How To Tackle The Best Pre-Vacation Task (Drafting A Great Out-Of-Office Reply)

"Hola besties! I'm living my best life in Mexico this week. I'm back Monday and will reply to your email then. Adiós!"

This is not a God-tier out-of-office (OOO) reply. Creating a well-crafted OOO message is as essential as making sure your passport is up-to-date and your swimwear still fits. An effective OOO message should leave a positive impression on your colleagues, clients, and contacts and be informative but not overshare. Because, while writing your OOO message should be a fun task (who doesn't love telling everyone they're gone for a week?) it shouldn't be fun as in "Hola besties!"

An out-of-office reply is more than just a courtesy; it serves as a bridge between your absence and the smooth continuation of work. It tells anyone who emails you that they shouldn't expect an immediate reply from you, and a well-written one should also alleviate some of the pressure on you when you return from vacation.

The two pillars of your reply

There are two things a basic out-of-office reply must cover: the exact dates you are out of the office and who can be contacted in your absence. You might have realized that the line "I'm back Monday" in our email at the top of this article was pretty unhelpful. Which Monday are you talking about? Give the exact dates of your absence and include the date you will be back in the office. You should also provide the details of someone who can be contacted with urgent matters but do not commit any of your colleagues to responding immediately.

Another thing to include is the general reason for your absence, if appropriate. Colleagues and clients will have different expectations if you are on vacation than if you're at a work conference. You can also say when and how you plan to respond when you're back in the office. Avoid writing "I will respond as soon as return" as this sets unrealistic expectations given the fact that most of us come back to 1,000 emails after a vacation.

Here is an example of a basic out-of-office reply: "Hello! Thank you for your email. I am on vacation from January 5 to January 9. My first day back in the office is January 12. If you need immediate assistance, please contact Taylor Severs at or +1 123 456 789. I will respond to your email as soon as possible after I return. Best, Petra Akman."

Professionalism and taking a true vacation

You may have noticed that the above email lacked the personal details and humor of our first example. This is by design: Your colleagues and clients don't need your humor, and they don't want to be reminded that you're having an amazing time somewhere sunny while they're battling 20-degree weather in Chicago in January. So keep it bland while remaining polite.

The email was very basic, and there are many other ways to craft it. One thing that will change your OOO response is how available you want to be. If anyone hasn't read Samuel Pollen's tweet about American OOO replies vs. European ones, now's the time. In a nutshell, Americans apologize profusely for being absent from work for two hours to visit the doctor, while Europeans take off for a month without a care in the world. These are two extremes; you'll likely fall somewhere in the middle.

If you're planning to check your email while you're gone, say that: "I'll be checking my email sporadically, and responses will be slower than normal." If you won't be checking email but can be reached on your cell, add that in: "For urgent matters, please call my cell at ... ." If you want to go full European stereotype, here's the line you're looking for: "I am on vacation from July 1 to July 31. Please email again on September 1. For urgent matters, contact my colleague ... ." You might be surprised just how non-urgent most emails are. Happy vacationing!