Microsoft Tackles “Commute Regret” With the New Places App

Microsoft's new app can estimate travel times and highlight which days of the week the most coworkers will be in the office.
Adam Rowe

Microsoft's latest workplace software is the “Places” app, a hybrid-first service aimed at helping workplaces with plenty of in-office workers communicate smoothly and efficiently with all remote workers on their team.

The app could help combat what the tech giant calls “commute regret” — the frustration faced by those who take the trouble of a commute only to remain alone in the office, without any of the connection to coworkers that makes that office appealing.

No prices or set launch dates have been announced, but a beta of Places is coming “soon.”

The app was revealed at the Microsoft Ignite conference, alongside other big product announcements including a new Premium tier of Microsoft's Teams workplace collaboration software. Here's how Places operates.

Connecting Workplaces Even When No One's Physically Together

Commute regret wasn't the only business term Microsoft relied on to explain the value of their new app. A “new category of technology solutions is emerging,” they said in their blog post about the app, and it's called the “Connected Workplace.”

A dashboard view in the app will let coworkers all log what their locations will be at set days and times.

Microsoft Places dashboard

Plus, the app will figure out insights, from estimating travel times to highlighting which days of the week the most coworkers are in the office. It's all to help employees figure out what schedule will maximize their in-office interactions amid the increasingly hybridized work environments of 2022 and beyond.

An “Intelligent booking” tool helps users set new meetings using this data — whether the meeting is in-person or has remote participants.

A “wayfinding” feature will guide users to the right conference room, using a map available on their mobile device. Plus, a hot desk booking tool makes it easier to ensure your newest hot desk placement is near the coworkers that you'll need to interact with the most.

Managers will also get access to the data, which includes all coworkers' locations, and can generate “utilization data, energy-saving opportunities, and occupancy trends.” It can potentially help with real estate optimization down the road, since managers will get more accurate summaries of in-office employee behaviors.

Is Microsoft Places for You?

The new hybrid workplace app will be available some time in 2023. It integrates with existing Microsoft business software including Outlook and Teams, so if you love those services and your business has been struggling to deal with the pandemic-spurred changes affecting remote and in-office workplace flexibility, Places might be the perfect tool.

You do have plenty of other top web conferencing services, however, and the right remote work software could be beneficial as well. Under-optimization is always a waste… but so is over-optimization.

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Adam is a writer at Tech.co and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He's also a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and he has an art history book on 1970s sci-fi coming out from Abrams Books in 2022. In the meantime, he's hunting own the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.

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