Microsoft has touted its Places platform as a way to solve the “tension” between flexibility and connectivity, as a growing number of employees seek improvements to their work-life balance.

The tech giant’s own research found that 48% of the global workforce is preparing to ask their manager for a more flexible workplace location or schedule over the coming year – despite another study finding that 43% of employees report feeling disconnected from their company.

One app capable of bridging the divide is Microsoft Places, which uses AI to reimagine flexible work, coordinate in-office time and make it easier to connect with coworkers.

Location Plan is one of its most widely used tools, with which each worker can plan out their week noting where they will be and when. Places then provides a calendar visualising where each team member is on any given day – to ensure people don’t go into the office to end up just sitting alone.

There’s also a way to see who is in the office quickly and easily with the ‘Peek Card’. Clicking on this small icon next to each date in the calendar shows at-a-glance who will be in the office and if there are any in-person events scheduled.

Of course, simply being in the same location is only half the story. Through the ‘Team Guidance’ feature, managers can write a short paragraph to outline the purpose, priority or objective for that day.

Feeding this data into Places helps inform what is possibly its biggest selling point – the AI functionality.

Once all users have outlined their diaries or plans for the week, Microsoft’s AI tool – Copilot – can suggest the best days to go into the office or recommendations for rescheduling meetings. It can also take a holistic view across entire companies, allowing IT admins or HR departments to better manage space or equipment requirements.

Places is available right now, although the Copilot functions look set to be rolled out globally in the second half of 2024.