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Microsoft launches Places, includes GPS-style navigation to help find meeting rooms

The new app built specifically for organisations adopting a permanent hybrid work model brings new features to manage people and the workplace itself

Microsoft’s newly launched workplace app, Places, is designed to make adopting hybrid work models easier for both staff and workplaces themselves.

Among a host of features, it includes satellite navigation-style functionality for workers to more easily find meeting rooms around the office building.

By configuring the office’s layout and facilities within Places, workers will also be able to find the best hot desking spots in the office that are vacant at that time.

Places will exist as a standalone windowed program, rather than an extension to other productivity apps like Teams and Outlook, and will also offer other capabilities such as a streamlined view of what workspaces have been booked by colleagues.

“As business decision makers consider redesigning physical workspaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments, technology will be needed to form the bridge across two historically different worlds – in-person and remote work,” said Microsoft.

“Microsoft Places will use intelligence to optimise where work happens in hybrid work: connecting virtual and physical spaces to drive increased connections, engagement and productivity while providing the holistic picture of hybrid work that’s missing today.”

Intelligent booking of meeting spaces will also offer insights as to what rooms within the office will be best suited for different types of meetings, factoring in the technology needs of both remote and in-person attendees.

Workers will also receive notifications based on when the best time may be to leave the office, based on traffic data.

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For example, one worker may be notified that it would be ideal to leave the office at 3pm since that would reduce their overall commute time, maximise their time spent at home, and still get them back in time to attend late afternoon meetings. 

The hybrid scheduling feature will take data from Outlook and Teams to determine when workers are most likely to be in the office and recommend optimal times to book in-person collaboration sessions.

Microsoft said Places will also facilitate what it’s calling “serendipitous meetups”, a ‘feature’ which essentially allows workers to look at their office floor from a top-down perspective and book a five-minute mini meetup like a trip to the water cooler, just organised in a formal fashion.

From a sustainability perspective, office managers may benefit from Places as Microsoft said the new app will offer insights into how occupied an office will be on any given day, opening up energy-saving opportunities.

If the office is populated sparsely on one day, office managers could close a number of floors and turn the respective light and power sources off to save money and prevent energy waste, for example.

Announced at the company’s annual Ignite conference this week, Microsoft Places will be launching at an undetermined date in 2023. Interested organisations can learn more at Microsoft’s dedicated web page.

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