How to Write an Out-of-Office Message During the COVID-19 Pandemic (2023)

Everything’s a little off-kilter as we continue to contend with the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s hard to step away from work when the “office” is the dining room table you can see from your couch. It feels a little strange to take PTO when travel and boisterous family gatherings seem like a distant memory. You might be working odd hours so you can juggle childcare and other responsibilities. Or maybe your full-time job became a part-time one (or an on-hold one) as a result of the economic downturn that hit along with the coronavirus.

With all these changes, the simplest tasks come saddled with a lot of extra questions. Take the out-of-office message. Do you really need an out-of-office autoresponse if you haven’t seen an office since March? The simple answer is yes.

Why Should You Set an Out-of-Office Message During COVID-19?

“The purpose isn’t to let people know you’re out of the office, it’s to let them know you're not going to be responding,” says Muse career coach Benjamin Ritter, founder of Live for Yourself Consulting. It’s not about where you are physically, but rather whether or not you’ll see someone’s email and be available to react to it within a typical timeframe (which could differ depending on your role, company, and industry).

With plenty of employees still working remotely months into the pandemic, “I actually think it’s more important now than it was before,” says Muse career coach Angela Smith. “From the perspective of how do we make remote work work,” she says, “overcommunication is one of the hallmarks.” In a world where you can’t see whether your colleagues are at their desks, being clear about when you’re working—and when you’re not—is crucial to keeping things running smoothly.

But your out-of-office message is as much for you as it is for the people receiving it, especially during the pandemic. “Boundaries have taken a big hit right now,” Ritter says. There’s a lot of pressure associated with missing something at work, and that stress has been heightened without the typical separation between office and home and with the added fear caused by an uncertain economy. An OOO message is a chance to set expectations, “to give yourself some breathing room and to ensure other people aren’t thinking negatively about you,” Ritter says, and it’s crucial for your mental health.

It’s a reminder to you that you should be disconnecting, Smith says, whether it’s to recharge during your staycation or to focus on a family emergency. And it can give you peace of mind to know you’ve communicated what’s needed for things to continue running smoothly in your absence.

A Few Quick Tips for Your COVID-19 Out-of-Office Message

If you’ve written an out-of-office message before, you’ll surely know some of the basics. For the most part, they still apply during the pandemic, with a few additional considerations. Here’s a quick overview of what you should keep in mind as you compose your autoreply these days:

  • Make sure it’s up-to-date: You don’t want your out-of-office email to get stale. “It sends a bad message if it’s out of date or inaccurate,” Smith says. “Check it, monitor it, update it as regularly as you need to.”
  • Provide an alternate contact: In many cases, it makes sense to direct people to someone else they could reach out to in your absence if their email requires a response before you return. If you’re only going to be away from your inbox briefly and your work doesn’t typically require quick replies, you can skip this step, whereas if you’re out for a long stretch or indefinitely, or you’re usually expected to reply within the hour, this information is crucial. Anywhere in between, use your discretion depending on the expectations of your role and company culture. Make sure you check with your alternate contact first so they’re not surprised by any queries they get, Smith says, and try to provide some context in your OOO message about who this person is (including what their role is and perhaps a link to their LinkedIn profile).
  • Let people know when you’ll be back: One of the first things people will want to know when your autoresponse pops up is when you’ll read and be able to reply to their email. So tell them when you realistically anticipate that’ll be.
  • Tell them what’ll get your attention: Try to calm yourself with the fact that most emails can wait. But if you’re in a role where you can foresee an emergency, make it clear what will get your attention, Ritter says. Maybe it’s emailing again and putting “urgent” in the subject line. Maybe it’s texting or calling you. Maybe it’s reaching out to a colleague who will know how to get in touch with you.
  • Think about who your audience is: Are most people emailing you coworkers you talk to every day? Is your inbox full of messages from long-time clients? Do you get a lot of cold emails from prospective clients or strangers? The answers will help you determine what tone, level of detail, and kind of information you need to provide. If you’re hearing mostly from friends and colleagues, for instance, you might strike a more casual tone or share more specifics than if your note is going mostly to people you’ve never met. If your email provider allows, you can also consider setting separate OOO messages.
  • Stick to company policy and consider company culture: Some organizations set strict guidelines on communications. “Make sure this can clear and won’t get you in trouble,” Ritter says. And beyond actual rules, don’t forget to take your company culture into consideration. Your OOO message at a tech startup might sound very different than one you’d write if you work in corporate accounting.
  • You can show personality: If you think it’s appropriate, you can infuse your message with some personality. Even if the recipient is getting an automatic response, this way they get a glimpse of the person who set it. “You can be funny, it’s allowed now,” Ritter says. If you’re out of the “office” on a staycation, for example, Ritter says you mightwrite: “I’m sitting on a nice warm ‘beach’ in my living room. I’m going to be away basking in the rays of my television set.” It can add a little levity and relatability during this work-from-home era.
  • But remember you don’t need to get overly personal: On the flipside, you may be dealing with difficult, traumatic personal circumstances during the coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps you or a loved one is sick or you’re mourning a loss. You can always keep your message simple and straightforward and you don’t have to share these details, Smith says.
  • And be sensitive to the times: You should also be sensitive to what others are struggling with during this unprecedented global crisis. If you’re on vacation, remember that not everyone is able to take one right now. And if you’re traveling, people may react negatively at a time when the virus is spreading uncontrollably. “It’s checking privilege in a way, and not being over the top,” Smith says.
  • Extend gratitude:We could all use a little extra these days. So, Smith says,why not thank your reader for their patience and understanding?

With all that in mind, read on for a few examples of what you might actually write...

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...If You’re Taking Time Off to Recharge

If you want to keep it straightforward, you might write:

Subject line: OOO until Monday, November 30


Thank you for your email. I’ll be offline starting Friday, November 20 through the Thanksgiving holiday with limited access to email, and will respond to your email upon my return on Monday, November 30. If you need immediate assistance, please contact Maria Gonzalez, my fellow digital marketing manager here at MixCo Media, at Thanks for your patience!



If you want to have some fun with it, you could say something like:

Subject line: Out of “office” until 2/8

Hi there,

Thanks so much for your note! I’ve packed away my makeshift office for the week in order to go nowhere and do nothing. I may be dipping my toes in the tub instead of the ocean and making my favorite Smitten Kitchen recipes for myself rather than indulging at a fancy restaurant, but I’m still trying to disconnect and recharge.

I’ll be banning myself from my inbox, so if you need something before Monday 2/8, try Molly Fitzgerald, customer success manager extraordinaire, at If it’s urgent, she’ll know how to reach me as I watch my 14th consecutive episode of The Great British Bake Off.


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...If You’re Out Sick or Taking Care of Someone Who’s Sick

If you’re out sick or caring for a loved one, you may not feel comfortable sharing the details. You can simply use words like “family situation” or “family matters,” which Smith says automatically garner some goodwill.

Subject line: Away from my inbox


I’m OOO taking care of family matters and checking email intermittently. Although I don’t yet have an anticipated return-to-work date, I’m looking forward to reading your note when I’m back. In the meantime, you can reach out to Daniel Epstein, Director of Account Management, at

All the best,


...If You’re Working a Different Schedule These Days

Whether your schedule has changed because you’re temporarily down to part-time or because you’re trying to fit work in around taking care of your children, you can use your OOO message to communicate and set expectations. You might write:

Subject line: OOO/New schedule through February


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I’m currently working a part-time schedule: Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 AM to 5 PM and Fridays from 9 AM to 1 PM. If you’re receiving this message, it means you’ve reached me when I’m offline. If you need to speak with someone immediately, Siobhan, our HR associate, can point you in the right direction. She can be reached at

Thank you in advance for your understanding and patience!



Or you could set a message like this:

Subject line: Offline until 4 PM

Hi there,

I’m away from my desk overseeing online learning. Read: I’m trying to relearn long division so I can help my fourth grader finish this worksheet and reminding my first grader how to mute his Zoom. I’ll be back online this afternoon at 4 PM to read your message.

Wish me luck!


...If You’re Furloughed

It’s up to you whether you want to explicitly state that you’ve been furloughed. If you’re working at a company or industry where a sizable portion of the workforce has been furloughed, it might be confusing not to say so. You might write:

Subject line: On furlough indefinitely

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Thank you for your email. I am currently on furlough indefinitely and will not be checking email during this time. Please reach out to my colleague, Darius Robinson, a project manager at the museum who can answer any questions or help you find the right contact while I’m out. He can be reached at

I’m looking forward to working with you again soon!

Stay safe,


If you prefer not to share the specifics, you might say:

Subject line: OOO until January 15, 2021


Thank you for your email. I’ll be offline through mid-January without access to email. In the interim, please contact Maya Schwartz, a sales and marketing manager here, at

Thank you for your patience.



Updated 2/10/2021


How do I put out of office on Covid? ›

My work schedule has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic; therefore, I am unable to respond to your message at this time. In my absence, please contact [list specific backup or POC] at [phone number] or leave your name, telephone number, and a short message, and I will get back to you upon my expected return on [day].

What should an out of office message say? ›

Thank you for your email. I am currently out of the office until [return date] for [reason]. I will be happy to reply to your message when I return. If you need assistance in the meantime, please contact [name of colleague + their job title] at [email, phone, etc.].

How do you write a professional out of office message? ›

I will be out of the office starting (Starting Date) through (End Date) returning(Date of Return). If you need immediate assistance during my absence, please contact (Contacts Name) at (Contacts Email Address). Otherwise I will respond to your emails as soon as possible upon my return. Thank you for your message.

How do you put an out of office message on holiday? ›

Thank you for your email. I'm out of the office for the holidays from [date] until [date]. I'll reply to your email as soon as I can upon my return. If your message is urgent, please contact [insert name /email/phone here].

How do you write Covid? ›

COVID-19 and coronavirus disease
  1. COVID-19 (not Covid-19 or COVID)
  2. coronavirus disease (not Coronavirus)

What to put on your out of office when you are sick? ›

Thank you for your email. I'm out sick for the day, and while I will be checking my inbox, I may be slower to respond than usual. If it's urgent, please respond with “URGENT” in the subject line and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Thank you for your patience!

What should subject line be for out of office email? ›

1. OOO email subject line: It is customary to title the subject line of the email as “Out of Office Reply”, so that people are immediately aware that you are out of office.

How do you write an automatic reply? ›

Automatic replies should be simple and to the point. Avoid adding any information to the email that is unnecessary. Saying you will respond as soon as you return. It can take time to catch up on emails, phone calls and projects when you return to the office.

What are the three C's of Covid? ›

Avoid the Three Cs:

Closed spaces with poor ventilation. Crowded places. Close contact situations.

Do you capitalize COVID-19 pandemic? ›

COVID-19 is capitalized because it is an acronym for COronaVIrus Disease, and it was first detected in 2019. Referring to the disease as the coronavirus is acceptable when writing about the current pandemic. The virus: COVID-19 virus or virus that causes COVID-19 or coronavirus.

What does Covid stand for? ›

COVID-19 – Coronavirus Disease 2019. DNA – deoxyribonucleic acid. ICU – intensive care unit.

How do you write an out of office for a family emergency? ›

I am unexpectedly out of the office due to a family medical situation. If you require immediate assistance while I'm out of the office, please contact Jamie Hendricks at 879-435-2398. "Thank you for your email. Due to a family matter, I'll be out of the office until May 2, 2022.

How do you write a good subject line? ›

12 tips to create good email subject lines
  1. Shorten your subject lines. ...
  2. Avoid spam words in your email subject lines. ...
  3. Ask open-ended questions in the subject line. ...
  4. Include a deadline in the subject line. ...
  5. Try a teaser subject line to get people to open your email. ...
  6. Give a clear command in your subject.
18 Oct 2022

What makes a good subject line? ›

Good subject lines are often personal or descriptive, and give people a reason to check out your content. Whatever your approach, it's important to keep your audience in mind, and test different words and phrases to see what they prefer.

How do you say you will be out of the office in outlook? ›

Set up an automatic reply
  1. Select File > Automatic Replies. ...
  2. In the Automatic Replies box, select Send automatic replies. ...
  3. On the Inside My Organization tab, type the response that you want to send to teammates or colleagues while you are out of the office. ...
  4. Select OK to save your settings.

How do I send an out of office email? ›

Set up your vacation reply
  1. On your computer, open Gmail.
  2. In the top right, click Settings. ...
  3. Scroll down to the "Vacation responder" section.
  4. Select Vacation responder on.
  5. Fill in the date range, subject, and message.
  6. Under your message, check the box if you only want your contacts to see your vacation reply.

Is it out of office or out of office? ›

The correct sentence is this: "He is out of the office." This is a full sentence indicating that the person in question is not present in the office where he usually works. There are some nouns of place - such as 'school', 'work' and 'home' - which can be used in a full sentence without an article.

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Should I tell my office I have Covid? ›

We recommend you tell your employer if you test positive for COVID-19 and have been around other employees or the public at work. You can help slow the spread of COVID-19 by telling your supervisor or employer as soon as possible.

How do you structure your day in Covid? ›

So, let's look at some simple things we can do to keep life feeling structured, fulfilling and somewhat normal.
Keep or Establish Healthy Habits
  1. Eating nutritiously.
  2. Exercising regularly.
  3. Maintaining an adequate and consistent sleep schedule.
  4. Spending time outdoors each day.

What is one tip for writing an effective out of office message as a small business owner? ›

Entrepreneurs and business leaders know well that email etiquette can be quite challenging; it's important to be concise, but not vague.
5 Tips for Writing the Perfect Out-of-Office Email
  • Only include relevant information. ...
  • Don't be afraid to add some (reasonable) flair. ...
  • Be positive. ...
  • Know your audience. ...
  • Know your position.
31 Aug 2015

Do I have to tell people I have Covid? ›

It's important for you to tell your close contacts that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 so they can quarantine, get tested, and wear a well-fitting mask. If they are infected, they could spread COVID-19 starting 2 days before they have any symptoms or test positive.

How do you tell someone you have Covid? ›

When communicating that you've been infected with the virus, avoid In-person communication as this runs the risk of spreading the disease further. Call or text those you've come into contact with or utilize tools like Facetime or Zoom to get the message out.

How do you tell your boss you are sick? ›

Provide as much notice as possible that you won't be attending work. If you can tell your boss that you will be taking a sick day the night before, or even as you are leaving the office, then do so. Otherwise, call, email or text first thing in the morning.

How do you write a daily routine in lockdown? ›

My daily routine during lockdown essay - YouTube

What shall we do during pandemic? ›

Help Stop the Spread of Coronavirus and Protect Your Family
  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Wash your hands often with plain soap and water.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others.
  • Avoid crowds and practice social distancing (stay at least 6 feet apart from others).
3 Feb 2022

How do you spend time wisely pandemic? ›

30 Creative Ways to Spend Your Newfound Free Time:
  1. Write your best friend a postcard (people LOVE mail).
  2. Schedule a Skype or FaceTime session with your friends and family so you know when you'll next “see” them.
  3. Have a movie marathon. ...
  4. Do crafts - string beads into a bracelet, try knitting or try painting by numbers.

How do you start a professional message? ›

6 strong ways to start an email
  1. 1 Dear [Name] This email greeting is an appropriate salutation for formal email correspondence. ...
  2. 2 Hi or Hello. As far as email greetings go, an informal “Hi” followed by a comma is perfectly acceptable in most work-related messages. ...
  3. 3 Hi everyone, Hi team, or Hi [department name] team.
2 Jun 2022

How do you write a powerful message? ›

Tips to Create Powerful Messages
  1. Words to avoid. Slang, jargon, acronyms (unless specific paper to a specific audience that understands these acronyms and even then…be careful). ...
  2. Research. ...
  3. Pay attention to non-verbal cues. ...
  4. Be careful. ...
  5. Frame your message. ...
  6. Is your audience 'with you' or 'against you'? ...
  7. Be Clear, Be Succinct.
8 Nov 2014

How do you write an impactful message? ›

Writing effective messages.
  1. Are clear. Try to convey your meaning as simply as possible. Don't over-write or use exorbitant language. ...
  2. Are complete. Include all relevant information. Think about the situation from your readers' perspective. ...
  3. Are correct. Always proofread before sending any message.

How do you set an out of office on a team without messaging? ›

Click Automatic Replies (Out of Office).
  1. In the Automatic Replies dialog box, select the Send Automatic Replies check box.
  2. If you want to specify a set time and date range, select the Only send during this time range check box. ...
  3. Click on Rules… ...
  4. Click on Add Rule….
  5. Click on the From…

What does a status message look like in Teams? ›

How To Set a Status Message in Microsoft Teams - YouTube

What is available out of office in Teams? ›

Out of Office (OOO) status is enabled in Outlook

It can result in Out of Office status inside the Teams. The Available - Out of office shows up as a status when you have your Out of Office Enabled and you have your Teams app open on a device and is active.

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