How to Write the Perfect Out-of-Office Message
Ever found yourself, just before leaving for a much-needed vacation or while nursing a sudden illness, worrying about the pile of unanswered emails in your inbox? I totally get it. We live in a world where “I’m offline” feels like a strange concept.
So, what do you do? Well, that’s where we come in to help you. Together, we’re going to craft the perfect out-of-office message. Whether you’re off on a tropical getaway or curled up under a blanket nursing a cold, we’ve got you covered in our guide on “How to Write the Perfect Out-of-Office Message.”
Why Out-of-Office Messages Matter?
Whether you’re taking a two-week vacation, taking a sick day, or attending a conference, an out-of-office (OOO) message is crucial. Microsoft found that more than 77% of people feel their vacation officially starts once they set their OOO message.
But out-of-office messages are tricky to get right, especially if you often get emails from people outside your company. Also, setting up a perfect away message isn’t just about announcing your absence—it’s also about maintaining joy and peace in your professional life. Marie Kondo & Scott Sonenshein’s “Joy at Work” nudges us to organize our professional lives, a philosophy that extends to our digital communication.
Joy at Work
Joy at Work
- 15 min reading time
- audio version available
An effective out-of-office message creates a sense of order and assurance that you’ve got things under control. Now, let’s dive into how to write the perfect out-of-office message, learn what you should include, and see examples for every scenario.
How to Write an Effective Out-of-Office Message
Here are the key things to include in an out-of-office message.
1. The Fact You’re Out of Office and Won’t Be Responding to Emails Straight Away
Make sure you get across the main message: that you’re off work or otherwise not responding to emails right now. You don’t want to leave people hanging waiting for your response.
2. Why You’re Off (Optional)
This part is optional, but you can include the reason you’re out of the office. You don’t need to go into details, though. Simply stating you’re on vacation, on parental leave, or off sick is enough.
Sometimes, an absence is more than just a vacation. We need to take care of our mental well-being, too, and an out-of-office message can be a respectful and professional way to signal that. If you want to learn more about mental health at work, take a look at Nora Dietrich’s Guide “Manage Your Mental Health at Work.”
3. When You’re Expecting to Be Back
If you know the date you’ll be back — which you usually would unless you’re off due to an illness — include this in your out-of-office message. This lets the sender decide whether they can wait for a response until you get back or whether they need to contact someone else on your team.
It also stops eager colleagues from following up on their emails over the next few days, even though you’re away for two weeks.
- “I’m on vacation until September 20, so I’ll respond to your email then.”
- “I’m on parental leave until November.”
- “I’m at a conference with no access to email. I’ll be back in the office tomorrow.”
- “I’m off sick but should be back on email on Monday.”
4. Who to Contact in the Meantime
If you’re only off for a day or two, the chances are whoever emailed you can wait until you get back. But if you’re away for longer, or it’s an important topic, they may need a response sooner.
Include an email address and the name of someone they should contact while you’re away. If you deal with multiple projects or different types of people, you might want to include two or more contacts for people to get in touch with, depending on what they need.
- “Please reach out to [email protected], who will be handling my accounts while I’m away.”
- “For contract questions, please get in touch with [email protected], and any invoice requests should go to [email protected] while I’m away.”
5 Tips for Writing the Perfect Out-of-Office Message
Here are a few pointers to make sure your out-of-office message is perfect.
1. Keep it Short
Keep your out-of-office message short and sweet. You don’t need to go into detail about your vacation plans or how exactly you’re suffering with the flu.
You simply need to let people know you won’t be responding to their email and when they can expect a response.
2. Add Humor with Caution
If you’re looking to add a little lightness to your out-of-office messages, you might be inspired by these 10 funniest out-of-office replies on LinkedIn. While humor can make your automatic response more memorable and enjoyable, it’s crucial to tread lightly.
Not everyone shares the same sense of humor, and what may seem hilarious to you might not land as intended with your colleagues or clients. So, approach humor with caution, always keeping the tone appropriate for your professional context.
3. Be Careful About Saying When You’ll Respond
There’s nothing worse than promising you’ll reply to everyone’s message “when you get back on Monday,” only to find yourself with 695 unread emails when you open your inbox. Saying something like “I’ll get back to you as soon as I can” can ensure people aren’t waiting for your response the first day you’re back.
This is especially important if you’re going away for an extended period of time, or you’re off sick, and you’re not sure when you’ll be well enough to get back to work.
4. Give Alternative Contacts a Heads-Up
If you’re providing an alternative email address for people to contact while you’re away, be sure to let that person know you’re doing so.
You don’t want them to be surprised when they suddenly receive a ton of emails they don’t know what to do with. Plus, you never know if they’ll be out of office at the same time as you, so it’s always best to double-check before directing your emails their way.
5. Include an Alternative Method of Communication (if Needed)
If you’re heading off on vacation, you should definitely turn on an out-of-office message and not think about work while you’re away. And the same goes for when you’re sick. But there may be some situations where you won’t be on email, but you still want to be contacted in an emergency.
In these scenarios, you can provide your phone number, for example, or let the email sender know you’ll be checking Slack.
- “I’m at a conference today, so won’t be on email. If you need an urgent response, you can call me on [your phone number].”
- “I will be checking Slack periodically throughout the week, but won’t be quick with replies until I get back to work properly on October 12.”
When to Use an Out-of-Office Message
When you use an out-of-office message will all depend on where you work and the type of role you have.
If you regularly have colleagues and external clients emailing you and expecting a quick response, you may use an out-of-office message even when you leave the office early for a doctor’s appointment, for example.
If you work with a small team, on the other hand, you may only need one for longer absences like vacations or extended sick leave. Consider using an out-of-office message when:
Going on vacation
Taking a day off
Taking time off during the day (if appropriate)
At a conference
On parental leave
Examples of Out-of-Office Messages
Now you know what to include in your out-of-office message, it’s time to write it up. Here are some examples of what to say in every scenario.
For a Vacation:
Subject: Out of Office: [Your Name]Hi there,
Thank you for your email. I am currently out of the office for a vacation and will not be checking email. I’ll be back on [return date]. If your message requires immediate attention, please contact my colleague, [colleague’s name], at [colleague’s email].
For a Conference or Business Trip:
Subject: Out of Office: [Your Name]Hello,
Thank you for your message. I am currently out of the office attending a conference and will have limited access to email. I’ll be returning on [return date]. If your email requires immediate attention, please reach out to my colleague, [colleague’s name], at [colleague’s email].
For Maternity/Paternity Leave:
Subject: Out of Office: [Your Name]
Thank you for your email. I am currently on parental leave and will not be checking email until [return date]. In the meantime, for urgent matters, you can contact [colleague’s name] at [colleague’s email].
Thank you for understanding,
Remember, these are just examples. You can adjust them to match the tone and style of your company or add a bit of personal touch if it’s appropriate in your workplace.
Out-of-Office Messages Subject Line
Just like with your out-of-office message, keep your OOO subject line simple.
You can say something like:
“Out of office”
“On vacation until October 12”
“OOO: Back Tomorrow”
Do I Need an Out-of-Office Message for More Than Just Email?
While email is the most common form of communication at work, your company may use a messaging platform or another piece of software to stay in touch, like Slack or Microsoft Teams.
Be sure to include out-of-office messages wherever colleagues or clients might reach out to you and need to know you’re not available.
Depending on where you work and what communication software you use, you may just need an out-of-office message for your emails and an “on vacation” or “off sick” emoji or message for your Slack status, for example.
Finally, remember that every message we send out is about building and maintaining relationships. This reminds me of “Connect” by David Bradford. Your out-of-office message, even in its simplicity, is a tool to nurture your professional relationships.
Wrapping up creating a thoughtful out-of-office message isn’t just practical. It’s part of your professional brand. And there’s a whole world of work wisdom out there to explore!
Check out Blinkist, a platform filled with quick, engaging summaries of countless books on career growth, self-improvement, and more. The books we’ve mentioned? All there. And the best part?
You can digest each book’s key ideas in just 15 minutes, which is perfect for busy bees. So, every time you craft that out-of-office message, remember that you’re growing and improving. Keep exploring, learning, and blossoming with Blinkist. Because when it comes to work, every message – and every moment – counts!