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What’s worse than not being able to get a meeting with someone? Getting a meeting request for a time when you’re not working. We can’t stop that, but we can help you set up Outlook so that at least people know your working hours.

When you create a meeting request in Outlook, the Meeting > Scheduling Assistant helps you find a time that you and the meeting request recipients are both free.

click scheduling assistant on the meeting tab

When you open the Scheduling Assistant, the hours shown for each day aren’t from midnight to midnight, though; they’re from 8 am to 5 pm.

meeting hours show 8 am to 5 pm by default

This is Outlook’s default working day, which you can change to whatever hours you work. Click File > Options > Calendar and look for the “Work Time” section. You can change your working hours here.

change your working hours at File > Options > Calendar

As an example, we’ll change our working hours to 10 am to 4 pm and then click “OK.” If we open a new Meeting request and click on the Scheduling Assistant, our working hours have changed to reflect the new hours.

changed hours on outlook calendar

Outlook will show these hours to anyone with access to your calendar when they try to book a meeting with you.

Let’s say you’re a night owl who works remotely and can set your own hours. You need to be available in the afternoon so that there’s some overlap with your early-bird colleagues, but you prefer a later start, so you change your working hours to 12 pm to 8 pm. When you create a meeting request and add a colleague, Outlook displays your working hours as 12 pm to 8 pm and any hours they don’t work in this period will show as a light gray bar.

a light gray bar shows unavailable hours

When they try to book a meeting with you, all of the hours up to 12 pm will similarly show as a light gray bar for them.

You can also set your working days, so if you’re part-time or you work on the weekend, you can change this in File > Options > Calendar > Work Week.

change your working days at File > Options > Calendar > Work week

We’ll change ours to show that Friday is a non-working day. When we create a new meeting request and look at the Scheduling Assistant, it shows the whole day as a light gray bar, indicating that these aren’t working hours for us.

a light gray bar shows for all hours of unavailable days

You might need to educate your colleague as to what the gray bar means—and encourage them to put their own working days and hours in—but once everyone knows what this means, at least people will only have themselves to blame if they book a meeting with you for a time you don’t work.

Rob Woodgate Rob Woodgate
Rob Woodgate is a writer and IT consultant with nearly 20 years of experience across the private and public sectors. He's also worked as a trainer, technical support person, delivery manager, system administrator, and in other roles that involve getting people and technology to work together.
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