Office 365 email: Calendaring Best Practices & Considerations
There are multiple factors which contribute to calendaring conflicts, missed meeting invitations, and incorrect meeting details.
This article explains the ITS best practices recommendations for using the Office 365 email/calendaring solution.
Office 365 Calendaring Best Practices
The following considerations will help you to learn the guiding principles of Office 365 calendaring.
Please review the following considerations and recommendations to maintain calendar fidelity and to prevent many calendaring issues.
Consideration 1: All email/calendar applications are not equalEmail/calendar applications are not all equal. In general, the more complicated or detailed the task, the more important it is for you to use an application designed for use with Office 365 email.
Expected behavior: Scheduling complex meetings using non-recommended software can introduce scheduling conflicts due to the way these different programs handle processing of the meeting requests.
- You'll receive the best experience with Outlook Web Access or Outlook 2016 for the Windows and OSX Operating Systems.
- Outlook Web Access is also a good alternative because it works efficiently via any current major browser on any current operating system.
- For mobile devices we recommend the Outlook app available from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.Discouraged:
- iCal on Mac is not recommended because it only works reliably for simple meetings.
- Prior versions of Outlook for Windows have been replaced by Outlook 2016.
- Mobile devices are best suited for reference only; personal appointments can be setup on a mobile phone or tablet, however, meeting invitations should be proposed or accepted on a computer.
Consideration 2: Apply all updates to all email/calendar applications
All updates need to be applied to all email/calendar applications to keep them working smoothly. Update these applications on computers, mobile phones, and tablets regularly.
Expected behavior: If you are not using the latest version of your email/calendaring program, you may be missing an important update that addresses problems with email or calendar synchronization.
Apply all updates to all of your email/calendar applications to keep them working smoothly. That includes your computer as well as your mobile phone or tablet. Mobile email/calendar applications have had a number of synchronization issues fixed in the past several years; make sure you have those updates applied.
Consideration 3: Meeting notifications are not useless messagesCalendar updates are sent by email messages.
All recipients should process every update they receive to ensure that everyone sees the same view of a meeting.
When a meeting appears on your calendar and a coworker's calendar, you might assume that there is a single calendar entry - this is not the case. Each person's calendar has a copy of the meeting invitation. As you accept invitations, updates, and cancellations, the items on your calendar are updated. Your coworkers do the same. As long as you each accept every change to each meeting, each person's calendar entry gets the same updates.Expected behavior: If one person misses an update, the copies no longer look identical, the meetings start looking different, and meeting attendees might start showing up at different times for a meeting that was moved or updated.
If you are the meeting organizer:
If you are a meeting attendee:
- Send notifications to all attendees on every change. Do not skip updates. Do not use the option to notify only the attendees that have been added or removed.
- Include a note about what has changed or the purpose for sending each update - this will inform your attendees so that they don't skip updates they believe they have already seen.
- If you do not need to know who is attending your meeting, it is okay to use the 'no response required' option. For example, if you use all-day events to notify your group about vacation days, you don't really need your co-workers to 'accept' your vacation. Similarly, if you are inviting many people to an optional meeting and you do not need to know how many plan to attend, you can safely use the 'no response required' option.
- Accept or decline every calendar message. Note: If you simply delete them, you may miss important changes to the meeting. If you accidentally delete a calendar message, go back into your Deleted Items folder and accept it.
- Always send a response to the meeting organizer when you accept or decline.
- Some email/calendar applications give you the option to not send a response; don't skip the response.
Consideration 4: Delegation
If you have your assistant manage your calendar, do not make or accept meetings on your own.
Expected behavior: Inconsistent scheduling processes can lead to calendar conflict issues.
- If your assistant creates and accepts meetings for you, ask them to always do it the same way. This leads to more consistent, predictable scheduling.
- Do not disrupt the process by making or accepting meetings on your own.
- Have no more than one delegate who can update your calendar.
- If you must have more than one delegate, establish a delegate hierarchy by designating a primary delegate. If the primary delegate is unavailable, follow the hierarchy so that only one delegate manages the calendar at any time.
- Have everyone involved use the same email/calendar application when updating and viewing the calendar.A quick terminology guide (Delegate Access & Sharing):
- Sharing a mail folder (or calendar) allows someone access to that folder. You specify the level of access, from read-only to full create/edit/delete privileges.
- Delegate access lets someone act "on behalf of" you. When you grant Delegate access, messages or calendar event invitations will come from an address in this format: Assistant on behalf of Manager. You can grant Delegate access with any level of sharing or with no sharing at all.
- Send As rights allow someone to send messages, replies, and calendar event invitations in the persona of that person. This is most commonly used with group accounts. For example, department staff could send a message that comes from "Some Departmental Mailbox" rather than from their own email address.
Consideration 5: Recurring MeetingsRecurring meetings should not be used for meetings that have a different time, location, or agenda each week. Each exception to a meeting series is stored in the meeting notifications that are sent to all invitees. As the list of exceptions (changes to the original meeting) grows, errors build and schedules get out of sync. Recurring meetings should only be used for meetings which are simple and predictable.
Expected behavior: If you use the recurring meeting feature for meetings which change time, location, or agenda each week, each change to the original meeting can introduce errors. These errors may result in meetings that do not sync or may cause the meeting to be corrupted/unable to be viewed.
- Only use the recurring meeting feature if the time and place are the same each week.
- When a time or location for one date in a recurring meeting series needs to be changed, that individual occurrence of the meeting should be cancelled and a new, non-recurring meeting invitation sent out with the updated information.
- Recurring meetings must have an end date or a limited number of occurrences; not to exceed two years.
- The weekly agenda should be sent out as a separate mail item, not as a meeting update.
Consideration 6: Current Time and Time ZoneEach email/calendar application has a time and a time zone. The time zone of the device is applied to the meetings being setup from that device. The email/calendar application of each person invited will try to match it's time zone with the time zone of the meeting.
Expected behavior: When timezones don't align, these mismatched time zones can result in shifted meeting times.
- Each email/calendaring application needs to show the correct time and time zone and be set to match the time zone configured for the operating system of the computer.
- Mobile devices (i.e. smart phones, tablets) have time zones; these are often set to automatically change the device time zone when you travel.
- Outlook Web App (OWA) also has a time zone setting; check that the time zone for Outlook Web App is in agreement with other time zone settings that you use.
- Make sure that all of your email/calendar applications know when Daylight Saving Time begins and ends.
Office 365 Calendaring Best Practices - Scheduling Rooms or Resources
Use these considerations to reliably reserve rooms for your meetings.
Consideration 7: Do not direct book, instead invite resourcesDo not attempt to directly propose a meeting to the resource (meeting room) calendar, even if you have the ability to do so.
Expected behavior: Directly booking a resource or room calendar may result in the room booking not completing successfully, even if it appears to have worked properly. This can result in a double-booked room or resource.
- When scheduling a meeting room or a resource calendar, ITS recommends to invite the resource to the meeting via the "Rooms" button.
- Use the scheduling assistant to be sure the resource is available. If the room is booked, find another room that's available, then send the invitation.
- The client will receive an acknowledgement from the resource if the reservation has been accepted.
Consideration 8: Allow conflictsYou have scheduled a meeting for the next year, only to have the room decline because it is busy on one day six months from now.
Expected behavior: If you add alternate time or room variations to the recurring meeting to accommodate the room or resource schedule, each of these exceptions (changes to the original meeting series) can introduce errors which may result in meetings that do not sync or may cause the meeting to be corrupted/unable to be viewed.
- Ask the owner of the room to set the room or resource calendar to allow conflicts. You may allow a maximum number or maximum percentage of conflicts in a meeting. With this setting, the room would have informed you that your reservation was made except for the days when the room or resource was already booked. This process will not result in double-booking those times.