Outlook features that can increase your productivity

Office 365 Outlook is a cloud-based service that is designed to meet the needs of your business in terms of reliability, security and productivity.  It is a powerful platform that combines corporate class email with a suite of useful tools that help streamline the way you work. It allows you to send and receive email messages, manage your calendar, store names and numbers of your contacts, as well as track your tasks.

O365 email is pushed to your devices as soon as it reaches the server so you get important emails right away.  It also synchronises your contacts and calendars so wherever you are, as long as you have an internet connection, you can get the information you need. 

Many Office 365 Outlook features that help with your productivity and collaboration are under-utilised. Here are a few features that you may not been using but can enhance the way you work.

Out of Office

Out of Office  feature allows you to send out automatic replies while you are on holiday or out of the office.

  • Open Outlook
  • Select File > Automatic Replies (Out of Office)
  • Select > Send automatic replies
  • Set date/time and message in and outside organisation, these can be different.

Global Address List

The Global Address List (GAL) in Office 365 can be used as a central database of contacts within your organisation.  Any search function such as composing an email and inviting people to meetings will use the GAL to search against.

To create a list

  • go to https://outlook.office365.com/ecp/ and login
  • To create a list go to Recipients > Contacts > + ADD contact.
  • To add more detail such as telephone numbers click on the contact record or go in via the top menu bar in Outlook

Office Add-Ins

Office Add-Ins allow you to add extra features to Outlook to refine the way you work and increase efficiency  

The Get Add-Ins is located on the far right of the ribbon in Outlook, click on this and you will have hundreds of plug-ins to choose from.  Just select and ADD the ones that you require.

Add-Ins can greatly improve productivity and functionality in your emails, here are a few you may find useful.

  • Adobe sign – e-sign documents, send them for signature and track signing
  • PayPal for Outlook – sending money in a fast, safe and secure way.  You’ll never need to login into the PayPal portal again, just select the Add-In and enter the recipients email address and the Add-Inn will take care if the rest.
  • Template Phrases – custom templates for common emails and include macros for adding dynamic data such as customer details (see below)
  • Boomerang – this is an Outlook productivity tool that can schedule emails, track responses and schedule meetings

Template phrases

This simple add-in enables you to create templates for any common question you receive within your business.  Instead of typing the same text you double click your template in the add-in pane.  It also comes with an array of macros so you can custom information each time you insert the template. 

  • Very useful for commonly used emails create a template to save time e.g. confirming a meeting, arranging an interview, requesting a review. 
  • To add a new template open up a new email Select Show templates > New >compose email and save 
  • To use an existing template: New Email > Show Templates > Select Template  > Insert > Fill In Macro Field > OK 

Shared mailboxes

Shared mailboxes are used by multiple users and enable you to work collaboratively with your colleagues.  Every member can read and send emails from the mailbox, which is synced continuously so you can co-ordinate activities and see which emails have been read and replied to. 

Advantages of share mailboxes include: 

  • Monitor and send emails from a centralised account e.g. accounts@abc.co.uk 
  • Multiple users can share the responsibility of monitoring and handling emails in this mailbox 
  • Sharing the Outlook calendar for this mailbox enables holidays and work shifts to be co-ordinated. 

Delegate access

Using Delegate Access enables you to give permission to someone to access any of the following mailbox, calendar, tasks, contacts and notesYou may want to enable your assistant to manage your emails and calendar or enable someone to act on your behalf whilst you are on holiday or off-sick.   

  • To change Delegate Access click the File tab > Account Settings > Delegate Access > Add person > Select Permissions > OK 

Manage rules & alerts

Your emails can be managed automatically by Manage Rules and Alerts.  Here are some of the things you can do: 

  • Set rules so that emails from a client are directly moved to a named folder 
  • Send an autoresponse email and delete emails while on holiday so you don’t come back to a overflowing mailbox and get a colleague to manage your emails in your absence 
  • Check if your email has been hacked by looking at rules and seeing if a new rule has been set up e.g. to send all “finance related” emails to a new user 

Email delivery options

Using Email delivery options you can choose when an email is sent, confirm delivery of an email and whether to mark an email as confidential. If you want to compose an email in advance you can schedule it for a later date and time, Outlook will automatically send the message and move it from the Outbox to the Sent items folder.  If you are sending an important email you can set a delivery and/or read receipt so you know that it has been received.

To set email delivery options: 

  • Select New email > Options (tab on Outlook ribbon) > Select your options 

Delivery options include: 

  • Requesting a delivery receipt 
  • Request a read receipt 
  • Use voting buttons 
  • Save sent items to a specified folder 
  • Mark an email as confidential 

Archiving emails

Email is a popular and fast way to communicate and it also enables you to document conversations and store information in a place that can be easily searched.  A large amount of a company’s intellectual property is contained in email and messaging systems, which is why companies use email archiving.  Benefits include:

  • Storage – too much email data on servers can reduce its performance, archiving moves email data to a secure off-site server or cloud environment so there is no need to delete important emails
  • Back-up – if data needs to be restored email archiving can speed up the process
  • Security – with the right archiving solution your  data is preserved and safeguarded with a continuous back-up
  • Productivity – easy and quick access to archived and backed up email data
  • Compliance – your industry regulations may require you to keep data for longer periods and in more secure environments

Auto archiving helps improve the speed, security and organisation of your mailboxes.  To archive email messages is simple:

  • Right click on your mailbox > Properties > Auto Archive > set parameters 


Office 365 Calendar is a powerful tool with many functions to enhance the way you work.  You can integrate your Google calendar into your Outlook calendar and it will sync the data as it is updated. 

The Outlook Calendar has many possible uses including: 

  • Organise your diary with Outlook Calendar 
  • Search your calendar to locate events 
  • Share calendars e.g. colleagues, holiday calendars  
  • Manage your calendar – share calendars with colleagues and manage permissions such as read, edit and delete options 
  • Make Outlook appointments and share with delegates 
  • Resource calendars – as well as your personal calendar they can also be used for meeting rooms, hot desking and AV equipment.

There are many other useful tools that will enhance the way you work with Outlook.  If you want advice about switching to Office 365 Outlook or help maximising its potential please contact us or call 01603 451810.