How to Write an Out of Office Reply

Let’s cut to the chase, the last thing on your mind before vacation is putting up an auto-responder email. More often than not, your out of office message is likely an “Oh no!” moment after you’ve already left the office.

Today’s working professionals are swimming in email — it eats up a staggering 28 percent of our workweek. But that’s not even the worst part; people sending us emails are often in the same boat and are dealing with the same challenges!

Whatever OOO reply method you go with, what’s important is that you remember to do it!

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Think of the last time you sent an important email and didn’t get a response. Your first reaction was probably, They’re just busy. After a few days, you wonder, Did they even get my e-mail? A few days later, What did I do wrong? Then, invariably, What an unprofessional  jerk!

Holiday and Annual Leave

Even though you might be soaking up the sun on the beach or tearing up the slopes, your colleagues and clients  are still in the office and may not know that you’re not around. Failing to tell people that you’re out of the office could come back to bite you, especially if they’re expecting a prompt response.

Before heading out on that much needed time off, it’s imperative that you set an out of office reply to let senders know you’re gone. Before we take a look at some great examples of Out of Office (OOO) replies, let’s first see what we should include:

There is some information which just needs to be in any out of office message. You may think this list is obvious, but it is easy to forget something when you are in a hurry to pack for your tip:

  • Leave date and return date – you should always include both. Your recipients would like to know when they might get the actual response from you. Bonus tip; add an extra day at the end so that you can use your first day back to catch up!
  • Contact details for a back-up – sometimes people may want to contact someone else if they have a very urgent matter, and simply cannot wait for your return.
  • Will you monitor your mailbox? – sometimes, even when you are out of office, you may be checking your incoming emails from time to time. However, if you’re not going to look at emails when you are gone – don’t give false hope.
  • The reason for absence – now this one is tricky. You should include the reason for your absence (vacation/ business travel), but you should avoid being specific. While informing that you are attending an international conference is a good idea, giving details on your vacation is not professional. A safe bet is to simply say that you’re “on annual leave”.
  • I’m sorry – while it’s not your fault that you’re away, it doesn’t cost you to be polite. Saying “sorry I missed you!” is an easy way to show that you care. As an alternative, you can also say “thanks for your understanding” instead.

The “Short and Sweet” Examples:

When in doubt, keep it simple and to the point.

_________________________________________

[Your Greeting] Thank you for your email. I’m out of the office and will be back on (Date of Return). During this period, I will have limited access to my email.

For immediate assistance please contact my colleague at (email address of colleague).

Best Regards,[Your Name]

_________________________________________

 Dear recipient, I am out of office from {Date} to {Date} due to {reason}. Sorry about that. I will be sure to reply to you as soon as I come back. In the meantime you can contact:
sales@example.com for sales inquiries,
support@example.com if you need technical assistance.

_________________________________________

Holiday time:

During holidays, it’s not just you who’s away; an easy approach is for all staff to use the same reply:

Dear reader,
Thank you for your email, but our company is out of office, celebrating {holiday}.
Unfortunately, it means we will not be able to send you any reply until {Date}.
We apologize for the delay but wish you a wonderful holiday season.
Best regards,

Clever and funny:

It’s easy to get caught up on the excitement and want to share the juicy details of your Jamaican holiday with the entire world. This should be done with care, however, as your clients or colleagues may be dealing with a pressing matter that requires immediate attention. A quick Google search can bring up some pretty great examples of how to inject a bit of humour into your reply!

As a final tip, you can also think to include a note in your signature a couple of weeks in advance to give your contacts a head’s up that you’re going to be away. This can be done with a simple line such as:

_________________________________________

Regards,
[NAME]

Please note: I will be out of office from [date] until [date] during which time one of my colleagues will be available to support urgent needs.

_________________________________________

In today’s busy business world, it’s pretty common that you’re still checking your emails even while you’re away – guilty as charged. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you’re still striving to maintain a healthy and effective work-life balance.

Whatever OOO reply method you go with, what’s important is that you remember to do it!

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Autore:

Shaune Peebles is a Canadian English teacher (and world traveller), with over 10 years' experience across Asia and Europe. Shaune discovered his teaching vocation in Guangzhou, where he worked for more than two years at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (GDUFS) and at the Wall Street Institute (among others), before moving to Italy with his wife in 2009. A long-time language trainer in Milan, he completed a certification in Curriculum Development Instructional Design from Mt. Royal University in 2016, and is currently working as a Customer Success Manager for Docebo.
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