So, you are going on vacation—but you are already dreading the e-mails that will be stacked a digital mile high when you return?

Could an out of office reply help cut back on emails? Or could it hurt your competitive edge? 

Could it help keep people from being annoyed that you didn’t reply quickly as you always do? Or could it annoy them because they know you won’t be responding for even longer than they would like?

The answer is yes, no and maybe. Or, more accurately, it depends. There are various schools of thought on out of office replies. Let’s look at a few of the arguments for and against them.

PRO #1: You are giving people a heads up you won’t respond.

Some response is better than no response, right? That’s the overarching theory behind out-of-office replies. You’re letting people know up front you will not respond in a timely manner so they don’t think you are ignoring them. 

CON #1: You are holding people up unnecessarily.

 

“When people take the time to write a valid e-mail and you don’t read it or respond, you’re holding them up,” Peggy Duncan, the author of Conquer e-mail Overload With Better Habits, Etiquette and Outlook, told The Sun. If people know you aren’t going to respond for two weeks, they can at least make decisions one way or another without waiting on you to weigh in. If you just don’t answer and they have to e-mail you a second or third time trying to elicit a response, you’re just irking them.

PRO #2: You can set the expectations.

 

Your out of office reply can inform people the date of your return, along with any expectations on how long it will take you to catch up on e-mail when you do return. Setting expectations is always strategic. 

CON #2: You can open your company to attack.

 

“In many enterprises today, guarding against data breaches and targeted attacks is one of the top concerns of IT administrators,” Trend Micro researcher Roland Dela Paz said in a blog post. By telling folks you are out of the office, you could be setting yourself up for an attack on your home or your e-mail.

PRO #3: You could preserve business.

 

If you craft an out of office e-mail that points people to a colleague who can handle the senders’ request, you could boost customer relations. After all, many times folks just need an answer. They don’t necessarily need an answer from you. 

CON #3: Out-of-office replies signal spammers.

 

According to IT firm EasyKey, “An OOOR is a great way of confirming your email address to spammers.  Think about it—sending them an automated reply could trigger a counter auto response adding your address to 10 more mailing lists offering you medication, shares and unbelievable prices for genuine Rolex watches.”

If your company has a set policy for out of office messages, you’ll have to abide by that rule. But if it’s up to you and you alone, consider these pros and cons before crafting that e-mail.