During a recent Outlook training session a question came up regarding the best way to coordinate calendars for vacation scheduling which can be an issue around the holidays and summer time. Here are three options that may be useful depending on the size of your organization.
#1 All Day Even Meeting Request
If you work in a small group where the only person who really needs to see your vacation schedule is either your boss or an administrator or if you have a POP 3 account instead of a mail server, this may be your best option. The way it works is that you send your boss a meeting request for the days you will be on vacation making sure to check off the “All day event” box. Making the meeting request an all day even assures that it will appear only at the top of the Calendar Work Week view instead of taking up the entire day (see thumbnail below).
Note in the thumbnail the white bar going across the top of the columns for the last three days of the week – this bar would represent vacation days for Zee, but not interfere with my schedule as I have selected the “Free” option for the Show Time as field. Option #1 is a great method for small groups where it is helpful to have a reminder on the user’s local calendar that they may need to cover for someone on a given day.
#2 Grant Access to Your Calendar
If your organization uses a mail server such as Microsoft Exchange with Outlook (you are using a mail server if you top level folder in your Outlook Folder list begins with the word “Mailbox – ” and then your name), then you can grant other people in your group permission to view your calendar. They will still not be able to see items on your calendar that have been marked private, but at any time they can view your calendar and see which days you have marked as vacation days by selecting your folder in their folder list view. Users can even see more than one calendar simultaneously by selecting both your calendar and another at the same time (see thumbnail below).
Note in the thumbnail that the Calendar bar is selected in the Navigation pane to allow the user to view and select multiple calendars. Also note that on Zee’s calendar, all three vacation days are shown with purple vertical bars representing that she is out of the office. This method is best for comparing the schedules of a two or three person group since the window can get crowded very quickly if more than two calendars are selected at a time.
#3 Vacation Calendar in Public Folders
Option number three also requires the use of a mail server and Microsoft Outlook 2003 or an earlier version (since Microsoft Outlook 2007 does not incorporate Public Folders). This option would entail using a public folder which you might name “Vacation Calendar” that everyone has permission to edit. Each user would need to create an all day event meeting request in the Vacation Calendar public folder and then invite themselves in order for the item to show up synchronized in both the public Vacation Calendar and their own local Calendar. With this method, several employees could view and coordinate vacation schedules in the same place. See thumbnail below.
If you are using Outlook 2007 with Exchange 2007, you will need to use Sharepoint to create a shared folder to house vacation information.
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