So, you’re going on vacation.
First of all—lucky you. Have fun, relax, and disconnect.
Speaking of disconnect, that means: step away from your email.
It can be tempting to take your email with you on vacation. However, even though we’re obsessed with email here at Outpost, we really recommend that you don’t do that.
It’s pretty well proven at this point that avoiding time off can cause problems—from loss in productivity to actual health issues, such as increased risk for heart attacks and strokes. With that in mind, it’s important to use your time out of the office to truly unplug—or at least, avoid answering work-related emails.
What makes a good out of office message?
Setting up a thoughtful out of office auto-responder can be a great way to leave your email behind with confidence.
That said, there’s nothing worse than getting an automated response that isn’t helpful.
You want your out of office email to give information and clear up why you aren’t responding right away—and you don’t want to add additional confusion and frustration.
Alyssa Powell, our Digital Media Marketing Specialist at Palo Alto Software, fields a lot of emails—and consequently, a lot of out of office auto-replies. “What makes a good out of office message is that it’s succinct and provides the right details to not leave the recipient guessing,” she says.
According to Alyssa, your out of office message should do the following:
- State that you’re out of the office
- Include your expected return date
- Clarify who to contact in your absence (for urgent messages/requests)
This way, she says, you eliminate back and forth, confusion, and an overwhelming inbox when you return. “The more clear you are, the less follow up emails you’ll receive—and hopefully, a less congested inbox to get back to after you’re away from the office,” says Alyssa.
Is an out of office email response enough?
We’ll get into some templates for out of office messages here shortly, but one quick note beforehand:
When you’re going to be out of the office, sending templated automatic replies is just one aspect of the solution. We do recommend that you have other systems in place, such as delegating the responsibility of managing an inbox to another team member. It’s important to avoid letting a message sit too long without going unanswered, so even if you have an auto response set up, it’s smart to set up additional strategies for managing email while you’re away.
You can read more about how to handle your email while on vacation in this article, including what to do before, during, and after you return from vacation.
Should you say why you’re out of the office?
This, really, is a matter of both personal preference and your overall company culture.
Sharing details about why you are out of the office can be humanizing and add warmth, which can sometimes be lacking in email communication, and especially in automated emails. Sharing some details about where you are going on vacation, that you and your partner are having a baby, that it’s your daughter’s college graduation—any details like this can add a sense of familiarity to email communication, which can be a nice touch.
So, if it fits your company culture to be open and human in that particular way, it’s completely fine to include a brief mention of the details.
That being said, if you’d rather not explain at length, it isn’t necessary. Saying that you are out of the office and leaving it at that is a fine strategy as well. Just make sure, whichever tactic you take, that it feels cohesive with your overall culture and brand image.
Professional out of office messages
Let’s start with the basics.
The most common out of office message you’ll want to set up is your no-frills, professional out of office email message.
Here are some examples of professional out of office messages to draw inspiration from:
Thank you for reaching out. I’m currently out of the office [option to include why—on vacation, at a conference, etc.] until [date], but I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
Hey—thanks for your email. I’m currently out of the office and without access to email; I’ll be back in the office on [date] and follow up with you as soon as possible.
Out of office messages offering a new point of contact
While you’re away, you might want to give those trying to contact you a new point person to connect with.
Note that this might not be the way to go if you’re setting up an auto responder for an inbox that gets a large amount of varied traffic—such as a general customer service inbox. If you’re using a shared inbox tool, this would be a good time to make sure that someone else with access is able to take over for you while you’re gone. You can increase customer satisfaction by removing friction for them—make it easy for them to get a quick response to their message, even while you’re away.
However, for a personal or smaller-scale email account, setting up a secondary point of contact is a good idea.
Examples of out of office email messages offering an alternative contact:
Thank you for your email; I’m currently out of the office [option to include why] until [date], but I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
In the meantime, feel free to reach out to [point person]. Please contact them at [contact info].
Hey—thanks for reaching out. I’m out of the office right now for [reason], but I’ll be back on [date]. If it’s an emergency, or you really need your question answered ASAP, [contact] will be happy to help. You can reach them at [contact info].
Out of office messages for when you need to share some resources
Do you manage an inbox where you get a lot of questions that can be answered by your knowledge base or FAQ? You might want to put together an out of office responder that conveniently offers some of these resources.
As a note: Ideally, you’d leave someone else in charge of this inbox in your absence, so that customers aren’t left waiting for answers. But if that’s not an option, or if you just want to supply some helpful resources, here are some ways to frame this type of email response.
How to share information in your out of office message:
Thanks for your email. I’m currently out of the office, but I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I’ll return on [date].
In the meantime, here are some resources that might help:
- If you’re writing about [question x], find out more about that here [with a link].
- If you’re writing about [question y], you can learn more about that here [with a link].
Still have questions? Feel free to reach out to [contact] at [contact info] for more information.
Hey—thanks for contacting us. We’re away from the office right now, but the whole team will be back bright and early on [date].
Until then, check out our [linked FAQ/knowledge base/etc.]. We’ve covered a lot of commonly asked questions, so you might find an answer to your question there.
We’ll reach out ASAP, and thanks for your patience.
Funny out of office messages
It should go without saying: handle these with care.
Your idea of an amusing out of office message might not quite hit home for someone else. While it might feel glib and cute to put something like “Hi—I’m out of the office, probably drunk from all the margaritas I’m drinking on the beach!” in response to your summer vacation, your colleagues (and investors, and customers) might not find it as funny.
That being said, your out of office message is a great place to inject a little personality into your email. “Some of the best out of office messages I’ve read have included dashes of humor and wit,” says Alyssa.
So, just make sure it suits your overall email voice and tone, and still relays any necessary info. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for fun out of office responses.
Ideas for funny out of office messages:
Thanks for your email—but unfortunately, the entire team was abducted by aliens yesterday, and no one has heard from them since.
Nah, just kidding. But we are away at [event/conference/etc.]. For urgent inquiries, please reach out to [contact] at [contact info].
In the meantime, here are some resources that might help you answer your question quicker:
Thanks for your patience—we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
Thanks for your email. [Your Name] is out of the office [on vacation/relevant info].
When [she/he/they] get back to the office on [date], [her/his/their] inbox will be really overwhelming.
Seriously. It’ll take forever. It’s exhausting just thinking about it. That’s the one annoying part about taking time off work, isn’t it?
So, thanks for your patience—[she/he/they] will get back to you ASAP, I promise.
Out of office messages should be helpful—not a hindrance
As a final note, keep in mind to manage expectations when setting up your response.
Will you actually answer all the emails you’ve received on the first day you return to the office? Realistically, probably not. Even if you regularly try to achieve inbox zero, it will likely be something you chip away at over the course of a few days.
So, consider this before you promise to get back to everyone on a specific date, or “as soon as you return,” as it might set up unrealistic expectations.
Remember, an out of office responder isn’t just a formality—it should be working for you to answer questions (even if the question is simply, “Why haven’t they responded?”) and allowing you time away from the office without worrying about responding to emails.
So, set it up accordingly, in a way that will help both you and those contacting you—rather than cause more confusion.