Navigate flexible and remote work: Share availability with coworkers

Schedule meetings and block time with an availability sharing calendar app

Posted by Andrew Newman and edited by Andrew Hine on February 10, 2020

Picture this: the year is 2025 and you are walking through the door/Elon Musk Hyperloop tunnel into your company’s office or co-working space. 8 of your 40 employees are there, 6 are awake. There’s a dog in a hi-vis running in circles around the conference room and you’ve arrived just in time for the building’s weekly ping pong tournament.

office with a ping pong table and couches [Photo by Daan Stevens on Unsplash] Nothing boosts employee morale more than a friendly game of ping pong.

This may sound ridiculous to you now but offices are adopting more morale-focused designs and in just a few years situations like this will become the norm. Except for the Hyperloop - we think Elon is interested in building those on more highly trafficked routes than your specific commute. But alas, we can hope.

The traditional office is facing a drastic decline that has already started and it is expected to continually approach obsoletion in the decade to come. The workforce has gotten a taste of remote and flexible work in recent years and the quality of life improvements this arrangement provides. This type of work has become a selling point for many businesses to attract top talent from all around the world and a valid tool to get ahead of the pack. There is no need to be geographically limited anymore, either from the employee or employers’ perspective.

The transition to more flexible and remote work will seek to maximize both time and productivity for all parties involved.

Why do businesses and employees want flexible work?

The office just isn’t the ideal place to accomplish your goals anymore. Why would you choose to go to a place where everyone constantly wants to steal your time and there are seemingly endless distractions, when you can be more focused in your quiet home without ever having to take off your pajamas? It has been proven repeatedly that remote employees are actually more effective.

However, it is naïve to think this transition will be painless. There is a certain amount of chaos that is created when teams are all working the way that they see personally ideal. Some people are most productive in the morning, and others prefer a more nocturnal method. Sometimes people will be on the same schedule, but with a 12 hour time difference, leading to zero overlap in availability. The 2020’s will be the decade where it will become routine to share availability to schedule a meeting with a coworker that is taking a month-long mental health vacation in Bali. And that will be normal.

woman on a swing in Bali [Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash] They *heart* Bali, and so does your coworker that's been ignoring your Slack messages for 2 days because they're on some beach finding themseleves.

This leads to collaboration and scheduling problems that will require modern solutions. Solutions that platforms such as Outlook and Google Calendar are not yet ready to provide and we will explain why later in this article.

A better way to share availability must be found when workers are on highly varying schedules.

Businesses will embrace flexible and remote work despite the scheduling issues

Companies will continue to move towards more remote and flexible work because the labor force demands it. Recent years have seen some of the highest turnover rates in history, which shows willingness to jump ship if a business is not catering to their employees’ needs [1]. In 2019, nearly 4 million people in the U.S. quit their jobs every month, a rate that has never been matched in their history [2]. The generation entering the workforce will not tolerate the restrictions and mundane atmosphere of the traditional office space.

A collaboration between Seek and Sidekicker has recently helped Spark Arena in Auckland to reduce turnover from 40% to 5% per shift by outsourcing their casual labour pool. Sidekicker gives their users the option to take shifts on their own time, allowing them to work when they want without having to make any commitments to the organization they are loaned to. This is revolutionizing flexible work in fields where temporary workers are in demand for events and saves businesses money because they do not need to pay extra full time employees [3].

It’s proven: working flexibly and remotely reduces turnover due to increased life satisfaction and financial benefits.

Forward-thinking institutions that allow their employees to travel and explore their interests outside of work will be the most sought-after in the coming years. Glassdoor recently published their list of the top 10 companies to work for in 2020, and there was a clear trend for businesses with the most satisfied employees to have remote and flexible options. Their rankings are based on employee approval ratings. Among the top 10 included VIPkid, a remote teaching company that focuses on employing teachers to educate Chinese students in the English language. They employ independent contractors of completely flexible schedules. Additionally, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory placed in the top 10 due to offering what they call “alternative work schedules” that focus on work-life balance and allowing employees to build their schedule on their terms [4]. Even Amazon is offering plenty of remote, freelance jobs, which is great news for their PR team that finally has something to talk about to offset their rampant workplace injury problem [5][6]. Great idea Amazon! Your employees can’t blame you for their injuries if you don’t let them on your property!

There are distinct productivity benefits to remote arrangements

Remote workers have been proven to be more efficient. Often cited is the ConnectSolutions (a private-cloud solutions provider, now called CoSo Cloud) experiment where they allowed half their team to work remote and kept the other half in-house. The remote team out-performed the office-based one. The survey found that the remote team felt more efficient and less stressed. Additionally, their remote team logged greater hours and less sick time [7]. This is likely due to their motivation to be allowed to continue in this setup and the blurring of the lines between work and private life that remote work leads to.

The negative aspect of isolation will be combated by the improvement of relationships outside of the office. Being based from home will allow more people to spend time with their families and replace their socialization through their jobs with friends made outside of the office [8]. Loneliness has been found to have the potential to shorten lifespan by 15 years which is equal to the effect of smoking 15 cigarettes daily! Even a link to the occurrence of cancer has been found [9]. To combat this issue, companies will need a greater focus on team building and periodic meet-ups to keep everyone connected and feeling engaged in their work community.

There are major financial incentives for both employer and employee

For the employee:

Financial incentives for employees to be remote will reduce turnover rates [10]. Ohio University cites an individual saves a potential of $6,800 annually due to reductions in transportation costs, eating out, and other factors [11].

tram on a gloomy day [Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash] Save money and time by working from home! Those crowded 8AM commutes will be a thing of the past.

For the business:

The fewer employees present on any given day in the office, the less space and resources are needed to accommodate them. This reduces the need for a large office space and rent costs go down. Or, the businesses can afford a smaller office in the city with more amenities in the area, lessening the commute and consequently providing a better space for workers when they choose to come into the office.

How to prepare for work at a flexible or remote business

The point of this article is not to make the case for or against the benefits of remote work, instead to better equip you with the tools to handle this revolution, specifically how to collaborate effectively with colleagues you will barely see in person or maybe never even meet.

You and your coworkers may be on very different schedules and it is vital you quickly and effectively share availability with them in order to keep everyone on the same page.

Sharing availability is potentially the greatest issue with remote and flexible work and every size business will need to learn to deal with this issue.

For a small organization, there is a necessity to share availability, as all of the employees likely work together very closely. For larger organizations, a chain reaction of scheduling difficulty will cause everything to slow down and critically damage the efficiency of the entire company.

Shared calendars such as Outlook are not enough to tackle this problem. These tools operate best when everyone is in the office during the same hours and can easily book time on one another’s calendars. But when you must share availability with an international team on different schedules, this simply won’t be workable.

day planner book used to share availability [Photo by Northfolk on Unsplash] Pro tip: Share availability with coworkers using a scheduling app and don’t waste time counting free hours on a paper day-planner. Still probably better than Outlook though?

Outlook’s extension FindTime seeks to deal with this problem and does a satisfactory job of finding ideal meeting times for people, regardless of time zone differences. FindTime gives the meeting organizer access to all of their attendees’ availabilities and can determine when they are all free to meet. Sounds like it would save time right? But in reality we found it costs as much time as Outlook in its traditional form.

This is because everyone will be able to see everyone else’s availability. Giving the invite recipient multiple meeting time options (FindTime’s key feature) creates the illusion of choice and pressures them into accepting time-wasting meetings because they will not have the excuse that they are busy. Or, when the time of the meeting rolls around you can always make up an excuse and go hide in your car but that sounds equally unproductive. Unless it’s a Tesla, we hear those have Excel pre-downloaded to the touch screen on the dashboard for on-the-go number crunching. But, if you are the type of person that values their privacy, drives a Ford, and/or likes deep, productive work, this is not the app for you.

Then how do I share availability with my flexible/remote coworkers?

While tools such as Outlook, Google Calendar, and FindTime all do a decent job as meeting schedulers (with varying levels of effort by the user), we prefer CalApp by

CalApp by makes it easier to share availability with coworkers than any of these other apps, while giving the user the highest level of control over how they use their time. CalApp by links locally on your computer to any calendar app such as Outlook or Apple Calendar that can be synced into your free Google Calendar and compiles a suggested list of your availability. You can quickly edit this availability before sharing to suit you and even have a standard break time after events.

While FindTime can also do many of these functions, it is not as secure and it gives your colleagues permission to view your calendar directly. Ugh. we beg you - please share availability with a secure calendar app that will keep your schedule private and allow you to present your availability the way you see fit.

CalApp by does just this, with no permissions needed, preventing coworkers from stealing your time with unnecessary meetings, yet making it just a one click process to schedule meetings for what is most important to you.

CalApp by is an invaluable tool for people in the highest demand for meeting time.

That is why we use CalApp by, and avoid shared calendars to share availability efficiently, on our own terms with our colleagues

CalApp by's functions are illustrated in the GIF below,

availability sharing calendar app

Now you're ready to share availability in the era of remote and flexible work!

Go forth and master remote work by scheduling your availability with CalApp by!