One of the advantages of shared mailboxes in Office 365 is they don’t require a license. Converting a regular mailbox to a shared mailbox after an employee leaves is a great way to keep the contents of that mailbox available without continuing to tie up a license. See my previous blog post titled “Useful PowerShell commands for Office 365 Exchange Online” for info on how to convert a mailbox.
Sometimes it is requested that a former employee mailbox send out an auto reply or Out of Office Message to notify senders that the employee is no longer with the company and/or to provide a forwarding address. Unfortunately, the built in Automatic Replies feature will not work on an Office 365 account when the license has been removed. As a workaround you can use the “Rules and Alerts” feature of Outlook to send an auto reply:
1. Give a licensed account full access permissions to the shared mailbox. Make sure the shared account is not set to be hidden from the Exchange address book at this point. It can be hidden later if required.
2. Setup an Outlook profile for the shared account. Simply adding the shared account to an existing Outlook profile is not sufficient. When prompted for credentials, be sure to use the username and password for the account that you granted full access permissions.
3. Setup a new Rule using the Rules Wizard:
- Start from a blank rule
- Apply rule on messages I receive
- No conditions
- Have server reply using a specific message – fill out the subject and body of the message as you would like it to appear
- Exceptions – add in any exceptions you want such as “except if it is an automatic reply” to prevent mail loops.
What you will end up with is a server side rule that will reply with your message of choice letting people know that the person associated with the account is no longer with the company. It isn’t as easy as setting up an out of office reply message, but it gets the job done!