How to Create a Maternity Leave Out-of-Office Message

Don't Leave Your Out-of-Office Message in Someone Else's Hands

illustration about how to create a maternity out-of-office message

Image by Danie Drankwalter. © The Balance 2019

Creating the right out-of-office reply is important, especially when out on maternity leave. The message creates a personal boundary that alerts the sender that you will be unavailable during your leave and informs them about who they can contact during your absence. Setting this up early can allow you to craft a purposeful note. This way, you will feel confident in your message, and your co-workers and clients will feel cared for.

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

It Sets Expectations for Everyone 

The maternity leave you take after your baby is born is private and very special. The moments with your newborn can never be recaptured. Therefore, 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 on leave, you don't really have time for that. Also, the quick reply can balloon into a bigger issue to address.

You are welcoming a new member into your family. This time of bonding will be filled with sleepless nights, an unpredictable schedule, recuperation, doctor appointments, visitors, and much more. Also, there will be a good amount of change 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 important during this time. To help put your work life on hold, establish that your newborn and everything that comes with the bundle of joy is the top priority. When you create the right out-of-office message, people will understand what your current priority is and will respect the boundary it sets.

So how do you create an awesome message to help protect such a special time?

Give Your Out-of-Office Message Some Thought

When around 26 weeks pregnant, start working on the out-of-office message. If given the option to save a title for this, 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 who knows how to do your job, who will be taking over your responsibilities, and when you may be back to the office. Decide if you want to include a specific return-to-work date or week, or consider not mentioning a date if you're unsure. If you don't list a specific person the sender can contact, decide if you want to provide your manager's email and/or phone number.

Creating the message early saves you, your employer, and your contacts time. You may need to leave the office unexpectedly (to deliver your baby); as a result, having a prepared message gives your IT admin or your manager a message to use. Do you want IT or your manager setting the tone of this message? Heck no! Furthermore, the message created by your employer may not reflect the language or message you want to convey to your contacts. It can also cause confusion or misunderstandings with clients, especially when out for an extended period of time.

Inform your manager when your message is complete. 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 emails sent to you during a specified time.

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 announce that you are on your 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.

Maternity Leave Out-of-Office Sample Email Message (Text Version)

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)