How to Write Out-of-Office Messages for Any Situation
How to Write Out-of-Office Messages for Any Situation

How to Write Out-of-Office Messages for Any Situation

Whether you are working in an office or remotely, a well-crafted out-of-office message is essential if you are going to be unable to respond to your emails as quickly as usual – like if you are on vacation, long-term sick, or on maternity leave.

In this article, we will look at what makes a good out-of-office message and how you should word it to be most professional, and what you should include for the best outcome.

We will also discuss potential pitfalls and things that you should avoid including in the message.

What Is a Professional Out of Office Message?

In essence, a professional out of office (OOO) message is an automatic response that is sent when you receive an email, both from colleagues and from customers.

The response lets the person who emailed you know that you are away from your desk and will not be able to reply as usual.

In the out-of-office message, you need to convey to the sender that you are unavailable – and why you are unavailable – and what that means for their message.

In some cases, you might be able to refer the sender to a colleague to help them with their enquiry, or just let them know when you will be able to respond personally.

Almost every professional email service offers some sort of auto-response; you can often set them to cover a certain amount of time and create a message that each person who sends you an email will be able to see.

In this message, you want to professionally convey that you are not able to respond in the normal timeframe that you would, and let the sender know how their enquiry could be dealt with and give them next steps to get the response that they need.

If you do not set an out-of-office message, then colleagues or customers who are unaware that you are away might either think that you are being rude and ignoring them – or they might send you multiple messages, clogging up your inbox.

Using an OOO message means that every person who tries to communicate with you while you are unavailable will know what to expect.

You might want to use an out-of-office message in the following situations:

  • Short absences – Half-days, appointments, or long meetings that mean you won’t be able to respond the same day.
  • Vacation – Taking a couple of weeks to soak up the sun means you probably won’t want to answer any emails.
  • Sick leave – Where possible, if you are going to be off following a hospital appointment or similar.
  • Secondment – If you are working elsewhere in the business for a period of time, you might want to add an auto-response to explain that you won’t be in the same position or dealing with the same workload.
  • Maternity leave – This type of leave is typically longer than other types – and that means that you will need to give more specific details about the cover that is available while you are away.
  • Sabbatical – If you are taking a career break or a sabbatical, the auto-response should give an email sender the details they need to get their query answered.

What to Include in an Out of the Office Message?

There are just a few things that should be included in an out-of-office message – and the main thing that you should consider is that it needs to be short, succinct, and to the point.

Dates You Will Be Away

If possible, you want to make sure that you share the exact dates that you will be away, including the date you will return to the office.

This will help email senders to know when they might expect a response, or when they might email you again for a response.

Reason for Your Absence

This doesn’t have to be in-depth, but giving a brief reason that you are not going to be available will help the email sender to understand why.

You can merely say that you are on vacation, or taking some personal time – but a simple, straightforward reason is all that you need to share.

If You Will Be Checking Your Emails

While you are out of the office for whatever reason, you might not want to check your emails or even be able to – but you might want to check in periodically.

Either way, explain to the sender so that they can decide what to do in your absence; either wait for you to return, or get in contact with someone else in your absence.

Who to Contact in Your Absence – If Anyone

While you are away, you might want to get a colleague to answer any urgent queries on your behalf – and if the absence is longer term, you may even have a temporary replacement.

You should provide their name and email or telephone number.

If there is more than one person that you are going to refer queries to, then you should detail what areas of your role they will cover, for example – for payroll contact x, and for credit control contact y.

Out of Office Message Outlook Examples

Out-of-Office Example One

Thanks for your email.

I am on vacation from 28th July to the 5th of August inclusive, and I will not be responding to emails during that time. I will endeavor to respond when I return and look forward to connecting then.

Kind regards.

Out-of-Office Example Two

Thank you for your enquiry, but I am out of the office on vacation and I am unable to access my emails during this time.

I will be unavailable from 1st April until 14th April inclusive, returning to work on the 15th of April.

If your request is urgent, you can contact my supervisor on [email]. If you require my assistance personally, please email me again after 15th of April for a response. In the meantime, I hope you are well.

Warm regards.

Out-of-Office Example Three

Hello, and thank you for sending me this message, but I am not available to respond as I am recovering following an operation. My return-to-work date will be in late May.

In the meantime, my workload is being covered by Chris Jericho (new customers) [email] and Maxwell Friedman (existing accounts) [email] or general enquiries on

I look forward to connecting again when I am fit to return to work.

How to Write Out-of-Office Messages for Any Situation
How to Write Out-of-Office Messages for Any Situation

Out-of-Office Example Four

I am taking a half-day on Friday, which means that I will be unable to respond to your email until after the long weekend.

I look forward to connecting with you on Tuesday.

Best wishes.

Out-of-Office Example Five

Hello and thanks for the email.

I am on secondment within the business so I am not completing my usual roles in the company – but you can speak to Aubrey Edwards in my absence who will be happy to help. She can be contacted on [email] or on [telephone number].

Kind regards.

Out-of-Office Example Six

Hi, thanks for the email you have sent. I will be on leave between the 3rd of August and the 23rd of August, with limited access to my emails. If you need my help urgently, please email me back with URGENT in the subject and I will respond when I get the opportunity to check.

I look forward to speaking with you at a later date.

Kind regards.

What about Maternity Leave Out of Office Message?

Maternity leave, adoption leave, and in some cases paternity leave, can be much longer periods of absence and may result in changed working patterns on your return – which means that you might need to share some different information when crafting that out-of-office message.

You’ll need to let both colleagues and customers know that you will be away for longer and give some specific information about who to contact in your absence.

In some cases, your role might be covered by a temporary maternity cover employee – your out-of-office message should clearly state that this is the person to contact until your return.

If you know what dates you are starting your maternity leave, and you are not planning to work until the last possible minute, then you might want to start sending your out-of-office message a couple of weeks before that date so that your customers and colleagues are prepared.

Your maternity leave out-of-office message should include the following:

  • The dates of your leave and when you plan on returning. If there is no set date, you can give a general idea – like September or in the spring.
  • Why you are unavailable. You might not want to share all the details about your new arrival but explaining that you are on maternity leave will often allow the recipient to understand why you won’t be available.
  • Who to contact in your absence. The likelihood is that you won’t be thinking about work while you are on maternity leave, so you won’t be answering your emails – in that case, you need to be clear on who will be your point of contact while away. This might be a colleague, a temporary replacement, or your line manager, for example.

Example Maternity Leave Out-of-Office Message One


Thanks for your email. I am not going to be in the office from the end of August 2024 until around May as I will be on maternity leave. Whilst I am away, my role will be looked after by Britt Baker who is my temporary replacement and has been brought up to speed for all my clients. She can be reached via email on [email] or by phone on [number].

I look forward to connecting with you when I return.

Warm wishes.

Example Maternity Leave Out-of-Office Message Two

Hi and thanks for getting in contact.

I am not in the office at the moment as I am on maternity leave, so if your enquiry needs urgent response, please contact my line manager Daniel Garcia on [email] who will be happy to help. I will be checking in on my inbox intermittently through this period, so I can respond personally if you would prefer.

I will be returning to the office on the 24th of September, and I look forward to connecting with you then.

Best regards.

What to Avoid with Your Out-of-Office Message?

Revealing Too Much Personal Information

You don’t need to reveal the reason for your absence at all in your out-of-office message, but if you do, you need to remember not to share too much information.

You don’t need to tell everyone who is sending you an email about your travel itinerary, or go into detail about a planned medical procedure, for example. The briefer the better.

Injecting Too Much Humor

Even if the business you work for has a relaxed and informal company culture, it is best not to try to be witty or funny in your out-of-office message.

Firstly, you do not know who might be emailing you – and humor can often fall flat or be misinterpreted.

Don’t brag about being on vacation or make it sound like you are rubbing it in your colleagues’ faces that you are somewhere hot and sunny while they are stuck at work – at the least, this is unprofessional and might rub your workmates up the wrong way.

Making Promises

While you might have all the intentions of replying to all your emails on the day you return, the likelihood is that you actually won’t have time to. There will be many other tasks that you will need to complete when you come back, and the sheer volume of emails you might have to wade through could make an instant response impossible.

Making Promises on Others’ Behalf

While you might be sharing the contact details of a colleague who will be taking over your workload, you won’t know what they will be dealing with when you are away – so don’t make promises of an instant response or similar because that would be unfair.

Also, make sure that you are only sharing the contact information of colleagues who you have first asked permission of – and don’t give personal details without asking first.

Frequently Asked Questions

An out-of-office message, also known as an OOO message, is an automated email response that notifies senders that you are currently unavailable and provides information about when you will return or who to contact in your absence.

A good out-of-office message should be clear, polite, and informative. It should include the dates of your absence, an alternative contact person if applicable, and a brief message explaining the reason for your absence. It can also express appreciation for the sender's understanding.

A maternity leave out-of-office message should mention your maternity leave dates, an alternative contact person (if applicable), and express your excitement about the upcoming addition to your family. You can also include instructions for urgent matters.

A sick leave out-of-office message should mention that you are currently unwell, provide an expected return date (if known), and offer an alternative contact person for urgent matters.

For a brief absence, you can simply state that you are out of the office for the day, provide the date of your return, and suggest contacting a colleague for immediate assistance if needed.

When leaving a job, your out-of-office message should inform senders that you have left the company, express gratitude for their past interactions, and, if possible, provide contact information for your successor or another point of contact within the organization.

The steps to set up an out-of-office message in Outlook may vary depending on the version you are using.

Generally, you can find this option in the 'File' or 'Tools' menu, often labeled as 'Out of Office' or 'Automatic Replies'. Follow the on-screen instructions to configure your message.

In Gmail, you can set up an out-of-office message by clicking on the gear icon (Settings) in the upper-right corner, then selecting "See all settings." Go to the "General" tab, scroll down to "Vacation responder," and follow the instructions to set your message and specify the dates.

A holiday out-of-office message should specify the dates you will be away, convey warm holiday wishes, and provide information about who to contact for urgent matters. You can also use holiday-themed language or quotes to add a festive touch.

A professional out-of-office message should be concise, respectful, and include all relevant information (dates, alternative contact, reason for absence). Avoid slang, humor, or overly personal details.

The duration of your out-of-office message should match the length of your absence. It's advisable to turn it off as soon as you return to work.

Using humor in your out-of-office message can be acceptable in some cases, but it should be used cautiously and in a professional context. Make sure it's light-hearted and won't offend anyone.

Avoid controversial or potentially offensive humor. Humor is a matter of personal style, so use your judgment based on your workplace culture and the expectations of your audience.

Final Thoughts

Providing a professional out-of-office message is not only considered the correct etiquette in the workplace, but it also provides colleagues and customers with the information they need.

Whether you are on sick leave, on vacation, or taking time out for your family, the out-of-office message that you automatically respond with while you are away should provide the sender with the date you will be back, and the actions that they can take in the meantime to get their enquiry answered.