When you’re going to be out of office for a certain period of time, it’s considered polite to leave an “out of office” auto-respond message to let people know. But what are the rules surrounding this message? What information should you include, and what should you leave out?
To help you avoid embarrassing mistakes, we’re here with a list of major dos and don’ts for “out of office” reply emails.
DO use an “out of office” reply. Before you start wondering if such a message is even necessary, we’ll just tell you: it is. People that email you are expecting a reasonably quick response, and if you aren’t going to be able to get back to them before a certain day or time, it’s best to let them know. If you’re going to be out of the office for a day or more, set an “out of office” message.
DO include a greeting. Etiquette is just as important in these messages as in any others. Including something simple like a “Hello” or “Thank you for your email” can add to the friendliness and polish of your message.
DO give a specific time of return. Include when your time out of office will end. This is probably the most important information in this message, so make sure it’s clear. You don’t necessarily need to include the time your vacation started, because anyone receiving your “out of office” reply has already missed you.
DO let them know if you’re reachable. Will you be checking email while you’re gone? Will you be taking calls? If you’re open to fielding these things while you’re out of office, include that information in your reply. If you’re willing to take phone calls, be sure to include the best number to reach you at.
DO direct them to backup. If the writer has a question or concern that requires immediate attention, make sure you point them to a place where they can get the answer. Include the name, email address, and phone number of the person they should contact if they need more immediate assistance.
DON’T include more information than is necessary. You don’t have to include where you’re going, or why. In fact, doing so could just clutter up the email and bury the message’s more important information.
DON’T over-promise. If you’re going on a family vacation, and you really don’t want to check your work email while you’re gone, then don’t even present that as an option. Be realistic about what you are going to do while you’re away. This goes for when you return, too. Use language like “after I return” instead of “when I return” to avoid setting too high of an expectation.
DON’T keep your “backup” in the dark. If you’re going to be directing people to someone else to handle more pressing matters, make sure you tell that person what you’re doing, so they can be ready to field those calls/emails. You want that person to actually be helpful—not caught off guard.
Related: Preparing for a Job Interview
An “out of office” reply message is one of those things that can seem deceptively simple, but there really is an art to doing it right. Follow these simple tips, keep your message short, sweet, and to the point, and you’ll look polished and professional—even while you’re on vacation!
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