Maintaining a healthy work-life balance has been increasingly prioritised in recent times, and the last thing you’d want to worry about when you’re on holiday is how many unread emails are sitting in your inbox. That’s where out-of-office emails come in handy.
An out-of-office email autoresponder lets your colleagues and clients know that you’re taking some time off to yourself, and they shouldn’t wait around for a reply. But rather than use a generic template that most people will ignore, here are 10 epic out-of-office emails from agency gurus to celebrities that will have people stop and stare.
1. Shout out your clients like Pat Law
Advertising guru Pat Law’s razor-sharp wit isn’t only limited to her advertising campaigns. A couple of years ago, her out-of-office email quickly went viral when she doubled it up with multiple call-to-action links to the agency’s clients and their products.
Since she was overseas, she shouted out Singtel’s affordable roaming plan. Pat also highlighted a UOB card with travel benefits and what she’ll be getting up to when she checks in at Changi Airport. All the product mentions come with a small blurb about their perks and how it relates to Pat’s travels, giving it an organic impression that didn’t feel forced.
2. Use emojis to explain why you’re away
Image credit: Ben Stapley
One way to compose an out-of-office email like a Gen Z is to use emojis. We don’t mean putting in one or two and calling it a day, but using only emojis to convey where you’re off to, and when you’re back.
Twitter user Ben Stapley shared this out-of-office email he received. Using a combination of different emojis, the sender detailed how she’ll be on a road trip with her family without access to her computer or phone till she’s back.
This method will definitely catch the eye of your recipients as they’ll be intrigued by your message. However, if you work with people who only know the smiley face, we won’t recommend adding any complex emojis. Know your crowd.
3. Promote your product even while you’re on holiday like Ryan Reynolds
From: Ryan Reynolds <[email protected]>
I will be out of the office celebrating Canada Day (July 1), World UFO Day (July 2nd), Tom Cruise’s Birthday (July 3rd) and July 4th (July 4th.) It’s also National Picnic Month so let’s just reconnect in August, shall we?
Between now and then, I recommend escaping the summer heat with a delicious Aviation & Tonic. Here’s my recipe:
2 oz Aviation American Gin 4 oz Tonic Water 1 Lemon Wedge 1 Lime Wedge
1 Teaspoon of Green Lantern Tears (optional)
Also, a lot of you have asked where you can find Aviation Gin, so I had the whizzes in our website department whip up this locator aviationgin.com/locator
Not only is Ryan Reynolds a world-renowned actor, but he’s also the owner of Aviation Gin, and he never stops the hustle. Over the years, his out-of-office email replies for his Aviation Gin email have become some sort of a legend. Yes, he has multiple versions of OOO emails depending on the time of the year.
In one version, Ryan listed his favourite gin and tonic recipe along with a link on Aviation Gin stockists. Another that he showed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon around Father’s Day comprised lengthy paragraphs detailing why the occasion is “the perfect time to give your dad the best: Aviation American Gin.”
Image credit: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
While a PR team probably helped craft Ryan’s out-of-office replies, it still demonstrates that the actor and entrepreneur understand his fans and audience. His quirky and occasionally self-deprecating humour shines through and adds to his persona. This is also nearly-free advertising.
You can try emailing Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org to see which version you’re lucky enough to get. Do not spam him though!
4. Give attention to a cause you’re passionate about
Image credit: Clara Jeffery
If you don’t have anything commercial to promote like Pat Law, another way to make your out-of-office email stand out is to give attention to a cause that you’re passionate about. The former VP of Transformation at the New York Times Erin Grau composed a heartfelt email about motherhood for her autoresponder while she was on maternity leave.
Alongside her post at the New York Times, Erin is an advocate for parental leave, and used the space in her out-of-office email to prove why parents, especially mothers, need more support from their workplace after giving birth.
Not only does this educate those who email her, but it also serves as a subtle job advertisement for expecting mothers who want to work in a supportive environment.
5. Set expectations right, especially for mothers with young children
Image credit: Khara Jabola-Carolus
An out-of-office email doesn’t have to be used only when you’re out of the office. Khara Jabola-Carolus’ autoresponder went viral when she set an unapologetic expectation that she can’t respond instantly, especially when she has to care for an infant and toddler on top of her working duties.
What we like about her approach is that instead of brushing people off, she gave them the option of either waiting for a reply, or calling her if it’s a time-sensitive request. It also calls back to Erin’s earlier statement about the realities of motherhood.
However, we’d caution you to tread lightly if you’re thinking about emulating Khara’s methods. Your mileage may vary according to how your employer supports your parenthood.
6. Promote your speciality & skills if you’re away on a work trip
Image credit: Host Agency Reviews
Those who find themselves on the road giving seminars and talks often can also use their out-of-office email as a marketing tool. Stephanie from Host Agency Reviews gave those who emailed her a copy of the slides she would be presenting at a symposium out of town.
This tactic lets your clients and colleagues know what you’re up to, where you’re at, and gives them a taste of your expertise. In Stephanie’s case, it’s about travel agent salaries. This is pretty similar to Ryan’s sales pitch for Aviation Gin in his email, and you can also tweak this format whenever you have a new presentation to give.
7. Remind people to follow up again after you return to the office
“Thank you for your message. Email received between [these dates] will be deleted from this server eight hours from now. Please send your message again after [this date].”
Everyone dreads going through their inbox after a holiday, and there are even times when you miss out on a crucial message, no thanks to the volume. To get around this problem, former NASA chief technologist Mason Peck served all his emailers a condition: send him the email again after he gets back as he’s purging his inbox while he’s away.
While it is harsh, Mason told The Atlantic that he doesn’t want to worry about messages unless the senders deem them important enough to repeat sending them. And he feels better coming back to an empty inbox. “I feel like, okay, I’ve got a fresh slate,” he told the American magazine.
8. Jazz it up with a customised Cameo video
If emojis are not your cup of tea, perhaps a customised out-of-office video would do the trick. In December 2021, LinkedIn partnered with Cameo, a personalised video platform, to give 500 people a free custom out-of-office video message.
The networking platform did some research prior and found that some workers were anxious about turning on their out-of-office autoresponders, and they’ll feel better if it was fun. To curb this anxiety, LinkedIn and Cameo came up with the brilliant idea of combining a fun out-of-office message with a holiday staple: carolling.
Early birds who found out about this promotion would get a custom video message sung by jolly carollers. Those who missed out would still be able to download a more generic video so no one was left out of the festive spirit.
9. Prioritising your vacation above all
@loewhaley Would you use any of these? #wfh #corporate ♬ Send Me on My Way – Vibe Street
TikTok content creator Laura Whaley has amassed over 2.8 million followers for being their “virtual work bestie.” Her account covers the many nuances of the workplace from managerial behaviours to a series called “How Do You Professionally Say.” One of her viral series showcases out-of-office emails, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t feature the ones that stood out.
Most out-of-office emails tend to redirect the sender to someone else in the organisation. Jordan, on the other hand, explained that anyone who needs him to attend to an emergency would have to answer to his wife.
“In case of an emergency please contact my wife and explain to her why I must be contacted.” reads his auto-reply. And if that’s not an indication that his family time takes priority, him signing off with “Good luck” should suggest that emailers should have a good reason to pull him away.
As the saying goes, happy spouse, peaceful house. If you’re on vacation, your partner wouldn’t want you to be checking your emails instead of paying attention to them or soaking in the views. Put the phone away, and focus on your holiday.
10. Pretending that you don’t exist
Image credit: @loewhaley
Another email that Laura showed would be appreciated by those in the tech industry. This short and sweet out-of-office email plays on one of the most common web browser phenomena, Error 404. It happens when a web page can’t be found, and techies who love easter eggs like this can adapt it to their own holiday auto-responder.
Bonus: Attach this comic graph and say less
Image credit: PHD Comics
One of the most popular comic strips from the webcomic series Piled Higher and Deeper (PHD Comics) is their graph depicting relaxation levels while on vacation. Artist Jorge Cham shared that he drew this chart while he was holidaying in Hawaii way back in 2009.
“I could have been sitting in Hanalei Bay, soaking in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, but instead I was in the hotel room hunching over my computer,” Jorge revealed a few years later about the inspiration behind this comic strip.
If you want to give your colleagues and clients a quick laugh while you’re on holiday, just attach this to your out-of-office email and tune everything else out.
Epic out-of-office email templates to use when you’re on leave
Your out-of-office email autoresponder doesn’t have to be a generic paragraph about when you’ll be back. If you’re expecting plenty of people to attempt to correspond with you during your holiday in Japan, you can seize the opportunity to promote your products, share a fun fact, or just make them laugh.
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