The dos and don’ts of out of office messages + 10 examples
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 seven 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 they're something 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 efficiently 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 Cotswolds (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 how do you set up a great out of office in your Outlook, Gmail and Apple Mail email inbox? 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. Including 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'.
What is a good automatic reply message? 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 gap.
- 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 email 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, but unfortunately – I am out of the 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 humor 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 promotions 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.
Integration with Other Platforms
Integrating out-of-office messages across various platforms is essential for consistent and effective communication. Platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams are widely used for internal communication within organizations, and setting availability statuses and automated responses on these platforms is equally important as setting out-of-office emails.
Integration across platforms ensures that colleagues and collaborators are informed of one’s unavailability regardless of the communication channel they choose. It prevents any miscommunication and ensures smooth workflow transitions during absences.
For instance, an automated response in Slack can inform internal team members quickly, while an email autoresponder can communicate the same to external contacts. Providing guidance on how to set up and synchronize out-of-office messages across different communication channels can significantly enhance user convenience and communication efficiency within and outside the organization.
Out of office message examples
1. Simple and Professional:
Subject: Out of Office: [Your Name]
Message: Thank you for your email. I am currently out of the office and will return on [Return Date]. During this period, I will have limited access to my email. For immediate assistance, please contact [Alternative Contact] at [Contact Information].
Subject: [Your Name] is Currently Out of the Office Message: Hello! I’m currently out of the office enjoying some time off and will be back on [Return Date]. I won’t be checking my emails during this time but will respond to your message as soon as possible upon my return. For urgent matters, please reach out to [Alternative Contact] at [Contact Information].
3. Short Term Absence:
Subject: Quick Update from [Your Name]
Message: I am currently out of the office and will return on [Return Date]. I will not be able to respond to emails during this time. If your matter is urgent, please contact [Alternative Contact] at [Contact Information].
4. Medical Leave:
Subject: Out of Office Due to Medical Leave
Message: Thank you for reaching out. I am currently on medical leave and expect to return on [Return Date]. I will not be checking my email regularly. For immediate assistance or urgent matters, please contact [Alternative Contact] at [Contact Information].
5. Maternity/Paternity Leave:
Subject: On Parental Leave: [Your Name]
Message: I am currently on parental leave and will not be available until [Return Date]. I will not be checking my emails during this period. For urgent inquiries, please contact [Alternative Contact] at [Contact Information].
6. Conference Attendance:
Subject: Attending [Conference Name]: [Your Name]
Message: I am currently attending [Conference Name] and will be back in the office on [Return Date]. I may have limited access to my email during this time. For immediate assistance, please contact [Alternative Contact] at [Contact Information].
7. Promotion Celebration:
Subject: Celebrating New Role: [Your Name]
Message: I am currently out of the office celebrating my new role as [New Title] and will return on [Return Date]. I will respond to your email as soon as possible upon my return. For urgent matters, please contact [Alternative Contact] at [Contact Information].
Subject: Out of Office for [Holiday Name]
Message: Happy [Holiday Name]! I am currently out of the office and will return on [Return Date]. I will not be checking my email during this time. For any urgent matters, please contact [Alternative Contact] at [Contact Information].
Subject: On a Quest: [Your Name]
Message: I am currently out of the office on a quest for relaxation and adventure and will return on [Return Date]. I won’t be slaying emails during this time but will get back to you as soon as I return to the kingdom of [Your Company]. For urgent royal decrees, please contact [Alternative Contact] at [Contact Information].
NOTE: Remember to replace the placeholders like [Your Name], [Return Date], [Alternative Contact], [Contact Information], [Conference Name], [New Title], and [Holiday Name] with the appropriate details before setting up the messages.
Out of office message common questions
What should an out-of-office message include?
An out-of-office email message should include:
- The exact dates when you’re not in the office (from mm/dd to mm/dd)
- The reason for your absence (business trip, vacation, personal emergency, etc.)
- Information about when you will be able to get back to the email sender
- Alternative contact details, but only if the secondary contact has previously agreed to it
How do I write a good out-of-office reply?
Writing a good out-of-office email reply is easier than some might think. Here’s what you need to do:
- Keep the OOO email short and formal (avoid making jokes or bragging about how you’re having fun at the beach while others are working)
- Specify the dates when you’re away (from mm/dd to mm/dd)
- Communicate delayed response times (provide information about when you’ll be able to reply)
- Explain why you’re unavailable (you’re attending an important business conference, you’re on a family trip, etc.)
- Provide alternative contact information (either your personal phone number for emergencies or the name and email address of a contact person who’s given you permission to do so)
- Proofread the OOO message multiple times to make sure it’s typo-free
How do I leave an out-of-office message?
Setting up automatic out-of-office replies in Outlook, Gmail, and Apple Mail is extremely easy. Here are the instructions for each email client:
Set up an OOO message in Outlook
- Select File and then Automatic Replies (if you use Outlook 2007, select Tools and then Out of Office Assistant)
- Select Send automatic replies in the Automatic Replies box
- Set a time range for your OOO message by choosing a start and end time
- Click on the Inside My Organization tab to craft an OOO reply for your teammates or select the Outside My Organization tab to write an OOO message for external contacts
- Select OK
Set up an OOO message in Gmail
- Select Settings and then See all settings
- Find the Vacation responder section and select Vacation responder on
- Specify the dates when you’re away and write the message
- If you want to send the OOO email only to your contacts, then check the box under the message
- Click Save Changes
Set up an OOO message in Apple Mail
- Click on the Settings icon and then select Preferences
- Choose Auto-Reply and then select Automatically reply to messages when they are received
- Compose the OOO message
- Set a date range
- Select Done
If you're still not decided on 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.
Now go and enjoy your vacation! Get some rest by preparing everything before leaving the 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.
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