Should out-of-office messages cost you your job?

Tyler Brûlé, founder of Monocle magazine, has written an interesting piece for the FT in which he questions the use of out-of-office messages (OOM). To summarise, Brûlé says that for people in positions of power in a company, or those responsible for other people’s jobs, the OOM can be inappropriate.

He actually has a special term for these people: OOORs (out of office repliers).

Assuming these people have BlackBerrys and laptops, ways of keeping in touch when they’re away, the OOM suggests they’re not committed to the job “and use their [OOMs] as passive aggressive snubs to demonstrate their independence – not so much from technology but from responsibility.”

He also wonders whether people who post ‘elaborate’ OOMs will be found, in some future piece of research, less likely to be team players, less entrepreneurial, possibly more lazy and more likely to lose their jobs. However he says that this (future) research suggests time away should be used to re-evaluate one’s job and whether one’s happy there.

I have to admit that, overall, I find Brûlé’s thoughts disconcerting. Disconcerting because nobody should be penalised for taking holidays that they are entitled to. Also, because time away is good for people’s health, levels of stress and ability to analyse work situations more clearly on their return.

Of course, Brûlé is writing for a big business audience. But how do we – those in the SME world – feel about it? When you’ve got a small crew, is it important that your ship be manned at all times? Isn’t it partially the responsibility of the business to make sure that work can be delegated to other people when one is away?

Do you, as an employee or employer, feel Brûlé is on the right track? Should we ever get the sack for being out of the office?

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