When you’re leaving the office for vacation, or even just for the weekend, with no intention of checking the inbox, you might sometimes find yourself stuck to your desk for much longer than you need.
It’s because there’s one last thing you have to write before closing the laptop and going into your “offline mode”. The out-of-office message.
It might come easy, especially when you just want to get it over with quickly. But, maybe you’re feeling fancy or you want to step up your email marketing game and want to change up the uninspired automatic response to something quirkier. Or, maybe you don’t know how to start at all. Luckily, we’re here to help.
If you want to know what an out of office message is and how to set it up, skip to section A Quick Guide to Out of Office Messages.
If you want to learn about automated emails, see our article 30+ Automated Emails You Should Be Sending Today.
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Best out of office message examples
Last month, we asked some of our pen-pals for their favorite examples of out of office emails that made them chuckle, were creative, or interesting in their own way.
Here are the top out of office message examples we received (in no particular order):
1. When you’re enjoying Christmas (and not planning on working!)
Subject Line: Out For The Holidays…But While I Have You:
We were doing some link building outreach for a client and got this brilliant automated response from Michael.
Great personality to it, makes it clear he’ll be partying and over-indulging – but is still professional (so we’ll definitely wait until after this period’s over before contacting him again!)
And he also puts an entire list of useful blog posts he has written. Which from our perspective comes in extremely useful as we can offer to share one/some of these on social media when he gets back to us.
– Amit Raj, Link Builder & Founder @ Amit Digital Marketing
2. Mix holiday humor, humanity, and a hook
Subject Line: Missed me by a hair
It’s been a big year for Patrick Coddou, founder of Supply. And his out-of-office reply hooks recipients into that fact without coming off as arrogant.
How? By nestling links to two of his brand’s most popular YouTube videos (including its win on SharkTank) alongside razor-related puns and holiday humor. At the same time, he sets clear expectations about his availability — or lack thereof. Well done!
– Taylor Holiday, Managing Partner & CEO of Common Thread Collective
3. Another fun fact: I’m OOO!
The email consists of all the necessary elements, but also LOTS of fun facts to make the recipients smile!
It’s a great example of breaking the rules to make people enjoy your emails even more. Is the list irrelevant to the message itself? Yes. Will you spend at least 15 minutes to check out all those links? Also, yes. But, is it hilarious and super interesting? Definitely!
4. Something clever that only industry insiders will get
Subject line: 302: Temporary redirect
It’s really frustrating when you need to reach someone and they aren’t available. So I like to make that dull “out of the office” auto-response a little more entertaining to lighten the mood. Since Terakeet is an enterprise SEO company, I include a geeky auto-reply that only other SEOs will get. Hopefully, it makes others feel smart and me look clever.
– Jonas Sickler, SEO Manager at Terakeet
5. Show that you care and how to practice self-care
Subject Line: Downtime is part of my self-care routine
While humor and emojis and snark play well in OOO messages, I’m a fan of the disarming sincerity shown by Amber Hawthorne, the founder of Bambu Earth. For a skincare company that purports to care about “Real Beauty” (and laces nutrition and other lifestyle advice in on top of product-focused skincare recommendations), it only makes sense that Amber would say, “Hey, I’m taking time off for self-care, and you should too.”
I even read this and thought, “She’s right: those 3 recommendations would probably really help me.”
It’s super on-brand, and it just makes me trust and admire Amber and Bambu Earth that much more.
– Andrew Faris, CEO of 4×400
6. KISS (or keep it simple, stupid)
Subject line: OOO till Jan 2
I’m personally a huge fan of communicating the most amount of information with the least amount of words (or keeping things simple). While this OOO is a standard issue and doesn’t compare to some really funny ones shared here; I do add in a bit of the “ha, gotcha!” type of humour in the mix along with a reassurance that I will get back to them as soon as humanly possible.
– Aditya Sheth, Content Marketer at Venngage
7. If you sell snow cones (or anything)… set this up
Subject line: Snowed Under Sno Cones Love You!
It shows the personality behind the brand. No one minds waiting for a response if you’re slaving away making snow cones that kids will be raving about to Mom for years to come (plus a few extra to throw at your annoying younger brother!).
But what if someone has a serious snow cone addiction, and needs their fix NOW? Then there is a direct mobile number for the owner (aka Sno Cone Mogul) at the company.
– Chris Von Wilpert, Chief Content Maverick at Content Mavericks
8. Bad and good news
I really like the structure of this message by Niklas Dorn, the CEO of Filestage. It adds a twist to the narrative of the email.
It starts with the bad news that the sender is not available but still provides a helpful solution if the recipient has an urgent inquiry: the good news. In the case the recipient hasn’t found the information they were searching for, there’s still another reference to the company blog, which is a clever move.
– Max Benz, Content Strategist at Let’s be crazy
9. Let your emoji do the talking and sell (without selling)
Subject Line: I’m 😶 for 🎁 but don’t be 😢…
This was one of the few holiday OOO replies I immediately took a screenshot of and thought to myself, “I have to steal this!” Why? Three reasons.
First, the email oozes personality in an autoresponder world otherwise dominated by the mundane and dreary.
Second, it’s easily actionable; namely, the choose-your-own-adventure instructions.
Third, it contains the most meta “PS” I’ve ever seen in my life — a sales pitch that doesn’t feel like a sales pitch:
“PS. I’m sure you’ve guessed this is an auto-reply… but isn’t it fun? If you need help making your automations feel human, have I got a 🎁 for you!” (the bold part linked to their article)
That link sent me to the article pictured below:
My response? 🧠 + 💣 = 🤯 (I told you I was going to steal from it!)
– Aaron Orendorff, Founder of iconiContent
10. Out of office with a CTA
Subject Line: Out of Office till 2 Jan
I like the out of office message from Bertrand, the founder of Youzign. There are a couple of things that I like about this template. The first paragraph:
– Sets expectations – there’s a clear subject line, which is reinforced in the first sentence
– The second sentence covers what to do in case of an emergency
– The paragraph ends with an explanation of when you are likely to hear back from the author
That covers pretty much everything you need from an out of office template. The second paragraph is a bit more like a PostScript with a business-relevant Call to Action.
– Nico Prins, Founder of Launch Space
11. If you’re selling something, now would be a good time to remove me from your list… and check out these cool offers!
It’s completely upfront. First, it asks you to quit spamming….
”If you’re a salesperson and this is your 3rd or 4th unsolicited attempt to sell me something…this would be a really good time to reevaluate our relationship and probably take me off your list.”
Then, it offers you links to content, it suggests you donate to a non-profit, and even apply for any of his open positions. How great is that?
One of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s an automatic way to make good things happen.
– Andy Crestodina, Co-founder and CMO, Orbit Media Studios
12. Jon Snow
This is one that I came across in an article in the New York Times. I’m including it here because I think it’s a great example of using current events or pop culture to catch people’s attention. It’s also a great way of saying you’re on vacation without showing off/ bragging. Of course, this will depend on your organization’s work culture, as some businesses might require a more serious approach. But if you can have a bit more fun with your messages, then this type of message is great.
“Thanks for your email but I’m out of office. My family is headed up north with a supply of dragonglass for our friend, Jon Snow. If we have time, we’ll likely go beyond the wall, but not sure yet. So while we go and do that, I will not have my phone or computer with me (terrible reception beyond the wall anyway).”
– Nikola Baldikov, Digital Marketing Manager at Brosix
13. Using GIF’s & timely cultural references
Subject Line: Out of the office until January 6th — This is the way.
It’s short and sweet. It lets me know why you’re gone, when you’ll be back, and most importantly, they’ve immediately created a rapport with me. Being that I’m an avid Star Wars fan and have been watching the Mandalorian, it made me smile and want to build a relationship with the person on the other side of this email.
– Elise Ingram, Editor at HireWriters
14. Time for holidays!
Subject line: Out of the office till January 2
The message said:
“Thanks for reaching me out. I am out of the office chilling with my friends.
In case you are still working and want to chat – some of my colleagues are hard-working for you and will respond to your email within 24 hours.”
Mentioning that you are chilling will create an informal atmosphere. Also, by saying that your colleagues will reach you out – you provide a hope that we will deal with your question.
– Krystyna Krajevskaja, Social Media Manager at Whatagraph
15. Sharing excitement and vacation vibes
You might think I’m tooting my own horn here – because the following message is mine. And you’re not wrong! I’m proud of this email and it reminds me of my big trip to California.
I was going to be out of reach for over two weeks, so I wanted to make sure that people understood how important this absence was for me. That’s why I came up with a lighthearted vacation responder, showing my excitement.
Thank you for your email! I’m currently out of the office until September 2nd.
And, while going to San Francisco, I’ll be very busy ♫ wearing flowers in my hair and meeting gentle people there ♫ meaning that, unfortunately, I won’t be able to reply.
But, our blog doesn’t take a vacation – so stay tuned for updates on getresponse.com/blog 😉
I’ll reply as soon as I come back.
I used my usual, casual tone, so that it didn’t sound robotic. I shared my excitement and combined it with my love for music. And, last but not least, I ended it with a link to our blog, so that my contacts had something great to read while waiting for my reply!
A quick guide to out of office messages
Below, you’ll find the whats, the whys, and the hows of OOO autoresponders.
What is an out of office message?
An out-of-office message (or an OOO email) is a kind of an email autoresponder that is sent automatically to anyone who tries to reach you via email when you’re not available to reply.
Is it out of the office or out of office?
Sometimes it’s confusing, but the rule of thumb is – you can say you’re out of the office, but usually when referring to the autoresponder, it’s out of office.
Why should you set up an out of office autoresponder?
When people expect you to reply quickly, and you know you’ll be away from your inbox for a longer time, it’s important to set up an out-of-office automatic reply, so that your reputation remains intact and your contacts aren’t disappointed. It can also provide valuable information. For example – if you’re usually helping people with urgent matters via email, you can refer them to your cover or other sources of help.
What can I achieve with a good out of office message?
The autoresponder doesn’t have to be a basic notification-like email. You can actually achieve some of your business/marketing goals if you write a creative copy with said goals in mind.
The benefits of a well-crafted vacation responder can be, e.g., increasing conversions or traffic to your website. You can promote your content, lead people to your social media profiles, or even use the copy to emphasize your brand voice.
But (at least for me) the most important thing you can achieve with such an email is minimizing the number of usually increasingly aggressive “why are you not responding? are you there? just a reminder (…)” emails you’ll have to read when you come back.
How to set up an out of office message?
When you have your copy ready and the details (dates, alternate contact info, etc.) in mind, setting up an OOO is fairly easy and shouldn’t take up more than 5 minutes of your time. Each email provider has a different process, so it’d be best if you checked the exact instructions on their help/support pages. (Here are the two most popular ones if you need a quick fix: Outlook and Gmail)
How to write good out of office message copy?
Crafting an out of office autoresponder can be really easy if you know the basics. That’s because even the shortest proper OOO email should always consist of a few simple elements (and some crucial information).
What to include in an out of office message?
- a subject line – it can be as simple as “an automatic reply”
- some kind of a greeting – it’s always nice to be polite, even if you’re not really there. A simple “hello” or a “thank you for your email” will be highly appreciated!
- info that it’s an automatic reply (to avoid confusion)
- that you’re out of office / away from the keyboard (well… duh!)
- the dates of your leave or the time when you’ll be reachable again – so, for example, “I’m out of office this week”, “I’m on vacation from MM/DD to MM/DD” or “I’ll be back next Monday”
- whether and when you’ll reply – to be honest, I can’t think of an instance where your OOO email would be stating that you won’t reply to incoming emails when you come back. But, it’s common courtesy to include something along the lines of “I’ll reply to your email as soon as possible.”
- contact information for urgent matters – whether it’s your phone number or your colleague’s email address, you should provide an alternate means for contacting you (or someone who can leave a reply for you). You can simply use “In urgent cases, please contact [name], [email address]” or “While I’m out of the office, message me on Facebook”
Mistakes you should avoid in your out of office email
You can spice the email up in thousands of ways, but (as always) there are lines you shouldn’t cross.
Here’s what you should omit in your autoresponder:
- Being too brief
“OOO. I’ll be back next month.” – unless you’re referencing The Terminator, or you had to leave work very, very quickly, this kind of message is just not enough. Show your contacts some love!
- Sounding too thrilled that you’re not working
Sure, going on vacation is exciting, and taking a break from replying to emails is a huge feat. But, think twice before writing “ugh, what a relief, I hope I don’t ever go back to work!”. It’s a tiiiiiny bit unprofessional and creates a bad image of your brand or employer. Same goes for “have fun working while I’m having the time of my life!” – we’re glad you’re excited, but there’s no need to flex that hard.
- Being highly unprofessional
There’s a fine line between a “fun, but still professional” email and a “please don’t let HR see this” email. That’s why “I’m currently enjoying mimosas by the pool” would be OK, but “Stop writing to me, I’m totally wasted rn, see ya later suckers” DEFINITELY wouldn’t.
A simple out of office message template
Here’s what a simple, straightforward, and professional out of office message might look like:
Thank you for getting in touch. I’m currently out of the office with no access / limited access to email. I will be back on [MM/DD], and I will try to reply to your email as soon as possible.
In urgent cases, please contact my colleague [NAME]: [email address] or [phone number].
Thanks for your understanding.
Remember – you don’t have to stick to any template. You can make it fun and personal. (Still, bear in mind, this message will probably be received by professionals, colleagues, etc., so it shouldn’t be overly casual.)
And, as I mentioned before, you can achieve various goals with it.
Getting the most out of your OOO message
You can include lots of different things in your autoresponder – explanations as to why you’re away from the keyboard, jokes, promises of a prompt reply… You name it. But, why not sprinkle a little strategy here and there?
Here’s what you can do:
- generate leads: encourage people to subscribe to your newsletter with a link – you know, so that they don’t miss you too much while you’re away
- drive traffic to your content: similarly to the tip above, you can mention a recent article on your blog, an ebook or a case study that you’ve worked on for so long that you had to take a much-needed break
- build opportunities for networking: if you’re unavailable because of a conference your company is attending or a speech you’re giving, encourage people to come say hi
- grow your social media following: subtly suggest that you can stay connected through social media, or that you’ll be posting amazing stories on Instagram throughout your leave, or that your company’s Facebook profile is the comedic relief they’ll need if they start to miss your witty puns in the email thread
- establish your brand voice: if you usually communicate with fun copy, use emojis and hilarious one-liners – do the same in your autoresponder. It can feel disingenuous if there’s a switch to “Dear Sir or Madam, I am not in the office nor have I access to my inbox, but I express gratitude for your email” all of a sudden
*Bonus*: buy more time to reply. It’s more of a reminder than a tip, but if you’ve learned your mistakes and you know you’ll be totally swamped by emails by the time you get back – say that you’ll reply when you manage to go through your inbox (and not at the exact moment you step your foot at work). You won’t be as stressed about replying to every single email on your first day back at work, and your contacts will be a bit more patient.
What’s your out of the office style?
Do you prefer the fun out-of-office emails or the straight-to-the-point, brief ones? Have you ever receive an automatic reply that you though was unlike any others? Let us know in the comments below!