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One of the features in Microsoft Places: alerting people when others will be in the office. (Microsoft Image)

Microsoft previewed a new app that will attempt to help companies, workers, and real estate facilities managers address some of the emerging challenges of the new era of hybrid work.

Among them: showing up in the office to find that everyone else on the team is working from home; conducting a virtual meeting with a colleague who turns out to be just down the hall; or realizing too late that the conference room you’ve reserved is too small for the number of people who showed up in the office that day.

Those are some of the scenarios that the new app, Microsoft Places, is designed to help workers and managers address. Announced today at the Microsoft Ignite conference, it’s due to be released next year after a preview period.

Microsoft says the app falls into a new technology category that it calls the connected workplace. The company was motivated by feedback from customers who are grappling with new issues due to the rise of hybrid work, said Jared Spataro, Microsoft 365 corporate vice president, in an interview this week.

“One of the big categories that we’ve had them point us to, that we just weren’t previously really engaged in, is this idea of the fusion of the digital and physical space,” Spataro said.

He gave a few examples of the capabilities:

  • Monitoring traffic patterns and analyzing upcoming meetings and locations to let employees know, for example, when it might be smarter to leave the office early and take the last meeting of the day at home.
  • Helping companies understand how to use flexible spaces on any given day, based on meeting patterns and employee locations, suggesting that a meeting area be made available for individual work, for example.
  • Informing operations and facilities managers when particular buildings or floors will be mostly vacant, allowing them to adjust lighting for energy conservation, or make sure that a cafeteria doesn’t prepare too much food.
  • In another example, Spataro said, the app will say, effectively, “Hey, you’re not planning to be in the office on Wednesday, but 80% of your team will be, and they’re going to be in Building 3. I could book some space for you. Would you like to go in?”

Microsoft Places will be available as part of Microsoft 365 business subscriptions. The app leverages and expands upon some of Microsoft’s existing technologies, including Azure Active Directory and Microsoft Outlook calendars.

In addition to catering to its traditional base of corporate customers, Microsoft says it will be announcing partnerships with major real estate and property management companies to adopt the technology.

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