Creating The Right Out of Office Message For Your Maternity Leave

Don't leave your out of message in someone else hands!

Pregnant woman in office
Kelvin Murray / Getty Images

Creating the right reply email for when someone emails you, while you're out on maternity leave, is important. This message creates a personal boundary that tells the sender you will be unavailable during your leave and who they can contact during your absence.  When you set up your out of office email ahead of time you can take your time writing it. This way you'll confident in your message and your co-workers and clients will feel taken care of while you're out.

Here's more of an explanation to help you understand the importance of your "out of office" message and why you should schedule some time to work on it.

It Sets Expectations... For Everyone

(Hopefully) you'll be taking a maternity leave after you baby is born.  This time away from the office is private and very special.  You'll never get this time back with your newborn. Ever. So it's important to protect this period in your life.

You know how it feels to get a work email while on vacation, right? You feel compelled to send a quick reply! But while you're on leave you don't really have time for a "quick" reply. 

You and your family are welcoming another member into the world.  This time of bonding will be filled with sleepless nights, an unpredictable schedule, hormone fluctuations, doctor appointments, visitors, and who knows what else.  Also there will be a good amount of change within you and everyone around you that you'll want to manage.

Writing emails under these conditions will not produce your best work. Your "out of office" message will protect you from work interruptions as well as poorly thought out emails. 

Setting boundaries is a must during this time.  To help put your work life on hold set a new priority that your newborn and everything that comes with it comes first.

 When you create the right out of office message your clients, co-workers, and anyone else attempting to reach you understands what your new priority is and hopefully won't cross it.

So how do you create a awesome "do not disturb" message to help protect such a special time?

Give Your "Out of Office" Message Some Thought

When you are around 26 weeks pregnant start working on your "Out of Office" message.  If given the option to save a title for this message title it "Maternity Leave - Out of Office".  

Preparing the message ahead of time gives you more control over what your message will say. You are the one that knows your job, who will be taking over your responsibilities, and when you may be back to the office. Decide if you want to say you'll be back on a particular day, during a specific week, or not mention a date at all. If you don't give a specific person the sender can contact, decide if you want to mention your manager's email or a phone number they could call.

When creating this message ahead of time you will save everyone, including yourself, time and energy.  You may need to leave the office unexpectedly (you know, to go deliver your baby) so having the message set up gives your IT admin or your manager a prepared message to use.

 Do you want IT or your manager setting the tone of this message?  Heck no!

Once your "out of office" message is saved tell your manager. They'll love to hear that you're prepared for your exit and there's one less thing they'll need to do to support you.

Things to Include in Your Message

Below is a sample "out of office" message you can use.  Once you enable the message in your email software it will automatically respond to any email sent to you during a specified time you set.

It is up to you if you'd like to inform recipients where you are.  You could simply say you are "out of the office" or you can inform them that you are on your maternity leave.  If you prefer not to inform everyone that you're on maternity leave, simply delete the three words "for maternity leave". You can use a variant of this email message for extended vacations or business trips as well!

Where you see (parentheses), insert the appropriate words or phrases for your circumstances.

Thank you for your email. I am out of the office on maternity leave until (date you expect to return).

If you need immediate assistance please contact (name of colleague covering for you, with contact details, your manager's email, or a phone number).

(If you have certain projects you cover list the project name and the person covering you).

If your matter is not urgent I'll reply to your email upon my return.

Kind regards,

(Your name)

Edited by Elizabeth McGrory.