If you'd like to set up a meeting or call with me, chances are, I've sent you a link to my calendar. It's a public website where you can see when I'm available.
One important note, before we go any further, this public calendar only shows my free/busy status. It doesn't show the names of the appointments, details of people I'm meeting with, locations, or any other data. It's literally just "this is when Terence is busy".
There are two primary reasons why I do this.
Make it easy for people
Arranging meetings over email sucks! Let's meet on Friday? No can do, but I'm available on Monday. Me too, but only after 15:00. Ah, I need to be away at 15:15. Can we do this as a call on Tuesday? Sure. Oh, wait, I'm looking at the wrong week...
This way, I can send an email saying "I'm available Monday between 14:00 - 17:00. But please check my calendar for other availability."
It reduces the burden on both of us.
Embed openness and transparency as a cultural value
My new job is "Head of Open Technology" at NHSX. (This is my personal blog and doesn't represent my employers etc etc.) I advocate for open source, open standards, and open data. I want to embed the values of openness throughout the organisation.
To be clear, I'm doing this for my own benefit. I don't expect everyone else to do this, and I have no power to force anyone to do it.
The calendar feed is available as an open standard (ICS) - but, more importantly, it reinforces the message that public servants can be transparent. We don't need to wait for a Freedom of Information request - we can be open proactively.
Ideally, I'd like a way to retroactively publish some of the high level details - assuming they aren't "Official - Sensitive". Would it be helpful for people to know that I met with Company X to discuss Issue Y? Or that I had a call with Person Z about something?
How to do this
We use GMail at work. Google have a guide on how to make your calendar public
Basically, go to settings and try to figure out where they've moved the option to.
On the other hand...
Here are some good reasons not to do this...
- Normalises surveillance
- Do I want my daily work tracked by anyone?
- Weird psychology of knowing you're being observed
- Am I deliberately putting things in my calendar to make myself look busy and important?
- Security risk
- Is it obvious that my regular 08:30 appointment means I am at a certain location?
- GDPR risk
- What happens if I or Google screw up and other people's personal details are accidentally revealed?
- Hard to decline unwanted meetings
- It's socially acceptable to say to a bore "I'm sorry, I'm too busy for the next 3 weeks" and hope they forget. When your calendar is open, it's harder to evade people.
- Makes me look a bit weird
- I don't know many other people who do this. It's normal to share your calendar within your organisation - but externally?
Would you do this?
I'm curious if I'm the only one experimenting with this sort of openness. When I've sent the calendar link to people, they use it and don't ask questions about it. So it passes some level of social acceptability. It makes managing my time easier.
Is this something you'd be willing to try?