Out of Office Automatic Replies

With the release of Out of Office settings for Microsoft Teams, I wanted to share a how to, but did you know there are many options for setting your out of office or automatic replies in Office 365 and they each offer slightly different functionality?

So here are all of the ways you can now set your automatic replies for Office 365.

You can set your Out of Office from

  • Outlook on Mobile Devices
  • Outlook on PC or Mac
  • Outlook on the Web
  • Microsoft Teams on PC or Mac (not available in Team web or mobile)

Comparison

My personal favourite is Outlook on the web as it offers me the most control, but here are all the different ways and what they look like.  (Disclaimer: This article is written on 8th April 2021.  Microsoft 365 apps and services continuously develop, so by the time you read this article things may have changed.)

WhereTurn on/offCustomise messageDifferent message for external sendersExternal Recipeint OptionsSet DatesAdd Out of Office Calendar eventDecline meeting invitesCancel existing meetings
Outlook MobileYYY     
Outlook PCYYYYY   
Outlook MacYYYYY   
Outlook WebYYYYYYYY
Teams PCYYYYY   
Teams MacYYYYY   
Teams Mobile        
Teams Web        

Best Practice

However you set your out of office message for best practice please:

  • Include the date of return (tomorrow or next week only helps, if we know when you set the reply)
  • Include an alternative contact in your absence, if appropriate, ideally a shared mailbox.
  • Be careful not to disclose sensitive information such as holiday location or colleagues mobile phone numbers, especially to external recipients
  • Include your email signature as you would when writing an email normally and be aware that most companies do not add the normal footer to outgoing automatic replies as they do to normal emails. 
  • If sending to ALL external senders be aware that your reply may go to junk and phishing email senders as well as legitimate senders. So keep signature to a minimum for replies to external senders when including all senders.

Here are some suggestions for you to consider.

Sample for Colleagues (Internal)

Thank you for your message, which has been received.  I will not be able to respond as normal, as I am on leave and will be taking a break from all work communications until I return on 10th May 2021.

If you need a response to your message before my return, please forward your message to holidaycover@email.com and copy me in to the message so I know you are not waiting for my response.  Your message has not been sent on automatically.

Kind Regards

Sara

Sample for External (Contacts Only)

The above message may also be used for contacts only as it is vague enough.  However you may wish to be more vague, depending on your role, such as:

Thank you for your message, which has been received.  I will not be able to respond as normal, as I am on leave and will return on 10th May 2021.

If you need a response to your message before my return, please forward your message to holidaycover@email.com and copy me in to the message so I know you are not waiting for my response.  Your message has not been sent on automatically.

Kind Regards

Sara

 

Sample for External (Everyone)

In this case I am assuming legitimate business contacts have a phone number, alternative contact name or access to a website ‘contact us’.  I do not want to give away additional contact details or names if the sender is not a legitimate business contact, and would send a generic message such as:

Thank you for your message, which has been received.  I will have limited access until 10th May 2021, at which time I will action your message.

If your message needs a response before then, please make contact with a colleague or ring my work phone which a colleague will answer.

Kind Regards

Sara

How to (with Screenshots)

Outlook Mobile on an Android phone

(Screen shots from a Surface Duo running Android 10)

Tap Home, then Settings cog at the bottom of the screen

Tap the account you wish to set out of office replies for then select Automatic Replies

Choose the desired settings and write the message(s) required, then tap the tick at the top of the screen to confirm.

Outlook Mobile on iOS

(Screen shots from a iPhone12 running iOS14.4.2)

Tap Home, then Settings cog at the bottom of the screen

Tap the account you wish to set out of office replies for then select Automatic Replies

Choose the desired settings and write the message(s) required, then tap the tick at the top of the screen to confirm.

Outlook on Windows

From the File menu choose the account you wish to set the out of office for if not the default one shown using the drop down at the top of the screen then Automatic Replies (Out of the Office)

Select the options required incl Date/Times if required.  Once set you can click OK to set.

On the Outside My Organization tab, you can switch on/off sending the message to external recipients and choose to send to only contacts or any external senders. 

Please note Anyone will include any mailing lists, newsletters etc so you may find that you receive replies about unmonitored email accounts or failed delivery for out of office replies with this option on.

Outlook on Mac

From the Tools menu choose Automatic Replies

Select the account and then the options required incl Date/Times if required.  Once set you can click OK to set.

When setting your replies you can switch on/off sending the message to external recipients and choose to send to only contacts or any external senders. 

Please note if you do not specify to send Only to my Contacts your reply will be sent to everyone including any mailing lists, newsletters etc so you may find that you receive replies about unmonitored email accounts or failed delivery for out of office replies with this option on.

Outlook on Web

Navigate to https://outlook.office.com/mail/inbox From the settings cog menu choose View all Outlook settings

The dialog box should open on Email settings tab, if not select Email then  Automatic Replies.  Configure the options required, filling in the message boxes as required then click Save.

When picking the setting to decline meeting invites and cancel meetings already in your calendar during the Out of Office period, you can choose to send your standard out of office reply or enter a custom message for just the cancelled meetings. 

It is recommended you add a message for declined meetings or include reference to that fact that meeting are being cancelled by the out of office reply function.  Otherwise the meeting organiser may not realise you have declined the invite and just think they got a standard out of office reply.

When setting your replies you can switch on/off sending the message to external recipients and choose to send to only contacts or any external senders. 

Please note if you do not specify to send to Only Contacts your reply will be sent to everyone including any mailing lists, newsletters etc so you may find that you receive replies about unmonitored email accounts or failed delivery for out of office replies with this option on.

Teams on PC

From the person menu choose Set status Message

Click the Schedule out of office message

Turn on automatic replies and choose appropriate settings including entering your message(s) then click Save.

As an alternative you can also access the out of office via the settings menu, under General

Teams on Mac

From the person menu choose Set status Message

Click the Schedule out of office message

Turn on automatic replies and choose appropriate settings including entering your message(s) then click Save.

As an alternative you can also access the out of office via the settings menu, under General

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