How To Craft an Out-of-Office Message That Communicates Effectively

That paid time off isn’t going to use itself, but before you set off on a camping trip or staycation, you have to actually let your coworkers know you’ll be gone. That’s where the out-of-office message comes in. It lets colleagues know that you’re not being rude when you don’t respond immediately and ensures that business goes smoothly while you enjoy your time away.

Out-of-Office Message Example Out-of-Office Message Example
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What Is an Out-of-Office Message?

An out-of-office, or OOO, message is an automatic email reply that informs anyone who emails you that you are not available (and thus unable to reply to the message until you get back). The message also includes instructions for where people can direct more pertinent or immediate email requests.

If you’re sick, on vacation, taking an extended leave, or otherwise not available for regular business hours, it’s generally good etiquette to set an OOO message. 

Out-of-office messages usually only apply to email, but some people set OOO messages for texts or even phone calls.

How Long Should an Out-of-Office Message Be?

Much like what your parents or therapist tell you, don’t overthink it. OOO messages don’t need to be long. In most cases, it’s actually bad to go too long. The person receiving your OOO message doesn’t need to read a novel to know that you’re gone.

A good out-of-office message should generally include:

  • The dates when you’ll be gone
  • The date of your return
  • A very general reason for your absence if you feel it’s necessary (“family emergency,” “vacation,” etc.)
  • The name, title, and contact information for your supervisor or colleague in case it’s something urgent

How Detailed Do You Need To Be?

You don’t need to be detailed at all in your OOO message. Consider that your out-of-office message may be read by people outside your workplace who don’t need a full agenda of your vacation, nor do they need to know about a family member being in the hospital. 

“I’ll be out of the office” is a good enough reason on its own.

Examples of Good Out-of-Office Messages

Much like the humble Cheeto, out-of-office messages come in all shapes and sizes. You generally don’t need to overthink it, but you may need to switch up your OOO message based on the occasion or reason for your absence.

A Simple and Reliable Out-of-Office Message

If you just need a good, simple, and to-the-point message for all your out-of-office needs:

Hello,

I will be out of the office from [first day of absence] to [return date]. For urgent matters, please contact [name of colleague or supervisor] at [email address]. Otherwise, I will get back to you as soon as possible.

[Your closing and signature]

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Friendly Out-of-Office Message

If you’re normally a friendlier person, you might go with: 

Hi there!

Thanks for getting in touch! I’m currently [reason for being out of the office], and I’ll be taking a break from my inbox. I’ll get back to any messages when I return on [date of return]. If you need any help before then, please feel free to email my lovely colleague [name of colleague] at [colleague’s email address].

Thanks again, and have a great day!

[Closing and signature]

Out-of-Office Message for a Vacation

For when you’re specifically on vacation, especially one that necessitates you being out of town:

Hello,

Thanks for your email! I am currently on vacation from [start date of vacation] to [end date of vacation]. I will not be checking my email during that time. If your message can wait, I will respond to you as soon as I can upon my return. For more urgent messages, please contact [name and title of colleague] at [colleague’s email].

[Your closing and signature]

Out-of-Office Message for Holidays

Every company will have its own policies regarding holiday plans and who is out of office. During the winter holidays, most offices will have large chunks of time when no one will be around.

Season’s greetings!

Our office is closed from [start of holiday break date] to [end of holiday break date]. I will not be immediately available until [return date]. I may intermittently check my email, but if you have an emergency, you can contact me at [phone number].

Happy holidays!

[Closing and signature]

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Short-Term Out-of-Office Message

While it’s generally not expected out of the average worker, some people set out-of-office messages even if they’ll be away for just a couple hours. This is more common with people who work with many clients who need immediate, round-the-clock assistance.

Hello,

Thanks for your email. I have an appointment today, [today’s date], from [start time of appointment] to [end time of appointment]. If your email can wait, I’ll respond as soon as I’m able. For urgent matters, please contact [name of colleague] at [colleague’s contact information].

[Closing and signature]

Parental Leave Out-of-Office Message

The duration of maternity and paternity leave can vary based on your workplace policies and the state you reside. For those who are eligible, maternity leave typically lasts about 12 weeks.

Hi,

I will be on maternity/paternity/parental leave from [start date] to [end date]. In the meantime, my colleague [colleague’s name] will be taking over my duties and managing my existing accounts. You can contact them directly at [colleague’s contact details].

[Closing and signature]

What Not To Say in Your Out-of-Office Message

Even though your out-of-office message is short, all your typical email etiquette rules apply here. 

  • Be friendly but professional. 
  • Avoid using too many exclamation points. 
  • It’s okay to add humor, but use a light touch. Remember, this is a short OOO message, not your chance to practice a stand-up routine. 
  • And it should go without saying, but don’t be rude or write something that could be implied as rude.

If you do include a colleague’s contact information, make sure that you actually ask them for permission beforehand. They probably won’t appreciate a sudden, unexpected flood of emails that you never warned them about. Avoid language that puts too much pressure on your colleague or sets high expectations, like “they will respond immediately” or “they will provide you with exactly what you need.”