New Microsoft 365 app could solve one of the biggest hybrid working headaches

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Microsoft has announced a new Microsoft 365 app called Microsoft Places that will look to “optimize” the management of hybrid workplaces.

Introducing the app at its Ignite event, the company explained the idea is to inform team members as to when colleagues are coming into the office, and suggest whether certain meetings may be best held in-person.

It also teased “intelligent recap”, a feature that will use artificial intelligence to analyze meeting recordings in order to assign tasks to team members, take minutes, and share “personalized insights”. Intelligent recap will be available as part of the new Teams Premium package.

Microsoft Places and hybrid working

The introduction of Microsoft Places, so the company claims, is backed up by survey data. According to the company’s recent Work Trend Index, over 80% of employees go to the office for the sake of meeting and collaborating with each other.

Microsoft believes that a software solution is required to bridge the gap between the pre-pandemic world of physically present work and the allowance for remote work spurred on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Places, it claims, will offer granular insight into the workplace, and advice on how offices could benefit from being reconfigured as companies adapt to hybrid working environments.

Other features will include a “modernized” conference booking system, as well as insights for business leaders to assess how office space is being used, and how to best approach hybrid working policy.

But employees who have grown comfortable with video conferencing needn’t despair. Places, Microsoft claims, is being developed to “[connect] virtual and physical spaces”, and to make offices safer and more transparent following the onset of the pandemic. 

While at least some allowance for remote working has stuck at many workplaces, the transparency into office spaces that Microsoft wants to offer with Places may renew the trust employees have in office environments, with a renewed focus on employee safety.

But discussion of the tool’s long-term impact on working practices will have to wait. As of right now, Microsoft Places is only “coming soon in preview”.

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