Even when your emails don’t require an immediate response, certain people think they do.
So when we’re off the grid for a few hours—maybe because of a doctor’s appointment or a laptop-free meeting—people start to wonder if we’re alive and well (and more importantly in their heads, why we’re not getting back to them).
This is why an OOO message comes in handy! Seriously—it’s not just for when you’re on vacation. They can help cushion the blow when you’ve got a needy customer or nagging employee, and they ensure you’re getting back to people promptly, even if it’s just to tell them you’ll respond later.
Here are six surprising instances you should use one (and templates to craft that perfect professional message):
1. When You’re Traveling (for Work)
So, you’re on call, but you can’t pick up your phone because, well, the flight attendants told you not to. Using an OOO message can let people know that you got their email, understand it’s important, and will get back to them as soon as you land.
Thanks for your email! If you’re reading this, that means I’m currently on an airplane with no internet access. I’ll be sure to respond to your message as soon as I have service.
2. When You’re at a Company Outing
Whether it’s an offsite, an all-day brainstorming session, or even a company ski trip, you want to stay present (a.k.a., off email). So, signal to your contacts that you’re busy—but still available for urgent matters.
Thanks for your email! I’m currently on my way to a [team/company] outing in [place], where I look forward to giving my wonderful teammates my full attention. If your message is urgent, please reply with URGENT in the subject line and I’ll respond as soon as I can. Otherwise, I’ll be sure to get back to you on [date].
3. When You’re in a Bad Wi-Fi Range
There’s nothing more annoying than getting the spinning wheel as you press send on a crucial email. By putting on an OOO, you show that you’re trying to respond, but literally can’t.
I’m [traveling for work/working remotely] and have spotty Wi-Fi service. While I’ll be checking email regularly, I may not be able to get back to you until [date]. Thank you for your patience!
4. When You Have a (Long) Appointment
Just in case your dentist appointment runs over lunchtime, put on an OOO so people know you’re out of commission.
I have an appointment from [time] to [time] today and won’t be able to check email. If your message is urgent, please reply with URGENT in the subject line and I’ll respond as soon as I can. Thank you for your patience!
5. When You’re Doing Heads-Down Work
We all know email can be a serious productivity-killer, so if it seems appropriate in your office, feel free to use an OOO to tell others that you’re trying to focus and thus not checking your messages for a few hours.
(Before you do this, however, check with your boss to make sure it won’t affect workflows.)
Thanks for your message! I’ve recently discovered that the average person spends 1/3 of their time checking email. In an effort to spend more of my time working on [exciting project], I will not be checking email from [time] to [time] today. If it’s urgent, please reply with URGENT in the subject line. Otherwise, I’ll be sure to respond to your message as soon as I’m done completing my work.
6. When It’s Off-Hours
And if you find that clients don’t respect your evenings or weekends (and it’s clear in your job description that you don’t need to be available then), try using this one to train them to contact you only during work hours. Again, I’d check with your boss to make sure this is allowed.
Thanks for your email! I’m a big proponent of work-life balance, so I’m making an effort not to check my email outside of work hours. If it’s urgent, please reply with URGENT in the subject line. Otherwise, I’ll be sure to respond to your message as soon as I’m back in the office.
Using an OOO message for mundane (but time-consuming) situations will not only put all your contact’s worries at ease, but it’ll ensure you’re maintaining your stellar online reputation. Plus, it’ll help you create healthier email habits—because bonce you realize that most emails aren’t really urgent, you won’t need an OOO to know it’s OK not to respond right away.
Photo of person on phone courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
As Editor for The Muse, Alyse is proud to prove that yes, English majors can change the world. Her work has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, Inc., Motto, CNBC's Make It, USA Today College, Lifehacker, Mashable, and more. She calls many places home, including Illinois where she grew up and the small town of Hamilton where she attended Colgate University, but she was born to be a New Yorker. In addition to being an avid writer, Alyse loves to dance, both professionally and while waiting for the subway.More from this Author