Out of Office & Decline All Meetings – Outlook on the Web

As we approach this holiday season I thought I would share with you a productivity trick that you should absolutely use – assuming you are an Office 365 user.

Here’s the scenario.

You are about to take some days off and you want to block out your calendar, you also want to decline all of the meetings that people have decided are important to you, what’s more, you’d like to decline any meeting invitation for those precious days and to cancel any recurring meeting that you have set up.

In Outlook on the web, the Office 365 client that you use through a browser, Microsoft have made this really, really easy to do, right there in the Automatic Replies interface.

Automatic Replies on Outlook on the web

The Automatic Replies interface isn’t the easiest thing to find, so let’s start there.

  • Click on the gear icon in the top right corner.
  • Click on “View All Outlook Settings” at the bottom of this interface.
  • Select the “email” section where you’ll find “Automatic Replies”.

Once you turn on automatic replies and “Send replies only during a time period” it will show you three extra options.

  • “Block my calendar for this period” – is self explanatory and will create an “away” event in your calendar for the dates defined.
  • “Automatically decline new invitations for events that occur during this period” – again, self explanatory, if a little wordy.
  • “Decline and cancel my meetings during this period” – this is where the gold is. Select this and you’ll get another dialogue asking how you would like the meetings declined including the response text. You also get a full list of the scheduled meetings so you can selectively retain some meetings, but why you would want to do that is beyond me.

Be warned though, I’ve found that people aren’t used to others actually declining meetings, so when they get a flood of emails for the 50 meetings that they have scheduled with you it can lead to some frustration.

For anyone wondering why this feature isn’t in the “full client” then it’s worth understanding that Outlook on the web is the target for all of these innovations. Browser based development is quicker and far easier to deploy, the “full client” is always going to be further behind.

Header image: a misty morning walk on one of my regular routes.

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