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How to Write an Out-of-Office Email

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 will hear back. 

Here are some tips on writing an effective out-of-office email to avoid having to refresh your inbox when you are away from work.

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 specific parameters for who will receive it, like only sending it once instead of every time a person emails you.

This email should convey that you’re away from the office, communicate when you’ll return, and share any other pertinent information that will be helpful to people who reach out to you while you’re gone.

Why do OOO emails matter?

People who contact you want a fast response. But when that’s impossible, simply knowing when they can expect a response is enough to hold them over until you can answer their email. An out-of-office message alleviates the expectation of an immediate response and keeps people from bugging you repeatedly while you’re focused on something other than work. 

This is also a professional courtesy. It explains why you cannot respond immediately and assures clients, customers, and vendors 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?

Knowing the right occasions to set up an out-of-office (OOO) email is crucial for maintaining professionalism and ensuring smooth communication. While vacations and business trips are obvious reasons, there are several other instances when an OOO message is appropriate. Here’s a comprehensive list to guide you:

  • Vacations and holidays
  • Business trips
  • Medical leave
  • Family leave
  • Training sessions or workshops
  • Jury duty
  • Professional sabbatical
  • Significant company events

What to include in an out-of-office response

Dates of your absence

Be explicit about the duration of your absence by mentioning the start and end dates. This clarity helps others plan their requests or inquiries around your availability. For example, “I will be out of the office from [Start Date] to [End Date], returning on [Return Date].” Providing precise dates reduces confusion and sets clear expectations for your return.

Reason for your absence (optional)

While not mandatory, briefly stating the reason for your absence can provide context to your contacts. A short explanation can foster understanding and empathy, whether you’re on vacation, attending a conference, or out for medical reasons. However, maintain professionalism and discretion, especially for sensitive matters.

Point of contact

Including a point of contact in your absence is crucial. Specify the name, position, and contact information of the person or team taking over your responsibilities. This ensures that urgent matters are addressed timely. Phrase it helpfully: “For urgent matters, please contact [Name], [Position], at [Email/Phone].” Make sure the designated contacts are informed and prepared to handle inquiries.

Scope of unavailability

Clarify whether you will be checking emails intermittently or not at all during your absence. This information helps manage expectations regarding your responsiveness. For instance, “I will not have access to email during this time” or “I will be checking emails sporadically.”

Common mistakes to avoid

Crafting the perfect out-of-office email might seem straightforward, but common pitfalls can diminish its effectiveness, leaving room for confusion and unmet expectations. Before you set your OOO message, make sure you avoid these three things:

  • Vagueness about dates: Always specify the exact dates you’re away.
  • Forgetting a point of contact: Don’t leave your contacts hanging; provide an alternative.
  • Failure to update if plans change: Extend your OOO message if your return date changes.

Out-of-office email templates

Example #1: Vacation/PTO

Subject: Out of Office: [Your Name] on Vacation until [Return Date]


Thank you for your email. I am currently out of the office on vacation from [Start Date] and will not return until [Return Date]. I will have limited access to my email during this time.

For urgent matters, please contact [Colleague’s Name] at [Colleague’s Email] or [Colleague’s Phone Number]. [He/She] can assist you with any immediate needs regarding [specific projects or general inquiries].

I look forward to addressing your email more thoroughly upon my return. Thank you for your understanding and patience.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

Example #2: Medical leave

Subject: Out of Office: [Your Name] on Medical Leave until [Return Date]

Dear Colleagues and Clients,

I am currently on medical leave from [Start Date] and will not be available until my expected return on [Return Date]. During this period, I will have limited email access and may be unable to respond to your queries.

For immediate assistance, please contact [Colleague’s Name] at [Colleague’s Email] or [Colleague’s Phone Number]. [He/She] is well-informed about my ongoing projects and can provide the necessary support or information in my absence.

I appreciate your understanding and patience during this time. Rest assured, upon my return, I will address any pending matters as promptly as possible.

Warm regards,

[Your Name]

Example #3: Business trip

Subject: Out of Office: [Your Name] on Business Trip until [Return Date]


Thank you for your email. I am currently out of the office on a business trip from [Start Date] through [Return Date], and my email access will be limited during this period.

For matters requiring immediate attention, please contact [Colleague’s Name] at [Colleague’s Email] or [Colleague’s Phone Number]. [He/She] will be able to assist with any urgent issues or direct your inquiries to the appropriate team member.

I will check my emails periodically and respond to less urgent matters as my schedule permits. However, please expect a delay in my response until my return.

Your understanding and patience are greatly appreciated, and I look forward to reconnecting upon my return.

Best wishes,

[Your Name]