. Check them out here.

The it’s my birthday reply (you’re only as old as you feel):

People born today:

  • Steve Wozniak
  • Enid Blyton
  • Hulk Hogan
  • Me

As such, I am taking my birthday day off to spend doing…well…whatever I feel like.
I’ll return your email when I’ve finished celebrating.

The works anytime, in any situation, reply (admittedly not the best joke I’ve heard):

Knock Knock.
Who’s there?
Not me.

I’m out of the office starting Thursday afternoon. I’ll be away from (gasp) all forms of communication until I arrive back in the “office” (i.e. the room next to my kitchen) on Monday morning.

Ready to write your own? Here’s a few tips.

  • Think like the reader, not like the writer (tip care of The Writer).
  • Be conversational. Write it the way you’d say it.
  • Share something about why you are out of the office.
  • Have fun!


One downside to more creative out of office messages is more emails on your return. A lot of people will reply back to let you know how much they enjoyed your message. But a great side effect is that it will also make people more patient with you when you return and are playing catch up.

Now over to you, share some of your favourite examples and tips with me in the comments.


Story credits (A.K.A people I have shamelessly stolen content from for this article):  Jill Shaul, Jerome Sanders, Maria Abeyta, Carmen Collins and Caryl Kruse.


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