When Vacation Leads to Email Overload

Andy Mowat
August 16, 2021

You go on vacation, 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.  


What good is an OOO reply anyway?

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



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

In theory, OOOs 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 you’re lying on a beach, caravaning in Yellowstone, or going to a family reunion.  These polite, automated messages 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, 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

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

  1. Add that person to their database
  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!

A better OOO strategy.

Here’s my recommendation, so that you return 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, 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 will 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 sales people new contacts to sell to.  
  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. See the benefit we’re creatin for overloaded users.

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

Find your peaceful inbox at www.gated.email