The O-O-O Syndrome

Often, when I send emails to my colleague Ooonuj, I get a O-O-O (Out of Office) message with text like:

-Out of Office-

Hi –

I am travelling to Hongkong, Malaysia, and China and will be out of office till 1st December 2013.
I will have no access to my India handphone number. I shall respond to your mail, albeit a bit late.

In case of urgent matters which require immediate attention, please call / text me
@ +86 13602696490 or Contact VVSS ( on the following numbers:
Tel: 91-22- 421666xx / 2880 73xx /  2880 73xx / 2880 73xx


Ooonuj Anar

[Digression: I personally avoid setting any O-O-O messages. I normally am able to read my messages with a gap of no more than 6-7 hours. Also, I do not think I do anything is so time critical. And mainly I am afraid that my autoresponder with battle with Ooonuj’s autoresponder and rapidly choke the cyberspace in endless exchange of OOO messages :-)]

That apart, if you read Ooonuj’s O-O-O message, you will notice that he has addressed one combination – “urgent matters require immediate response”. He is silent on:

  • Non-urgent matters that require immediate response
  • Urgent matters that do not require immediate response
  • Non-urgent matters that do not require immediate response

I believe that Ooonuj needs to cover all three cases – just to be complete.

Ooonuj also sends an actual response pretty fast (though this is terser than his OOO message). One day when I got his manual response even before I got his OOO response, I asked him what the matter was, and why his autoresponder was slow.

That is when he said, “Autoresponder? What autoresponder? I type a tailored OOO message each time. Because others also let me know when they are out-of-office and travelling all over the world and seem very busy, I thought I too should do the same. And my OOO messages to my boss are the longest – they usually contain the details of my day’s activities – just so that he knows I am doing some work.”

I did not know how to respond to that (manual or auto).

However, I did compile a set of possible OOO messages, just to bring variation to our dreary lives. Use them unmutilated or otherwise before I file for a patent (or is it copyright?)

  1. OOOooooooo – I have a headache all over my body.
  2. O-O-O – I am out out of office because I am out of my job. Thankfully, I will never have to answer your email.
  3. O-O-O – So what if I am out of office? I can access my email anywhere, I am just ignoring you.
  4. O-O-O – I am in a training on time management. I learnt that I should not sweat the small stuff. So I will ignore your email.
  5. O-O-O – I have been sacked. Click to see the company’s  skeletons in the cupboard. Go ahead, don’t be shy, click here.
  6. O-O-O – If you have anything that is urgent, contact my colleague Blah. He won’t help you either.
  7. O-O-O – If you have anything urgent, you will anyway figure out a way to get it done. I am on a vacation.
  8. O-O-O – If I was in office, you would have received nothing at all. You should be grateful for this automated response.
  9. O-O-O – I am out of office, because I don’t have an office.

By the way, now you know why my colleague is called Ooonuj.

Please feel free to share your views, experiences, and queries, using the “comments” feature.

Author: Rajesh Naik

I'm Rajesh Naik, and this is my personal website If you are interested in contacting me, I am also available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite.

5 thoughts on “The O-O-O Syndrome”

  1. Perennial OOO – some do not even change the date, or be smart – say just OOO and other cr#p without stating end date.

  2. For me, an OOO should just be one general statement – advising a person is out, reason, and duties expectations 🙂

  3. Here is one more possible variation:

    I-O-O-O-O : When I am sometimes IN and other times OUT of office on a given day , but feel lazy to change my status with every in and out movement.

    Generally, people who set O-O-Os on their devices are found to have a combination of these characteristics:

    a. A sense of self importance; that the roof will fall if they don’t respond with immediacy

    b. State of paranoia- an obsessive compulsory disorder that necessitates messages to be responded to as soon as they land in one’s device (examples- people who pick up a call one the 1st ring irrespective of their circumstances- in a public loo; people who keep refreshing their mail box every second etc)

    c.State of laziness- people who tend to goof off and procrastinate and don’t want to be found out tend to hide behind the veil of an O-O-O

    d.State of evasion- people who want to avoid other people pestering them on a topic of inconvenience tend to take the O-O-O route to defer the misery of having to respond to a later date or tire the other person into giving up

    However in an age of mobility, where “working in office” has become passé and office is what you carry with you wherever you go, the O-O-O as a barrier for communication (and instant responses) between a sender and receiver of communications in the corporate world may have lost its relevance.

    People who are fastidious about Work-Life Balance may actually use O-O-H (Out of Home) to signal their readiness to respond to messages.

    Your friend Oooonuj may be well advised to revisit his O-O-O strategy and tailor this for specific contexts.

    And by the way, I am out of office but still doing official work as I write this.


    1. “People who are fastidious about Work-Life Balance may actually use O-O-H (Out of Home) to signal their readiness to respond to messages.”

      Good one!!

  4. OOO is now meaningless, since people are replying from everywhere… and are expected to reply, whether they are in office or not.

    So, here are a few more relevant ones:

    * OOR – Out of Range (like a mobile)
    * OOOr – Out of Order
    * OOJ – Out of Job
    * OOOIT – Out of Internet Time
    * OOMM – Out of My Mind
    * OOMS – Out of Mind Share (or spaced out)
    * OOT – Out of Time

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