Inspiration from one of IDEO's blog posts: "3 Ways to Make Your OOO More Human." I think the feeling an auto-reply has the capability of conveying is tied to the feeling of gratitude. I sent this article to a friend, and he now writes a poem for his OOO when he leaves the office. It tells people he's out, when he'll be back, and when they can expect to hear from him (all the typical OOO ingredients) but does it in rhyming stanzas with a bit of extra information about what he's doing and why.
Heather, who authored the blog post, uses her words to relate to the person emailing her:
I am abroad with the most inconsistent wifi I have ever experienced. It's the substantiation of mindfulness, the invitation to a million moments paused in the belligerent now. I will pick up with you again on July 10th when I am back in New York where the data flows like a subterranean stream and the hours are neither here nor there. Thank you for your patience in the meantime.
She goes on to say:
People responded. They read them. They liked them! And the fact that they got a momentary zing out of these absurdist missives did much to relieve my guilt over dodging people's requests.
My colleague Scott has written OOO messages that inspire momentary (and sometime longer) self-reflection on my own life. He's usually going into nature and I love being reminded of why we're drawn to the outdoors and disconnecting.
When I've been on the other side of these OOOs, it infuses joy into my day and reminds me that not everything needs to be serious. It also makes me grateful for creativity in unexpected places.
What if instead of our OOOs feeling robotic they brought joy and gratitude to those reading them? And, the longer you're OOO, and the more people email you the more joy and gratitude you're able to spread....