8 Creative Ideas for Out-of-Office Messages

8 Out of Office Messages

Ah, the last few hours before vacation — time to wrap up final work tasks, tidy your desk and, perhaps most satisfying, switch on your email’s out-of-office reply.

What should your automatic reply say? You want it to communicate that you are taking a vacation from work and are staying off the grid. Do you include just the facts or show some humor and pizzazz?

Data shows the latter has become quite popular: 60 percent of workers enjoy seeing creative out-of-office replies from others, according to a survey by Microsoft.

Here’s how to craft a smile-worthy out-of-office message that communicates you are truly taking an unplugged vacation.


How to Create a Valuable Auto Reply

The most successful out-of-office replies:

Include no surprises. In the weeks leading up to your vacation, ask a colleague to act as your backup, then communicate your plans proactively to key co-workers and clients.

Set clear expectations. In its purest form, the out-of-office message requires just two bits of information: when you will respond and who your backup is for urgent matters in the meantime. Consider making your response date a day or so after your actual return — you might appreciate the grace period to catch up as you readjust to life back in the office.

Reiterate that you’re unplugged. Specify that you won’t be checking or responding to email while you are away. (Responding to emails with your auto reply on can cause confusion and frustration for folks on the receiving end, because now they don’t know what to expect moving forward.)

Connect on a human level. It’s your call whether to include details such as where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing. But if you do, it’s a ready-made conversation topic for reconnecting when you return.

Keep people in the loop. What about your personal email account? Setting an auto-reply message can be helpful here, too. Friends and family will know you aren’t ignoring their message — you’re enjoying an unplugged vacation. Be sure to limit the message to your contacts, though, so you aren’t letting the whole world know that your home and possessions are unattended.


What to Say: Examples of Out-of-Office Messages

Sure, you’re the one on vacation, but if you leave a creative out-of-office message, others can share in the fun, too. Tailor any of these options to your situation and delight your colleagues and clients from afar.

1. Tell it like it is.

Thank you for your email! I am on vacation. Vacations are not for checking email, so I won’t be doing that. Fortunately, we rarely encounter life-or-death situations in the world of [your industry — assuming this is the case for you, of course], and aren’t we all glad for that? Anyway, if you have a critical question that can’t wait until I return on [date], please contact [backup person] at [contact info].

2. Write a silly poem.

Thank you for the email,

But I’m afraid to say

That I’m of no avail,

As I am far away.

I’ll reply, without fail,

On [date] — it’s a [day of the week].

Until then, do please hail

[Backup person] at [contact info] today.

3. Reference your vacation destination — and include an interesting fact.

Greetings from Chicago!

I’m currently visiting the Windy City with my family. In fact, at this very moment, I’m likely eating deep-dish pizza (and starting to understand why they call it “pie”). I will be back to my usual [home city cuisine item] when I return to the office on [date]. If you’re hungry for an answer before then, please contact [backup person] at [contact info].

4. Include a humorous GIF.

Shoot, you just missed me. I wrapped up everything at the office and am off on vacation until [date]. Here’s a snapshot from my last day at work:

[GIF of Liz Lemon from “30 Rock” running wildly out of a room]

Anyway, if your question can wait, great. If not, please do me a favor and forward your email to [backup person] at [contact info], and you’ll be well taken care of.

5. Share a picture of cute baby animals — because why not?


I am currently in [city or region]. My inbox didn’t join me on this trip, so I’ll be sure to reply to your message when I return on [date]. If your matter is urgent, please contact [backup person] at [contact info]. If it’s not urgent, enjoy these baby sloths in pajamas.

6. Write how people really talk.

So here’s the thing: I’m not in the office right now. I’m — well, I know you don’t want to hear this, as you’re probably working yourself, but — I’m actually on vacation.

I will be back at my desk on [date]. That’ll be a [day of the week], so please give me a bit to catch up on my emails, and I will get back to you. If you need someone today and there’s no convincing you otherwise, then please contact [backup person] at [contact info].

7. Provide “comfort” to those dismayed by your absence.

Thank you for your note. However, I’m out of the office on vacation. There, there. Buck up. I’ll be back. Next week! [Day of the week], to be exact. And I’ll do my best to get back to you then. In the meantime, please reach out to [backup person] at [contact info].

8. Write from the computer’s perspective.

[Your name] is away from the office and asked that I send you this message and let you know to reach out to [backup person] at [contact info]. When [your name] gets back on [date], [he or she] will need time to catch up, as [he or she] is a mere human. Please note that we machines would not need any extra time. We are tireless and will one day rule the universe.

Looking for more tips on how to truly unplug during your next vacation? Check out our Unplugged Family Vacation Toolkit.

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About the Author

Kathryn Anne Stewart is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia, whose historic, walkable neighborhoods are perfect for an unplugged vacation. She writes about choosing a healthy lifestyle for organizations such as Cleveland Clinic, St. Joseph Health and Weight Watchers. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram @arewhyen.