Return to work - Office space distancing

Published 05-11-2020 02:09 PM 33.1K Views

All industries are making great strides over the last few months to ensure employees could return to work safely while maintaining social distance. As the country now seeks to re-open the economy, the essential step becomes testing and limiting the number of people who could return to work safely. The leaders today are thinking more about employees, families and communities. The pandemic warrants a new way to think of rebuilding operations, modernize productivity platforms and embrace these new technologies.


The learnings from this pandemic will make organizations rethink how office buildings are designed for future and shared spaces that could be structured. While employees across divisions are learning how to utilize these modern technologies such as Microsoft Teams, the need for a limited workforce to be present at office locations will continue for a certain time. This requirement has created an additional burden on organizational leaders, particularly facilities and logistics division.


One solution is to use Shifts in Microsoft Teams, which is a schedule management tool that helps you create, update, and manage schedules for your team. The same platform could help facilities and office managers to manage and limit employees to work based on location.


It works on Teams mobile, desktop and web


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Key features include:

  • Office managers share available spaces to the employees based on location or floor, where employees reserve spaces on a first-come, first-serve basis, or after approval.
  • Office managers to let departments manage allocated spaces. Departmental managers coordinate across their teams and help central response teams track status across an organization.
  • Office managers to let the department admins manage the open spaces.
  • Office managers to publish a list of suggested activities during the day the employee will be onsite.
  • Employees could simply swap their spaces via mobile device in case they cannot visit the office.
  • Employees interact with office managers and report any incidents that need attention.
  • Facilities bot to help get answers questions and engage the expert as needed.
  • Office managers to send location-specific communications to employees.


UPDATE: Check out Blog 2 for videos and advanced scenarios


Enable Microsoft Shifts 

Shifts comes with every Teams license (no additional cost) and your IT admin has the option to roll this solution in your environment very quickly. For simplicity of use the admin can pin the app on the mobile device as part of the app policies for simple discoverability. We hope this method will help with a facilities team to manage the social distancing requirements. Review below links for more details on enabling this solution.

  • Review details about Microsoft Shifts
  • Review details on how to enable Microsoft Shifts
  • Graph API for advanced scenarios
  • Sample Teams App templates
  • Advanced scenarios such as connectors, auto approval and flows


Desktop/web view for the approverDesktop/web view for the approver

End-users can access the schedule from any deviceEnd-users can access the schedule from any device


Facilities communicator bot

Facilities management teams can keep employees informed using a version of the Company Communicator Bot in spirit of using an outbound messaging strategy to better share information and cut down on any confusion related to coming back to work. Here's an example of an announcement:


Facilities communicator bot screenshot.png


Facilities bot for FAQs and Incident Reporting

In spirit of closing the loop for a two-way communication with the employees, you can consider spinning up a Facilities Bot that allows end-users to ask questions, reach out to the facilities team, and/or report an incident


Facilities FAQ bot.png


Our thoughts are with the people affected and essential service professionals working around the clock to help those in need and help each of us and our families. As they are working hard, we hope this solution will help office managers open their offices while maintaining social distance guidelines.



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 Pradeep Bethi, Customer Success Director for Healthcare and Lifesciences 



Vasu Sharma, Customer Success Manager for Healthcare and Lifesciences 



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Kensington Schmidt, Customer Program Manager - Firstline Workers, Microsoft Teams


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Amir Cory, Principal Product Manager - Firstline Workers, Microsoft Teams


Related posts

*Note: This list will be update periodically over the next several days




Remote Teamwork with Microsoft Teams 

Crisis Management Portal 

Company Communicator 

Crisis Communicator 

Introduction and Microsoft Response to COVID-19 

Regular Visitor



Im a nearly a newbee about teams Shift and others. It would be great if you can share a guide of what you did to make this solution



New Contributor

Hi - Really interested in this solution, we haven't used Shifts yet so have little experience, as Stephanie asks above do you have any setup guidance to this particularly solution?



Great article with genius ideas for using the Microsoft suite for people returning to work.  Thank you for sharing!


Hello Simon, 

We are planning to write another article with instructions on how to enable shifts and enable above scenarios.


Occasional Contributor

Great idea thank you !


@Vasu Sharma , @bethi  Great use case scenario for Shifts!


Would you provide more information on "Advanced scenarios such as connectors, auto approval and flows"? Having to approve individual requests creates a burden on the coordinators and since it's not possible to assign a group within Shifts to a specific approver, we would prefer having requests auto-approved. However, Teams currently has only three triggers none of which has anything to do with Shifts: 1. When a channel message is added; 2. When a new team member is added; and 3. When I am mentioned in a channel message. With only these three triggers, how do we build an auto-approval flow and use the action "Shifts: Approve an Open Shift request"? Shifts is missing all of the triggers we used to have available in StaffHub complicating adoption and this is time-sensitive right now while offices are starting to re-open in a few days.


@Kreera House Kindly review below blog, there is additional information and few samples posted in the GitHub

Occasional Contributor

Great solution @Vasu Sharma and thanks for sharing the setup steps! 

Since most of Microsoft 365 customers will face some form of workplace distancing or employee attestation solution I was just wondering if Shifts is the official recommendation. Does anybody know if there is a separate effort to build a tailored service for this challenge? Otherwise, Shifts looks like a really good fit despite it's name. 


@Vasu Sharma , @bethi  Thank you for adding "UPDATE: Check out Blog 2 for videos and advanced scenarios" ...  I didn't see this update until since it's somewhat hidden in the middle of the post. It would be good if updates to a blog post were indicated at the top of the post with the date of when the update is made.  Typically, you don't re-read a post over and over once you have read it and posted questions to it, so changes in the middle are easily overlooked.  :)


@Martin Miller 

Please check out below blog for employee volunteer self screening. You have option to combine the Employee & Volunteer self-screening bot and Shifts solution using flow.

Occasional Visitor



We try to implement this solution for our company.

We created open shift by floors


Do you know if it's possible to sort them by floors ?



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Last update:
‎May 29 2020 09:50 AM
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