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Sending a newsletter to 50,000 people on a daily basis means I get my fair share of out of offices, every morning in my inbox. I understand receiving vacation, sick days and even being at an off-site meeting as reasons to put up an out of office message in your email.

What I don't understand is the out of office messages that say "I'm teleworking - out of office". Of course if you are teleworking you ARE physically out the office but that doesn't mean you aren't working or answering emails does it?

It's little things like this that make telework such a hard sell. If I see an out of office message I pretty much assume you are not working the way you normally work i.e not working at a full capacity that particular day. Associating those assumptions with telework makes it easy to see why the concept of telework can leave bad taste in mouths of human resource officers and bosses. 

What do you think? When should an out of office be used? Is telework a valid excuse?

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This one has always baffled me! I could see leaving a note on my physical desk to inform co-workers I'm teleworking, but otherwise try keep things as business-as-usual when I'm working from home. I find that between phone, e-mail, and chat it's so easy to stay connected that people are sometimes surprised to find out I'm at an alternate location.

I am going to chime in on this from a perspective of Results-Only Work Environment, or ROWE. If you are working, and are responding within your usual timeframe, there is no need to put on your out-of-office.  And putting on the out-of-office when teleworking, it reinforces the belief that the office is where work gets done. 

Even when telework is an option for people, most do not use it because telework is a policy that's trying to fix a problem. But, the solution isn't on target because implementing a policy doesn't remove any of the culture barriers for people to use the policy.  Call it telework in Gov't, flexwork in the private sector, it doesn't matter.  ROWE gets at the heart of change management and changing the culture, so people can work in a way that best achieves their results without being judged by others on where they are during the day.

Why would you put an out of office message up for telework?  You are not out of e-mail, since you are supposed to be working in a way that is seamless, so why reply to people who e-mail you by saying you are not in your physical office?  Who cares?  The person e-mailing you is not standing in your doorway - he/she is physically somewhere else, so why would you tell him/her that you're not sitting where you sit?  You should be checking your e-mail the same way you normally do, so just reply instead of sending an out of office.

Amen Agnes!  This is my pet peeve for teleworkers and, as Steve mentioned, damages the image of teleworkers.  I make it a point to point this out to offenders.  I don't even use notes on my cubicle.  That's why we have MS Communicator, which tracks my "presence" and my work location.  Let's get it together people and make telework as transparent as possible.  We aren't on vacation.  We are "in" the office and open for business.

If you are working, regardless of where, you are never out of office if you have a blackberry tied in to your email.  Anyone who sends you an email probably isn't relying on you being at your desk.  It's really hard to think of a time to use "out of office reply" unless you are gone on leave that would render someone unavailable.  So, the only real time that "out of office reply" should be used is when you're NOT working, because you'll still get email.  Now, leaving a message on your office desk phone notifying people to contact you via mobile phone is appropriate anytime you're out of the office.  But that's my generic outgoing message, "I'm out, so please call my mobile phone to ensure I get your message and can reply in a timely manner"  So...unless on leave, you're never "out of the office" with mobile devices as we have today...we carry our offices with us!

The only time I use an out of office is when e-mails will not get the attention they deserve.  If I am not in the office (physically) I have my smartphone and still get e-mails.  If I can handle it I will; if not I forward it to one of my staff and they will take care of it.  Telework is not a reason for an out of office notice!


I only use an out of office when I am not going to process any e-mails.  I'll probably have someone turn on my out of office when I die.

I would find this very odd.  I only have a laptop for work, so it's either at my office or in my home office.  The sender does not care where my computer is when I reply.

The only time telework makes a difference is if someone requests a face-to-face meeting where it would be difficult for me to make in a short period of time.  In that case, they probably should have scheduled it more than a couple of hours in advance.  They also should take advantage of the many conference lines available to make the meeting work.

It should not be a valid excuse. The only time my regional contacts can tell I'm teleworking is if I tell them! At my former office, we had an internal calendar that we used to denote if we would not be working on-site--helpful in cases of emergencies. Otherwise, e-mail was business as usual. If you're working from home to focus on a single time-sensitive project, one can list an alternate contact on an out of office message. It should never appear that telework affords you the benefit to ignore e-mails!

Nope...I honestly think only time for out of office is when on a vacation for an extended period of time.  With blackberry/iphones, rest of time most people have quick enough turnaround

When I telework, I put a sign on my door indicating that I am teleworking, and the person can contact me via my office number (which is forwarded to my home phone) or email.

Out of office is used ONLY when I won't be responding to emails when I am out of the office.  My voicemail is also updated accordingly.  I don't have a Blackberry or smart phone for work (thankfully), so emails and phone calls during that time are directed to wait for my return or contact my supervisor for assistance.

A resounding NO...You are still working as all the posted before have stated. You are actually virtually at your desk. You even attend meetings, as required, In addition, teleworking is not an excuse for cancelling appointments.

My answer is, no, telework is not a valid excuse for an out of office alert. When a person is teleworking, they are working. Some employees here put their work schedule on the address line of their outgoing emails so others know when they are physically in the office. There are also offices here that have a central calendar and their schedules are kept in that calendar. The employees here have spent many years convincing management of the benefits of telework and some still are trying to convince their managers of the benefits so we might be more careful about how we telework. Here, we treat telework somewhat like being on official travel. We may have a message on our voicemails telling people we are teleworking and to call another number if we do not have ultra call forwarding but we never have out of office alerts while teleworking. Out of office alerts are only for when we are "off the clock" or in training. 

Unless my dog is barking at home, most people don't even know I am teleworking. I respond to emails promptly and when people call my work number, it goes straight to my cell. The only difference is that I call in for meetings instead of being in the room.


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