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< Productivity Glossary
OOO (Out-of-Office)

What is OOO?

OOO, short for "Out of Office," signifies you’re unavailable for work over a certain period of time. Often used in a business setting, this indicator can be used to share when you’re unavailable for meetings and events through your calendar or to automatically reply to an email you received while you’re out of the office. OOO primarily affects employee communication,  scheduling, and visibility within an organization.

Benefits of setting OOO at work

Communicating your OOO status with your colleagues isn't just a courtesy, it's a necessary professional practice that benefits both you and your team. Here's why:

  • Reduced stress: Knowing your colleagues are aware of your absence and won't expect immediate responses allows you to truly relax and disconnect, leading to a more fulfilling time off.
  • Setting expectations: Knowing you're unavailable helps colleagues adjust their workflow and deadlines accordingly. They can avoid sending urgent requests or scheduling meetings during your absence.
  • Getting ahead of scheduling challenges: Proactively informing others about your schedule helps avoid scheduling conflicts and guarantees a smoother workflow.
  • Prevents frustration: A clear OOO message avoids confusion and miscommunication that can arise when colleagues reach out while you're unavailable. This saves you from addressing frustrated emails upon your return, allowing you to jump right back into work.

How to set OOO before time off

Here are the steps you should take to set up your OOO before taking time off of work so you can clearly communicate your absence: 

Set OOO for your work email

Setting an OOO message on your work email is necessary to manage expectations while you're unavailable. It informs senders that you won't be responding promptly and provides them with helpful information.

Start by stating your absence dates and reasons (optional). If colleagues can cover urgent matters, mention their contact details. Keep the tone polite and professional, expressing gratitude for their understanding. Finally, consider offering an estimated response time upon your return.

Here's an example:

Thank you for your email. I am currently out of the office from [start date] to [end date] for [reason, optional]. I will have limited access to email during this time. For urgent matters, please contact [colleague name] at [colleague email/phone]. I will respond to your email as soon as possible upon my return on [date].

Set OOO for your work calendar

OOO is typically set up as an all-day event in your calendar, using a title like "OOO," "Vacation," or "PTO," to automatically trigger your calendar to mark it as “Busy” so it declines meetings for you when you’re away.

This OOO calendar events is also allows you to show your coworkers how long you’re going to be out for, whether it’s just a day, or a couple weeks. You can also use the event title or description to personalize details around your time off, or even add an alternative contact person in your absence.

Set OOO for your work meetings

If you’re a meeting-heavy team member, especially with a lot of one-on-one meetings, coordinating and catching up after being out of the office can be very challenging. But you can use a feature like Reclaim Smart 1:1 Meetings to automatically reschedule and find the best time for these meetings when either you or the other attendee is out of the office, or a company holiday day off collides with your one-on-one meeting.

If you’re not automating your meetings, you should look into the future to decline or move your meetings so your team can plan their time knowing that you’re no longer available to meet.

Set OOO for Slack

If your team is on Slack, you can set your OOO in this messaging platform using a custom status. Just click on your user image in the bottom left to enter your OOO Slack status, and set the status to remove after your last day out of the office.

To avoid having to manually repeat this process every time you’re out of the office, you can use Reclaim Slack Status Sync to automatically sync your Slack status to your calendar so it’s always up to date.

Challenges of setting OOO in your calendar

There are some calendar challenges when it comes to setting an OOO status in a basic calendar setup. The major issue is, blocking OOO time on your personal calendar won't automatically translate to your shared team calendar. This creates a "double-booking limbo," where colleagues see you as “free” (on the shared calendar), despite your OOO block on your own calendar.

To avoid this, you'd otherwise need to maintain two versions of the OOO block — one on a shared calendar, and one on your own to block your availability.

This process can be tedious, redundant, and prone to error. Keeping these two calendars in sync can feel difficult and stressful – one slip and someone's meeting gets accidentally double-booked. But you can use tools like Calendar Sync to automatically sync events from your calendar to a shared team vacation calendar so everyone is on the same page (coming soon for Reclaim).

Besides that, remember that taking time off also means rescheduling existing meetings. Unfortunately, relying solely on OOO blocks to communicate your absence can be a recipe for missed reminders and overbooked slots. Unless you manually check and reschedule those conflicting meetings, you might return to a mountain of rescheduled appointments upon your return.

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