Out of office messages are really all about communication. If you’re unreachable, the person contacting you, whether that’s a client or coworker, should receive a cordial email outlining why you’re away.
Unfortunately, many people get this simple task wrong, which can lead to misunderstandings, stress, and conflict at the workplace.
Workipedia by MyCareersFuture has collated some key tips for formulating the best out of office message to demonstrate your strong interpersonal communication skills and boundaries.
Why write an out of office message?
When you take an extended leave of absence, vacation, or sick leave, it can interrupt the natural flow of work unless you have effective systems set up to compensate. An out of office message can inform contacts why you’re unavailable and direct them to resources or other colleagues to help their enquiries.
This message will ensure operations can run smoothly in your absence, and avoid any potential hiccups.
Many office tools like Microsoft Outlook and Google Mail have templates which you can work with.
What to include in your out of office message?
Your out of office message doesn’t have to be elaborate. In fact, it’s best that your message is as simple and straight to the point as possible. The key information your message should include is:
1. Dates you are unavailable
You’d want to inform how long you’ll be away, so leaving the date of your return in your message will be helpful.
2. Reason for unavailability
You could be on sick, childcare, maternity, hospitalisation or annual leave. You won’t need to go into too much detail, like where you are vacationing, for instance. Keep your reason simple.
3. Point(s) of contact for further assistance
While some can wait for you to return if the matter is not urgent, others may not be able to do so. This means providing additional contact is important. This could be your co-worker or direct supervisor.
Optionally, you can offer an alternative email or phone number for urgent enquiries, but be careful. Any paid leave, or unpaid leave, does not require you to perform work duties, and it’s important to set healthy boundaries during this time.
What not to write
Some people can take a more humorous approach to an out of office message and this is fine. It can be refreshing to have some humour in the workplace. But it’s important to remember that these are still official work emails and should be treated as such.
When writing, make sure you are professional and not too informal. Even if you are colloquial with your coworkers, this email may go to new or enquiring clients, and you want to ensure your email represents your company well.
Also, try not to put a lot of pressure on yourself or anyone you direct the recipient to. For instance, lines like “They’ll help you right away” or “I’ll help you as soon as I get back” can cause you and your colleague more stress than is necessary.
Set realistic expectations in your message to avoid unneeded pressure and disappointment.
Sample out of office messages
If you’re struggling with what to write, we’ve put together two sample messages that you can use when customising an out of office message.
Thank you for emailing. I am currently away for [insert reason] from [insert dates] and will not be available via email during this time. If you require urgent assistance, please contact [insert colleague and job title] at [their email address]. Otherwise, I will be in touch once I return.
[your personal closing and signature]
[Your personal greeting]
Thanks for your message! Unfortunately, I’m away from the office for [insert reason] and won’t be back until [return date]. I’ll be happy to respond to your message when I return, but if you need urgent assistance, feel free to contact [name of colleague + their job title] at [email, phone, etc.].
Thanks again, and sorry for any inconvenience!
[Your personal closing and signature]