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Our office (pretty large - about 200 people) has recently started part-time telecommuting. It's only one day/week now, but it's already raised some questions about availability, so I wanted to see how the users here, some of whom I'm sure telecommute to a corporate job, how they set their out of office status.

Outlook has four statuses, and here's what I (and most others?) take them to mean:

  • Free: I'm available for meetings
  • Busy: I'm in a meeting or otherwise occupied, and unavailable
  • Tentative: Shy away from scheduling over, but I'm available if needed
  • Out of office: I'm on vacation and unavailable. However, I don't travel for work - do people tend to use this status to mean they're remote, but available for a phone call/bridge?

As we begin to telecommute, I'll be available by phone for meetings, but not in person - any meeting can have a conference bridge, but some meetings just need to be in person. I'd like to send the right message about my status - people can schedule meetings with me on my telecommute days, but they should expect me to be on a conference bridge when they do.

What status do people use? Does "Out of Office" correctly reflect that you're working from home, even though I perceive this to mean that somebody is on vacation? Maybe I'm the only one confused here, but as a company that's never before done telecommuting of any kind, I'm in the dark about standard practices.

Thanks for the insight! Though this isn't a technical question directly, I'm hoping it's still applicable to the group and constructive - if it's not, please close it and accept my apology.

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1 Answer 1

As I grew to understand it, "out of office" implies that you are assumed to be unable to access office-related material from where you are at that moment. People may call you, but whether you're in a client meeting or on holiday, you won't be able to look up information because you won't have it at hand. This implies that you won't be reachable to make any informed (i.e. substantiated by the office-material available to you) decisions over the phone - it'll usually only help to ask about scheduling-related matters, if a calendar is at hand (or things like "can I reach you regarding X today or could you call me back when you can?").

Telecommuting would not qualify as "out of office", if you have access to your work-related material and are available for video/voice (conference-)calls - this does qualify you to do all regular work as if you were in office (if everything is set up to allow for this).

I realize this question has been asked quite some time ago - I still hope you or whoever stumbles upon it may find it useful.

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I'll still find it useful :) So it sounds like, in an office where telecommuting is common, there's no need to denote remote work days on your calendar at all. However, in my case, I'm at a workplace where telecommuting is still pretty uncommon - everybody in my group does it once day/week, but that's far more than average, and it's still not common practice to include a conference bridge in meeting invites (though that's changing). In my case, I'm not able to attend in-person on these days, but I'm still fully available. Should I signify these days in any way on the calendar? –  SqlRyan Feb 23 '13 at 6:07
    
The irony isn't lost on me, BTW, that I asked this question a year ago, though there seems to be no less ambiguity about how I'm supposed to be scheduling this :) –  SqlRyan Feb 23 '13 at 6:07
    
@SqlRyan in that case, I'd recommend creating all-day events (either free or marked as "tentative", whichever catches your colleagues attention) with a subject line like "homeworking" or something similar. If you are using automated solutions (like Lotus Domino, Microsoft Exchange or simliar) I'd recommend a "tentative" event, so your colleagues get a notification of a potential conflict when they schedule a meeting: hopefully in time to include a audio or even a/v-bridge for the meeting in question. (I'm not too familiar with stackexchange yet, if that belongs to the original post do tell.) –  deucalion Feb 25 '13 at 14:52
    
As a "PS": it really depends on how your group is set up and used to work; I worked for a slightly bigger (roughly 380'000 employees) company that had most of the tech in place, but I'm pretty sure it required a lot of discipline and knowledge (and development of fitting processes) to make conference calls work smoothly. In a few cases, face to face meetings were a sine qua non, in others a quick VoIP call was just fine. I think such a change (introducing homeworking and evaluating where and when it's ok) is a valid reason to hire a consultant - and may improve everyone's well-being. –  deucalion Feb 25 '13 at 15:02
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