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How to Write an Effective Out-of-Office Message

Updated on June 2, 2022Professionals

An out-of-office message (or OOO message) is an auto-reply email that notifies people you’re not at work for an extended period of time. They’re quite useful for letting colleagues know when to expect a response and/or whom to contact in your absence, and are often considered proper work etiquette for vacations, sick leave, and other lengthy absences

You want to be careful when writing any professional auto-reply email—you never know who might read it. In this guide, we explain how to write an out-of-office message, what to include, out-of-office message examples, and some tips for writing yours. 

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What is an out-of-office message?

Vacations, leaves, and any extended absences can disrupt the flow of business unless you’re prepared. Both in-office and remote work etiquette suggest setting up an auto-reply message for any inquiries while you’re gone to explain the situation and offer guidance. These messages help ensure business continues smoothly until you return; otherwise, people might take it the wrong way when you don’t respond. 

Although some people use auto-replies for texts and phone calls, email is the standard channel of communication for out-of-office messages. Emails are one of the top methods of communication in business, especially with more peripheral contacts. If you work so closely with someone that you don’t use email, chances are you’ll tell them about your leave through other work communication channels (such as a messaging platform) or through word of mouth. 

When to use an out-of-office message

It’s best to set up an out-of-office message whenever you’re unable to respond to emails during regular business hours. OOO messages are appropriate for short periods of time, such as doctor’s appointments or leaving work early for the day, as well as for longer absences, such as multiple-day vacations or parental leaves. 

Really, when to use out-of-office messages depends on your work and how urgent the messages you receive are. If you’re not sure about whether to set up an out-of-office message, ask yourself what will happen if someone messages you. If your response won’t be too tardy for them, you don’t need one. However, if matters are pressing enough that they might require attending to while you’re out, or at least providing an explanation for why your response might be delayed, then you should set up an OOO message.

How to write an out-of-office message

Out-of-office messages don’t need to be elaborate; as long as they contain the essential information, that’s good enough. Some people like to jazz up their messages with details and light humor, but those are optional. 

Specifically, a good out-of-office message includes three pieces of information: 

1 the dates you’ll be gone

2 a succinct reason for your absence

3 point(s) of contact for further assistance in case the matter is urgent; if you have multiple points of contact, identify who should be contacted for particular matters

These are the necessities to help your colleagues or external contacts get by while you’re gone. It gives the receiver the option of waiting for your return or proceeding without you, and it satisfies their curiosity so they don’t assume you’re gone for other reasons. 

You can cover all this information in just a few sentences, so out-of-office messages are usually quite short. On top of the facts, it helps to add some friendly greetings and polite gestures, such as “thanks for your message,” or “let’s talk soon!”

How NOT to write an out-of-office message

Vacations and work leaves can bring out the silliness in people, but keep in mind that out-of-office messages are still work messages. 

Be professional, and don’t say anything too informal. Even if you talk casually with your coworkers, people from outside your workplace might be emailing you, maybe even with new work opportunities you hadn’t expected. You don’t want to make a bad first impression when you’re not even there! 

Moreover, avoid putting too much pressure on yourself or the colleague you’re sending people to if they need help. Don’t say things like, “They’ll help you right away” or “I’ll respond as soon as I get back.” Set realistic expectations for a time frame so people can properly organize their schedules, but don’t set them up for disappointment. 

Best out-of-office message examples

Let’s take a look at some out-of-office message examples so you know what to aim for. These double as out-of-office templates or boilerplates, so feel free to copy and paste them with your own information added. 

Ol’ reliable

[Your personal greeting]

Thank you for your email. I am currently out of the office until [return date] for [reason]. I will be happy to reply to your message when I return. 

If you need assistance in the meantime, please contact [name of colleague + their job title] at [email, phone, etc.]

[Your personal closing and signature]

All business

[Your personal greeting]

I will be away from the office until [return date] for [reason] with no access to email. If your request is urgent, please contact [name of colleague + their job title] for assistance at [email, phone, etc.]. Otherwise, I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible when I return.

[Your personal closing and signature]

Lil’ charmer

[Your personal greeting]

Thanks for your message! Unfortunately, I’m away from the office for [reason] and won’t be back until [return date]. I’ll be happy to respond to your message when I return, but if you need urgent assistance, feel free to contact [name of colleague + their job title] at [email, phone, etc.]

Thanks again, and sorry for any inconvenience! 

[Your personal closing and signature]

Tips for writing an out-of-office message

Don’t reveal too much

Out-of-office messages are better when they’re quick and to the point. Sharing too much about your vacation plans or personal life is not only unprofessional, but can also alienate your colleagues who are still at work. As for medical details . . . less is more. 

Excessive details also make it harder for readers to find the need-to-know information, like a contact email or the date you return. Disclosing too much information is also a security concern: You don’t want to broadcast any personal details for strangers to see, like your being away from your home. 

It’s OK to be vague with out-of-office emails—in fact, it’s preferred. You can simply say that you’re “on vacation” or “out sick” without explaining any further. 

Give your messages more polish

Imagine making a typo in your out-of-office message. Now imagine that one typo is seen by dozens of different people, sometimes over and over again if they try you multiple times. 

Grammarly makes sure you catch all your mistakes before sending any message, especially one that has a wider audience. Our writing suggestions will catch all your typos while you write and offer feedback. 

Moreover, our tone detector can identify how your writing comes across, such as “confident,” “accusatory,” or even “egocentric.” This helps you readjust your word choice or stay the course, depending on how you want your writing to feel.  

Download Grammarly now to improve the quality of all your emails, including out-of-office messages. 

This article was originally written in 2017 by Karen Hertzberg. It’s been updated to include new information.

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