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Out of the office

Use rules to create an out of office message

Only certain types of accounts support the Automatic Replies (Out-of-Office) feature. If you don’t see the Automatic Replies button, your email account doesn’t support this feature. However, if you leave Outlook running while you’re away, you can use rules to reply to your email messages automatically. Rules also allow you to forward emails to another account, mark messages as read, or move them to a folder automatically. For more information on working with rules, see Manage email messages by using rules.

Use rules to reply to incoming emails when you’re away

When you click File in Outlook, you should see a screen that looks something like this:

If you see a button that says Automatic Replies, see Send automatic out of office replies from Outlook. Otherwise, use the following steps to create a template to reply to messages and set up Outlook to reply to every message you receive.

Create an out-of-office template

In Outlook, create a new email message.

Enter a subject and message body for your out-of-office template.

Select File > Save As.

Give your template a name and in the Save as type drop-down, select Outlook Template (*.oft).

You can change the location for your template, but you can also pick the default location, which is usually c:users username appdataroamingmicrosofttemplates. Click Save.

You can create a new template every time you’re out of the office or reuse an existing template. Now you’re ready to use that template to create your Out of Office rule.

Create an out-of-office rule

Select the File > Manage Rules & Alerts.

In the Rules and Alerts dialog box, on the E-mail Rules tab, click New Rule.

Under Start from a blank rule, click Apply rule on messages I receive and click Next.

To reply to every email message you receive, leave the Step 1 and Step 2 boxes unchanged and click Next again. Select Yes when Outlook asks you if you want to apply this rule to all messages.

Under What do you want to do with the message, in Step 1: Select action(s), select reply using a specific template.

Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click the underlined text for a specific template.

In the Look In box at the top of the Select a Reply Template box, select User Templates in File System.

Select the template you created above, and then select Open and Next.

You can add any necessary exceptions, then select Next.

Give your rule a name, for example, Out of Office.

By default, Turn on this rule is checked. If you’re ready to turn on your out of office reply now, select Finish. Otherwise, uncheck this box. You can turn the rule on at a later date.

Note: In order to have the rule send automatic replies to your email messages while you’re gone, you must leave Outlook running.

If you created your out of office template and rule a few days before you needed it, turn the rule on using the following steps.

Select the File > Manage Rules & Alerts.

In the Rules and Alerts dialog box, on the E-mail Rules tab, find the rule you created and check the box to the left of the rule. Then select OK.

Create an out-of-office template

In Outlook, create a new email message.

Enter a subject and message body for your out-of-office template.

Select File > Save As.

Give your template a name and in the Save as type drop-down, select Outlook Template (*.oft).

You can change the location for your template, but you can also pick the default location, which is usually c:users username appdataroamingmicrosofttemplates. Click Save.

You can create a new template every time you’re out of the office or reuse an existing template. Now you’re ready to use that template to create your Out of Office rule.

Create an out-of-office rule

Select the Tools > Rules & Alerts.

In the Rules and Alerts dialog box, on the E-mail Rules tab, click New Rule.

Under Start from a blank rule, click Apply rule on messages I receive and click Next.

To reply to every email message you receive, leave the Step 1 and Step 2 boxes unchanged and click Next again. Select Yes when Outlook asks you if you want to apply this rule to all messages.

Under What do you want to do with the message, in Step 1: Select action(s), select reply using a specific template.

Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click the underlined text for a specific template.

In the Look In box at the top of the Select a Reply Template box, select User Templates in File System.

Select the template you created above, and then select Open and Next.

You can add any necessary exceptions, then select Next.

Give your rule a name, for example, Out of Office.

By default, Turn on this rule is checked. If you’re ready to turn on your out of office reply now, select Finish. Otherwise, uncheck this box. You can turn the rule on at a later date.

Note: In order to have the rule send automatic replies to your email messages while you’re gone, you must leave Outlook running.

If you created your out of office template and rule a few days before you needed it, turn the rule on using the following steps.

Select the Tools > Rules & Alerts.

In the Rules and Alerts dialog box, on the E-mail Rules tab, find the rule you created and check the box to the left of the rule. Then select OK.

14 Game-Changing Out Of Office Examples To Copy in 2019

Out of office messages usually go something like this:

“Hi there, I’m out of the office until DAY OF WEEK, DATE, with limited access to email. If you require immediate assistance, please email […]”

But they can be so much more. You can use them as a tool to show your personality, generate leads, and entertain your audience.

Make every email the best you’ve ever written.

Installed by Over 1 Million Professionals

No credit card required.

Quick refresher: the recipient of your out of office email wants to hear from you. This gives you an easy opportunity to generate leads, get a laugh, and brighten days.

Two Out-of-Office Messages For Lead Generation

You’ve got a fifty-fifty chance that your out of office message will be read by someone who already knows you, is actively reading email, and wants something from you. Sounds like a great time to share content that helps build trust and drive more sales.

Example #1 — Sign Up For Our Course

Below is an out of office message example from our own team, linking to our free 7-day course on sales prospecting. Unsure of what resources you should be linking to? Try checking in with your marketing team about new collateral worth highlighting.

Example #2 — Working The Sales Funnel

We love this example from Upserve’s Director of Marketing, Jesse Noyes. He knows his audience, anticipates what people are emailing about, and provides lead-generating content that offers immediate answers to questions.

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Don’t stop with the perfect out-of-office message. Make all your emails home runs.
Download a free trial of Yesware today.

Going On Vacation? Try One These Out-Of-Office Message Examples

Our brains love surprises. What’s more, research has shown that small surprises that feel like they were “just for you” can spawn some incredibly strong goodwill from the receiver.

Next time you go on vacation, try surprising your customers with an out of office message that breaks the mold. Here are four of our favorite examples for inspiration.

Example #3 — Unleash Your Inner Poet

If you’re feeling creative, here’s a unique idea for your next out of office message.

Below is an example from our Product Education Manager (Note: she truly raised the bar for writing out of office messages):

Example #4 — Getting Your Point Across with a GIF

Everyone can appreciate the excitement of pushing work aside to go on vacation.

Bring this to life by linking to a GIF in your vacation responder message. Here’s an example out of office reply:

Shoot, you just missed me. I wrapped up everything at the office and am off on vacation until Monday, 12/26.

Anyway, if your question or favor can wait, great. If not, do me a favor and forward your email to marketing@yesware.com and you’ll be well-treated.

Not only are you giving your recipient something they can relate to with humor, but a GIF makes your message memorable. As Moz explains, “There’s an emotional component to a great GIF that mainlines sentiments straight through the cerebral cortex.”

Example #5 — The Totally Unreachable Entertainer

When to use: If you’re absolutely unavailable but you want deliver some humor with your message.

Below is an out of office message example from our former head of marketing, for his time away at Burning Man. Notice the picture that he includes–it’s strategically placed. The picture superiority effect teaches us that including an image with text increases a person’s information recall two days later by 55%.

Example #6 — Adorable Animals

Research out of Hiroshima University found that looking at animal pictures actually increases focus and productivity at work. Including a photo (or two) could help create a positive attitude toward you and increase the likelihood that they remember your email.

Here is an out of office message example that our Director of Product Marketing set up before she went on vacation.

Example #7 — Not All Heroes Wear Capes

Is someone covering for you while you’re gone? Acknowledge how awesome they are for helping you out. A few kind words can go a long way — especially if you receive an email from an important customer or prospect while you’re gone.

When you compliment your coworker who will receive requests in your absence, it has a two-fold effect.

  1. It makes that person look trustworthy in the eyes of the reader (and likely strengthens your working relationship)
  2. It shows your reader that you’re kind-spirited and a team player

Here’s one such out-of-office email example (we received it from a blog subscriber in response to an email we sent):

Example #8 — Show Them With Emojis

What happens when you start watching a movie or you flip a station on TV that ends up being in a different language?

It’s the first thing you notice, right?

Emojis are officially a language unto themselves, and they’ll help you catch the attention of whoever has sent you an email.

Business Trip Out of Office Message Examples

Traveling for work might be a standard part of your job, but it doesn’t mean your email can’t be unique.

Example #9 — The Conference Connection

If you’re traveling to a conference that you expect many of your contacts to be at, too, then use your out of office message as a networking opportunity.

Here’s a great example from our Sales Consultant Blair Lineham:

Tired of writing the same emails over and over?

Save those gems as Templates today.

The secret history of the Out of Office message and other fun facts about this workplace staple

By Vanessa Ho 10 December, 2015 Microsoft News Center Staff

If vacation had a starting bell, it should be the out-of-office message. More precisely, it should be the moment, defined by the click of a button, you turn on your out-of-office message, signaling that work can wait, fun is commencing and those little red exclamation points heralding “high importance” will be totally ignored.

To celebrate that moment, Microsoft launched the “Center for Out of Office Excellence,” a cheery, not-so-serious site to help you create your own OOO (out-of-office) memes just in time for the holidays. Upload an image, choose a design type and revel in the joy of OOO.

The “Center” is also a recognition that achieving more sometimes means doing less, with tools like Automatic Replies in Outlook to help you unplug, recharge, connect with loved ones and enjoy the holidays.

Generate your own OOO memes at Microsoft’s Center for Out of Office Excellence.

“I think most of us who live a lot of our lives online are learning that breaks from being constantly reachable, present and ‘on’ can help in every aspect of our lives,” says writer Emily Gould in an essay penned for Microsoft. “A break of any length makes it possible to come back refreshed – to appreciate what there is to appreciate about digital connectivity.”

Gould’s essay was a follow-up to her piece in The New York Times on the “art of the out-of-office reply,” in which she examined OOOs funny to self-important in a look at the whole auto-reply phenomenon.

Social media and flexible work hours mean many of us are publicly online a lot, but not always working. Within that, Gould has found a benefit in out-of-office replies. They provide “plausible deniability” when trying to set work limits and be “present in the moment IRL.”

“When work has no boundaries, it’s up to us to set them for ourselves,” Gould writes.

Of course, being OOO doesn’t always mean vacation; you could be at a conference or the dentist’s office. But in a recent survey of about 1,000 people, Microsoft found that many people feel happy when it comes to all things OOO. More than 77 percent of respondents said setting their OOO feels as if vacation is “officially starting,” and 60 percent said they like seeing creative OOOs from other people.

More than 44 percent of respondents said other people’s OOOs made them feel “excited that things are slowing down! Can’t wait to turn mine on too!”

If there was a downside to auto-reply, it was the potential for FOMO (fear of missing out) upon receiving someone’s out-of-office email. Nearly 30 percent of people have succumbed to the feeling, in which they wondered, “Why aren’t I on a tropical vacation, too?!” the survey found.

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The secret history of OOF

Auto-replies are so universal that they’ve spawned their own legion of acronyms: OOO, OoO, OOTO and OOF. They all make sense — OOTO stands for “out of the office” – except for OOF. What does that “F” stand for?

Turns out OOF is a quirk of Microsoft culture, dating back to the company’s pre-Exchange Xenix email system of the late ‘80s. “Oof” was the name of Xenix’s auto-reply feature and a command to call it up. Decades after Xenix transitioned into Exchange Server in 1993, people still say “oof,” which, like all good slang, has a malleable usefulness. It’s both a noun and adjective.

According to Microsoft Corporate Archivist Amy Stevenson, local lore has always attributed OOF to the phrase “out of facility.” She theorized that the developers of Xenix – a version of the Unix operating system – may have come from an academic or government setting where people said “facility” instead of “office.”

But Stevenson found no material showing that anyone ever said “out of facility,” and she wonders if someone just decided that OOF sounded better than OOO.

“You can’t really say OOOOOOO. There’s no way to end it,” says Stevenson. “But OOF you can say.”

Whatever your acronym of choice, auto-replies are great for telling people you’re unavailable. But what about that avalanche of unread emails when you return? What if you’re worrying about missing an important email when you’re supposed to be snowshoeing with friends? That’s where Outlook’s Auto Replies comes in handy.

Doug Thomas, video creator at Microsoft’s Office help site support.Office.com, shows you tips on using Auto Replies and making Outlook your trusty office-sitter when you’re gone. His video covers how to schedule OOOs, forward emails when you’re out and other helpful tricks of the trade.

Click here to load media

“What’s the point of being on a beach in Bora Bora for two weeks, if you’re just buried by email when you return?” Thomas says.

Imagine that: Letting Office be productive for you while you’re at the beach. That’s an OOO state-of-mind worth celebrating.

Out of the office

It’s important to leave behind an out-of-office messages, when you’re absent or too busy to take calls. You can either prerecord a voice message or have an automated email sent to the person who is contacting you telling them of your absence. But how do you start or finish this one-sided conversation?

An ambiguous message will only invite confusion and repeated calls or attempts, from those who need to get in touch with you. Like Will Schwalbe has so beautifully said, “An out-of-office message stops them from freaking out – and it keeps their paranoia down to a dull roar.”

Would you like to write for us? Well, we’re looking for good writers who want to spread the word. Get in touch with us and we’ll talk.

Truly, these messages can be used as alibis to keep you out of trouble for a while, till you finish with your work and/or other priorities. It all depends on what you want others to make out of your absence. The trick is to be creative and not to put people off; sometimes keeping it simple yet helpful is also advised.

Greeting for the Out-of-the-office Message

The greeting should be generalized for anyone who may try to contact you. For phone calls, a simple ‘hello’ should suffice. Do not use good morning/evening etc., unless you are sure about when you will return to the office.

Dear Sir/Madam (for your customers)

Ending for the Out-of-the-office Message

In some cases, especially if you are a service provider or have something pending with the contacting party, your absence might not be well-received. So, ask for patience at the beginning or towards the end of the message. You can use ‘thanks’ instead of ‘thank you’, for casual messages.

Thank you for your message.

I am sorry that I cannot respond to you immediately.

Thank you for contacting me.

I am sorry, but I would not be able to get back to you right now.

Thank you for understanding.

Please leave a message, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Your patience is appreciated.

Your inconvenience is regretted.

Specifying the Period of Unavailability in the Out-of-the-office Message

Specify the period of unavailability, including dates of absence and/or return, clearly if you are going to be out for a while. Be sure to use the appropriate date format – the middle-endian format (US style, MM/DD/YY) may be confused with the little-endian (UK style, DD/MM/YY), and vice versa. In such cases, it is preferred to use DD-MMM-YY, where MMM stands for the first three letters of the month.

You could also include the day of the week (Friday, Sunday, Monday, etc.) for days you’re most likely to not be around (this could be very useful on weekends etc., when the representatives of your company are unable to respond to clients). If you want a set message to be delivered at a specific time of the day for when you won’t be available for example, after office hours, mention this as well. If your recipients are from different countries, you can mention the timezone you are in. The worst scenario is when you will be out for an undetermined period. In this case too, mention this important bit of information.

I will be out of the office starting [DD/MMM/YY] and will not return until [DD/MMM/YY].

I am out of the office on vacation till Friday, March 24 [or day of the week, month] and unable to receive any emails.

I’m out of my office for an undetermined period of time due to [mention reason in this case]

I’m away at [place you are at: Venue for business trip, industrial project etc.], returning to the office on August 22 [or month, date].

I am currently out of my cabin for lunch [time it takes to return].

Messages sent after 6 p.m. [office closing time] or at 9 a.m. [office opening time], will be responded to on the next working day only.

People to Contact During Your Absence in the Out-of-the-office Message

Would you like to write for us? Well, we’re looking for good writers who want to spread the word. Get in touch with us and we’ll talk.

On similar lines as those mentioned in step 4 above, you can give contact numbers of people who can attend to clients, answer queries and solve issues in your absence. List email addresses for general queries, and phone numbers only when you know some serious issue might pop-up, or when your stand-in does not have access to mails. Also, let your stand-in know you have mentioned him/her for the job so that he/she will not be annoyed at getting unsolicited mails, but reply to them promptly.

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In my absence, please contact [name, phone number and email address].

Please contact [someone else] for emergencies [landline extension].

If this is an emergency, please call my assistant at [phone number].

For any urgent matters, please contact [name] at [email address].

If this is regarding [specify project you’re working on/problem], please call our help desk at [number]. They are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. Eastern Time [timezone].

If you need immediate assistance, feel free to contact [details].

Should the matter be important/should you have further queries, do not hesitate to contact [email address] in my absence.

Mention Reason for Absence in the Out-of-the-office Message

Mentioning a reason for absence, though not necessary, can be very beneficial especially if you are on an official visit. It will inculcate respect for you, since people will find out about the importance you give to your work-related commitments. However, do not use lengthy explanations because it might convey that you’re trying too hard to make an excuse. You can say that you are on vacation too if you do not want to be disturbed. Also, giving too much information to strangers that may call, can be risky. Remember you do not always know who might be trying to contact you.

I am away on a business trip…

I’m overseas on holiday…

Due to medical reasons…

Possibility of a Reply in the Out-of-the-office Message

Mention if you will be able to revert to the issue, if the matter remains unsolved. If not, make it all the more clear!

I’ll only have occasional access to emails. I will review your message upon my return.

I will respond to your email as soon as I return.

Unfortunately, I am away from my email right now, but I will reply to you on my return.

Using punctuation marks excessively or using SMS slang can be considered inappropriate in a corporate setting.

Do not make jokes while writing a formal message.

Remember to keep messages for family and friends separate.

It is extremely important to check short messages for grammatical mistakes, lest they be misinterpreted.

Closing Lines for the Out-of-the-office Message

The closing lines before your name/signature should be very polite. It is always necessary to have an overall positive effect on the recipients. Do not add quotes in the signature if you are not sure how people would react.

Hope you will be able to find answers to your queries from the sites listed [or from the contacts mentioned]. Best regards, your name.

Have a nice day (for voice mails).

Auto-reply Feature for the Out-of-the-office Message

Various email services offer an auto-reply feature that you can use, to send out a common message to clients, coworkers etc. You have to be prepared in case you send an automated message that reaches someone it is not intended for. In this case, you can add a line mentioning that the correspondence is self-generated.

[THIS IS AN AUTOMATED MESSAGE – PLEASE DO NOT REPLY DIRECTLY TO THIS EMAIL]

“Note: This is a self-generated message. Replies to this message will not be answered to.”

Remember to delete expired messages once you’re back. Outdated messages can put others off. Worse yet, you might lose out on clients if they continue to think you are unavailable.

You can always have templates ready at hand to use for varied occasions which cater to different sets of people. These will save a lot of time as well.

Sample Out-of-the-office (OOTO) Automated Responses For Email

Thank you for your message. I will be out of the office from [date] until [date]. I will be checking emails [once a week, every day, etc], but may not be able to respond immediately. For assistance about [the program, feature,etc.], please look at the website at [website address]. If you need an immediate response, contact [name of stand-in] at [phone number] ext. [phone number; extension] or by email at [email_id].
Regards
Your Name

Thank you for your email. I am out on a business conference from Monday, [date] and your email will not be forwarded. Should the matter be important, please contact [email address] in my absence.
Best regards,
Your Name

We are presently on an exciting business trip for an undetermined amount of time, that deals with a company expansion venture. Delays in responding are apologized for in advance. Meanwhile, you can check out our website [website link] to know more about our latest plans. Hope you find all the information you need.
Kind Regards,
Your Name and Designation

Sample Out-of-the-office (OOTO) Automated Responses For Phone

In case you avoid answering phones at your desk, have a voice message ready. When recording such a message on the phone, keep it short, sweet, and to-the-point.

If you are working at a place where direct interaction with clients is required, you might get pesky calls or bulk messages (e.g., orders, requests, contest-entries, etc.). Even in these cases a voice mail is really helpful. Voice messages can be a little more personalized than mails.

Hello. You have reached [your name] at [your company]. I am currently out of town and will return on [date]. If this is an emergency, please call my assistant at [phone number]. Otherwise, leave a detailed, confidential message after the tone, and I will call you back when I return. Thank you.

Hi. This is [name] at [department, organization]. I will be out of the office until [date] but will be checking messages [not possible, often, occasionally]. If you need immediate assistance or information about the process, please visit the company website at [website link], or contact ABC at [phone number; extension]. Thanks for your call.

Hello, this is [name of department]. I will be out of the office all day, but I will be checking in for messages later in the evening. So do leave a detailed message and I will return your call within two days. If you need immediate assistance, please press “0” [redirecting number, if any] to reach [contact]. Thank you.”

Hi. I received a great opportunity to work on an exciting [project]. I’ve asked [professor ABC] to take your classes in the meanwhile. He’s brilliant at his job. I hope you will be as excited to work with him. Thank you.

Now that you know the format, keep these go-to samples ready for every time you are out of the office and want to inform others about it.

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