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Using Group Calendars

I sometimes get a question about department group calendars. Mainly, are they an effective way to communicate availability.

I am not a fan - mainly because the concept is great, but the execution never seems to match the expected benefits.

The idea of a team calendar is simple - if I can see everyones availability in one place, it can help with communication. For example, if I can see that Mary is going to be out of the office next week, I can make sure I get anything I need from her before she leaves. I can also schedule group meetings, etc. For those of you old enough, this is meant to be a replacement for the old magnetic boards that people used to say when they were in and out of the office.

Rarely are group calendars used this way. I don't want to put my entire calendar on the group calendar, so that means I have to maintain 2 separate calendars - never a good idea. Also, not everyone on the team is diligent - which means that some people will use it and some will never look at it or update it.

Some corporate systems, such as Outlook, have ways to see other people's calendars, but the methods are usually clunky and provide minimal benefit.

In teams I've led, here is what I do:

  1. I ask everyone on the team to share their calendar with me and the rest of the team. Most systems still have a way to keep some appointments private (such as doctors appointments, etc.). This way people can look if they need to see or talk with you.

  2. I ask everyone to communicate any extended time out, usually in a weekly team meeting. Using the example above, Mary would mention in our team meeting that she will be out next week and if anyone needs anything from her they should talk with her as soon as possible. You don't have to mention every time you are out, but anything more than a half day is usually something worth a heads up.

Each team will have their own methods, the key is to find a way to communicate without adding too much work.

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