How to Craft the Perfect OOO E-Mail


No matter if you’re taking an early summer Friday or headed out for a two-week off-the-grid vacation, setting your out-of-office email is a necessary task to complete before you go. Communication with your team and clients about when you’ll be gone can help manage expectations about when you’ll be reachable and who to seek out in your absence. But how to craft an appropriate out of office note? Should you be extremely detailed (“I will be at my grandmother’s sister’s assisted living facility from 8:55 AM on Tuesday until 3:45 PM on Monday), or witty (“I’m outta here, beatches! Don’t call me until 9 AM Monday morning!”).

This viral NY Times article last week gave some great examples of how to approach the OOO e-mail, from including notes of humor to using e-mail templates. While your approach may differ depending on your company culture, here are some failproof tips for leaders on delivering an out-of-office email that will allow you to actually enjoy your vacation without worry.

Less is more

People need to know you’re out, they don’t need to know where you’ll be while you’re out. Avoid the temptation to include too much information about your whereabouts— “I’m going on a 4-day wine and yoga retreat!”, “I’m hiking the Himalayas!”,  “I’m running with the bulls in Spain!” For one, such details only invite co-workers or clients to pass judgment, both on your choice of vacation and on the fact that you chose to include those details in your e-mail. Include just as much information as people need to know, including the dates you’ll be gone, and when you’ll be expected back. 

Be clear about how to contact you (if at all), or who to contact in your absence

If you will not be checking e-mail or voicemails while you’re out, say so. If you plan on checking e-mail once a day and addressing only urgent matters, say so. It’s easier to manage expectations to those wanting to reach you before you leave, rather than having awkward phone calls while you’re, say by the pool with squealing children in the background. And if there’s a colleague who will be spearheading your projects while you’re gone, include their information and contact details in your note. 

Auto-responders can be a great tool to avoid e-mail gaffes

Pre-programmed out of office tools are great because they usually cover the basics, and can be used to create a uniform e-mail template for your entire organization. Plus they can eliminate both the pressure to craft a pithy OOO, and squelch worries over including too much or too little information.

Only include humor if you’re funny

Is humor a part of your personality? Are you in a creative field? Do you often respond to e-mails with lighthearted jokes? These are the things to consider before including a funny note in your OOO. A note about how you’re taking two weeks off to train with the circus may fall flat to colleagues who wouldn’t expect that sort of humor from you, especially if you’re a manager or business owner. As a boss, you do have the opportunity to set the tone for how OOO notes are written, but keep in mind that your rep as the boss is still reflected in this short but crucial correspondence.