As part of today’s Ignite conference, Microsoft is launching a new workplace app specifically designed to help with the challenges of hybrid working. The app is called Microsoft Places, and the company says it’s launching “soon” in beta.
A screenshot of the app published by Microsoft today shows a dashboard view that tracks what percentage of your team is due to be in the office on a given day and lets you list where you’re working in a given week. As well as tracking people’s locations, the app is also designed to help you organize your work around them by giving “insights and guidance” on travel time as well as helping people navigate to work locations within offices themselves.
Places is also designed to help managers plan office use, highlighting how spaces are used so they can plan how much space might be needed in the future. Microsoft also advertises that Places will be able to offer information on “sentiment related to hybrid policies” to help managers decide how to organize their remote teams.
The launch of Places coincides with a broader push at Microsoft (as well as competitors like Google) to update its workplace and productivity software to serve the needs of an increasingly hybrid workforce. These have ranged from simple tweaks, like allowing Outlook meeting participants to RSVP to attend meetings remotely or Google Calendar users to broadcast their work locations, all the way through to launching entirely new services like Microsoft Viva to help organize remote workforces.
The company also needs to stay on its toes if it wants to compete with upstarts like Zoom, which already offers a Slack-style chat competitor to Teams and which reportedly plans to muscle in on Outlook by launching email and calendar apps before the end of the year.
Microsoft was one of the earliest companies to suggest that hybrid and remote working policies brought in as a result of the pandemic wouldn’t disappear as lockdown restrictions eased. Over two years later, the prediction seems more accurate than ever. Now, the question is less about whether hybrid working is here to stay and more about what tools are needed to make it as seamless as possible.