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Return to Work – Office Space Distancing

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:

entire page

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.

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
office manager approval

Desktop/web view for the approver

End user- access schedule

End-users can access the schedule from any device

Incident report bot

Employees can report incidents for facilities/logistics to take action on

Facilities communicator bot

Announcements pertaining to location/department/building specific details can be shared with all employees

Facilities bot

In case of any doubts or questions, employees can get quick and easy support


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.

By: Vasu Sharma, Microsoft

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