Out of office messages: What to include and what to avoid

It’s time for some hard-earned time off! Whether you’re headed for the beach or visiting family you haven’t seen for a while, wouldn’t it be nice to disconnect from the digital world for a while? But before you disappear, you can set up automatic replies for your emails so the senders know when they can expect a reply.
Family of four runs through field of grain at sunset
Why worry about replying to emails when you’re out having fun?

We’ll show you how it works– and share some examples of effective – and funny – out-of-office messages.
 
  1. Why set up an out-of-office email?
  2. What should a professional out-of-office reply say?
  3. What to avoid in your out of office messages
  4. Funny out of office message examples
  5. How do you create automatic replies in your mail.com account?
  6. Setting up an automatic reply in Outlook

Why set up an out-of-office email?

There are a lot of reasons you might not be able to reply to personal or work emails – the obvious examples being vacation or sick leave. But there might also just be days when you know you won’t get around to reading your emails – like if you need to concentrate on a big freelance project and want to let your customers know you’ll only be checking email once a day. Letting people know when they can expect an answer shows that you’re reliable.

Automatic replies save you headaches

Setting up an automatic reply will let others know that you are not available for the time being. This means they will immediately receive a return notification on their email with your out of office message. Therefore, the sender will not have the expectation that you have read and acknowledged their email. Just imagine you are on a vacation for three weeks and all the emails you receive within those 3 weeks had no idea you were out of the office. Once you return you might have a few follow-up emails requiring feedback, current progress, and resolutions. Automatic replies already save you the headache of having to email everyone back apologizing for the delay because you were out of the office.
 
Pro Tip: If you’re an entrepreneur or running a small business, automatic replies can help you with your customer service. Aside from the most common reasons of being on vacation, you can also set up an automatic reply for your small business. Automatic replies in this case would confirm to your customers that their email was received by you and your team.

What should a professional out-of-office reply say?

Not sure what to write in an out-of-office message? If it’s an automatic reply for work, the most important information for your colleagues and customers is how long you will be gone, when you will be back, and who they can contact if they need urgent assistance. You may also like to provide them with a way to contact you in emergencies or tell them why you are gone.

Ready-to-use out of office messages templates

Professional:
“Thank you for your email. I am currently unavailable and will not be able to respond to your emails until (date of return). If you require immediate assistance, please contact (name and contact information for alternative point of contact). Otherwise, I will respond to your message as soon as possible upon my return. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Best regards,
Sarah”

Vacation:
“Thank you for your email. I’m currently out of the office enjoying some much-needed time off. I will not be able to respond to emails until I return on dates (date of return). If you require immediate assistance, please contact (name and contact information for alternative point of contact). Otherwise, I will respond to your message as soon as possible upon my return. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Best regards
Sarah”

Simple:
“Thank you for your message! I am currently out of the office and will not be able to respond to emails until (date of return). If you matter is urgent, please contact (name and contact information for alternative point of contact). Otherwise, I will get back to you as soon as possible upon my return.
Thanks for your understanding!
Sarah”

Sick leave: “Thank you for your email. I am currently out of the office due to an unexpected illness and will not be able to respond to emails until I return on (insert date of return). During my absence, I will not have access to my work email or voicemail. If you require immediate assistance, please contact ((name and contact information for alternative point of contact). Otherwise, I will respond to your message as soon as possible upon my return.
Thank you for your patience and understanding,
Sarah”

Family & Friends (Informal): “Hello, Family and Friends! I’m currently out of the office and enjoying some much-needed time with my loved ones. If you need me, you can find me on the beach with a drink in my hand and toes in the sand (just kidding, I’m probably chasing after my kids). I’ll be back in the office and ready to tackle your emails on (date of return). In the meantime, feel free to send me pictures of your pets, your latest baking creations, or any good jokes you’ve heard lately. Thanks for your understanding and talk to you soon!
Sarah”

What to avoid in your out of office message

It might be hard to imagine that all information is not good information to offer up when creating your out-of-office message. We would assume that the more information we give the better, but that is not the case. Here are some things to avoid:
  1. Listing specific dates and times of absence. It is definitely important to let others know when you will be out of the office and unable to be reached. On the other hand, you shouldn’t give very specific information because it is not necessary and makes you a target for scammers and hackers. (ex. I will be out of the office in Jamaica from June 9th, my family and I will be landing at 1PM and I am returning home on June 16th at 11:30PM. This can be remedied with simply saying “I am out of the office from January 8th -16th. I will be returning to work on the 17th.”
  2. Sharing too much personal information. For a good professional email, it is best practice to keep your out of office correspondence as professional and work-related as possible. You should avoid sharing other personal information that is not relevant to your absence.
  3. Trying to be funny or inappropriate comments. There is a time to live your best comedic life and a time where a little bit of humor just is not needed. Don’t get us wrong, you can add a little pizazz or personality to your out of office message; however, you should maintain a professional tone. Avoid making any inappropriate comments that may reflect badly on you. That would be the worst to come back to after being out of the office.
  4. Detailed trip/plan information. We know you might want to tell everyone you’re driving across route 66 for the first time ever, but it’s probably best not to. If you share specific information about your trip or plans, this could make you a target for hackers and scammers.  You can always share the breathtaking photographs, experience, and fun times when you’re back. In these cases, it is best to keep the information in your out-of-office email relevant to your work.

Funny OOO message examples

If you are setting up an automatic reply for family and friends, you can certainly use the approach above, but you can also feel free to get creative. Just remember that this is not the approach to take in your professional out of office responses – so be sure to save it for your personal email account! Here are a few classic automatic replies to inspire you:

I’m taking a break from email while I’m on vacation, but if it’s important you can contact me on Twitter. Please use the hashtag #InterruptingYourHoliday.

Congratulations – you are the proud winner of a free automated email response! If you email me again before July 6, you have a 100% chance of winning again!

I’m unable to reply to your email due to a family emergency: The Wi-Fi is down at our house and the kids are on the verge of killing each other.

How do you create automatic replies in your mail.com account?

As you may know, mail.com offers options for adding a signature on emails and sending automatic replies. So, setting up an out-of-office message for one or all of your mail.com addresses couldn’t be easier. Simply go to E-mail Settings and click Autoresponder. Mouse over the email address you’d like to create an automatic reply for and click on the wrench symbol that appears to the right. Or click Autoresponder for all your sender addresses to send the same automatic reply to all your incoming messages:
Screenshot of Autoresponder window in mail.com E-mail Settings
You can set up automatic replies to one or all of your mail.com addresses

This will open a window where you can set the dates for your automatic reply and save the message you want to have sent (up to 500 characters), as in the out of office message sample below:
Screenshot of out-of-office options in mail.com settings
Enter the time and text for your autoresponder and click Save

Setting up an automatic reply in Outlook

If you use MS Outlook in the office, simply click on the File tab in the upper left corner of the application. If you see a button marked Automatic Replies (Out of Office), you can click there and follow the intuitive instructions to create and activate your out of office message.

However, if you use Outlook with POP or IMAP to check a third-party email account (like your mail.com Premium account) this option will not be available. To set up an out of office reply, you will have to use the “Rules” function instead. Unfortunately, to send automatic replies to incoming messages, you will have to leave Outlook running while you are away.

If you would like to use this option, the first step is creating an out-of-office template by composing a new email containing your vacation message and saving it as an Outlook template (*.oft). Once you have done so, go to the File tab and click the Manage Rules & Alerts button. Now you can set up a new rule using the “reply using a specific template” option. (Setting up email rules in Outlook can be complicated, so we recommend visiting the Microsoft support page if you need assistance with your out of office message in Outlook.)

We hope you found this information helpful! Before you start composing your out-of-office message, please give us some feedback below!
 
This article first appeared on June 21, 2021 and was updated on March 16, 2023

Images: 1&1/Shutterstock

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