Cosmopolitan Magazine – Why I’m Never Turning Off My Email OOO

I spoke to Cosmopolitan Magazine about why putting an OOO on my email in 2020 was the best thing I’ve ever done, and why I’m never going to turn it off!

A huge advocate for an OOO-induced sense of relief is Sophie Williams, a speaker, author and an early adopter of the auto-response, who has sworn by the method for four years and counting.

Williams first added an auto-response to her personal email back in 2020 during the peak of the pandemic. At the time, she was self-employed and had two books published in the space of six months. Understandably, her inbox was hectic. But, she says, her auto-response gave her room to breathe – and it stuck.

Fast-forward to 2021, Williams started working in a leadership role at Netflix, where she also made waves after adding a footer to her email signature: My working day may not be your working day. Please do not feel obligated to reply to this email outside of your normal working hours.

“It caused a bit of a stir,” admits Williams (who has since spotted more people using similar disclaimers ). “But unless something [really] is an emergency, we don’t need to treat it as urgent.”

Has her auto-response ever irked anyone? “I’ve wondered if it’s annoying to people,” Williams says. “[But] it doesn’t send to the same person again if it’s sent to them recently, so I think that’s all good.”

She uses an OOO of sorts on WhatsApp, too. “My status there is also a message saying I’m not going to come back to you quickly, if at all, and I’d prefer you reached out on a different platform.”

“As an autistic person, setting those boundaries about how I’m contacted, and what you should expect in response has been really helpful, and calming to me,” Williams concludes.

It might even buy you goodwill, as Williams has found.

In her experience, “It acts as a sort of confirmation of contact – people know I’ve received their mail, so they don’t need to worry about whether or not it’s gone to the right person, and it buys me a little time and context.

“To be honest, even when my emails are not flooded, I keep the auto-response in place because it buys me some positive sentiment. People have been warned that I might be slow to respond, so when I’m not, they’re really pleased.”

And, hey, a move towards more independence and flexibility in the workplace can only be a positive thing – in fact, it’s one of the key changes needed to help address the gender pay gap according to the Fawcett Society, who want to see “all jobs being advertised as flexible, unless there is a good reason not to do so.”

While researching her upcoming book, The Glass Cliff: How Women in Power are Undermined, and How to Fight Back, Williams observed how the “expectation of 24/7 availability isn’t working for many women anymore.”

“We want flexibility, we want control, we want to be trusted to do the work that needs to be done, but in the ways that work for us. Setting an automatic response might seem like a really small or trivial thing, but when I see it, I see a woman who has taken control of her own time. I absolutely love and respect that,” she explains.

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