Without any of the usual social cues from a conversation, such as body language and tone of voice, e-mailers lose their embarrassment radar, suggests Carolyn Axtell of the Institute of Work Psychology at the University of Sheffield.

"They can lose their inhibitions and become less concerned about how they will be evaluated.

Today's e-mail glut is a constant worry for many office workers, with a third saying they get stressed by the volume of messages, according to a report. It's the summer holiday season - offices are empty and computers left sleeping and even if you try to e-mail someone, all too often you'll get an "out of office" message. Because out of office has become the latest piece of office trickery.

Give us a piece of technology and we'll subvert it.

I will be back in the office on Monday 12th February fully refreshed and eager to deal with your enquiry." This is modest stuff compared to the entirely unironic advice this week from US marketing columnist Karen Gedney, who explains how out of office is an opportunity to make an impression. "If you're assuming a leadership role by leading a seminar, heading up a volunteer project, or something similar, let people know...

And of course, when I actually win an award, that achievement gets its own special mention." Will Schwalbe says the need to show off like this is always going to surface, regardless of the technology.

The Dalai Lama wants me to go paragliding with him in Tanzania. The mobile is another form of e-mail instant reacting Ian Longland, Haverhill Darn you BBC!

the OOA has been my secret weapon in catching up with work and having "no meeting days" for years - now everyone will do it!"You are receiving this automatic notification because I am out of the office.If I was in, you wouldn't have received anything at all." Or else the more cunning "Hi, I'm thinking about your interesting e-mail.Sinead, St Albans, England A colleague of mine in a former job used to have her out of office message reading "[name] is currently out of the office.If your email is urgent, please feel free to panic"Jacqui, Nottingham Actually you don't even need to set up the automated reply.But it's not just the dates that are being changed.