Out of Office Emails 101: Do’s and Don’ts

Regardless if you’re going on a business trip or heading for a ‘no work contact’ vacation, you’ve got everything planned out, starting from plane tickets to out of office (OOO) emails. Setting automated OOO messages is one of the last things to do before you part ways from your work. Their content must be clear and contain just the appropriate information otherwise you might run into problems while you’re out.

In one of our previous blog posts, we’ve talked about 3 reasons why you shouldn’t use OOO emails, whereas this article focuses on productive ways of designing such messages. Below are some do’s and don’ts for creating effective outgoing emails, along with some out of office email examples.

Best way to structure out of office emails

    1. Do include the exact dates when you are not in the office. This reply tells people when you are unavailable and provides a return date
    1. Do communicate delayed response times. For situations when you’re out of office and you know you’ll have your hands busy with many other tasks when coming back, it is always good to let customers know that it might be a while before getting back to them.
    1. Do include the reason for your absence. Usually, if you let people know that you are OOO on a vacation trip, they will be less likely to try to contact you.
  1. If possible, do communicate alternative contact information. For urgent matters, either provide the name, phone number and email address of a contact person or your personal phone number.

Here are some basic email templates showing what an OOO email should contain:

Thank you for your email. I will be out of the office from mm/dd to mm/dd and will have limited access to email / will not have access to email. As a result, my reply might take a bit longer than usual. If this is urgent, please contact [name] at [email] or [phone].

Best regards,

Or

Thank you for your email. I am out on a business conference from [date] to [date] and your email will not be forwarded. Should the matter be important, please contact [email address] in my absence.

Best

Sorry my out-of-office gave you false hopes of my swift and enthusiastic response.

What to not include in out of office emails

    1. Don’t give too much information. I get that you are impatiently waiting for your vacation getaway, but writing this particular information in an OOO message may look like bragging. This can be misinterpreted and look bad on you.
    1. Don’t try to be funny. Even if you are the funny person in the company this should not be reflected in your emails. Using an amusing tone in outgoing messages most probably will be misinterpreted, similar to providing unnecessary information.
    1. Don’t commit other’s help without talking to them first. You cannot know for sure if your colleagues are able to take care of your emails when you are gone, so before offering their email addresses in your OOO message have a quick talk with them first. If they agree to do it, only then provide their contact information in your out of office emails.
  1. Don’t make typos. Your OOO emails could be sent to anyone, so avoid typo mistakes by proofreading everything before setting auto-reply messages.

Below are some OOO email templates that should NOT be used:

I appreciate you trying to reach me, unfortunately – I am out of office sunbathing. I will be back at [date]. It will probably take me two additional days to get used to my office and dig through hundreds of new urgent emails before I get back to you.

Or

I will be out of the office for the rest of the day without access to email. If this is an emergency, please call emergency services.

Out-of-office emails will be automatically forwarded, neglected, misunderstood and/or deleted

Go the extra mile

Of course, if you are feeling wary about prospective leads that you won’t be able to instantly get back to, you can set your OOO emails to include relevant links on your website, or draw attention to ongoing promotion so that it would pique their interest even more.

Thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately, I’m out of the office from mm/dd to mm/dd with limited / no access to email. If this is important, contact [name] at [email] or [phone] and he/she will take care of you.

Did you email me about [service your company provides]/[ongoing promotions]? Great! Read more about it at (link [to the services the company is proving]/[current promotions]).

I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Best

The out of office emails function is to let people know that you are not available for a specific amount of time. They don’t have to be long or complicated, but rather short and concise. So next time you write your OOO messages, use it to inform and assist the email sender. 

Now go and enjoy your vacation! Get some rest by preparing everything before leaving office. Schedule your emails with the Send Later feature in case there is some important communication that needs to be taken care of while you are away.

Summary

If you are still not decided about what type of OOO email suits you best, remember these do’s and don’ts when writing your message. Communicate the exact dates when you are not available, let people know about prolonged response times, include a reason for your absence, and if possible, provide alternative contact information. Don’t overflow the email receivers with too much information, keep away from jokes and funny emails, don’t offer a colleague’s help without running it by them first, and always check for typos. All in all, if you keep these tips in mind when creating out of office emails, you should have no problems creating professional ones.

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