Out-of-Office Emails: Essential Templates & Best Practices

Alfredo Ramirez

As someone deeply involved in agency life, I understand the challenge of setting boundaries while striving to deliver exemplary service. This holiday season, as I sent out a marketing email for Prosal, I was greeted with a variety of automated out-of-office (OOO) replies. These responses highlighted the importance of OOO emails in our professional interactions.

With each email, I laughed at holiday spirits and marveled at the unrealistic expectations set by certain emails. I also considered the frequent use of "urgent" and "emergency" in a space where we are rarely saving lives (though it often feels like it).

I hope this collection of anonymized emails and reflections helps you establish clearer boundaries and add comic relief to the lives of your email recipients, hopefully reducing their notifications.

The Importance of Out-of-Office Emails

OOO emails are more than polite notifications; they are a declaration of our commitment to work-life balance. They help set clear expectations for clients and colleagues, indicating that we are taking well-deserved time off. In any demanding arena where the expectation is often to be available round-the-clock, OOO emails serve several critical functions:

  1. Professional Courtesy: They inform clients and colleagues about our availability, preventing misunderstanding and frustration. It's a way of saying, "I value our communication, and here's when you can expect my full attention again."
  2. Promoting Work-Life Balance: OOO emails are a clear indicator that we are stepping away for necessary rest and recuperation. This sets a positive example and encourages a culture where mental health and work-life balance are prioritized.
  3. Managing Expectations: By clearly stating our return date and availability, we manage the expectations of those trying to reach us. It's a way of setting boundaries without compromising on professionalism or the quality of our relationships.
  4. Encouraging Autonomy: By being unavailable for a period, we empower our teams and clients to make decisions in our absence. This can lead to increased confidence and independence among our colleagues and clients.
  5. Reflecting Culture: The tone and content of our OOO emails can also reflect the culture of our company. A friendly, upbeat OOO message might demonstrate our company's approachable and personable style, while a more formal one might reflect a culture of professionalism and efficiency.
  6. Reducing Burnout: Consistently being 'on' leads to burnout. By clearly defining when we are and are not available, OOO emails help us, and those we work with, to disconnect and recharge.

A well-crafted OOO email is crucial in our high-pressure industry, where the lines between personal and professional time often blur. It is especially true for owners, founders, and leaders at companies where the expectation is an even greater expectation available and always on.

Holiday-spirited OOO emails
Matter of fact OOO emails
Some oopsies in the emails.

Navigating 'Urgent' Requests and 'ASAP' Expectations in OOO Messages

Many of the OOO replies I received included provisions for "urgent" matters or "emergencies." This raises an important question: What truly qualifies as an emergency in our line of work? By allowing for urgent contact, are we genuinely disconnecting, or merely leaving a crack open for work to intrude on our personal space?

Another common phrase in OOO emails is the promise to respond "as soon as possible" upon returning. Realistically, catching up with a backlog of emails and tasks after a break is a gradual process. Promising an immediate response is not only unrealistic but also sets a precedent that might be difficult to live up to.

Essential Tips & Best Practices for Effective Out-of-Office Emails

I was pleased to see several stern and clear OOO messages. These senders set definite boundaries about their availability, an approach that merits emulation. It shows profound respect for one’s own time and acknowledges that not every issue demands immediate attention.

Here are refined strategies for drafting effective OOO emails:

  1. Specify Your Unavailability: Clearly mention your off dates. Steer clear of ambiguous phrases like "limited email access."
  2. Define 'Urgent': If you decide to include a contact option for emergencies, specify what issues would qualify as truly urgent.
  3. Set Realistic Expectations: Refrain from promising an immediate reply upon your return. Allow yourself the space to catch up gradually.
  4. Provide an Alternative Contact: If possible, direct inquiries to a colleague who is available (ensuring it’s coordinated beforehand).
  5. Reflect Your Company Culture: Ensure your OOO message aligns with the professionalism and tone of your organization, reinforcing your brand's character even in your absence.

Sample OOO Email Templates for Various Occasions

Sample OOO Email Templates for Various Occasions

As a professional, having a well-crafted OOO email template ready for various scenarios is invaluable. Below are customizable templates for common situations that balance professionalism with personal style and reflect company culture.


Subject: Out of Office – Vacation

Hi there,

Thank you for your email. I am currently on vacation and will be away from the office from [Start Date] to [End Date]. During this time, I will have limited access to email and may not be able to respond immediately.

For urgent matters, please contact [Alternative Contact Name] at [Alternative Contact Email/Phone].

I will get back to you as soon as possible upon my return on [Return Date].

Best regards,
[Your Name]
[Your Position]

Conference Attendance

Subject: Out of Office – Attending [Conference Name]


I am currently attending the [Conference Name] from [Start Date] to [End Date]. During this period, I will have limited access to email but will respond to your message as soon as I can.

For urgent inquiries, please reach out to [Alternative Contact Name] at [Alternative Contact Email/Phone].

I appreciate your patience and will get back to you upon my return on [Return Date].

[Your Name]
[Your Position]

Maternity/Paternity Leave

Subject: Out of Office – Maternity/Paternity Leave

Hi there!

Thank you for your message. I am currently on maternity/paternity leave and will be away from the office until [Return Date]. During this period, I will not be checking emails regularly.

For immediate assistance, please contact [Alternative Contact Name] at [Alternative Contact Email/Phone].

I appreciate your understanding and will respond to your email upon my return.

Warm regards,
[Your Name]
[Your Position]

Sick Leave

Subject: Out of Office – Sick Leave


I am currently out of the office due to illness and will be unable to respond to emails until [Expected Return Date]. Your patience is appreciated during this time.

For urgent matters, please contact [Alternative Contact Name] at [Alternative Contact Email/Phone].

Thank you for your understanding.

[Your Name]
[Your Position]

Seasonal Holidays

Subject: Out of Office – Happy Holidays!

Hi there,

I am out of the office for the holiday season from [Start Date] to [End Date]. I will have limited access to email and will respond to your message upon my return.

For urgent issues, please reach out to [Alternative Contact Name] at [Alternative Contact Email/Phone].

Wishing you a joyous holiday season and a Happy New Year!

Best wishes,
[Your Name]
[Your Position]

Key Details to Include in Each Template

  • Return Date: Clearly state when you will be back in the office.
  • Emergency Contact Information: Provide an alternative contact for urgent matters.
  • Reason for Absence: Briefly explain why you are out of the office (vacation, conference, etc.).
  • Personal Touch: Customize the message to reflect your personal style and the culture of your company.

Encouraging Customization

Feel free to tweak these templates to better fit your voice and your organization's tone. Whether you prefer a more formal or a friendly and casual approach, make sure your OOO email reflects your professional personality and maintains the standards of your company. Setting the right tone not only communicates your message effectively but also reinforces your brand's identity.

By having these templates ready, you can ensure clear communication and maintain professionalism, even when you are out of the office.

Closing Thoughts

Out-of-office emails are a small but significant part of our professional communication. They reflect how we balance work and personal life and set the tone for how we manage expectations. As we head into the new year, let's rethink our approach to OOO emails, making them tools for better work-life balance and clearer communication.

Remember, setting boundaries is not just beneficial for us; it also respects the time and boundaries of those we work with. Let's make OOO emails a reflection of our professionalism and our commitment to personal well-being.


Alfredo Ramirez

Alfredo is the COO and Co-Founder of Prosal. He has over ten years of experience working in the nonprofit industry and previously founded a successful digital strategies business, winning over $2 million in RFPs throughout his career. He is an avid mountain biker and snowboarder and enjoys anything that takes him outdoors.

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