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Imagine you have a website where you can book appointments. A visitor of the website is able to choose his desired time slot. What I would like to discuss here is the other side of the story: the party that has to declare the availability.

There are potentially two approaches to declare the appointment time slots as I see it at the moment:

  1. By declaring business hours in which meetings can be booked. Calendars of employees are watched and free time is available for booking
  2. Employees explicit declare time they are available explicitly and this time is then available for booking. Employee proactively mark availability, rather than block time-slots that should not get booked

So far I have only come across tools that offer option 1. Is there an obvious reason for this?

For option 2 I see the following:

Pro:

  • Easier fine granular control on employee level
  • No need to block calendar time totally if time should no be bookable, still be available for internal meetings while not be available for booking

Cons:

  • Must manage availability on employee level - more work

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I've seen plenty of tools that offer option 2: these are businesses/tools for business where external appointments are the primary function of the business, such as a salon, instructors for workout classes, or a doctor's office.

Looking through articles like https://zapier.com/blog/best-meeting-scheduler-apps I see a balance of the two approaches and some that allow both, so it's really up to the person selecting the tool to decide.

I also see that some appointment-focused applications like https://www.appointy.com/online-class-scheduling-software/ still allow you to go either direction, starting from an integrated calendar or defining times yourself.

So, I feel this is a false dichotomy. If you frequently need to schedule external appointments in a limited subset of your available work time, then there are plenty of tools that support this approach.

I'd say that if the question is "Why doesn't Outlook allow you to declare external availability separate from internal availablity", the answer is probably "because that's not the main purpose of the tool".

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