California is fully reopening the economy on June 15 – no more physical distancing, no more capacity limits on businesses, and relaxed mask guidance. This is just one example of how regulations around the globe are loosening up, and allowing employees to get back in the office.
Does it mean that we are back to the 2019 normal? Certainly not.
For one, organizations are are mindful of their employees’ physical and mental health, and will proceed in stages. This is the case of Microsoft for example, with its six-stage dial.
They have also assimilated the benefits of partially working from home, with reduced office costs, and reduced commute resulting in savings and (hopefully) better life-work balance.
The result is a hybrid workspace model – part home, part office – with the ensuing need to track both room occupancy and employees’ office schedule. In this post, let me introduce two solutions to address this need, available for free within Microsoft 365. One is a feature of Outlook itself, and the other is the inPerson app I have developed for Microsoft Teams. Disclaimer: you’ll need the help of an admin and possibly someone experienced in Microsoft 365 to make the most of these solutions.
Last year, Microsoft introduced a new feature in Outlook: in addition to the well known meeting room reservation, you can now book workspaces. As defined by Microsoft, a workspace is “a physical location where employees can work from. It can be made up of many desks or can be a single desk”.
This feature was updated in May and I have not tested it yet. for detailed instructions, visit the Microsoft Exchange team blog. Admin access and PowerShell required for the implementation!
The inPerson app
inPerson is an app I developed a few months ago for a Microsoft Teams contest, and is now available on Microsoft AppSource. It is currently offered in English, with plans to expand it to a handful of other languages if there is enough interest.
What differentiates it from other AppSource business apps is that it is entirely built on the Microsoft 365 stack, with no third-party dependency. See it as both a good thing – you have full control on your data – and a bad thing – it is up to you, the team owner, to manage the data, including access, backup or archiving.
inPerson is built with the SharePoint Framework (SPFx) and made available as team tab in Microsoft Teams. To get started, check out the YouTube tutorials listed below. inPerson relies on interactive floor plans, so in addition to installing the app you’ll have to get those plans ready (spoiler: it’s easier than you might think).
The above options are the only ones I am aware of that live in Microsoft 365, are free and do not require a third party tool. If you’d like to recommend another one, please leave a comment!
- The philosophy and practice of our hybrid workplace
- The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready?
- Planning for Social Distancing in the Workplace with Microsoft Visio
Sample floor plan
If you have a jpg or png image of your floor plan, I recommend that you follow the tutorial and build in a few minutes your own accessible SVG. For a quick test, download the SVG below, it includes 12 seats numbered 101 to 112.