A high-quality out of office reply is the first step to a relaxing vacation, but it is also an excellent service to your contacts if you have busy work days. It’s a simple way to make sure you won’t have to check your email but still make sure you’re both professional and helpful towards the ones always busy at work. However, writing the perfect out of office reply can be hard, here are some tips and tricks.
Why you need an Out of Office reply
The point of having a vacation is not having to think about work. Although, for some people, a complete disconnection is hard to achieve. Regardless if you’re not working at all, or if you are spending your holiday having jour from the beach, the less time and effort you need to spend on work is a good thing. The main point with an automatic out of office message is actually to give you some calm and quiet.
A bonus is that people appreciate knowing when they might have to wait longer than usual for your reply. If we know that people are not ignoring us, but are merely busy, we are much more patient with delayed responses. Most people like to have the information needed to plan their days and make decisions on their own. If they know that you won't reply for a couple of days, they can prioritise their individual tasks in a better way.
Urgent or high-priority tasks are common in some jobs, and it is crucial that they get the attention needed. If you are on a beach somewhere, or in meetings all day, it is better that someone else give the matter full attention. If you delegate all the urgent stuff to a colleague directly in your Out of Office reply, you will be able to focus on what you are doing, and you know that things will be taken care of.
When you need an Out of Office reply
- When you are on vacation or away for some days
- When you are travelling for work or in a different time zone
- For days when you’re in back to back meetings
There are three different cases when I find out of office messages to be very helpful. First, it’s when you are on vacation or on leave for both short and more extended periods. I think the critical thing to recognise here is that depending on how long you’re gone you need to add a different type of information to your message. People don’t need to know exact dates if you’re coming back in six months. And if you’re only gone for the day, and don’t have any responsibilities that can become urgent, you don’t need to add a contact person.
Second, I find it convenient to add an out of office reply when I’m travelling or if I’m working from an office in a different time zone. This is usually because when I’m at NYC time, the office in Stockholm have to work almost a full day before I arrive at my desk, and if something is urgent and they don’t know I’m in a different time zone, they might get a bit frustrated. It’s just a simple way to keep everyone happy.
Third, the days when I have back to back meetings all day, I try to make sure to add an automatic out of office message. The reason is the same as above. If I usually reply quite quickly and it might take a full day before I get back to them, it’s professional and helpful to give them a heads up on that late reply.
What an Out of office reply should include
Some things are essential to add to your automatic out of office reply. First, the start and end date for your absence are crucial. If you come back, tomorrow people might have the possibility to wait for your response, but if you are gone for a couple of weeks, it might be necessary for the sender to reach out to someone else.
Depending on your role it’s also good to direct people to a colleague. However, when you do this, you should always make sure you’re colleagues know about this and is not on vacation himself. Out of office messages that bounce between people like a flipper game is not sending a very professional message towards clients and partners.
If you have a job where high-priority tasks sometimes come your way, you should have added a way for senders to contact someone for instant help. A lot of people add their cell phone number to solve this problem, but that is often not at all necessary. If you can, it might be a much better idea to direct people to a person not on vacation – since they will have a stable internet connection, login details and support documents necessary to help out in a good way. If you put your phone number, they will call you, even when you don’t have to.
In my current role, I usually send people to our press team, both because they always have someone to call, but also because I would have to contact them directly if it’s anything urgent anyway. So it’s better that I direct people to them, and they have the mandate to contact me if I need to be involved.
What definitely not to do
Be careful with joking around about what you’re doing on your holiday. If you are out drinking beer, it’s not very professional to talk about that in your out of office reply. You can be more personal face to face than in an email, but the unspoke rule is not to talk about your own life at work, if you’re not, for example, on a lunch break with colleagues you know quite well.
Also, make sure to check that you turn off you're out of office reply when you get back to work. Too many people send automatic responses for days until a colleague dare tell them about it…
7 pre-written out of office replies to modify for your needs
I will be out of the office from (Start date) until (End date).
If you need immediate assistance, please contact (Person).
I will be out of the office starting (Start Date) through (End Date) returning (Return Date).
If you need immediate assistance during my absence, please contact (Person) at (Contact Email Address). Otherwise, I will respond to your emails as soon as possible upon my return.
Dear Mail Sender,
Thank you for your email. I’m out of the office and will be back at (Return Date). During this period I will have limited access to my email.
For immediate assistance, please contact me on my cell phone at (Mobile Number).
Thank you for your message. I am currently out of the office, with no email access. I will be returning on (Return Date). If you need immediate assistance before then, you may reach me at (Mobile Number).
(Your Personal Greeting)
I will be away from (Start Date) until (Return Date). For urgent matters, you can contact (Person).
I will be out of the office this week. If you need immediate assistance while I’m away, please email (Person) at (Contact Email Address).
(Your Personal Greeting)
Thank you for your email. Your message is important to me, and I will respond as soon as possible.
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