Money·6 min read

Finally Taking PTO? Here’s How to Write an Out-of-Office Message

A women on her laptop
Design: theSkimm Photo: iStock
May 20, 2022

Not only does taking time off reduce burnout, but it can also help instill healthy boundaries between you and your workplace. But before you log off, you need to set an out of-office message. Or as we say in the corporate world, an OOO. 

Wait…what’s an OOO message?

It’s an automated reply that tells anyone who tries to reach you that you’re not available. (Okay, duh.) But it also reminds people that you may not be checking your email as frequently if at all. It sets expectations and it can make it clear that you’re disconnecting, not only from the office but from answering emails, Slacks, and even phone calls. 

Studies show that disconnecting from email makes us less stressed. And being less stressed is a super important proponent of any vacation. But crafting the perfect OOO message can be tricky, especially since it’s something the whole company might see. So you’re going to want to say more than “I’m out, bye.”

Okay, so how do I craft the perfect out-of-office message?

We’re glad you asked. Your OOO should convey three things: 

1. That you’re not available. 

Although it’s important to keep things as simple — and professional — as possible, it’s okay to elaborate a bit about where you are if you want. If you’re out because you’re getting married, don’t be afraid to share the good news. 

But that being said, don’t overshare. It's okay to want to be relatable but telling everyone you're on vacay sipping margs and getting drunk is a step too far. Avoid anything that falls into  unprofessional territory. You can say you’re out sick but no need to tell everyone that you’re out sick with a hangover. Even if your workplace is casual, you never know who might email you while you’re away, so be careful about what you say.

2. How long you’re going to be OOO and when you’ll return. 

This is pretty straightforward. Your team should know when they’ll be able to expect you back at work. This gives your colleagues the chance to decide whether they want to wait for you to come back or continue without you. 

3. How reachable you are. 

If you’re going to be checking your email from time to time, make sure you let people know that. Tell them. If you’re not even going to open your mail app, tell them that too. It’s important to be as transparent as possible about your availability so people know when, if at all to expect to hear from you. 

Also, depending on your role, consider designating a colleague as a contact point in your absence. But make sure you mention to only contact this person if the matter is urgent. You want to avoid putting too much pressure on the people you work with. After all, they still have their own jobs to do. 

Tell whoever is reaching out to you that you’ll respond to everything that’s not urgent as soon as you’re back. Saying “as soon as you can” is important. You’ll have a lot of backlog emails when you’re back and want to set realistic expectations. 

Here’s a simple out-of-office template: 


Hi there, 

Thank you for your message. I will be out of office until [DATE] without access to email. If your request is urgent, please reach out to my colleague [NAME] at [CONTACT INFORMATION]. Otherwise, I look forward to getting back to you upon my return. 

Thank you,

[YOUR NAME] 

Amazing. Now, how do I set this up?

Each email service has a different way to do this. And it’s important to get this right because you don't want to accidentally not leave a message at all and have your colleagues wondering why you aren’t responding. 

How to set an out of office for Gmail:

Turn your "Vacation Responder" on.

Design: theSkimm Photo: Gmail

How to set an out of office for Slack: 

Set your status to “Vacationing.”

Design: theSkimm Photo: Slack

How to set an out of office for Outlook:

Set up "Automatic Replies."

Design: theSkimm Credit: Microsoft

How to set an out of office for Teams:

Set your status to "Out of office."

Design: theSkimm Photo: Microsoft

theSkimm

It’s perfectly valid to take time off. But remember to set expectations, and let your colleagues know what your status is with an OOO message.

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