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Shared Calendars in Office 365 – An Update

14 Dec 2016 by Emma Robinson

Back in 2013, we posted a blog on company-wide shared calendars, and time and time again we see it appear amongst our most popular posts. The blog explained how to set up a company-wide shared calendar in Office 365.

Three years have passed since then, and the platform has changed a lot, so we figured it was time to refresh this post, to reflect the updates that have been made to the platform.

Shared Calendars

Many businesses require an accessible, shared calendar that can be used to coordinate employee shifts or group schedules. Our original post showed you how to create a shared calendar in an Office 365 tenant that could be accessible by all staff members with an Office 365 mailbox.

We showed you how to create the calendar using a public folder, however, there are a handful of other options available – it just depends on your needs, and group size. The table below has been created by Microsoft support to help you decide which tool is right for your purposes.

table
In this blog, we’re going to take a look at how to create a shared calendar leveraging the functionality available in Office 365 Groups. If you need to ensure that all of your organisation can access the shared calendar by default, you may still prefer to use public folders for the task. However, as we will see, the accessibility available in Groups is extremely flexible, and you may find that you can achieve what you need using the tool.

Office 365 Groups

If you have encountered Groups before, you will know that when you create a group, you also automatically receive:

  • A Group Inbox in Outlook
  • A Calendar in Outlook
  • A SharePoint site
  • A OneNote notebook for taking project/ meeting notes
  • A Plan in Planner
  • And now there’s even a new Yammer integration so that you can choose how you would like your team to communicate – using email, or Yammer (even both?)

We’ve written about Office 365 Groups in the past, covering some more basic features. Here, we will be focusing on the calendar option, but it is still important to note how interconnected the Group work space is, and that it is almost impossible to approach or configure one area, without creating some impact on another.

Create your Group

First things first – create your group. The easiest way to access Office 365 Groups is through Outlook or the OWA app, the other option is through the people tile in the portal.

  1. Click ‘New’ at the top of the page, and select ‘Group’. The options will pop up at the side of the page.groups
  2. Add in the details of your group. The Group ID will be created automatically, based on what you choose to call the group, and whether its available as an email address. Add in a description so that your members know why they’ve been added to the group. Choose your privacy setting: you can make your group public, so that anyone in your organisation can join, or private, so that it is invite-only. You can also choose whether your members are subscribed, so that they receive all group conversation in their personal inbox, as well as in the group inbox.
    create-group
    Note: This is where you can ensure that your Group calendar is widely, and easily accessible. You may not be able to enroll all of your Contacts into the Group automatically, but if you set the group to ‘Public’ then this means that any member of your organization can view the group’s contents, and join. This should provide a good level of visibility – as long as you notify your users about where they need to look for this information.

Read more Office 365 scripting workshop
public

  1. Next, you can add your members. At this point, you can add in any members who need to be able to view the calendar, and then – if you are dealing with a large volume of users – you can notify them with details of the group and how to join. It might be tempting to add ‘All staff’ as a contact if you have this configured as a distribution list, but this isn’t likely to be the best approach, as it involves placing a distribution list inside of a group – which seems a little messy and could cause functionality problems. The preferable option, if you need to include all staff, would be to migrate your distribution group into Office 365 Groups – there are details on how to do this here.

Now you’re all set up, let’s take a look at the calendar.

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As you can see above, the Group calendar will be placed alongside any other calendars the user has. It can be accessed through OWA in the portal or directly through the user’s Outlook. Your users will be able to tab between the different calendars they have, or see an integrated view of all occurring events. It is also possible to share group events with other groups or non-members too.
If you have lots of calendars, you can use colour-coding to help organise and identify different ones, and it is also possible to overlay your personal calendar – so that it’s always in clear view. Find out more about this functionality here.

Group Limits

There are a couple of group size limits to be aware of.

  • Maximum owners per group – 10
  • Maximum number of groups a user can create – 250
  • Most importantly (for shared calendar purposes) Maximum number of members – more than 1000*

*In larger groups users may notice delays when trying to access the calendars and conversations.

Subscribe or Join? 

When you join a group, you can also choose to ‘subscribe’ to it, which means that you will receive a copy of all Group emails in your personal inbox, as well as the Group inbox. If you decide that this is too much, then you can unsubscribe, and the emails will no longer go to your own inbox – you will remain part of the group, and will still be able to access communications in the group inbox.

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Need to leave a Group?

To unsubscribe, or completely leave a group, you can click the ‘subscribed’ option at the top and make your choice. If you want to easy access to a specific group, you can ‘favourite’ it by right-clicking on the group and selecting ‘Add to Favourites’.

If you think Office 365 Groups could work for your shared calendar needs – why not give it a try?

If Groups isn’t the right fit for you, make sure you check back on the blog in the coming weeks. We will also be exploring other options for shared calendar creation, including SharePoint Online Calendars and the new collaborative team calendars available in Microsoft Teams.