How to write an effective out-of-office message: 13 OOO examples

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Create the space for an enjoyable vacation

Figuring out how to write an effective out-of-office message can be a cringe-worthy experience for any small business owner.

Oftentimes, the business operations rely on the activity within your inbox. As you think about taking a summer vacation, separating from an email inbox can produce real anxiety.

What happens if your most important customer needs an urgent matter addressed? What if a valuable employee sends one of those, “Can we talk today?” emails? What about if that prospect you’ve been pursuing for months finally sends you an out-of-the-blue, “We’re ready to move forward” email?

The answer to most of these questions is crafting an out-of-office message that outlines multiple solutions in just a few short sentences.

Here’s how to write an effective out-of-office message

As a small business owner, I avoided setting an out-of-office message on every vacation I ever went on. Instead, I furiously checked emails before my family woke up, after they went to sleep, and periodically when waiting for rides at Disneyland.

Spoiler alert: that’s not what vacation is all about.

 

Taking time off is important, and an out-of-office message can help create the space for an enjoyable vacation. Don’t be scared to set that OOO message.

To better understand how to write an effective out-of-office message, we asked small business owners and CEOs for their best tips and advice – including OOO examples and a handy template.

From “being personal” to “stating when you return and who to contact in your absence,” there are several tips that may help you construct the perfect out-of-office message – and avoid common communication pitfalls.

Here are 13 tips on how to write an effective out-of-office message:

  1. Be personal
  2. Select a Gmail auto-reply memo
  3. Copy this template
  4. Have a calendar invite for meetings post-vacation
  5. Avoid making undeliverable promises
  6. Specify when a response can be expected
  7. Be clear and concise
  8. Add value to your message
  9. Include a link to a frequently asked questions page
  10. Proofread your email
  11. Include humor
  12. Add a content promotion note
  13. State when you return and who to contact in your absence

Collage of small business leaders

Be personal

Be personal! If applicable, don’t shy away from being personal and sharing what you are doing. After the past few years of travel not being top of mind, vacations should be celebrated. It also adds a human element, which is something most people leave out.

I would love to see that my accountant is in Florida with his family and visiting loved ones or anything of that matter. I think it can be a great lead-in and be an influence for people to realize business owners have personal lives too.

Sarah Blocksidge, Sixth City Marketing

Select a Gmail auto-reply memo

When you use Gmail, writing an effective out-of-office memo is a breeze. Gmail gives you choices, so you have a variety of out-of-office memos to pick from. For instance, when I go on a vacation, I choose one type of out-of-office memo so people trying to send me email content know I’m away. When I go on a business trip, I pick a different out-of-office memo. It helps to give a time range so people wanting to contact you know when to expect your return.

Janice Wald, Mostly Blogging

Copy this template

Here is an example of a simple out-of-office template you can copy and use.

In the subject line, write: Out of Office – Back on {date}.

In the body of the email, write:

“Thank you for your email. I am out of the office from {Date} to {Date} and will get back to the emails in the order in which they were received upon my return. For urgent needs, you can reach me at {Emergency Contact}. Thank you for your understanding!”

Raaquib Pathan, Salesmate

Have a calendar invite for meetings post-vacation

An effective out-of-office message should include a link to your calendar where people can view it when you return and can schedule a meeting post-vacation. Several tools, like Calendly, offer simplified scheduling in a professional manner. This way, people never feel left in the dark and can know when the best time to reach you is.

Shaun Price, MitoQ

Avoid making undeliverable promises

My best tip for writing an effective out-of-office message is to avoid making undeliverable promises. When you’re writing an out-of-office message, it’s courteous to ensure that there won’t be any hiccups in work due to your absence. But making over-reaching promises that might be difficult to fulfill can become quite problematic.

For example, promising that your colleague will fulfill their needs immediately. You don’t know whether your colleagues will be able to find time in their schedule and come through with your promise. As such, it is important that you don’t get carried away with your promises.

Ryan Stewart, Webris

Specify when a response can be expected

Out-of-office messages can be tricky for a small business owner. It’s possible that there is no one else who can cover or provide a response to certain questions, so be sure your OOO message includes when they can expect a response. If you’ll be checking email throughout the day, mention that. If you won’t have access to the internet until night, let your recipients know. If you won’t be available until the trip is finished, that’s important to include. As long as you set the right expectations on response time, people will typically be understanding that they don’t hear back right away.

Logan Mallory, Motivosity

Be clear and concise

Don’t overcomplicate things when writing out-of-office messages. Be straightforward with your message in a professional manner to keep things clear and concise. You don’t need to be humorous and geeky in your message. Just letting them know when you’re returning and when they can contact you is enough.

Meera Watts, Siddhi Yoga International Pte. Ltd.

Add value to your message

Respect people’s time by adding value to your message. For example, after letting them know you’ll be out of the office, add a list of activities you’ve learned that reduce stress. Include your latest recipes for a delicious protein shake. Share a link to your favorite book.

Unfortunately, most aren’t thrilled about receiving an out-of-office message in response to their email. By adding something of value, you can at least make them feel a bit better about having to wait for your response or having to forward their email elsewhere.

Elliot Schwarcz, Becca’s Home

Include a link to a frequently asked questions page

When setting up an automated out-of-office message for your business, one of the best things to include in your automated email is a link to a frequently asked questions page. This will allow general questions to get answered quickly, as well as save you the time of sifting through emails once you return back to the office.

Oshen Davidson, Oshen Davidson Photo

Proofread your email

No matter how professional and creative your content is and how well you structure the email with a professional layout, if a single grammatical error is present in the content, it will automatically lose all of its credibility. Professional entrepreneurs pay attention to the details, so it’s a good idea to write all your emails free from any grammatical mistakes if you want to make an impression.

Donta Hallmon, I Peep BXS

Include humor

One benefit to being overworked is that you sometimes get punchy. Write your out-of-office message then, because people like “funny.” People remember funny. Vacations are supposed to be relaxing so write that you’ll be busy sleeping or golfing or snoring.

Everyone can relate to needing a break.

 

Leave your emailers something fun like a brief multiple choice quiz about why you can’t respond to their email. “A. I’m on vacation. B. I’m on the most important business trip of my life. C. I’m trapped under a large object. Send help.”

Not only does a funny out-of-office message deliver much needed laughs, but those trying to reach you are less likely to be annoyed that they can’t do so if they’re smiling.

Michael Van, Furnishr

Add a content promotion note

Aside from thanking them for the email, citing when you’ll be back, and providing an alternative contact, you can also use your out-of-office email to garner eyeballs for your business page content. Add a line about checking your recent ebook or blog post and add a link to it to give your contacts something to check while awaiting your reply. It is an incredibly effective and free promotion to take advantage of as a startup business.

Collen Clark, Schmidt & Clark, LLP

State when you return and who to contact in your absence

One thing I highly recommend is letting people know exactly when you are scheduled to be back and respond to emails, but also who to contact in your absence. One of the most frustrating things for people is waiting, which is made worse when people don’t know how long they will be waiting  I also recommend making it clear who they can go to if their query is urgent and what information they will need to provide so they can collect all the information and address the issue on your behalf or have it all ready for you upon your return.

Sajan Devshi, Learndojo

Go ahead, take that vacation

So, there you have it! All the OOO examples and tips provide that extra relief and confidence to enjoy your vacation.

Not to jinx it, but despite your worst fears, vacations can be taken without significant disruptions to your small business. Set your OOO message, enjoy your vacation and your business will be there when you get back.

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Image by: Craig Garner on Unsplash