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The dos and don’ts of out of office messages
Mailbutler shows you how to write a professional, informative out of office email for when you're away from work - and points out some things you should avoid.
James has five years' experience as a Content Marketer, bylines on Left Foot Forward, Submittable, and INOMICS, and a Master's in History. In his free time he likes to read, play guitar, and write for his personal blog.
Whether you’re going on a business trip or a holiday, out of office emails can be a really good way of making sure all your clients and coworkers know that you’re not available for a certain period of time. Setting automated out of office (OOO) emails is one of the last things you’ll do before you leave, and yet they’re something that a lot of different people will see. For this reason, it’s important that they are clearly written and contain exactly the information your recipients will need to continue working while you’re away. Making sure your OOOs are clear and informative also mitigates any problems you might come across when you do finally return from work after that lovely weekend in the Cotswalds (or wherever it is you happen to go).
We’ve previously written about why you shouldn’t use out of office messages, giving you reasons why they aren’t your best bet when you’re away from your work for a time. However, if you’re set on sending out of office emails while you’re on holiday, it’s also our responsibility to show you how to do them properly. So without further ado, here are some dos and don’ts for creating the best OOO emails, along with some OOO email templates.
The best way to structure out of office messages
The dos of out of office emails
- Do include the exact dates when you are not in the office. Incuding the precise dates of when you will be gone and when you will return means people know exactly when they should send you a follow up email to try and reach you when you’re back – it’s easy for emails to simply get lost in the mass when you’re away for a while.
- Do communicate delayed response times. For situations when you’re out of office and you know you’ll have your hands busy with many other tasks when coming back, it is always good to let customers know that it might be a while before getting back to them, even when you’ve returned to work.
- Do include the reason for your absence. Usually, if you let people know that you are out of office on a vacation trip, they will be less likely to try to contact you. However, if you don’t write in where you’ve gone, people may try and find a different email address or even – gasp – a phone number to reach you while you’re sunbathing.
- Do communicate alternative contact information. For urgent matters, either provide the name, phone number and email address of a contact person or your personal phone number. Of course, if you’re on holiday, maybe you don’t want to be disturbed at all – and remember that some people have different opinions on what constitutes ‘urgent’.
Good out of office email templates
Here are some basic email templates showing what an out of office email should contain:
Thank you for your email. I will be out of the office from mm/dd to mm/dd and will have limited access to email/will not have access to email. As a result, my reply might take a bit longer than usual. If this is urgent, please contact [name] at [email] or [phone].
Thank you for your email. I am out on a business conference from [date] to [date] and your email will not be forwarded. Should the matter be important, please contact [email address] in my absence.
The first example doesn’t include where you are, but it does have a little more information than the second. Both, however, are professional, short, and the to the point, and therefore good out of office messages.
What to not include in out of office emails
The don’ts of out of office messages
- Don’t include a secondary contact who hasn’t agreed to it. You might know exactly who is the best person to deal with any responses while you’re away, but you always need to have received an agreement from this person that they will deal with your messages when you can’t. Just sending all of your correspondence to a coworker without asking them if this is okay is rude. Moreover, it might mean that something important slips through the gaps.
- Don’t be too casual. It can be tempting to write a funny email bragging about how you’ve managed to escape the office for a week, but this tone could be misinterpreted or disliked by a potential client. While it’s a little boring, it’s better to keep the email short and professional, just containing all the relevant information and nothing more.
- Don’t make typos. Your out of office message could be sent to anyone – an important client, the CEO of a company, maybe even your boss who has sent you something for you to look over when you’re back. It’s important your reply is professional so you don’t accidentally burn any bridges, so make sure to proofread your out of office emails twice before leaving for your holiday.
Bad out of office email templates that you shouldn’t use
Below are some OOO email templates that should not be used:
I appreciate you trying to reach me, unfortunately – I am out of office sunbathing. I will be back at [date]. It will probably take me two additional days to get used to my office and dig through hundreds of new urgent emails before I get back to you.
I will be out of the office for the rest of the day without access to email. If this is an emergency, please call emergency services.
Although it can be tempting to inject a little humour into a boring out of office email, sometimes it just isn’t appropriate and can do more harm than good while you’re away. Keep things clinical and professional – better safe than sorry!
Go the extra mile
Of course, if you are feeling wary about prospective leads that you won’t be able to instantly get back to, you can set your OOO emails to include relevant links on your website, or draw attention to ongoing promotion so that they might pique their interest even more.
Thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately, I’m out of the office from mm/dd to mm/dd with limited / no access to email. If this is important, contact [name] at [email] or [phone] and he/she will take care of you.
Did you email me about [service your company provides]/[ongoing promotions]? Great! Read more about it at (link [to the services the company is proving]/[current promotions]).
I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
The out of office email function is to let people know that you are not available for a specific amount of time. They don’t have to be long or complicated, but rather short and concise. So next time you write your OOO messages, use it to inform and assist the email sender.
Now go and enjoy your vacation! Get some rest by preparing everything before leaving office. You could also download Mailbutler and schedule your emails with the Send Later feature in case there’s any important communication that needs to be taken care of while you are away.
If you’re still not decided about what type of out of office email suits you best, remember these dos and don’ts when writing your message. Communicate the exact dates when you are not available, let people know about prolonged response times, include a reason for your absence, and, if possible, provide alternative contact information. Don’t overload your recipients with too much information, keep away from jokes and funny emails, don’t offer a colleague’s help without running it by them first, and always check for typos. All in all, if you keep these tips in mind when creating out of office emails, you should have no problems creating professional out of office email messages.
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