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An out-of-office email (also called an OOO message) is an automated response that immediately notifies senders that you’re currently away from your workspace and will not be reading or responding to emails as quickly as usual. This message is sent as an automatic response to any message that enters your inbox.
Email is a primary form of communication in the workplace for colleagues and clients alike. If you’re unable to respond to emails because you are taking time off, attending a work event or away from your computer for any other reason, it’s important to set up an out of office message. When people send emails, they often expect a timely response. Setting up an out-of-office message helps keep people informed and prepares them for how to proceed in your absence.
Here are several tips and examples to help you craft a professional out-of-office message.
When should I use an out-of-office message?
It’s proper etiquette to set up an out-of-office reply any time you’re unable to check emails during regular work hours. Whether you’re going on a vacation for several weeks or just busy for the day while attending an offsite meeting or industry event, an OOO message is appropriate.
Even if you’ve already announced you’ll be out of the office, people become busy and may forget you’re unavailable. An automated response can serve as a helpful reminder to anyone attempting to get in touch with you while you’re away. It can also be beneficial for you—allowing you to better focus your full attention on whatever has taken you away from the workplace.
A well-crafted out-of-office email accomplishes the following:
- It provides instruction so coworkers or clients aren’t waiting for you to address a time-sensitive question or concern.
- It lets clients or any other outside contacts know you’re not ignoring their messages.
- It sets clear expectations around when you’ll be able to respond.
It’s also a good idea to set up an OOO message on your personal email account—especially if you’re in the middle of a job search and expecting to hear back from employers. Without an automated message, employers may assume your lack of response means you are no longer interested in the opportunity.
What should I include in my out-of-office reply?
The most effective OOO emails include the following:
- A friendly, professional greeting
- How long you’ll be away
- When a sender can expect a response
- Who to contact in the event of an emergency
- Provide instruction for tasks you commonly perform
- Why you’re away (optional)
Let’s take a closer look at each of these out-of-office email elements to refer back to when you write your own:
1. A friendly, professional greeting
Always include a greeting, just as you would in any other email message. For example, you might start with something like:
Hello! Thank you for your message.
2. How long you’ll be away
Be as specific as possible to make sure the sender clearly understands how long you’ll be unavailable. For example:
I will be out of the office and unable to check email all day Monday, October 8 and Tuesday, October 9.
3. When a sender can expect a response
Give the sender clear expectations about your plans once you return. If you will be gone for a lengthy period of time and anticipate returning to hundreds of messages, you might add language to ensure the sender doesn’t expect to hear from you immediately after your return. For example:
I will return on October 10 and will address emails as quickly as possible, in the order in which they were received.
4. Who to contact in the event of an emergency
If your sender’s message is urgent, they may not be able to wait until you’ve returned to take action. Always include contact information for a manager or colleague who is comfortable handling any emergency correspondences in your absence. For example:
If this message is an emergency, please contact my fellow account manager Anna Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-555-1234.
5. Provide instruction for tasks you commonly perform
If there is a certain task, report or answer you will be expected to provide on a recurring basis, including information for where the recipient can get their information. You might decide to delegate this task to a colleague or manager or let the person reaching out know you will complete the task on a certain day when you are able to. For example:
If you are reaching out about this week’s inventory report, please reach out to my colleague at email@example.com.
6. Why you’re away (optional)
Sometimes it can be helpful to include information about why you’re away from the office to set proper expectations. For example, if you’re still working but traveling on business outside the country, you may not be able to access email during the same working hours. For example:
I am currently out of the country on business. Please expect a delay in responses as my internet connection may be inconsistent.
Related: 10 Great Sabbatical Ideas
Out of office message examples
Thank you for your email! I am currently out of the office on vacation with my family from June 11–15 and will not have access to email during that time. I will be returning to the office on Monday, June 18, and will be sure to respond to your message as quickly as possible.
If you need assistance in the meantime, please feel free to reach out to my manager, Chris Rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-555-1234 ext. 567.
Have a great week.
Senior Account Manager
Related: How to Write a Professional Email
Thank you for your message. I am currently out of the country on business until April 30. I will be checking emails intermittently, but please expect a delay in response up to 24 hours.
If this is an emergency, please contact my colleague, Nadia Amin (email@example.com).
If this is a technical issue, please contact tech support by calling 1-800-555-1212.
Thank you for your patience,
The process for setting up automated responses varies by email application but is generally quick and easy. By using these tips and examples, you can craft a professional out-of-office message that provides senders the information they need.