Transparency in the Workplace: Sharing Your Calendar Details

This is just one more step to being more transparent in the workplace. A few months ago I tweeted this, figured it was time to detail it out

How many times have you went to schedule a meeting with your coworkers, and when you add them to the meeting you see everyone is booked. Sorta like this:

Busy Calendar

Now, forget for a minute the top two rows. The first one is mine, and the second is one of my employees.

The others… those are “everyone else”.

One way you can make scheduling meetings a little easier, as well as just be more transparent, is to share more information about your calendar free/busy with your colleagues. Now, I will detail how to do this in Outlook 2013 on Windows and Outlook 2011 on Mac but for previous versions it is pretty similar steps. There is also a way to do this with Google Apps calendar but I am not going to delve into that here (although I have noticed more and more orgs using Google Apps, the majority use Exchange).

There are few things I do, which you may find useful.

  1. My calendar item Subject and Location are open to everyone in my organization to view.
  2. The full details of all meetings are completely open to all my direct reports and everyone below them. I also do the same for some of my key peers as well as my boss, they can see everything.

Now I am sure you are saying “But Steve, what about those few appointments or meetings I want to keep private?” – Well, Microsoft has thought of everything.

3. My private appointments, I mark as private.

So, how do you do all this? Well it is pretty easy.

For Outlook 2013 in Windows, head to your calendar, and you will see it listed on the left hand side, right click->properties, then you see a “Permissions” tab. Click on that and change the default permissions. As for the Mac, it is pretty similar, but in the calendar, right click and the options is “Sharing Permissions”

As you can see, I have “Free/Busy time, subject, location” turned on for the “Default” permissions. For all the people listed, the only difference is they have “Full Details”, which means they can open up a meeting on my calendar and see whatever someone wrote or attached, agenda, etc.

Calendar Sharing

Now, to mark a specific calendar item private, just open it, and click the “Private” button.

Mark it private

Done. Now when someone adds you to an appointment when they are trying to schedule a meeting, they will see the subject and location. They could ask you “could you move this, or that” or sometimes they will even know what is important by the location/subject and know you could move it or skip it or whatever. Very useful.

Another handy item might be that someone is scheduling you and they see a meeting about a given topic. They might think they should be included and ask you about it, or they might have a colleague or employee they think should be there and they will want to make sure that they are represented, etc.  Now this will make 99% of your co-workers uneasy because they have always been private or hidden – they don’t want anyone knowing what they are doing, etc. I say phooey and work in the open. My opinion is that in an organization, the setting of sharing the location and subject should be set as the default in the Exchange server, not by each employee.

We are all the same team, we should have nothing to hide. And for those doctor or dentist appointments, or seldom top secret meetings, mark it private. It should be the exception though, not the rule.

You can also share your calendar specifically with a coworker and request them to share it back, this is what I started with years ago, but then after a while just opened mine up per the settings above.

So tell me, if you haven’t already shared your calendar with your teammates and coworkers, why not? Trust me, the world will not end, nor will you lose some magical edge you think you have by keeping your calendar private. In the end, opening it up will help your colleagues and show a sense of openness and transparency. Try it!

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