An out-of-office (OOO) message is important to foster a trusting, transparent, and productive workplace. Rather than leaving your coworkers waiting for responses from you when you’re away, write a simple OOO message to let them know to either not expect a message right away, or to reach out to somebody else. 

What is an out-of-office message?

An out-of-office (OOO) message is automatically sent to notify coworkers or any emails that you receive that you will not be reachable during your regular work hours. You may choose to set up an out-of-office message because of vacation time, an appointment, or a work conference that takes up a significant portion of your day. 

Return to productivity

Having a history of meeting notes can allow you to easily recall what was discussed, decisions made, and next steps with a tool like Fellow.

Why is an out-of-office message important?

It’s important to send an out of office message so that when somebody tries to reach you, they’re not sitting around waiting for a response. It’s also important because if somebody needs immediate assistance, an OOO message will direct them to someone else who can help. 

However, don’t forget that OOO messages are also for yourself, not just your employees. According to Michelle Gielan, author of Broadcasting Happiness, taking time off can be difficult for some, so sending an out-of-office message will help you set boundaries and disconnect from work on your days off. Additionally, “using these autoresponders — whether during vacation, a conference, or the big moments in our lives like the birth of a child — can create social connection with recipients including colleagues, clients, and vendors,” says Gielan. 

7 things to consider when creating your out-of-office message

When writing a good out-of-office message, it’s important to include and consider the necessary information to make your message compelling. Here are 6 details to consider for your OOO message:

1 The dates you’ll be gone

A good OOO message includes the days that you will be gone so that those waiting for your response know when they can expect a reply or try reaching you if they chose to wait to follow up. Mentioning the dates you’ll be away is also helpful when scheduling meetings, since your coworkers can schedule one when you’re available. 

2 An alternative contact

It’s important to include an alternate way of contacting you, if you choose to, or an alternate person where the emailer can coordinate with. Putting an alternative contact into your OOO message will give those who need immediate assistance another way to get help. 

3 Why you’re gone

According to Gielan, “sharing a small piece of information about you, your trip, or your company’s product or service can serve to deepen a business relationship or the connection a client feels toward your company.” This small piece of information doesn’t have to be an overshare, but a basic explanation of why you’re gone helps you stay connected with your colleagues and clients.

4 The subject line

The subject line of your out-of-office message will showcase what the message is about. It’s important to make a clear and concise subject line for your message so that people will click on it. If the subject line does not reflect what your message is about, your message may get ignored, and people will not see that you’re unavailable. 

Something simple like “out of office from [leave date] to [return date]” will immediately show people that you’re going to be unavailable and hint at them to click the message for more information (like who to contact, the exact dates, etc.). 

5 Platforms outside of email

While email is the most common type of communication for workplace messaging, it’s also important to consider putting your out-of-office message on other messaging platforms that you frequently use. For example, you can change your status on Slack and on Google Calendar to avoid any unnecessary messages or missed meetings. Doing so will help remind coworkers that you’re unreachable from multiple platforms in case they missed the message on another. 

6 Writing the message in advance

If you wait until the last minute to write your out-of-office message, you’ll be rushed and more forgetful. So, take your time to write a good OOO message a few days before you leave. Then, when it’s time to set the auto response message, all you have to do is ensure all the information is up to date and press send!

7 Include your personality

An out of office message doesn’t have to be extremely formal. Feel free to be creative within your response, add humour, or share whatever you feel is right. If you’d like to stay connected while you are away, add your LinkedIn profile. If you’re away on a sunny vacation, add a picture of the beach. It’s ok to make it fun!

What to avoid in your out-of-office message

1 Giving too much detail

While some detail about where you’re going can maintain connections or provide context, too much detail can feel like an overshare. Don’t feel obligated to go into great detail about your whereabouts, especially if your OOO message is shared with clients. For example, say you are away on a family vacation or at a conference.

2 Committing to a response date

Plans change all the time. Maybe you’re on vacation and your flight got delayed, or the conference you’re attending went overtime. Whatever the delay, committing to a response date will make people awaiting your reply count on you to get back to them when you said you would. 

Committing to a response date and not honouring it can be harmful, because if the person waiting has a deadline and you didn’t reply when you said you would, they could miss their deadline. Or, people may begin to worry or become frustrated if you don’t reply when you said you would. So, to avoid any frustration, you can mention the date that you’ll be back to the office or online and include a message saying, “please allow me time to get back to you upon my return as I get caught up on missed work.”

3 Including typos

Typos in workplace writing are unprofessional. They can also convey misinformation and cause confusion. For example, if there is a typo in the dates you’ll be gone, meetings may be scheduled incorrectly. So, re-read and edit your work, even if it’s just an out of office message. 

4 Offering someone else’s assistance without consent

As mentioned, it’s good to include an alternative contact for people to reach while you’re away. However, it’s important to remember to get consent from that person before redirecting people their way. Without getting heads-up or giving their consent, the person may feel frustrated or overwhelmed with incoming messages. 

The best out-of-office message examples 

Pro tip: save these examples as OOO message templates to use during your next leave!

1 Basic OOO message

Hello,

I am out of office from [leave date] to [return date] with limited/no access to emails. Please contact [name, job title, email] for immediate assistance while I’m away. If your message is not urgent, I will get back to you shortly upon returning.

Best regards,

[name]

2 Vacation message

Hello,

I am out of office on vacation from [leave date] to [return date]. During this time, I will be disconnected from my email and enjoying the sun instead. Please contact [name, job title, email] if your message needs immediate attention. If this message does not require immediate attention, I look forward to getting back to you upon my return. 

Sincerely, 

[name] 

3 Internal message

Hi team,

Friendly reminder that I am out of office from [leave date] to [return date]. During this time I will be disconnected from my email. Please contact [name, job title, email] if you need immediate attention. I look forward to getting back to you upon my return. 

Thank you, 

[name] 

4 Out of reach message

Hello,

I am out of office with no access to emails from [leave date] to [return date]. During this time, please contact [name, job title, email] for any immediate assistance. 

Have a great day, 

[name] 

5 Maternity/paternity leave message

Hello,

If you’re reading this, I’m a [mom or dad]! I am out of office from [leave date] to [return date] on [maternity/paternity] leave. In the meantime, please contact [name, job title, email], who will be covering for me while I’m away. I look forward to talking to you (and sharing baby pictures!) when I return. 

Best,

[name] 

6 Medical leave message

Hello,

I am out of office from [leave date] to [return date] on medical leave. I will have limited/no access to messages during this time. Please contact [name, job title, email], who will be covering for me while I’m away. 

Thank you for your understanding,

[name] 

7 Conference/event message

Hello, 

I am attending [name of conference] today, so I will be in and out of contact throughout the day. Please contact [name, job title, email] if your message needs immediate attention. If not, I will get back to you shortly. And if you are at [name of conference], feel free to say hello! 

Thank you,

[name] 

8 Holiday message

Greetings!

I will not be responding to messages from [leave date] to [return date] while our offices are closed for the holidays. Please feel free to contact me after the holidays or await a reply when I return. If you need to get a hold of me for an emergency, you can contact me at [cell phone number].

Happy Holidays,

[name]

Parting advice

Oftentimes out-of-office messages can feel unnecessary; however, they’re essential to foster a transparent, trusting, and productive environment. They also help keep employees updated on who is available when they need help. Try sending an OOO message next time you’re away to see the benefits.