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.