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How to Set Out-of-Office in Outlook (2024 Microsoft Guide)
June 18, 2024

You're finally taking that well-deserved vacation when your phone buzzes again with another work email. The last thing you want to do is reply to another email to get drawn back into work while you’re on PTO.This is where an out-of-office message can save the day (and your vacation), politely informing colleagues, clients, and any other incoming messages that you're currently unavailable to respond until you return to work.

But automatic replies aren't just for vacation, here are some of the top scenarios where OOO replies are used:

  • Vacation
  • Sick leave
  • Maternity/paternity parental leave
  • Business trip
  • Conference/event
  • Company-wide holidays
  • Jury duty
  • Bereavement leave

In this guide, we'll show you how to set an out-of-office message in Microsoft Outlook In 5 simple steps with tips on how to craft the perfect OOO message.

Setting up your out-of-office message (step-by-step)

Never miss a beat with a well-crafted OOO message. Here's how to set one up quickly and easily, so you can relax while you're away.

Step 1: Open Outlook & access Automatic Replies

  • Classic Outlook desktop app (Windows/Mac): Click "File" > "Automatic Replies" (or "Out of Office"). If you don't see this option, it may be under "Info".
  • Outlook on the web (OWA): Click the gear icon (Settings) > "View all Outlook settings" > "Mail" > "Automatic Replies".
  • Outlook mobile app: In the Settings tab, choose your Mail Account, click "Automatic Replies," and choose between "Reply to everyone" or "Reply only to my organization."

Step 2: Turn on Automatic Replies & set the date range

  • Click the "Send automatic replies" toggle.
    • Set the date range:
      • Start time: Choose the date and time your absence begins.
      • End time: Choose the date and time you expect to return (this will automatically turn off the message). If you don't set an end time, you must disable automatic replies manually.

Step 3: Craft your out-of-office message

  • Be clear & concise: In the automatic replies box, state that you're out of the office, your return date, whether you have any access to email, and if you’re answering emails in some limited capacity before you return.
  • Provide alternate contact: If someone needs immediate assistance, provide an alternate contact person's name and email (or phone number if appropriate).
  • Be professional, but friendly: You can add a touch of personality if it aligns with your company culture.
  • Avoid overly detailed information: Don't share personal details about your absence.


Out of Office Message
Thanks for your message! I'm currently OOO through [end date] with limited access to my email. While I'll be checking my inbox sporadically, my responses will likely be delayed until I return to the office.

If you need immediate assistance, please contact [colleague's name] at [colleague's email]. All the best,
[Your name]

Step 4: Create a separate message for external recipients (optional)

  • If you regularly communicate with clients, partners, or vendors, you may want a separate message.
  • This message can be more formal and may not include an alternate contact within your company.
  • Check the "Send replies outside my organization" box and craft your external message.

Step 5: Review & save your settings

  • Double-check all dates, times, and contact information.
  • Send a Test Message: Send an email to yourself from a different account to make sure the message is being delivered correctly.
  • Click "OK" or "Save" to activate your out-of-office reply.

Tips & tricks for a perfect out-of-office message

Ready to make your out-of-office message shine? Whether heading for the beach or deep into a project, these tips and tricks will help you craft a clear, concise, and professional auto-reply.

1. Make it personal (but professional)

  • If your company culture allows, inject a bit of humor or a personal touch to make your message stand out.
  • Nevertheless, keep it appropriate. Avoid anything controversial, offensive, or overly personal.
Out of Office Message
"I'm currently out of the office, exploring the culinary delights of Italy until [end date]. While I'm mastering the art of pasta making, feel free to contact [colleague's name] at [colleague's email] for any urgent matters."

2. Provide the right information

  • Clarity is key. Make sure your message clearly states your return date and whether you'll have access to email.
  • Alternate contact: Always provide a way for people to get in touch with someone else in your absence, especially for urgent matters.
  • Set expectations: Let people know when they can expect a response. Will you reply upon your return, or will it take longer?

3. Formatting tips for visual appeal

  • Use bullet points: If you need to provide a ton of information for various scenarios, break up the text into bullets for easier reading.
  • Bold key information: Highlight important details like dates and contact information.
  • Keep it brief: Avoid long paragraphs.

4. Troubleshooting tips

  • Not receiving replies: Check your spam folder to ensure the replies aren't being filtered.
  • Message not sending: Confirm you've clicked "OK" or "Save" to activate the message. Double-check dates and times.
  • Message not turning off: If you didn't set an end date, disable it manually after your return.

Out-of-office auto-reply examples

1. Standard OOO auto-reply

Out of Office Message
Thank you for your message. I am out of the office until [end date] with limited access to my email and will not be responding to messages until I return. For urgent matters, please contact [colleague's name] at [colleague's email].

2. Humorous OOO auto-reply

Out of Office Message
Greetings from [Location]! I'm currently out of the office, recharging my batteries and working on my tan (or at least trying to). I'll be back on [end date] and start responding to my messages as soon as I return. For any urgent matters, please contact [colleague's name] at [colleague's email].

3. Informative OOO auto-reply

Out of Office Message
I am attending [conference/event] from [start date] to [end date] and will have limited access to my email during the event.

Need help with something while I'm gone? No sweat! Here's who to contact:
  • Account inquiries: Please contact [colleague's name] at [colleague's email]
  • Demo requests: Please contact [salesperson's name] at [salesperson's email]
  • Technical support: Please visit our Help Center at [link to help center] or open a ticket at [link to support ticket system]
  • General questions: I will respond to your email upon my return on [return date]
Thanks for your patience! I'll catch you when I'm back.

Keep everyone in the loop with out-of-office messages

Using an OOO message is a simple yet effective way to maintain professionalism and manage expectations while you're away. Following the step-by-step instructions outlined in this guide, you can easily set up your automatic reply, whether using Outlook on your desktop, the web, or even your mobile device.

Remember, a well-crafted out-of-office message not only informs your colleagues and contacts of your absence but can also add a touch of personality or humor to brighten their day.

So, before you take off on your next adventure, vacation, or work trip, take a few moments to set up your automatic OOO message. It's a small investment of time that can yield significant benefits for both you and your contacts.

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