Maybe you need to leave the office at 5 p.m. on the dot every Thursday to pick up your daughter from nursery. Or, perhaps you're a night owl who struggles with early Monday morning meetings. Whatever the case may be, restricting your Google calendar to specific work hours has never been easy — there's always that one coworker who sees an opening at 8 a.m. and takes it.
Fortunately, Google is adding a new set of controls to Calendar that will make it easier to set limits on your availability. In the coming weeks, a new feature will roll out that lets you customise your working hours on a day-to-day basis. Anyone who tries to send a meeting invite that falls outside of your hours will receive a note letting them know you might decline.
Although you can currently set one default working hour timeframe for Monday through Friday, the new tool enables more daily specificity. So, if you need to leave early every Monday but can stay a little later on Tuesdays you can change your hours to reflect that distinction.
Another new feature, "out of office", serves a similar purpose. Instead of blocking off your calendar with a fake event to preserve one blessed, meeting-free hour, you can set an "out of office" entry. Anyone who tries to invite you to an event during that time will receive an automatic decline and you can personalise the message that goes with it.
Both updates come as part of the "digital well-being" movement that's sweeping Silicon Valley. The hypocrisy of this is not lost on anyone — tech introduced many of the distractions it's now seeking to course-correct — but the benefits of scheduling an "out of office" timeframe and working hours may have far-reaching effects.
Constant connectivity produced a culture where employees are always "on", whether you're active on Slack or not. The visual reinforcement of working hours and "out of office" could help signify that the end of workday really is the end of your workday. Of course, the reality is there may be times you need to deviate — a long-term project can call for a late night here or there to meet a deadline — but the intention is there, and that's what matters. Now, it's up to you to say something can wait until the morning.