“Thank you for your email! Unfortunately, I am out of the office until August 1.” Out of office or OOF messages like these are a key part of office culture. Setting up an automatic email response before you go on vacation or take your parental leave helps keep colleagues and clients informed of your availability and makes sure none of your contacts are left waiting for an answer. But what if one of your colleagues already went on vacation and forgot to set an out of office message? Or what if an employee becomes suddenly unavailable due to a health or personal emergency?
Any company that uses out of office messages also knows the confusion that missing or forgotten OOF messages can cause. The easiest way to deal with this problem would be the ability to set an out of the office message for another user. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple to fix a missing auto-reply, at least not with the default Exchange tools available. Read on to learn how you can activate automatic replies for a different account in Microsoft Exchange or Microsoft 365. We’ll also cover how you can create an Outlook out of office template using tenfold, allowing you to set a standard response for your entire organization.
Setting an Outlook Out of Office Message for Another User: 5 Ways
Using Microsoft Outlook’s automatic replies feature to inform colleagues, clients and partners of your absence is an important step in preparing for time off from work. Your auto-reply helps keep both internal and external communication running smoothly during your absence. But as important as out of office messages are to good email communication, they still tend to slip people’s minds. After all, the auto-reply is typically set up on the last day in the office, when people are rushing to wrap up important tasks or are already picturing themselves at the beach. On top of that, there are plenty of emergencies that can lead to an unexpected absence: accidents, health problems, family matters, etc.
Whether an employee forgot to set their OOF message or simply didn’t have the chance, the easiest solution in either case would be to activate automatic replies for another mailbox. Sadly, it’s not quite that simple. By default, automatic responses are part of the account settings in Outlook, meaning that only the user in question can access them. However, there are a few tips and workarounds that can help you add a missing out of the office message after the fact.
Resetting or Sharing Your Password: A Security Nightmare
One very common solution to a missing out of office message is to simply share the password with a coworker or reset the password, allowing a colleague to sign into the account. This method is as popular as it is dangerous. It gives your coworker complete access to your account, including your email history, your calendar, file attachments, shared documents and more.
This method of activating auto-replies on another mailbox should not be used under any circumstances. Not only does accessing personal files and emails violate privacy and compliance regulations, it also poses a massive security risk. Firstly, giving a coworker control over another account opens you up to data theft. Secondly, transmitting passwords via email can allow hackers to steal your credentials using a packet sniffer. Learn more about secure password transmission.
Set Out of Office Message in Outlook Web App (OWA)
This method lets users enable automatic replies from home, assuming they have the time and means to do so. The easiest way to access your Outlook account from home is to use your company laptop or company smartphone (if available). Alternatively, you can go to office.com to sign into the Outlook Web App (OWA). Now access your settings at the top of the page, click on Mail and then Automatic replies and set the time period as well as your message.
There’s just one problem: This approach only works if the employee in question is available and has access to their account. If someone is out cold with the flu or already on a plane, they have other things than email accounts to worry about. Logging in from home can also lead to logistical problems when employees leave devices at the office or cannot complete the multi-factor authentication.
Set Out of Office Message using PowerShell
Automatic email responses can be activated using Powershell or the Exchange Management Shell. To check whether auto-replies are active for an account, use the cmdlet Get-MailboxAutoReplyConfiguration with the -Identity parameter:
The cmdlet Set-AutoReplyConfiguration allows you to active automatic responses. The parameter -AutoReplyState can be set to Enabled, Disabled or Scheduled, in which case you can specify a time period with the parameters -StartTime and -EndTime. The message itself can be added with the -InternalMessage and -ExternalMessage parameters. More on the cmdlet Set-AutoReplyConfiguration.
When you put it all together, the full command could look something like this:
Set-MailboxAutoReplyConfiguration -Identity john.smith -AutoReplyState Enabled
-ExternalMessage “Your out of office message goes here.”
If you want to add HTML formatting to the message, it is best to set the string to a variable like $oofMessage, which you connect to a .txt file containing the email.
Note: Apart from demanding a certain level of technical skill, this method also requires the permissions necessary to manage other Microsoft Exchange mailboxes on your server. So while it is possible to add an out of office message using PowerShell, this approach creates extra work for your IT support staff, who tend to have a lot on their plate already.
Set Out of Office Message in Exchange Admin Center
To set an out of office message for a different mailbox using the Exchange Admin Center (formerly known as the Exchange Control Panel or ECP), first click on your own account in the top-right corner, then select Another User and choose the mailbox you want to modify. Next, choose Options -> Organize Email -> Automatic replies.
However, you can only use this method if you have been assigned the Exchange admin role in your organization. Since admin privileges should only be given to users who absolutely need them, this means you will have to contact your IT department to set up the automatic response. While this may not sound like a lot of effort, getting the exact dates and the wording of the message right usually requires several phone calls or emails between departments. That’s time and effort your help desk could spend working on other tasks!
Set Out of Office Message with tenfold
tenfold makes it fast and easy to activate the automatic response feature on another mailbox. Using the self-service interface, any tenfold user with the necessary access rights (for instance a team lead or supervisor) can select the account in question and then click on the Manage Out of Office Note button to set an automatic response.
This feature allows you to quickly and easily address missing OOF messages without the need to contact IT. In contrast to many other workarounds, this method also includes all settings that can be specified in Outlook itself: start and end date, email forwarding, copies to the original recipient, separate messages for inside and outside contacts, etc.
Outlook Out of Office Template Feature
Since automatic responses are part of the Outlook account settings, the style and content of out of the office messages are typically left up to the individual user. However, this can lead to a wide range of different responses within an organization, including messages that fail to mention important information.
To make sure that automatic messages follow a clear standard, many businesses are looking for a way to enforce a consistent format across their entire organization. Unfortunately, internal memos and templates stored in some obscure directory are unlikely to change user habits. Without the proper tools to automatically pull up, modify and insert templates right when you need them, your employees will continue to draft their own out of office messages on the fly.
This is where tenfold comes in: The out of office feature allows you to create, modify and insert templates directly from the email settings. Thanks to context-specific text blocks, you can define the template to automatically insert relevant information such as the name and email address of a supervisor.
Out of Office Message Requirements
An out of office message should be as brief as possible, while providing the most important details about your absence at a glance. These are the key points your automatic response needs to cover:
Date of your return: Letting people know how long you are unavailable and when they can expect a response helps them figure out their next steps.
Note about forwarding: Some companies automatically forward emails to someone in the same department, some don’t. Either option is fine, as long as you tell your contacts whether their email will be forwarded or not. This tells your clients whether they need to send another email or simply wait for your coworkers to respond.
Point of contact: To make sure that important issues can be resolved quickly, provide the contact information (email and phone number) of one of your colleagues.
Example: Out of Office Message Template
Even if you know which points your out of office message should include, it can be difficult to strike the right balance between professionalism and a warm, welcoming tone. To avoid mistakes, many people resort to looking up out of office templates on the internet. With a few changes, these examples can be easily adjusted to your needs.
Feel free to use this template when you are drafting your next out of office message:
Thank you for your message! I am out of the office until Jan. 1 and will respond to your email after I return. In urgent matters, please contact my colleague Jane Doe. She can be reached by phone (555-555-1234) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Your message will not be forwarded.
tenfold – User Management Made Easy
Thanks to an automated user lifecycle management and a wide range of self service features, tenfold helps reduce the workload of your IT and support staff. Through tenfold’s intuitive interface, users can not only add out of office messages, but also reset their passwords, request new permissions or grant access to files as data owners. By making sure that approval workflows involve the relevant stakeholders and departments, permissions can be assigned and revoked without the need for tickets or emails. To ensure compliance, all changes are logged through the change tracking feature. All this and more makes tenfold the best IAM solution for mid-market organizations.
With its wide range of features and competitive price point, tenfold is the best IAM solution for midmarket organizations.