• Cicely Blain

Election Anxiety? Pandemic Grief? Use these Out of Office Responders

It cannot be overstated - we are collectively living through challenging times. In many places, we are well into the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and a monumental US election looms large on the horizon. This is compounded by constant events of police brutality, domestic terrorism, environmental devastation, and a dark winter ahead.

Our emotional, physical, and psychological responses to the events happening to and around us are very real. In workplaces, we often dismiss this. We both intentionally and unintentionally uphold the toxic narrative of emotional stoicism which doubles down on our isolation and grief.

If you are finding it hard to respond to e-mails or be fully present in your work; you are not alone. Capitalism expects us to put work before everything else and the pressure to be 'productive' is more oppressive than ever. The allostatic load we are experiencing is pushing many of us to breaking point.

Sending an out of office responder doesn't take away the hardship of what we are experiencing. However, it can set really important boundaries between you, your team, and your clients. Especially when teams are working from home, it can be easy to blur the personal and professional lines and expect that people have endless time because they are not commuting or socializing as much. In fact, quite the opposite is happening; tasks take longer, deadlines seem scarier, and the build-up of emails is overwhelming.

We at Cicely Blain Consulting have put together some possible OOO responders you could use. We're using them so - spoiler alert - you'll likely get an automatic reply if you e-mail us.

Some of the OOO responders below can feel overly vulnerable - but especially for those in leadership positions, it can be powerful to be a role model and set the tone. In an ideal world, we'd all be taking six (?) months off and living out the rest of the pandemic on a socially-distanced beach. Until then, companies need to do what they can to relieve some of the load their employees are experiencing. Sometimes, that starts with the tiniest step.

Feel free to copy and paste them and edit them as you feel fit. We've also included some links at the bottom in case you wish to educate your e-mail recipients on the power of vulnerability, professional boundaries and self-care in times of crisis.

Election Anxiety


Thank you for your e-mail.

The US election presents a scary reality, especially for those of us who are marginalized and living in North America. My replies may be slower than usual.

Thank you in advance for your patience.


Pandemic Overwhelm


Thank you for reaching out.

As we head into the second wave of the pandemic, compounded by shorter days and gloomier skies, responding to e-mails can feel overwhelming. I will do my best to get back to you when I can.

In strength and solidarity,


The Realities of Anti-Blackness


Thank you for your e-mail. As a Black person, I am struggling with the everyday realities of anti-Blackness, especially as police brutality is streamed to us through our devices.

Thank you for your patience and grace,


Screen Time


Thanks for your e-mail!

I've noticed that working from home makes it hard to switch off. I am currently attempting to work 4 days a week and won't respond to e-mails after 5 PM or between Friday and Sunday.

I hope you are finding time for rest,




Thanks for reaching out. I am currently [parenting/taking care of/homeschooling] [my children/parents/friend/partner] which means my overall workload is amplified during the pandemic.

Please be patient with my delays, typos and distractedness. I still deeply value your time and our working relationship.





I live with [neurodivergence] which means [an influx of e-mails] overwhelms me. The [pandemic/election/current events/season] has exacerbated this.

Please exercise patience with me.


Current Events

Hi there,

As you may have seen in the news, [recent event occurred]. As a [identity/experience] person, this has profoundly impacted my ability to be responsive. My replies will be slow as I look after myself and my community.

Wishing you strength,


Useful resources:

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