With so many people working remotely and constant access to multiple devices these days, it can be challenging to truly step away from your work even when you’re out of the office. It’s tempting to want to reply to emails that come in on your time off, but that’s not always an option (not to mention it’s better for your mental health and work-life balance to avoid it). It’s important to allow yourself to be truly offline when out of the office, but it’s also understandable to feel like you owe a timely response to your customers and others contacting you.
A thoughtful automated message set for your time out of the office is a kind way to let people know that you’re on vacation but you’ve received their message and can give them a sense of reassurance as to when they can expect to hear from you.
Why is an out-of-office message important?
Having an out-of-office message prepared helps to keep your customers and contacts informed of your whereabouts. If someone is trying to reach you, they can be politely notified that you are not available to get back to them at the moment but can give them a piece of mind knowing that you received their message.
This automated out-of-office message also helps to decrease the number of unanswered emails when returning from vacation. Having already notified people of your vacation in your message, you have the freedom to get back to them in a manner that is more convenient and organized for you.
Above all, having an out-of-office message ensures that your customers’ needs are met in your absence. You can include other forms of contact or point them in the direction of other teammates by incorporating that information into the message.
How to write an 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.
Your out of office message should include the following:
- State that you’re out of the office (include why if you are comfortable with sharing, but don’t feel pressured to)
- Include the date you plan to return
- Have links to resources answering common questions
- Clarify who to contact in your absence (for urgent messages/requests)
This way you eliminate back and forth, confusion, and an overwhelming inbox when you return. The more clear you are, the fewer follow-up emails you’ll receive—and hopefully, a less congested inbox to get back to after you’re away from the office.
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 setup, 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 use more than one out-of-office email message?
If you just manage one inbox, then having one out-of-office message to cover your emails while on vacation is just fine. However, if you are involved in multiple inboxes, it may make sense to have a few out-of-office messages with slight variations depending on the different information you may need to share.
Keep in mind all of the types of inquiries you usually receive in your inbox and cater your message or messages to be the most helpful in those situations.
Out of office message examples
Your out-of-office message will look different depending on the type of information you wish to share. It may be something as simple as a mention that you are out and will return on a specific date.
You might choose to point the person in a different direction to get help from another teammate, or you may even want to send them some helpful resources while you are away. Here are some helpful out-of-office message examples for you to try in your own professional email:
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:
Professional out-of-office example #1
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.
Professional out-of-office example #2
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 autoresponder 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:
Alternative contact out-of-office example #1
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].
Alternative contact out-of-office example #2
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:
Info sharing out-of-office example #1
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.
Info sharing out-of-office example #2
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:
Funny out-of-office example #1
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.
Funny out-of-office example #2
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.
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.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2019 and updated for 2021.