3 Tips for Your Next Out of Office Email Message


If you work in an office setting or if a future job opportunity will require you to work in an office setting, chances are that you'll have to set an out of office email reply during your career. Spending time outside the office and having a good work-life balance is so important. Disconnecting from your workplace and taking a few days to yourself to relax can help you come back to the office feeling refreshed and ready to tackle your next big project. Just because you step away from the office for a few days doesn't mean that the world will stop and the company you work for will be put on hold. Business will continue as usual and you'll be responsible for catching up on any work that you missed while you were away. 

Don't sweat it though, because with some planning and communication with your colleagues, you can keep everyone informed and make sure that your projects keep moving along even while you're gone. 

I've been a part of the post-grad working world for 4 years now, so I've definitely seen my fair share of good, bad and ugly out of office replies. What you write in your out of office email is totally dependent on you and your personality. Just remember that what you write and set as your grown up AIM away message is a reflection of your professionalism and communications skills so put some thought and consideration into your message before you head out on your vacay. 

Next time you decide to take some PTO and get away from your workplace for a bit, remember these tips for setting your out of office reply: 

1. Make sure you're including all of the pertinent details, but don't overshare
If someone emails you while you're out of the office, they'll probably want to know the following:

  • How long you'll be away

  • When you'll be returning to the office

  • Who they can contact in your absence if something urgent arises

  • Whether you'll be reachable while you're away or completely disconnected from the office

If you include everything listed above in your out of office reply, you should be golden. Make sure you spell out all the details, especially if you'll be away for more than a week.  If you do decide to include information about who someone can contact if they need assistance with something and it can't wait until you return to the office, be sure to speak with your supervisor or your colleagues and determine if someone can serve as a backup for you and answer any questions while you're out. They'll appreciate that you checked in with them first and made sure they're prepared. 

Also, you want to make sure that you mention whether people will be able to contact you while you're away or if you won't have access to your phone or email. If you're staying local or within the country and you'll be able to answer emails, texts or phone calls, you can include your cell phone number and state that you'll be checking and responding to emails periodically. If you'll be traveling out of the country and you won't have access to phone or email, you can say that you'll be abroad and you'll have limited access to phone and email (or no access at all). 

One thing you don't want to do in your out of office reply is to overshare details regarding your whereabouts. Going on a beautiful tropical vacation to Hawaii is great for you, but do your coworkers and anyone who emails you externally need to know that's where you'll be? No, not really. Of course, it doesn't hurt to include information like this, but at the same time it isn't completely necessary. 

2. Turn your out of office reply on and off at the right time
If you use Microsoft Outlook as your email service at work, you can actually opt to send automatic replies during a certain time frame that you specify. All you do is choose the dates that you want to send the message and then you select the time you want out of office replies to start being sent and when you want them to stop being sent. I use this feature ALL the time and I love it. It's so nice to set it up ahead of time, too. That way, you can focus on other important tasks you need to wrap up before heading on PTO instead of drafting your out of office reply and setting it right before you leave the office. 

If you're more old school and you don't like to schedule your out of office replies ahead of time, make sure that you turn it off shortly after returning to the office. No one likes getting auto-responder messages when you're clearly in the office. 

3. Consider setting an out of office reply while you're traveling for business or attending an all day meeting or conference
This isn't something you absolutely have to do, but if you travel a lot for work or if you're attending an off-site meeting or conference, it might be a good idea to turn on an out of office reply. This could be useful for when you're on an airplane and not connected to Wi-Fi. Setting a reply that simply states that you'll be traveling for business or attending a meeting but you'll be accessible at different times throughout the day should suffice.

As a little gift to my readers, I'm included a short and sweet out of office reply email template below. Use this as a starting point when writing your next auto-responder email message and feel free to tweak it to fit your writing style. 

Out of office response template:  

Thanks for your email! I will be out of the office from Wednesday, March 14 to Friday, March 16. If your matter is urgent and you require immediate assistance, please reach out to Jane Doe (jane.doe@company.com). Otherwise, I will respond to all messages when I return on Monday, March 19. 
Have a great day! 
[Your name]

Like I mentioned above, you can definitely add a line in that will tell someone whether you'll be accessible or not. If you'll be able to answer emails here and there while you're on PTO, add in something like: "I'll be checking emails periodically and I'll be returning messages as I receive them." This will let the person who tried contacting you know that they'll be able to hear from you sooner than when you return from PTO. 

Now that you know the three tips that I covered above, you'll be rockin' your out of office messages. Bet you can't wait until the next time you take PTO to apply these newfound skills, right? Just remember to always proofread your message before setting it and make sure that your grammar and spelling is correct. 

What are your tips for setting an out of office reply? What information do you always make sure to include? Share with me in the comment section below.