If you have plans to be out of the office for a period of time, then setting your out-of-office email message is a must. The last thing you want to do is upset clients, coworkers, or vendors by going dark with no explanation.
For those new to the business world, your out-of-office message is the most common form of automation related to email. Once activated, it sends out a predetermined email message to anyone who emails you while you’re out, telling recipients exactly what they need to know.
Image via AND CO from Fiverr
How to Set Your Out of Office in Gmail
Thankfully, setting this up in Gmail is easy to do and only takes a few minutes. Here are step-by-step instructions for setting your out-of-office message, plus some helpful examples you can steal for your own use:
- Navigate to mail.google.com
- Click the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner below your account name:
- Click Settings:
- Scroll to the bottom of the page to the Vacation Responder block
- Turn your Vacation Responder on:
- Set active dates for the Vacation Responder:
You’ll have options to set a “first day” and “last day,” or just “first day.” If you want things truly automated, picking a “last day” will trigger the autoresponder to automatically turn itself off the day after the selected date. Of course, in those instances when you’re unsure of your exact return date, it’s best to leave this open-ended.
- Set the email response subject line:
The “out of office” subject line is much less creative and scientific than say, a cold email subject line or a marketing email subject line. More often than not, they’re very plain and simple, like the following:
- Out of Office
- Out of Office Friday, Nov 8th – Friday, Nov 9th
- I’m Out Til Monday the 12th
On the other hand, you can get more interesting or playful with subject lines such as:
- I’m at Growth Marketing Conference – Are You?
- Bonjour from France! 🇫🇷
- Happy Holidays! I’m at home with my family.
An easy win here is to be specific about your out-of-office dates, or to be upbeat about why you are out of office.
- Type up your out-of-office response:
Don’t forget to click Save Changes at the bottom to finalize your message.
Note: While you could test your out-of-office message, you can also see it’s working because Gmail conveniently overlays a yellow bar at the top of your inbox reminding you that your autoresponder is on, along with options to “End now” or adjust your settings.
Out-of-Office Message Best Practices
There are multiple ways to craft your out-of-office message, but there are a couple of standard best practices to follow that will ensure you don’t come back to angry or confused customers, coworkers, or vendors.
Reiterate Out-of-Office Dates
This might seem obvious, but make sure you clearly state and restate the dates you’ll be out of the office. Even if you put the dates in your subject line, you should also repeat them in the message body. It’s hard to over-communicate here. State exactly when you’ll be back, and whether or not you’ll be responding to calls and emails while you’re out. If you’re on the road but are responding to messages, let everyone know if you’ll be unavailable for an extended period (while on a flight, for example), if you’ll be in a different time zone, and in general, that they should expect a delay in response time. All in all, set realistic expectations and strive to be as specific as possible.
It usually isn’t enough to just say you’re out and won’t be responding to messages. You’ve got to give people options for how they can get their issue or request resolved. One of the easiest wins here is to provide alternative contact information. That could mean providing your mobile number while you’re out, or, more commonly, providing the phone number and email of the colleague (or department) that will be covering while you’re away.
Again, be as specific as possible and provide as much detail as possible on how they can get their questions answered or problems resolved. This will ensure you come back to fewer fires and headaches.
So what do good out-of-office messages look like? Here are a handful of examples that will help you craft the perfect out-of-office message:
Out-of-Office Message Examples
I will be out of the office on Thursday, November 8th, and Friday, November 9th. I will be back in the office on Monday, November 12th, and will not be responding to any emails until that time.
If you’re a customer who has finished onboarding, and you have questions or concerns about your current database, please submit a support request through your database, or email email@example.com for assistance. You can also reach support at 888-324-8756.
If you are a customer still in onboarding, please reach out to your Data Migration Specialist, Jane Smith, at Jane.Smith@somecompany.com or 971-314-6323.
Hola from Ibiza, Spain!
Don’t you wish you were here? I’m snorkeling, deep sea fishing, and doing all the touristy stuff for the entire week starting Monday, November 12th. I won’t be responding to calls or emails until I return on Monday, November 19th.
If you need super-urgent assistance, you are more than welcome to parachute onto the island and meet me on the beach! If that isn’t possible, please contact Jane Smith at Jane.Smith@somecompany.com or 971-314-6323.
I’ll be unreachable for a few days starting on December 11th because I’ll be at Growth Marketing Conference. I’ll have limited ability to return phone calls and emails until I return on December 13th, but if you want to talk accounting software options or learn all about the latest growth marketing tactics and tips when I return, please shoot me an email. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. If you need immediate assistance, please contact my assistant Megan White at 971-841-0098, or at Megan.White@somecompany.com.
Lastly, don’t forget to set your out-of-office greeting for your office and mobile phones while you’re out.