The Gentle Art of the Out of Office Reply

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We see them almost every week — the out of office email reply from a colleague or contact that helps us think of our next vacation, sipping mojitos in the Maldives! The out of office reply is so ubiquitous, you probably haven’t thought about yours much since you set yours up. True, every time you go on vacation you change the dates in the notification, and from time to time you adjust the wording slightly. But, with a little extra effort, you could do more. Here’s the SaneBox Scoop on making your out of office just a little bit better.

Think About the Main Areas You’re Working On and What You’re Likely to be Emailed About

Before you go on vacation look back over the emails you’ve received in the last month or so and divide them into three or four main categories for your key areas of work. Double check that these are likely to be the areas people will continue to email you about while you’re away.

For Each of These Areas Identify Another Point of Contact in Your Absence

Find out who else in your team can deal with any emails or queries you get while you’re away. Check with them that they’re happy to be contacted in your absence. Ask if you can include contact details aside from their email address in your out of office response.

Setup Your Out of Office Response

Start with the standard message of when you will be out of the office and when you will be returning. Then, list each of the areas where people can send their email in your absence. Next to each one identify the point of contact and their contact details, including their full email address.

For example:

“Thanks for your email. I am out of the office between Monday 1 May and Friday 12 May inclusive. In my absence, you can contact the other members of my team as follows:

For overall planning and project management — Dom Cobb — (xt. 133)

For level design and architecture — Ellen Ariadne — (xt. 141)

For troubleshooting and resolving issues — Arthur Levitt — (xt. 135)

If your email is about something else, please contact Ken Saito —

Otherwise, I will respond to your email on my return.”

Hints and Tips for Effective Vacation Email Management

Here are some more helpful hints on managing email over your vacation.

  • Start including your vacation details in your email signature a few weeks before you go on break — just include a line or two above your email signature (people won’t read it if it’s below your signature) telling people you will be out of the office.
  • Three weeks before your vacation email all the people who normally email you, letting them know you will be on vacation and who to contact in your absence. That will significantly reduce the email you receive while you’re away. Send a reminder email a week before your break.
  • Give people a deadline to send work to you a couple of weeks before your break.
  • If you’re a SaneBox user, use you can create your own custom snooze folder — it’s a super-helpful setting that will “snooze” emails to the desired folder and restore them when you’re ready to tackle them.

How to Set Out of Office Replies in Various Email Clients

Here are some resources on setting up out of office, depending on what you use to manage your email.

So, now you know how to make the most of your out of office. Enjoy your vacation, and remember us when you’re sipping on the sangria!