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Risky Thinking
On Risk Management, Business Continuity, and Security
17 January, 2018
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Out-of-Office Replies

A rant on (and a risk from) out-of-office reply emails.
“Nid Wyf yn y Swyddfa Ar Hyn o Bryd”

[Rant On. Don flame-retardant clothing and continue.]

Let me be straight-forward about this.

I hate Out-of-Office Replies.

The major advantage of email over other forms of communication is that it doesn’t matter whether the recipient is in their office or not. You send it. It goes into an inbox. The recipient gets to deal with it when it is convenient for them. That’s the point.

It’s insecure. It’s unreliable. It’s like a postcard: you send it and hope that it arrives, but you can’t be certain when or if it will arrive, and when it does arrive you can’t be certain whether it was read by several people along the way.

I’m sure it’s very nice for you that you get to go home in the evening, that you don’t work at weekends, and that you take the occasional holiday. I’m sure your family and friends appreciate it. But do you need to tell every person that emails you what your office hours are? If I was tht concerned or wanted an instant reply I would have telephoned. Or sent a messenger. Or gone in person.

I wouldn’t have sent you an email, any more than I would have sent you a postcard.

[Rant Off]

What has this to do with risk?

Well, there’s a very obvious risk of out-of-office replies:

(“Mr. Jones and his family have gone on a trip to Paris until the 19th: his home is available for burglary during this period

But there’s also another risk, which until today I hadn’t thought of. The risk that the out-of-office reply message might be completely misunderstood.

Don’t believe me? Read this story from BBC Wales.

There’s nothing like a little schadenfreude to brighten up your Monday morning.

Michael Z. Bell
May, 2010

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