As the majority of us returned to work this week following the festive break, it’s likely a lot of people’s inboxes are inundated with out-of-office (OOO) emails, notifying us of employee absences over the past few weeks.

OOO emails are a standard business procedure in most workplaces, which brings one question to mind – what’s the best way to phrase them?

According to a new survey by language learning platform Preply, it seems that employees are not doing a very good job in getting the right tone of voice in their email, with half of Brits (50.4%) admitting that they have received an unprofessional or annoying out of office response at some point.

According to the results, one in seven Brits (13.1%) who found OOO emails annoying highlighted that they included personal details about them or others, and the main age group receiving inappropriate OOO emails turned out to be 16-24-year-olds (75.56%).

What’s more, more males (61%) have gotten inappropriate OOOs than women (43%), with 60.87% of people who received inappropriate emails residing in Greater London.

With all this in mind, below are the typical ‘out of office’ responses that Brits find annoying, according to Preply’s new report:

The most annoying OOO phrases

Response Percentage
Sorry, not sorry 34.00%
Playing hooky 21.00%
Sipping cocktails on a beach 20.00%
Touching base 19.00%
None of the above 17.00%
Thinking outside the box 17.00%
Gone fishing 16.00%
Taking a digital detox 16.00%
Recharging my batteries 14.00%
In meetings all day 11.00%

Sorry, not sorry…

Over a third of Brits (34.10%) had received an OOO email containing the blasé phrase, ‘sorry, not sorry’, which topped the charts as the most annoying for office workers.

In second place when it came to annoying OOO emails were ‘playing hooky’ emails, scoring 20.60% when it came to disliked words and phrases at work. As this phrase refers to skiving or missing work dishonestly, it is unsurprising that so many people are not fond of it.

Taking third place for most annoying OOO phrases is ‘sipping cocktails on a beach’, scoring 20% overall. While, once again, this would clearly be said in jest, it could come across as overly smug and trying to incite jealousy from colleagues.

New year, new me

As we kick off the new year, let’s not overlook the impact of our out-of-office (OOO) emails on workplace relationships. With 50.4% of Brits admitting to receiving unprofessional OOO responses, it’s clear there’s room for improvement.

Choosing our words wisely matters—phrases like ‘sorry, not sorry’ and ‘playing hooky’ top the list of annoying OOO messages. So, in 2024, a little extra thought into your OOO email could go a long way in fostering positive connections at work. Here’s to a year of better communication and stronger workplace bonds!

Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.