How to Manage Vacation OOO Email Overload

Andy Mowat
December 28, 2022

You go on vacation, and the emails pile up at home: we feel your pain. 

While 82% of us check email while on vacation (wow!), your first day back from vacation shouldn’t be spent sorting through a mountain of email and taming email chaos.

James Gilbert (Head of Marketing at CRMNEXT) shared that he got over 1,000 emails (85% of which were unsolicited sales pitches) in the week he had been on vacation with his family.
We feel James's pain when it comes to unwanted sales pitches flooding his inbox while's on vacation (source: LinkedIn).

Why use an Out-of-Office (OOO) Message?

80% of us use automated OOO messages – even for one-day vacations!  Let’s take a look at why that is...

A quick LinkedIn poll reveals 80% (n=292) use OOO autoresponders when they're out of the office, even if it's for one day.
The 18% (out of 292) of LinkedIn poll respondents who "Never use" OOO messages are brave (source: LinkedIn).

At their core, OOO replies are a courtesy for those trying to reach you. These messages can be critical to winning and retaining business especially if you're in customer-facing roles (e.g., Sales or Customer Success), .

In theory, OOO emails also allow you to fully unplug from your email by telling people not to expect a response. You don’t want someone who is trying to reach you to think you’re simply being unresponsive when in reality you’re lying on a beach, caravanning in Yellowstone, or going to a family reunion (you also just know that your vacation email inbox is probably piling up while you're away).

Using a polite, out of office autoresponder can bring peace of mind; you know that people who need a reply will either reset expectations or reach one of your colleagues.

However, an OOO message shouldn’t be a crutch. If you are concerned that someone might need you urgently, then that might be an indicator of a bigger problem. We should all strive to build teams and processes that run like clockwork when we are away.

Sales teams can use your OOO against you

Here’s a dirty little secret: SDRs not-so-secretly love getting your OOO in response to an email. It gives them information such as:

  • When you will be back.
  • Who else covers for you (and their contact information).
  • Your emergency contact information (like your cell phone number).

When you send an OOO response that includes information about who's covering for you, a classic SDR play is to:

  1. Add that person to their database without their consent.
  2. Send them a note saying “Your colleague [your name] suggested I reach out to you”.

Heck, there are even well-documented tactics that say the best time to email prospects is Thanksgiving week!

These deceptive tactics give aboveboard and respectful sellers a bad name, so much so that we created a best practices guide for sending emails with top revenue leaders like Samantha McKenna and Kris Rudeegraap, and sales and marketing orgs like Sendoso, GTMfund, RevGenius, Sales Assembly, and #samsales.

How do I manage email overload when I return from vacation?

Here’s my recommendation for returning from vacation to a clean, peaceful inbox:

  1. Try not using an OOO: Email is asynchronous! People don’t expect an immediate response. 

    If you are able to, just check email every few days and simply forward urgent email to colleagues who can take care of it. I bet you’ll be surprised at how few truly urgent emails there are.
  2. Have fun with your OOO: SDRs and others work so hard that if you are going to send an OOO to everyone, you might as well liven it up with some personality ;) 70% of us admit that we just send a template OOO, but how about spicing things up like this!
  3. If you need to use an OOO, only send to people you know: There is a setting for most email clients that'll allow you to send a vacation responder only to people in your contact list or at your company. 

    If you haven’t been communicating with someone already, odds are they probably don’t need you before you’re back from your planned vacation.
  4. Don’t put contact information (or that of your colleagues) in your OOO: This gives salespeople new contacts to sell to (and spam their inboxes with even more unwanted sales pitches).
  5. Advise people to resend their email after you are back:  One of my favorite OOOs is one that puts the burden on senders to reach out again if they really need you.
  6. Reduce email overload by removing email from people you don’t know from your Inbox: You get too much irrelevant email. Gated is a solution that challenges unknown senders to donate to your charity to reach you. Only the senders that really value your time will show up in your inbox. You can enjoy the benefits firsthand by adding Gated to your inbox!

Wouldn’t it be nice to return from vacation and retain all of those good vacation feelings?

Get Gated to manage your OOO messages next time you're on vacation!

Tanner Lacey's testimonial on how Gated's reduction of unwanted emails is "almost literally life-changing" for him.
Gated helps you achieve that peaceful post-vacation inbox bliss.

Originally published: August 16, 2021