Microsoft Places uses AI to find the best time for your next office day

May 13, 2024
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Microsoft is attempting to solve the hassle of coordinating with colleagues on when everyone will be in the office. It’s a problem that emerged with the increase in hybrid and flexible work after the recent covid-19 pandemic, with workers spending less time in the office. Microsoft Places is an AI-powered app that goes into preview today and should help businesses that rely on Outlook and Microsoft Teams to better coordinate in-office time together.

“When employees get to the office, they don’t want to be greeted by a sea of empty desks — they want face-time with their manager and the coworkers they collaborate with most frequently,” says Microsoft’s corporate vice president of AI at work, Jared Spataro, in a blog post. “With Places, you can more easily coordinate across coworkers and spaces in the office.”

Employees will be able to select which days they’re using an office space.
Image: Microsoft

Microsoft Places includes a dedicated location plan section where you can set and share the days you’ll use the office and view which days your co-workers are proposing to head in. Managers can set up priority days for in-office plans, so if there’s an important event or a team day, everyone knows about it. This location data will then be fed into Outlook calendars, so you know when events are taking place in the office and when you’ve elected to head in.

Later this year, Microsoft also plans to integrate this entire experience into Microsoft Copilot. You’ll be able to ask the AI assistant “which days should I go in this week?” and you’ll get a list of suggestions based on in-person meetings, when your co-workers are planning to be in, and any team days or events. “You will be able to ask Copilot to adjust your schedule based on this information — changing your work location to the office on recommended days and rescheduling in-person meetings,” says Spataro.

Microsoft Places will also have a finder feature that makes it easier to book meeting rooms or shareable desks, and this will all be accessible in Outlook, too. You’ll even get reminders in your calendar if you forget to book a room or desk for your in-office days. Later this year, this end-to-end booking experience will also be available in Copilot, so the AI assistant will automatically find and book meeting spaces for your meetings.

The location data will feed into Teams to help you better understand who is in the office.
Image: Microsoft

The Microsoft Places location data will also feed into other Microsoft 365 apps. If you’re working in Teams, you’ll see colleagues are marked as nearby if they’re also in the office, and you can type @nearby to notify people who are in the office about an impromptu conversation or just to arrange lunch.

Microsoft will also allow real estate and facilities management employees to access a space analytics feature of Microsoft Places later this year that shows how widely used a building is and which days are the most popular with employees. IT admins will also be able to better manage and adapt spaces or improve meeting rooms and shared huddle rooms. The dashboard appears to be focused on building and room analytics, rather than offering managers another way to track individual employees.

Microsoft Places will eventually be part of Microsoft Teams Premium, which is currently offered at an additional $7 per user per month thanks to promotional pricing. (It’s usually $10 extra.) Teams Premium also includes an AI-powered intelligent recap feature, watermarking to deter leaks, and many other additional features. You can sign up for the Microsoft Places preview program right here.

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