Focus on the Reader in Your Out of Office Email Reply

By: Janet L Falk, Ph.D

Your long-awaited summer vacation is around the corner. Time to compose your Out of Office (OOO) automated email reply.

You are diligent; you already told your clients and colleagues about your travel plans.

It’s unlikely, however, they will remember the exact dates you will be away.

In addition, when a lapsed client spontaneously reaches out with a problem, or a potential client gets in touch with you, what will be the next step when communicating with them?

Here’s where the specificity of your OOO reply really matters. Draft a brief note that anticipates the usual questions about how assiduously (or infrequently) you are checking email and voicemail, and also how to contact you in a sudden emergency.

Most email providers, whether Outlook, Gmail or another service, have an automated email reply option. The steps to turn it on and off are easy to follow.

The following best practices cover the essential points and address the perspective of the reader by keeping their interests foremost.

  • Your OOO email reply will display the dates of your travel; for example, from Monday, July 18 through Friday, July 29, 2022, so correspondents know precisely when to expect to hear back from you.


  • State whether you will have full, limited or no access to email and to cellphone service during your travels. Perhaps you will follow a schedule to review your emails: for example, once daily or at 8:00 am, 12 noon and 4:00 pm (local time, wherever you are in the world). This points the reader to the likelihood of a response occurring sooner than your planned return to office date.


  • Write how to contact you in the event of an emergency. One possible option is to email you with URGENT in the subject line. Another is to suggest correspondents send you a text message or call your cell phone. Existing contacts will already have that number. (I discourage including your cellphone number in your OOO reply, because the automated reply may be sent to spammers and unfamiliar correspondents.)


  • If there is a member of your team who is able to handle a request in the interim; cite that person’s email address and phone number. Make it easy for the reader to contact someone who is familiar with their situation and provide quick assistance.


  • Indicate the date you will promptly respond to the email when you return to the office; in this example, on Monday, August 1, 2022. This assures the reader of your forthcoming reply.


  • You may wish to direct the correspondent to any informative literature, reports or newsletters posted on your website, in your absence. Encourage the contact to peruse the available resources.


  • Set a calendar reminder to change your automatic email reply back to your standard email signature when you return to the office. Many email providers will notify you that your automatic OOO reply is in effect, so you can make that change expeditiously.

Some people include a humorous reference in their OOO replies, consistent with their individual brand. I discourage this approach. Your note may go to a new correspondent who is unaware of your personality and thereby create an awkward vibe. To each, her own.

Obviously, you exercise full control over your email and your out of office reply. By taking the time to address the interest of the reader, you will establish and maintain an informative, transparent and professional relationship with all your correspondents.

Your OOO email reply, which is your silent partner, will speak loudly and clearly on your behalf. to current clients, lapsed clients, potential clients, referral sources and anyone else who may contact you.

Now that you’ve made your OOO email reply more helpful and transparent, get on the road or the plane and enjoy your moment to disconnect, refresh and recharge. You deserve it.


Janet Falk is a Public Relations and Marketing Communications professional at Falk Communications and Research. She offers members of WOL a review of their OOO reply and more Public Relations and Marketing tips in a Complimentary 30-minute consultation. She guarantees TWO Ideas.

Share this post:

Comments on "Focus on the Reader in Your Out of Office Email Reply"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment