When you’re on vacation or handling a personal obligation, professional to-do’s are probably the last thing on your mind. Still, there are other people back at the office working away, clients looking for your help, and colleagues reaching out to get in touch for any number of reasons. An out of office email lets these people know you’re currently unavailable and sets expectations for when they can expect to hear back from you. We’ll explain how to write an effective out of office email so you can be off the hook from refreshing your inbox when you won’t be at your desk for an extended period of time.
What is an out of office email?
An out of office email (sometimes called an ‘OOO’ message) is a message that’s automatically scheduled to go out as a reply to people who email you within a set time frame. You can set certain parameters for who will receive it, like only sending it once instead of every time a person emails you.
An out of office email conveys that you’re away from the office, communicates when you’ll return, and shares any other pertinent information that will be helpful to people who reach out to you while you’re gone.
Why it’s important to set up an out of office email
These days, people who contact you want a fast response. But when that’s impossible, simply knowing when they can expect a response is enough to tide them over until you can answer their email. An out of office message alleviates the expectation of an immediate response and keeps people from pestering you repeatedly while you’re focused on something other than work.
An out of office message is also a professional courtesy. For clients, customers, and vendors, it explains why you cannot respond immediately and assures them that their message isn’t being ignored. For colleagues, it helps keep work moving smoothly by assigning an alternate person to deal with the tasks you typically manage.
When should you send an OOO email
When you’re on vacation
This is the most common scenario for sending an out of office message. It explains your delayed response and can help ease the feeling of having to stay on top of your email when you’re supposed to be recharging.
When you’re doing something work-related
An out of office email is a great way to let people know that whatever is taking you away from the office is also building your professional credentials. This includes attending a conference or participating in an offsite team-building event.
When you’ll be totally unreachable
If you’re going to be completely incommunicado, even for a short period of time, it’s a good idea to let people know so no one worries on your behalf.
What to include in an out of office response
The fact that you’re away
Lead with a direct statement that explains you’re out of the office.
A reason for your absence (optional)
If you’re comfortable sharing, give a brief explanation for where you are.
When you’ll be back
Give the date you’ll be returning to the office.
Direct readers to any resources they may be able to use in your absence, like a page of your website.
An alternate contact
Point recipients to someone else they can reach out to instead of you. Be sure to get this person’s permission first!
What you should omit
- A promise to respond immediately. While it’s a good idea to let people know when you’ll be back on the job, you don’t want to lock yourself into responding to 200 emails on your first day back.
- TMI about the reason you’re gone. Avoid going into too much detail about where you are and what you’re doing. Keep your message simple and to the point.
Sample informal out of office email
Sample formal out of office email
If you’re attending a professional event like a conference, consider including details in your message, like how to register or where your booth will be, so you can continue fostering professional connections even when you don’t have eyes on your inbox.
Now draft your OOO message, turn it on, and step away from your desk!