Social Signals #3: Using Google or Outlook Calendar to signal availability

Social Signals #3: Using Google or Outlook Calendar to signal availability

Calendars rule my life. I schedule all my meetings through Google Calendar and make sure that any conversation that I plan to have is captured in an event. It's safe to say that most people these days are pretty similar.

But, the second most valuable aspect of my calendar has been communicating my availability to teammates. That’s why I use calendars to block out focus time and personal tasks. In these cases, I’m not coordinating between external actors. I’m signaling a lack of availability.

  1. If I see that Doug’s calendar has an event called “deep work”, then I shouldn’t bother him.
  2. If I see that  calendar has an event called “QA with Kate” and Kate has accepted the event, then I probably shouldn’t bother him either.

Since calendars play such a critical role in communicating status and availability, we decided to integrate Google and Outlook Calendar into the product.

What does the Google/Outlook Calendar integration do?

Pragli shows a calendar icon next to my avatar for every Google/Outlook account that has an ongoing event. I can also label every account as either a personal or work account and choose to hide the event information if I have sensitive information captured in the event details. Your teammates can also see the video conferencing link in the event details and decide to join if the meeting is relevant to them.

If you label an event as work or personal, the calendar icon includes either “W” or “P”, respectively. This makes it easy for teammates to see whether you’re busy with a work or personal event.

Clarity of Intent: What important information does this convey?

Since my teammates religiously update their work and personal calendars, seeing their calendar events is probably the best indicator as to what they are working on. If they have an ongoing meeting, they could be:

1. Focusing deeply on a task. They have explicitly blocked off time in their calendar to get work done or used a service like  Clockwise to automatically block time for them.

2. Meeting with customers or other teammates in Zoom. They have scheduled or been invited to a meeting with other participants.

3. Taking personal time during the day to go to the doctor or do laundry. They have scheduled an event and labeled their calendar as personal.

I can paint an even more sophisticated picture of what my teammates are working on with multiple signals.

If my teammate is listening to Spotify and she has an ongoing personal calendar event with hidden event details and she hasn’t touched her keyboard in a while, she is likely busy with a personal task but not chatting with anyone. You are probably safe to contact her if there’s a fire.

Invasiveness to Privacy: How invasive is this social signal?

Integrating a calendar can be pretty invasive if event details are public by default.

  1. You may not want to reveal personal doctor visits
  2. You may not want your teammates to know about 1:1s with managers or HR meetings
  3. You definitely don’t want to reveal your conversations with other companies that you are interviewing with

Even though these details may give your teammates clarity into your availability, the privacy balance is hard to strike. We generally recommend that people hide event details if they have reservations about privacy. But, hiding event details will most likely compromise the clarity of the signal.

Final Evaluation

Google/Outlook Calendar works as a great social signal for your teammates, but your mileage will vary depending on whether you reveal your event details.

When showing your event details
Clarity of Intent: High 🔥9/10
Invasiveness to Privacy: High  7/10

When hiding your event details
Clarity of Intent: Medium  6/10
Invasiveness to Privacy: Low 🔥3/10

What is Pragli?

I built a virtual office for remote teams to frictionlessly chat and feel present with each other. We use various social signals such as Google/Outlook Calendar to provide remote teammates on Pragli the confidence to start conversations with their coworkers.

If you’re interested in using the product with your team,  sign up on our home page  or  reach out to me on Twitter.

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