Thanks to modern technology, we can connect to clients and colleagues virtually anytime, anywhere. But what happens when we must disconnect? Setting up a professional automatic reply email message helps ensure others can keep working and your business keeps growing.

Before running out the door for a well-deserved vacation or a dreaded dentist appointment, set up an auto reply message that helps the recipient know what to do in your absence. The most functional messages contain the following:

  • Brief greeting
  • Dates you will be unavailable
  • Your return date
  • Who to contact in your absence

Unplugging is hard, but you need to decide how accessible you’ll be when not in the office. If you intend to periodically check email, you may want to say you have limited access to email or that you will check email once a day. However, if you’re traveling abroad, consider the potentially steep Wi-Fi charges and international data fees. Travelling to different time zones can be confusing for recipients when your messages states that you’ll reply by 8:00 a.m. but your message doesn’t hit their inbox until noon.

Some people provide their cell phone number for urgent matters, but what if you and the recipient have vastly different definitions for the word ‘urgent’? Are you prepared to offer the same level of service and responsiveness when you’re vacationing in Italy and a client wants to discuss a policy that is up for renewal in four months? Another option is to leave a mobile number with a trusted colleague who can contact you if something is truly urgent and cannot be handled in the office while you take a much-needed break.

It helps to already have a standard out-of-office message on file that just needs a little editing before going live. Here’s a basic message to get you started:

Thank you for contacting ABC Insurance. I am currently out of the office and will returnMonday, June 6. During this time I will have limited access to email.

If you need immediate assistance, please contact Brian Jones at or 727-555-1212. Otherwise, I will gladly assist you upon my return.

Best regards,

Susan Wilson

There are many ways to say the same thing, so pick a format that works best for your business communication style. Here are some formats to consider:

Date Examples

  • I am currently out of the office and will return Monday, June 6.
  • I will be out of the office from Monday, May 30, through Friday, June 3, and will returnMonday, June 6.
  • I am not in the office this morning but will be in at 1:00 p.m.

Accessibility Examples

  • I do not have access to email at this time.
  • I have limited access to email.
  • I will be checking email during the evening.
  • I am only able to check email after 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Alternate Contact Examples

  • If you need immediate assistance, please contact Brian Jones at or 727-555-1234. Otherwise, I will gladly assist you upon my return.
  • If this is an urgent matter, you can reach me on my cell at 727-555-5678.
  • If you are inquiring about renewing your policy, please contact Brian Jones at or 727-555-1234. If you would like a quote for a new policy, please contact Nicole Smith at 727-555-5678.

Whatever format you choose, keep it brief, double check dates, provide alternate contacts, and do your best to unplug and enjoy your time away from the office. Always end your out-of-office message with a professional and functional email signature, but that’s a topic for another blog post.

Originally appeared in Atlantic Specialty Lines. Used by permission.

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