Microsoft Lync status sets itself to Busy

January 10, 2012

I use Microsoft Lync on my client’s computer when I’m linked in to their office via VPN. However, it’s baffled me as to why Lync often changes my status to Busy or Busy — In a meeting without my permission.

I wanted to find out why it does this and how I can stop it from doing so. I’d already gone into the Lync settings (Tools > Options) and tried to change my Status settings for the Inactive and Away statuses (the only ones you can change). However, my client has these set to 15 minutes and doesn’t let me change them. Those settings weren’t what I wanted anyway — it was the Busy status that was annoying me as it would report me as Busy/in a meeting when I wasn’t (in a meeting, that is).

Off to the internet… where I found the answer! And it’s all to do with the connection between your Outlook Calendar and Microsoft Lync.

It seems that Lync is intimately linked with Outlook/Exchange Server, and if you have an appointment scheduled in your Outlook Calendar, Lync will pick that up and change your status to Busy or Busy — in a meeting for that time. If the appointment is as a result of a meeting request, you’ll show as Busy — in a meeting; if it’s just a reminder, your status will show as Currently busy, free at <time>.

Which is all very fine if you use Outlook’s Calendar to schedule your meetings. But what about if you use the calendar for other purposes, such as a reminder tool? For example, I use Outlook’s Calendar to remind me to put in my weekly report (recurring reminder every Thursday), turn on my ‘Out of Office’ notifications (recurring reminder late every Thursday), jot down which documents are due to me on what dates (ad hoc reminders), etc. None of these are meetings — they are reminders.

Sure, I could use Outlook’s Tasks function for my reminders instead, but Tasks doesn’t offer me the very visual ‘at a glance’ view of my week or month that the Calendar function does. I can set recurring tasks and dates in Tasks, but not a time range (e.g. I don’t want to be reminded about setting my Out of Office notification until late on a Thursday, so I need the flexibility of Calendar for that).

By default, all appointments are set to 30 minutes, so there may be several 30-minute periods in my work day when my Lync status shows that I’m Busy and therefore unavailable, when I’m actually available.

I just ran a test with a colleague, and even if I dismiss the Calendar reminder, my status still shows as Busy until the time expires. The only way I can ‘kill’ it is to delete the ‘appointment’ (it takes a minute or two for your status to change back after deleting the appointment) or to manually change my status to Available.

I think it’s clever how Lync syncs with your Outlook Calendar, but I also think it’s a bit too clever. I won’t IM or call someone whose Lync status is Busy. But now that I know they *may* be available despite the displayed status, I might try IM’ing them and not holding off until their status changes.

Update January 2012: Peter C, a work colleague, told me how to set your reminders in Outlook so that Lync doesn’t report you as Busy. Unfortunately, you seem to have to set this one reminder at a time — I couldn’t see any Outlook settings where I could change the default for this. Here’s Peter’s solution:

When you set any appointment, Outlook automatically sets your status for that appointment as Busy — this is what Lync picks up and displays.

However, you can change your status for any appointment to Free and Lync will show you as Available.

See also:

[Links last checked January 2012; thanks to Peter C for providing a solution; based on a Writing Tip I wrote for my work colleagues]


  1. Can also set reminders to 0 minutes long (same start and stop time) Would that help?

  2. In Outlook:
    On Tasks you can also Follow-up and set a “remind me at xxhxx” reminder.

    In Lync:
    You can also set Lync not to synch your status with your calendar at all:
    – Click the Gear icon -> Tools -> Options
    – Personal
    – Click off “Update my presence based on my calendar information”

  3. I’m delighted to know that Outlook and Lync work as expected. We’ll file this under “user error – training issue”. :-)

  4. Thank you! I was tearing my hair out wondering why it happened.

  5. NR – I think the point is that it does not work as one would reasonably expect. That makes it a product issue, not a training issue. The product needs to be enhanced to help explain to the user what to do to solve their problem. (This could be in the help function, or in a message when you go in an look at the settings.)

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