Take Back Your Presence

Remember when presence was an indicator of your availability to communicate?   It was empowering to know that you could control interruptions and be ready to collaborate with others if they needed you.    Fast forward to the era of…Perma-Busy!   I am not really sure how it came to be, but a growing number of people are manually setting their presence to Busy and leaving it there all day long.  They might continue to IM others, go to lunch, run errands, etc., all while in Busy.  In other words, as one popular Lync Blogger says, “Busy is the new Available!”    

So many users are using Busy as their “Available” that we’ve all started just IMing Busy people anyway. After all, we know you’re not that busy…so we’ll IM and ask “Are you really busy?” or “Can you IM?”  Often, the Busy person says “sure, what’s up?” In other words, they are Available to communicate.  So many of us are now simply ignoring Busy status that we’re affecting our coworkers to who use Busy as a real indication of their availability to communicate.    Here’s an example: A friend who runs a large Lync deployment shared with me that people at his company are afraid to use Available status because they don’t want to be bombarded with IMs.   And just for grins, we asked him during a meeting to be brave and change his status to green to see what happened.  Crickets. Crickets happened.   

On the other end of the spectrum we have the people who are always Available, meaning Available to communicate.   Often, you will IM these people and they say they are busy!  Just not Busy on Lync.   Chances are, if they had used Busy as their presence indicator, you might have IMed them anyway!

Some folks I know believe that presence status is an indicator of their productivity.  For example, my coworker Mark (not his name) sets his presence timeout settings to the maximum (360 minutes).   Then he often leaves the office to run errands or grab lunch with his PC still logged in, and presence still set to Available on Lync.   Let’s say we’ve got a customer in a Lync Conference who needs to info from Mark, so we’re IMing away at him in a sidebar conversation with no response.  So I walk down the hall to Mark’s office, and he’s not there and hasn’t been for hours.  So, I’ve just wasted my time and my customer’s time trying to hunt down someone who didn’t have the time to use “Be Right Back” as his status or to set a realistic presence timeout.   

Setting an automatic presence timeout is easy.   In Lync Options, under Status, you can set your presence to turn to Inactive after you’ve been idle for a set amount of time.  You can also set Idle status to change to Away after another set period of time.   If you want to avoid situations like the one I experienced with Mark, try setting your timeouts to 15 minutes.  

Remember, your presence will also automatically change when you are In a Meeting, In a Conference, In a Call, Out of the Office and Away and Offline.   If you set an all-day appointment in Outlook, your presence will show Busy during that time.

So, where do we go from here?   I’m asking everyone to start a trend to use presence the way it was intended to be used – to represent your availability to communicate.   If you don’t want to communicate, use Busy.   If you’re not busy, give Available a try.  

If you want more options than the “off the shelf” presence status  choices included in Lync, there are free tools available to allow you to customize your own unique settings.   See below for an example:

 If you have presence stories to share, we invite you to share them in the comments.



Comments (41)

  1. Cari Dick says:

    @Umakant – The custom presence solution I show in the post doesn't have a mobile option, but if you set your custom presence on a PC it will remain while you switch to your mobile.   If you change it then on your mobile by choosing one of the standard presence options, you would override it.   I hope this helps.  As more and more of us use mobile devices as our primary Lync devices I think there is a growing need for this kind of capability.   I can think of a few verticals where setting a custom status on a mobile device could be extremely beneficial.  

  2. Anonymous says:

    There needs to be the option at the system level to reset the status on logout. This stops people being permenantly busy.

  3. dmcknight says:

    A lot of interesting comments. One point about which some users won’t agree, but as a manager, I find presence awareness extremely valuable — especially in these days of regular travel and remote working. As I type this, I’m working remotely. In my Lync
    contacts, I have two other people working remotely (that’s three of us) and three working in the office.

    When I’m in the office, I can just wander over to someone’s desk, and have a chat. I don’t need Lync to "spy" on anyone. I can already tell whether or not they are at their desk. Lync PA comes in really handy when I’m prepping for a meeting. I can shoot a quick
    question to one or more of the team, and get a quick reply that I can even copy and paste into my pre-meeting notes without ever having to leave my desk. That’s slick. I can also see before I go bug someone if they’re tied up, which saves me steps; it’s the
    real life version of Lucy’s "The Doctor is In" sign. Neither of these are a huge deal, but I’d like to think they make all of our lives just a bit easier.

    Now with the increase in number of people working remotely (either while traveling, or from home), PA doesn’t just make our lives easier, it’s critical. Lync helps to make the remote work environment more like the office. When I or another member of the team
    can’t get up and walk over to someone’s desk, being able to know that they’re available, or on a call, or offline helps other members of the team determine what they need to do next.

    I check presence before I pick up the phone to call someone, and if they’re not present, instead of leaving a voicemail, I send and IM if it’s more immediate, or an email with a follow up flag if it’s not. If presence is not used in a consistent way with the
    team, it’s no longer anywhere near as useful.

  4. Well. No doubt the idea of putting custom presence is excellent to show others the exact status. However, Just for my curiousity wanted to know as i am alwasy online with LYNC Mobility. Does any Custom presence application support mobility ?

  5. Cari Dick says:

    Actually, my mistake, Umakant.  It appears custom status is not carrying over to mobile using this tool – just the usual flavors are showing.  At least that is the experience on my Lync 2013 mobile client on WP8.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’m really surprised at the comments in this post. So many self-righteous people who think their time is more important than anyone else. Basically Lync is a platform for people to collaborate in real time. Email has its place of course, as any good tool
    does, but it is not efficient at real-time collaboration; this is why Lync was developed.

    If you work in a team environment you should be available to that team. "You can’t be bothered to be available" to your team is basically what I’m reading the majority of you say. Why? Why can’t you be bothered? You either think that you don’t have anything
    to contribute to someone else on your team, or you think you’re so important you’ll be inundated with IMs all day long? As if, get over yourself. You sound like self-absorbed, and selfish co-workers. Or, you’re just paranoid that your boss is watching. Good,
    your boss should be watching. A boss should know when his/her team is available. It is childish to do anything else, especially hiding your availability on either half-cocked excuses or because you are paranoid.

    Might I just say, that from a boss’s perspective you’re giving him/her more to think about in your work environment by not being available than if you were available. Any boss who is interested in your productivity has multiple ways to confirm this anyway.
    If I were a boss and I saw you were "busy" all day I might ask, busy with what? Maybe I’ll ask IT to provide your web records. Let’s see Joe, it says here on Lync you’re "busy" but your calendar shows no appointments, and your web history shows you’ve been
    on Reddit for the last two hours; I think we have a problem here." I’ll tell you what else, there isn’t much else that would give a boss the incentive to do that research than to "not be able to IM you when they have a question."

    And, for anyone saying I don’t have to spend 15 minutes right now in a long conversation with someone." I find that very interesting, because you are essentially asking the wrong tool to do the wrong job. If you utilized the tools properly you could use Lync
    to say "hi, thanks, yes I agree we should discuss this, I am in the middle of something right now, and could you please email me the details? I’ll have a look and put together a response". That is how you use Lync, let it do what it’s meant to do, and let
    it help you collaborate with your team.

  7. LyncAdmin says:

    a very interesting article that opens a can of worms that shouldve been discussed years ago. at my company managers use lync as a snooping tool to find out if their reports are at their desks or not. one of them even asked me if lync can be used to find out how long their reports had been at their desk! for myself i tend to set my presence to 'busy' most of the day to avoid being bombarded by useless ims.

    a very good article and i would be interested to find out other lync admins' experience in their companies.

  8. LyncArchitect says:

    This is a symptom of what I call the "I don't want to be available for other people to IM me, but I want everyone else to be available to answer my questions" mentality. These people set their status to Busy or DnD to avoid people talking to them while IM'ing away to others. Two out of the last 3 managers I have had were guilty of this. I think it is a personal issue bordering on selfishness(?) self-rightousness(?).

    I am often pinged for information via Lync. But that is why i get paid. Typically people, I think, are respectful of my time and i usually escalate the IM conversation to a voice call if it goes past the easy one-line answer stage. Either you talk to them now or you talk to them later. I am not shy about telling someone i am in the middle of something but i will call them in 15 minutes.

    I agree with your sentiment though. Somehow take back what the presence indicator was meant to provide – your availability *for others* to communicate with you. To get that I think you need to do it administratively via somethink like a client policy or a GPO. Minimize the user's ability to customize their presence.

    But I am also a realist that thinks something like that is very unlikely to happen.

  9. Jaime says:

    I agree with your overall comments. However, if Lync synchronizes with Outlook, and you are in a meeting, it shows Busy. But maybe you have some availability for quick IMs.

    What would you do?

  10. @Jaime :  If you don't like Lync synchronizing your calendar state into presence you can turn it off under Lync Options/Personal.  However, just because the availability state is "red" people may choose to IM you or not based on what they know about you, how important their message is etc.  The Presence system is designed precisely to inform the sender so they can make a good decision.  The system is not generally meant to be prescriptive, but is rather a social signaling mechanism to help facilitate communications.

    -Mr. Presence

  11. InterruptionCrazy says:

    I’ve stopped leaving my status based on my Outlook calendar. I move from project to project, and behind me, I leave a group of people who feel comfortable pinging me with great regularity. Why? Because while I was on THEIR project I was very responsive.
    However, now I’m on a new project and I want to be responsive to them but not to every other person I’ve ever worked with. If I show myself as available, my life is a neverending cycle of interruption. Not just to project folks, but also to counselees, friends,
    and people who "just have a quick question" but it turns into 15 minutes of back & forth. There is nothing wrong with email, which allows me to respond when I have availability. EVERYTHING doesn’t have to be responded to now, especially for those people that
    I am not actively engaged with on a day to day basis. For this reason I show myself as offline all the time, and I tell folks that need to reach me to ping me anyway and if I’m available I’ll respond. I think I should have the right to manage my audiences
    into groups of "respond immediately" (available via Lync), "respond to based on urgency" via email, "call these people", "meet directly with these people".

  12. TheDotCon says:

    Lync is being used in most companies as a form of employee surveillance. If you are not sitting there green, busy or do not disturb you are considered to not be working. So if you get up to go to the bathroom or eat lunch now you are away and it shows how long you are away. So now your boss gets to see how long you are away from your desk. Good job Microsoft equipping managers with instant surveillance. On top of this – even though you are not in a meeting, Lync views you as available to communicate. What if I am typing a document, working on a spreadsheet or doing anything that is not a meeting – thats NOT working and people feel free to interrupt you. I have one boss who told me NOT to put it as busy EVER even if you are working – so that means feel free to interrupt me.

  13. Privacy says:

    Please, could you please allow us to choose an option of “no status” or “status unknown”? I don’t want other people to know whether I am busy, away or anything. It is none of your business. I just want to leave the Lync open and use it whenever I need it, but I want the option to keep my status private. It is too much to ask for a software?

  14. JT says:

    I’m a big fan of Caffeine (the program) as oppose to setting the max time on presence timeout. I use it primarily to prevent my corporate screen saver from kicking on and interfering with my VOIP software. The Lync ‘benefit’ is a nice side effect.

  15. Not an IMer says:

    Not a big fan of IM and miss most of them. Why can you not turn off IM and still show status available? I usually pick up the phone or email. Would it be that hard to add this feature?

  16. JenniferJenJen says:

    How about the ability to choose who you are Available to speak to. You may want to stay available to your immediate team and/or a project team, but not available for the general population. Why is it all or nothing?

  17. Anthony says:

    Is it possible to see when a person is away when they’re set to Do not disturb? My CEO would like to know if her important messages will be replied to fast enough when a person is set to Do not disturb. My CEO is set as Workgroup in privacy relationship
    but cannot tell when someone is away from their desk (usually with home office users) and needs an immediate response. The person on Do Not Disturb usually comes back with, "oh, I didn’t see your message" or "sorry, I stepped away for a minute" when that minute
    is actually more than an hour.

  18. Lync'sAwakening says:

    Does anyone know how to restrict users from being able to manually set their status to Away and override their Available status? We have a large number of users that are setting themselves to Away instead of Busy because they say that is the only way that
    they can get work done. This gets frustrating as you sit there waiting on the person to return and then find out they have been there the whole time.

  19. girish says:

    Oh, I find that a bit scary about my mistakes. But thanks to make us know how to take back our presence back,we are thankful to you and always feels fortunate when we visit here.You have changed my vision of living the life.http://ndnc.net/check-dnd-status/">
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  20. OfficeWorker says:

    I have a co-worker who works from home every Friday, yet is "Away" for 2 hours+ at a crack. If you were her manager, how would you interpret? Can workers trying to thwart Lync ever set "Available" by merely laying a weight on their keyboard?

  21. Assumptions says:

    Its called IM{instant message} not instant reply. Most people set their status to busy or away because they want to get work done not spend all day answering users, managers or project managers needless questions. I sure some are abusing it. I never leave
    my on available as I don’t want people to think I need to reply to them within mins. Send an email and stop abusing IM for questions that are not critically important then people will set it to available.

  22. LYNCPLAYER says:

    Lync 2013 now has Do Not Disturb which I think is very different from Busy. We respect Do Not Distrurb in my office. It usually means someone is sharing their screen or EXTREMELY busy. Busy could mean various things like 1) no phone calls please or 2)
    I am reading or listening in on a call but I can in fact IM.

  23. JC says:

    Lync is creepy. I leave my presence set permanently to "Away", otherwise my boss and others can tag me for status changes which means whenever I leave my desk, they get notified, and again when I get back. I don’t like it one bit. I don’t "goof off" but
    I do value my privacy.

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