How to Set Up Out of Office Auto Replies in Outlook

The other day, a ticket came across the help desk. A client needed help setting up an auto reply in Outlook as they were leaving for vacation. Everyone who uses Outlook should know how to do this, especially if they claimed to be “proficient in Microsoft Office” on their résumé or during the job interview.

The Basic Auto Reply Process

Automatic Replies dialog as seen in Outlook 2016
Automatic Replies dialog as seen in Outlook 2016
  1. Click File then click Automatic Replies to bring up the Automatic Replies dialog box.
  2. Select the Send automatic replies radio button to turn on automatic replies.
  3. You can enable the Only send during this time range checkbox and set the desired date and time to start and stop sending automatic replies.
  4. Enter the desired messages for Inside My Organization and Outside My Organization.
    1. Note that for Outside My Organization, you have the option to either send automatic replies to senders on your contacts list or anyone outside the organization.
  5. When you’re done, click OK to save the auto reply settings.

Advanced Automatic Replies

Sometimes, you need more than just a basic auto reply to let people know you are out of the office. Let’s say that you’re working on a project with a client and you don’t want that project to stall while you’re out of the office. Fortunately, with rules, you can keep the project moving in your absence.

For this example, you’ve been working with your client John on a project for about 3 weeks. You briefed your colleague, Sarah, on the project and she is prepared to keep the project up to date while you’re away. You want to make sure that John is aware that Sarah will work with him while you are away and that any emails that John sends you are automatically forwarded to Sarah. This can all be accomplished using rules.

Edit Rule dialog box
Edit Rule dialog box
  1. From within the Automatic Replies dialog box, click the Rules… button.
  2. Click Add Rule…
  3. Enter John’s email address in the From… field.
  4. Select the Forward check box and enter Sarah’s email address in the To… field next to it.
  5. Select the Reply with checkbox and click the Template… button. A new email message window will open.
  6. Type your desired message and click Save & Close.
  7. Click OK to close the Edit Rule dialog.
  8. Click OK to close the Automatic Reply Rules dialog.

Additional Notes and Conclusion

Automatic replies are extremely helpful for disconnecting from the workplace while you are away. A sender will receive an automatic reply only once while you have automatic replies enabled, however the rules will process every time a message is received.

Typically, when I know I will be out of the office, I like to set my auto replies in advance and set it to only send during the specified times. This helps me because I don’t have to remember to turn off my auto reply, Outlook will do that for me at the end date and time.

How do you use automatic replies? Have any suggestions for future topics? Leave them in the comments below.