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Outlook – a guide to indicating your availability with your calendar

Please note that emails sent and appointments made using the Union’s system, that is with email addresses ending, are the property of the Union (this means it is not a private account). If you have personal correspondence or appointments that you wish to remain confidential, we recommend that you use a web-based email account such as Gmail. Appointments in Outlook can be set as ‘private’ so others on the system cannot see their contents, but the administrators of the system still have access. If you have a mobile device, you can set up a private calendar from your Calendar app.

Indicating your availability using Outlook

In order to let colleagues know when you are available for meetings, it is helpful for you to block out times in your diary when you are not in – for example, if you are a part-time member of staff, indicate in your diary what hours you are available for meetings. You can also indicate times that you are proposing to be occupied, but may still be available for meetings if they need to be booked. Unfortunately Outlook’s global calendar settings are not sophisticated enough for our extremely varied timetables, so the best current solution is for individuals to show times in their calendars when they are not available.

The simplest way to do this is to create recurring appointments showing that you are out of the office. Please note this is different to the ‘Out Of Office’ (OOO) setting on your email (under Automatic Replies in the File menu of Outlook) – the OOO email setting is only used when you are not responding to emails at any point during the day (for example if you are on vacation, off ill or at a conference, etc).

In the following example, a member of staff is in from 10am-6pm Monday to Wednesday, Thursdays 2pm-12am and Friday 2pm-8pm. They need to indicate that they are available for meetings and at their desk Monday to Wednesday 10am-6pm, then not in (and therefore not available for meetings) until 2pm on Thursday and 2pm on Friday.

The example staff member would create recurring ‘out of the office’ appointments for each day as follows:

Monday: 1am-10am and 6pm-12am
Tuesday: as above, so the same appointment could be used on a recurrence
Wednesday: as above
Thursday: 1am-2pm
Friday: 1am-2pm and 8pm-12am.

In addition, they would need to put in a recurring ‘busy’ appointment for the evening of Thursday, for example if they were managing the building from 4pm and were therefore not at their desk or available for meetings.

The procedure is as follows:

1. Create a new appointment, give it a descriptive name such as ‘Not in the Office’ or ‘Not available’ and enter in the date and time of the first occurrence:

2. Set the appointment to Show As Out of Office (for most diaries this makes the appointment appear purple in your calendar):

You can also use ‘tentative’ or ‘free’ to show times when you are proposing to be occupied but may still be booked for meetings if necessary.

Unless you want a reminder for every single time this item appears in your diary, select None from the Reminder field:

3. Now you need to set the recurrence, if required:

4. In the Recurrence box, select when you want the appointment to repeat (in the example case, this is Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday each week):

You can set the end date if you wish, for example if you were working different hours in vacations, you would set the end date to be the end of term, and set new appointments from then on. You would then have to set up new recurring appointments from the beginning of the next term.
Term dates:

5. Click Save & Close and then the appointment is in your diary:



This process is then repeated for each Out of Office appointment you need to create, with ‘Busy’ (blue) being indicated instead of ‘out of Office’ (purple) in step 2 where required – for the example member of staff that would be on their recurring Thursday evening duties.

Exceptions to the rule

If you have a recurring appointment that happens most of the time, but occasionally you are in when normally you are out, you do not have to change the whole recurring appointment to fit this.

You can cancel individual occurrences of a recurring meeting. For example, the example staff member is normally out of the office on Friday mornings because of working late the night before. There is a recurring appointment in their diary for Friday morning indicating that they are not in. However, the night they normally work has been cancelled, so instead of working late, they decide to come in to work on the Friday morning.

The example staff member can cancel the individual recurrences of their late Thursday and early Friday out of office appointments, without affecting the regular nature of the appointment, as follows:

  1. Find the specific appointment you want to cancel and double click it:

2. A box appears – make sure ‘Open this occurrence’ is selected and NOT ‘Open the Series’, then click OK:

3. The appointment opens:

4. Click Delete. The following box appears:


Ensure that ‘Delete this occurrence’ is selected and click ok.

5. The appointment disappears from your diary, but other occurrences are still present:


The process is repeated for each individual occurrence of the appointments that need to be cancelled.


Any questions? Email Louisa.


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