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Microsoft

As some areas are starting to ease restrictions, social distancing will likely continue for some time. As part of these return-to-work scenarios, we understand that organizations are taking a disciplined approach before reopening offices and worksites. Leaders and facilities managers are implementing strict plans; going through extensive checklists as this reopening and new hybrid workplace process needs constant readiness. Reopening offices with recommended social distancing practices need the ability for office managers to limit the number of office spaces or seats.

 

In a separate blog, we shared how customers could use the Shifts functionality of Microsoft Teams to publish open spaces to employees and limit employees to work based on location. This article is an extension to our last week's blog. Here we will get into more details around how office managers or departmental admins could use Shifts for space management, send daily guidance, and provide a solution for topical Q&A and incident reporting capabilities.

 

As we are showcasing the functionality, when we use the word shifts, kindly think of sanitized office spaces or seats that are opened by Facilities. Employees could be information workers and firstline workers. In fact, a "shift" could signify any logical asset that can be shared and is managed by a specialized team (Facilities in this case).
 
Use the following outline to review this article:

 

  • Office manager view
  • End user view
  • Facilities bot
  • Advanced configuration & scenarios
  • Summary
  • Related articles & links

 

Office manager's view of a published scheduleOffice manager's view of a published schedule

 

Utilization chart for end-user/managerUtilization chart for end-user/manager

 

End-user's view for accessing the scheduleEnd-user's view for accessing the schedule

 

For additional screenshots, check the attachments below.

 

Office Manager View

 

Due to the new social distancing guidance and reduction in the availability of sanitization products, facilities managers may want to open limited spaces and publish the number of those spaces to employees reporting to that office so that employees could reserve on a first-come, first-serve basis. Facilities managers or departmental admins will now have the option to open up spaces on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, with the capability to modify those spaces as needed.

  • Create a team in Microsoft Teams with the office manager(s) as the owner and employees working from that office as members. To learn more about how to create Teams, review this article.
  • Within that team, Office managers share available spaces(desk/open space) to the employees based on location or floor, where employees reserve spaces on a first-come, first-serve basis, or after approval.

Review below video, it will guide you through simple steps on how office managers or facilities managers could post spaces and let employees reserve those seats or spaces. For advanced scenarios, review links at the bottom of the article.

 

 

 

Employee/End-user view

 

Employees who are planning to be at work could view number of available spaces via the Teams Shifts app on desktop, web and mobile platforms. Review below video which will showcase the employee experience.

 

 

Facilities Bot

 

Facilities bot is an easy way to provide answers to frequently asked questions by users. However, most bots fail to engage with users in a meaningful way because there is no human in the loop when the bot fails. This bot is a friendly Q&A bot that brings a human in the loop when it is unable to help. One can ask the bot a question, and the bot responds with an answer if it is contained in the knowledge base. If not, the bot allows the user to submit a query which then gets posted in a pre-configured team of experts who could provide support by acting upon the notifications from within their team itself.

 

This bot was built on top of FAQ Plus bot, and it provides the ability to collect feedback from employees, for example allowing the employees to report incidents back to facilities. The bot facilitates automated incident data collection and customized incident reports. Please review this article if you would like to enable this bot in your environment. To make it easy for employees, IT has the option to pre-pin this bot to the Teams left navigation bar, review the screenshot below.

 

The Facilities communicator app enables facilities and corporate communication teams to create and send messages intended for multiple teams or large number of employees over chat, allowing facilities and communication teams to reach employees right where they collaborate. Facilities communicator app provides a foundation to build custom targeted communication capabilities such as custom telemetry on how many users acknowledged or interacted with a message. Review this article for additional details.

 

 

 

Enable Shifts within Teams

 

Shifts in Microsoft Teams is a built in schedule management tool that helps you create, update, and manage schedules for your team. Shifts by default is enabled for all Teams users in your organization. If this functionality was disabled, your IT admin could turn on this capability from Microsoft Teams admin center, for more information review this article.

Shifts is part of Microsoft Teams and is part of enterprise plans, review this article for more information.

 

Few additional scenarios :

 

You could use Graph API or Power Automate to connect to Shifts for advanced scenarios. Kindly review this link to view samples of Power Automate flows.

  • Configuring auto-approval
  • Sending an email and chat notification to the user after a space request was approved. 
  • Send notification to employees when the office manager approves a swap or offer request. 

Do not forget to check back on the GitHub periodically, we will add below custom scenarios to the GitHub repository shortly.

  • Configure the ability to add the shift (space) back in the Q if the user offers it back to the office manager, as part of the automated workflow without the need for facility manager approval.
  • Send a daily report of reserved spaces to facility managers and the security team.

 

Summary

 

In this article we demonstrated that utilizing the Shifts functionality of Microsoft Teams platform, your IT and office managers now can enable hybrid working scenarios while keeping essential onsite workers safe.

 

Please make a special note that this unprecedented isolation may be causing anxiety and creating feelings of loneliness among your employees. As leadership reiterates the importance of emotional well-being, IT could help build employee resilience by rolling out people manager teams and share tips on how to be productive working remotely with Microsoft Teams.

 

Now, more than ever, your organization is adapting to a change where normal processes and organizational behaviors got disrupted. As this disruption has driven employees into new modes of work, it may be time to lean in, strategize, and plan for how your organization can thrive using these new capabilities.

 

Highlighted articles & links

 

How to build employee resilience

Working remotely during challenging times

Working remotely with Microsoft Teams

Shifts admin link

Shifts Graph API

Shifts WFM connectors

 

 

Authors:

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Pradeep Bethi, Customer Success Director for Healthcare and Lifesciences 

 

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Vasu Sharma, Customer Success Manager for Healthcare and Lifesciences 

 

Contributors:

 

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Vijay Agrawal, Sr. Software Engineer - Microsoft Teams

 

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Raul Fernandes, Principal Software Engineer - Microsoft Teams