How to Set Up an Out of Office Reply in Outlook: A Step-by-Step Guide

An out of office reply is a crucial feature in email communication, particularly for professionals who need to stay productive while on leave or vacation. However, many people struggle with setting up an effective automatic reply in their email client, causing unnecessary delays and miscommunication. In fact, according to a survey by Office Pulse, nearly one-third of employees admit to forgetting to set up their out of office message before going on vacation.

If you use Microsoft Outlook as your email client, this guide will walk you through the process of setting up an out of office reply step-by-step. By following these instructions, you can ensure that your contacts receive timely and professional responses while you’re away from the office.

What is an Out of Office Reply?

An out of office reply is an automatic email response that is sent to anyone who sends an email to your inbox when you are unavailable. This message lets the sender know that you are not currently checking your email and provides them with information about when you will be back and how they can get in touch with you during your absence.

The out of office reply is a helpful tool that ensures your colleagues, clients, or customers are aware of your availability and helps manage their expectations around communication. Whether you are on vacation or attending a conference, setting up an out of office reply can save you time and reduce stress by automating this process.

This feature is available in most email services, including Microsoft Outlook. In Outlook, you can customize your out of office message and set rules to control when it is sent and to whom. This way, you can ensure that only relevant contacts receive the message while others don’t, reducing unnecessary clutter in your inbox.

One important thing to keep in mind when setting up an out of office reply is to ensure that the message is clear and concise, providing all necessary information without being too verbose. You should also include alternative contact information, such as a colleague’s email address or phone number, in case the sender has an urgent matter that requires immediate attention.

Overall, an out of office reply is a useful feature that can help improve communication and manage expectations while you’re away from your desk. By taking advantage of this feature, you can enjoy your time off without worrying about missing important emails or messages.

Why Set Up an Out of Office Reply?

One of the most important aspects of professional communication is responding to emails in a timely manner. However, there are times when you may be unable to respond to emails for an extended period. This is where setting up an Out of Office Reply can be incredibly beneficial.

First and foremost, setting up an Out of Office Reply can greatly improve your productivity. When you’re away from work or on vacation, it’s important to disconnect and recharge. By notifying people that you won’t be available to respond to emails right away, you can reduce stress and allow yourself to fully enjoy your time off.

In addition to improving your productivity, setting up an Out of Office Reply also demonstrates professionalism. It shows that you value your correspondents’ time and want to ensure that they receive a timely response. Not only does this help to build trust and credibility with your clients or colleagues, but it can also enhance your reputation as a reliable and courteous professional.

Another key benefit of setting up an Out of Office Reply is improved communication. By providing information about when you will return and who to contact in your absence, you can ensure that important matters are dealt with in a timely manner. This can prevent miscommunications or delays that may result in negative consequences for your business or organization.

Overall, there are many reasons why setting up an Out of Office Reply in Outlook can be highly valuable. From increased productivity and enhanced professionalism to improved communication, taking the time to set up automatic email responses can have a positive impact on both you and your correspondents.

How to Set Up an Out of Office Reply in Outlook

Step 1: Open Microsoft Outlook

Step 1: Open Microsoft Outlook

Accessing Microsoft Outlook is the first and most crucial step in setting up your out of office reply. Thankfully, accessing the program is relatively simple.

First, you will need to locate the Microsoft Outlook icon on your desktop or taskbar. You can also access it through the Start menu by searching for “Outlook.”

Once launched, Outlook’s interface offers various options that allow you to manage your emails, calendar, and contacts. You will find a navigation pane on the left side of the screen that provides access to all these features.

The interface is user-friendly and intuitive, even for those who are not tech-savvy. You can quickly navigate through the various tabs at the top of the screen to access different tools and functions, such as creating a new email or setting up an appointment in your calendar.

In addition to basic navigation, Outlook’s interface allows you to customize your settings to personalize your experience based on your preferences.

Overall, opening Microsoft Outlook is the beginning of a seamless and efficient process when setting up your out of office reply. With its easy-to-use interface and simple navigation, you’ll be well on your way to crafting an effective automatic email response.

Step 2: Create a New Email

Step 2: Create a New Email

Once you have launched Microsoft Outlook, the next step is to create a new email message. You can do this by clicking on the “New Email” button in the toolbar or by using the keyboard shortcut “Ctrl + Shift + M”. This will open a blank email template where you can compose your out of office reply.

When composing your message, keep in mind that you will be away from your email for a certain period of time. Therefore, it is essential to provide clear and concise information about your absence and when you will return. You can use templates provided by Outlook or create your own custom message.

A template is a preformatted email message that you can customize with your own content. This can save you time and ensure consistency in your communications. To use an existing template, click on “New Email” and select “More Items” > “Choose Form” > “User Templates in File System”. This will open a window where you can choose the template you want to use.

If you prefer to create your own message, start by addressing the recipient of the email and explain why you are unable to respond to their message immediately. Then, provide the dates you will be away and any alternative contact information they can use in case of urgency.

It’s important to remember that your out of office message is a representation of your professionalism and attention to detail. Take the time to carefully craft your message and ensure it is error-free before activating the automatic reply.

By following these steps, you can easily create a professional and informative out of office reply that ensures your colleagues and clients are aware of your absence and understand when they can expect to hear back from you.

Step 3: Set Up the Automatic Reply

Step 3: Set Up the Automatic Reply

Now it’s time to set up your out of office reply. To do that, you need to access the Options menu in Outlook. In the Options menu, you will find the Out of Office Assistant, which allows you to configure Automatic Replies.

You can choose between two types of automatic replies: “Send automatic replies” and “Do not send automatic replies.” If you select “Send automatic replies,” you can further customize your message by clicking on the “Rules” button.

Creating rules for your automatic replies gives you greater control over when and to whom the message is sent. For example, you may want to send an automatic reply only during specific dates or times, or to filter messages based on certain criteria such as sender’s name or subject line.

You can also set up different responses for internal and external email addresses. This can be useful if you want to provide more detailed information to colleagues than to clients or customers.

Remember that your automatic reply should be professional and informative. Consider providing a brief explanation of why you’re away and when you’ll be back, along with alternative contact information. A well-crafted automatic reply can help manage expectations and ensure that important emails are not missed while you’re away.

To sum up, setting up automatic replies through the Out of Office Assistant in Microsoft Outlook can save you time and energy when you’re out of the office. By using rules, you can personalize your responses and ensure that the right people receive the right message at the right time.

Step 4: Customize the Message

Step 4: Customize the Message

After setting up the automatic reply in Outlook, it’s time to customize the message that your contacts will receive. This is an important step because it allows you to convey a personalized greeting and provide important details and contact information for your colleagues or clients.


The greeting is the first thing your contacts will read when they receive your automatic reply. It’s important to keep it professional and friendly, while also conveying the reason for your absence. For example, you could start with “Thank you for your email. I am currently out of the office…” or “Hello, and thank you for contacting me. I am away from my desk until…”


In the body of the message, you should provide specific details about your absence. This could include the dates you will be away, the reason for your absence, and who to contact in case of an urgent matter. For example, “I will be out of the office from Monday, June 14th through Friday, June 18th for a family vacation. During this time, I will not have access to email. If you need immediate assistance, please contact [Name and email of colleague].”

It’s important to be clear and concise in your message, so that your contacts can quickly understand the details of your absence.

Contact Information

Finally, make sure to include your contact information so that your colleagues or clients can reach you once you return. This could include your email address, phone number, or any other relevant contact information. For example, “I will be back in the office on Monday, June 21st and will respond to your email as soon as possible. In the meantime, if you have any urgent matters, please contact me at [Email Address/Phone Number].”

Overall, customizing your out of office message in Outlook is an important step to ensure that your contacts are informed and can reach you once you return. By providing a personalized greeting, clear details, and relevant contact information, you can maintain professionalism and improve communication with your colleagues or clients.

Step 5: Activate the Out of Office Reply

Step 5: Activate the Out of Office Reply

Once you have composed and customized your out of office message, it’s time to activate it. Activating your out of office reply is easy and straightforward in Outlook.

Enable Your Out of Office Assistant

To enable your out of office assistant, go back to the “File” tab and click on the “Automatic Replies (Out of Office)” option again. This will open up the same window where you composed your message earlier.

In this window, you should see two options: “Do not send automatic replies” and “Send automatic replies”. Select the latter option by clicking on the circle next to it.

Schedule Your Out of Office Reply

You can also schedule your out of office reply to start and end at specific dates and times. To do this, select the “Only send during this time range” checkbox and enter the start and end dates and times that you want your out of office reply to be active.

For example, if you are going on vacation from July 1st to July 10th and want your out of office reply to be active only during that time, you would enter those dates and times into the corresponding fields.


When you’re done setting up your out of office reply, click “OK” to save your changes and activate it. Your out of office message will now automatically respond to any incoming emails during the specified time period.

It’s important to note that if you have set up a rule to forward your emails to another address while your out of office reply is active, make sure to disable the rule when you return to work. Otherwise, your forwarded emails will continue to go to the other address even after you have returned to work.

By enabling, scheduling, and activating your out of office reply, you can ensure that your contacts receive a timely response even when you’re away from your desk.

Tips for Writing an Effective Out of Office Reply

When you’re setting up an out of office reply, there are a few key things to keep in mind to ensure that your message is clear, professional, and effective in communicating the information that your contacts need. Here are some best practices to follow when crafting your automatic email response:


Begin by expressing gratitude for the email and acknowledging the sender’s request or inquiry. You may also want to offer an alternative point of contact or provide resources that can help the sender find the information they need. Remember to use a cordial tone and avoid any language that could be interpreted as dismissive or unprofessional.


Make sure that your message clearly communicates the dates during which you’ll be unavailable, as well as any specific details about your availability or the status of pending requests. It’s also helpful to let your contacts know when they can expect to hear back from you, and whether or not you will be checking emails while you’re out of the office.


Keep your message brief and to the point, without sacrificing clarity or professionalism. Avoid using overly technical language or industry-specific jargon, and focus on providing the most important information in a straightforward and easy-to-understand manner.

By following these tips for writing an effective out of office reply, you can ensure that your message is professional, helpful, and informative, while also maintaining a high level of productivity and professionalism in your communications with colleagues and clients alike.



In summary, setting up an out of office reply in Outlook is a simple and effective way to communicate with colleagues and clients when you are away from your desk. The importance of implementing this feature cannot be overstated, as it can improve productivity and maintain professionalism.

By following the step-by-step guide outlined above, you can easily set up an automatic email response that provides the necessary information for others to contact you or take appropriate action in your absence. This feature is particularly useful for individuals who frequently travel or have flexible work arrangements that may make it difficult to respond to emails in a timely manner.

In addition to the practical benefits, using an out of office reply can also demonstrate your commitment to clear communication and respect for others’ time. It allows you to manage expectations and prevent misunderstandings, while also maintaining a positive relationship with colleagues and clients.

Overall, Outlook’s out of office feature is a valuable tool that should be utilized by anyone who needs to communicate effectively while away from their desk. By taking the time to implement this feature, you can ensure that your professional reputation remains intact and that your work processes run smoothly, even when you’re not in the office.
As you can see, setting up an out of office reply in Outlook is a straightforward process that can save you time and allow you to disconnect from work while maintaining your professional communication standards. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your contacts receive clear and concise messages while you are away from the office. Remember to customize your message and provide relevant information so that your recipients know when to expect a response and how to contact you in case of urgency. By implementing this best practice, you can enhance your productivity, professionalism, and work-life balance. Don’t hesitate to set up your out of office reply today and enjoy your well-deserved vacation or break without worrying about unanswered emails!

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