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If you’re going on holiday or are sick and either can’t or don’t want to be reached by email, then an automatic answer in the form of an out of office reply is useful so that your uninformed contacts aren’t kept waiting. An out of office message is a compact text that conveys the most important facts: How long you’ll be unreachable, when your contacts can expect an answer, (optionally) the reason for the absence, and, if necessary, a personal note. A referral to another email address, e.g. to one of your colleagues, is often helpful or even necessary.
- Out of office message: Step by step
- Personalised notes - Customize your out of office message
- Out of office message: Templates
- The risks attached to using an out of office message
To be certain: An out of office reply is a standard part of good email communication. It can be set using the autoreply function of your mail provider or program - just don’t forget to turn it off when you return!
What belongs in the text of an out of office message depends on the context. While some companies expect a formal response, elsewhere it’s common to lighten up the text with small personal elements. In principle, though, an out of office message isn’t personalised - it’s automated. As is so often the case, it’s not what you say but how you say it. After all, you don’t want to annoy or offend anyone who tries to contact you.
Of course, you can always rely on templates and examples when composing an out of office reply. But how do you formulate the perfect out of office message?
Create your own email address with your own domain! Setting up an out of office message is then incredibly easy.
Out of office message: Step by step
In the title, it’s customary to simply write “Out of Office Reply”. This way, everyone knows that you’re not available immediately after receiving the automated response.
Start your out of office message with a greeting. You can also thank them for the incoming message. A combination of these is also possible.
- Dear Sir or Madam, …
- Thank you for your message!
- Hello, and thank you for your email!
In the second line of the text, you should write the most important information: the time that you can be reached again as well as the reason for your absence. If you’re going to be absent for an indefinite amount of time, then just naming the reason is enough. Information about when you’ll be reachable again leaves a better impression than stating the time of your absence.
- I am currently out of the office on holiday. I will reply to your message when I return on Monday, DD/MM/YY, hh:mm.
- I will be back in the office on Monday, DD/MM/YY, hh:mm.
If your emails aren’t going to be forwarded or can’t be viewed by a colleague, it is sometimes important to share this information. Depending on the clientele, it may be useful to give a reason or express regrets.
- Your message will not be automatically forwarded.
- For reasons of confidentiality, your message will not be forwarded.
- Please understand that your message cannot be forwarded.
If you’re represented by a colleague, you can direct your contact to their email address and/or telephone number. A request to only use this option in urgent cases can help filter out smaller matters.
- You are welcome to contact COLLEAGUE with any requests you may have: email@example.com.
- In urgent cases, you can contact my COLLEAGUE: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For emergencies, please call the following number: XXXX.
You can use a simple ending to finish your message. In an out of office reply, although, it’s also quite common to omit them entirely.
Overview: Components with examples
Dear Sir or Madam, …
Thank you for your message!
Hello, and thank you for your email!
I am currently out of the office on holiday. I will reply to your message when I return on Monday, MM/DD/YY, hh:mm.
I will be back in the office on Monday, DD/MM/YY, hh:mm.
Your message will not be automatically forwarded.
For reasons of confidentiality, your message will not be forwarded.
Please understand that your message cannot be forwarded.
You are welcome to contact COLLEAGUE with any requests you may have: email@example.com.
In urgent cases, you can contact my COLLEAGUE: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For emergencies, please call the following number: XXXX.
Personalised notes - Customize your out of office message
Your out of office message doesn’t have to be as formal as in the above examples. In many fields, for example, you can deal with customers in a more relaxed and cordial manner. Among colleagues, this is especially true if email communication is limited internally within the company so only your colleagues would read the message anyway. Even with many external business partners, a “quick” reply is still common. We show you here how you can personalise your out of office reply and which parts you should forgo.
Personalised out of office message: What you can do
When it comes to style, you can decide for yourself what suits your company. Keep in mind that your supervisors may receive the same out of office message as your colleagues with whom you maintain a more relaxed tone. Consider these tips with caution.
I’m on holiday!
Feel free to contact me when I’m back on DD/MM/YY.
I’ll be back on DD/MM/YY - recharged and ready to go!
Use a special occasion
Happy New Year!
We’re heading off for the Christmas break. Happy holidays to you and yours!
Humour among colleagues
As long as I don’t get eaten in the jungle, you can reach me again on DD/MM/YY.
Here’s to hoping I don’t fall into a ravine on my hike!
In urgent cases, please contact the potted plant on my desk.
Personalised out of office message: What you should leave out
Out of office messages are a fundamentally formal ordeal. Certain stylistic devices can overshoot the mark. We show you which mistakes you should definitely avoid.
I’m finally on my hard-earned holiday!
I’m running away from my desk into the wilderness.
I’m getting out of here! Hold down the fort for me!
“Who cares” attitude by keeping the message too short
I’m on holiday and won’t be reading any more emails until DD/MM/YY.
I’m out of the office until DD/MM/YY. Please don’t send me any emails.
I’m not there! I’ll be back on DD/MM/YY.
(A picture of a sunbathing polar bear)
(Quote) “What by a straight path cannot be reached by crooked ways is never won.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
(Emoticons) Keep your chin up! ;) Cheers, John :D
Out of office message: Templates
General formal out of office reply
Dear Sir or Madam,
Thank you for your email! I am on holiday at the moment and will be back in the office on DD/MM/YY.
For reasons of confidentiality, your message will not be forwarded. In urgent cases, you can contact my colleague COLLEAGUE: email@example.com.
Formal out of office reply with referral for customers
Thank you for your message. I am currently on holiday and don’t have access to my email. Feel free to contact me when I return on DD/MM/YY. Until then, my colleague COLLEAGUE will represent me. You can reach him/her via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or telephone (XXX-XXXX), and he/she will be glad to assist you. Thank you for your understanding.
Informal out of office reply for colleagues
If you’re reading this, I’m on holiday. No worries - I’ll be back on DD/MM/YY! In the meantime, COLLEAGUE (email@example.com) has kindly agreed to represent me. Please contact him/her in urgent cases.
Stay healthy, everybody! I’ll bring you back something from Argentina - I promise!
See you soon,
Informal out of office reply for customers
Thank you for your message! I am currently on holiday and will return on DD/MM/YY. Unfortunately, I will not have access to my email in the meantime. Please don’t hesitate to contact my colleague COLLEAGUE (firstname.lastname@example.org) in case of an emergency. Your mail will not be automatically forwarded. Thank you for your understanding.
I look forward to seeing you again soon.
The risks attached to using an out of office message
Using an out of office message is part of customary, professional email communication. However, it is essential to think twice about the information you share when setting up your OOO message.
It is becoming more frequent for criminals to use the information you share to their advantage. For example, criminals could use the information to plan a break in to a home or an office. Moreover, automatic out of office messages carry a great advantage for spam senders, when sending messages to thousands of randomly generated email addresses, the automatic reply acts as a filter, letting senders know which addresses actually exist.