Out of office message

An out-of-office or out-of-the-office (OOO & OOTO) message helps keep your team aligned during times when you aren't around. This includes vacations, annual leave, business trips, and any prolonged absences. If you're on vacation or taking a long break, you want to make sure your colleagues know what's happening so they can continue operating normally without having to reach out to you directly. You can set up an automatic reply message to let others know you're away, and you can even include instructions on contacting you if needed.

The key to an effective OOO message is ensuring that everyone knows exactly where you stand. For example, if you're traveling, you could send a simple text saying, "I'm on vacation," followed by a link to a calendar invite. Or, if you're taking a few days off, you could say something like "Taking a couple of days off to relax." Automatic replies always need to be informative and should lead the reader to another contact or solution.

Create an effective, informative, and professional out-of-office message

If you're working remotely, you probably already have a system in place for communicating via office emails, chat or video conferencing. But there's no harm in creating a separate auto-responder message just for out-of-the-office communications. With the number of people working from home on the increase, the importance of OOO messages becomes ever greater.

An out-of-office auto responder is an effective tool for reminding colleagues and clients that you are unavailable for certain periods of time. But it does more than just let people know that you're taking a break; it lets them know why. You should always ensure this message is as professional as possible, leaving just enough information without going into too much detail, and clearly stipulating when you will be back and who the reader can contact in the meantime. 

Your automatic replies say much about you

Remember that an auto-reply message will give readers a certain impression of you according to how it is worded and what it says. As such, you want to make sure you are giving a positive impression of yourself and the company before heading off on your leave. Below are some points to consider when crafting your out-of-office messages.

Things to consider when writing out-of-office emails

  • Make sure your subject line is clear. If someone sends you an email asking about something urgent, it won't do much good to send them a generic "Out of Office." Instead, make sure the subject line clearly states what you're doing. For example, "I'm out of the office today," "I'm taking a few days' vacation," or "I'm attending next week."
  • Be specific. When sending an out-of-town trip announcement, don't say you're "taking some time off" or "on vacation"; tell people where you're headed and when you plan to return. This helps people understand exactly when to look for you, and when to expect office emails again.
  • Use language that makes sense in your out-of-office message. Don't assume that everyone knows what you mean when you refer to "vacationing" or "traveling." Explain what you're doing, how long you'll be gone and when you'll have access to email again.
  • Keep it short. Out-of-office automatic replies should be no longer than one paragraph. You want to keep things simple and concise.
  • Include a signature at the end, and keep the overall tone friendly and professional. Remember, any employee’s out-of-office message can affect the image of the entire company.

Things to avoid when creating out-of-office emails

When sending an office email announcing your vacation or being away from work, there are a few things you shouldn't do. These include:

  • Making jokes about your upcoming trip, especially if you're saying goodbye to co-workers.
  • Claiming that someone else will take care of your work while you're gone. This could lead to confusion and resentment among colleagues.
  • Being overly vague and not giving a timeline of when you will return to the office.
  • Bragging about your accomplishments. Your co-workers might think you're trying to distract them from what needs to be done.
  • Hiring someone to cover your access to email while you're away. If you want to delegate tasks, ask people directly.

Out-of-office message samples

So, what does a well composed out-of-office response look like? There are plenty of examples of effective automatic replies. Some people prefer to use template messages, while others write their own personalised responses. And there are even some templates online that you can download and customise. But here are some examples of good ones that you can consider personalising to use as your own replies:

  • "Thanks for your email. I will be out of the office August 8-12, with only restricted access to email. If you need assistance while my team is gone, please contact Simon Smith (insert email here) for marketing questions or Rebecca Davies (insert email here) for accounting questions."
  • "I will be away from June 11-15. If you have any questions about our products or services, please feel free to reach me via email or call me directly."
  • "I will not be able to attend your meeting on Friday. Please confirm your attendance via e-mail at@com. Thank you."
  • "I am out of the office Monday, May 15th - Thursday, May 18th. My assistant, Peter Wilson, can help you during this time. You can reach him at...."
  • "I am away on holiday starting on June 17th and returning on July 2nd. In my absence, please send any urgent matters to Julia Finch (insert email here)."

When to avoid using an automatic response

For some people, leaving an OOO message may not be appropriate at all. They include employees of companies dealing directly with the public, and whose customers won't want to hear that someone is unavailable via a conventional office reply. Some organisations and individuals may be worried about security and would be unwilling to let anyone know about an absence. 

Be aware of your company’s guidelines

Most companies usually have guidelines on how to set an automatic response, especially in the event of company-wide breaks such as public holidays or team-building sessions. Always make sure to check with your organisation on the appropriate guidelines or templates before writing your out-of-office message to avoid any discrepancies or misunderstandings. 

How to set up an out-of-office message on Outlook

Setting up an out-of-office message on Outlook is very simple, both on Windows and Mac devices. The below instructions outline how you can easily set up your automatic replies on this email platform.

Outlook on Windows

  1. Open your Outlook and select the ‘File’ tab.
  2. Under the Info section, select your chosen account. Then click the ‘Automatic Replies’ button.
  3. In the pop-up window that appears, mark the ‘Send Automatic Replies’ option.
  4. You can then set the time period for when you want to send your out-of-office messages by checking the box for ‘Only Send During This Time Range’ and entering the dates and times in the corresponding boxes. 
  5. Type your out-of-office message into the text box. Click ‘OK’ to finish.

H3: Outlook on Mac

  1. Open your Outlook app and choose your account.
  2. In the menu bar, select ‘Tools’ then ‘Automatic Replies’.
  3. In the pop-up window that appears, check ‘Send automatic replies for account [email protected]’.
  4. Type your out-of-office message into the text boxes for senders within and outside your organisation as required.
  5. Set your desired time period for automatic replies by checking the box for ‘Send Replies Only During This Time Period’ and enter your dates and times in the corresponding boxes. 
  6. Click ‘OK’ to finish. 

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