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When Users Define Their Work Locations, It Helps Others to Schedule Meetings
On May 10 2023, Microsoft published a post titled “Coordination is the key to spontaneity with these features in Outlook on the web and Teams.” That’s quite a mouthful, but essentially it’s about some features Microsoft is introducing in OWA and Teams to help people know where their colleagues are working. The update for OWA to allow users to define their location during work hours started to appear in tenants on May 9. You’ll know if your tenant has the update if you see a Work hours and locations setting in the Calendar section of OWA settings (Figure 1).
I have not yet seen the updates to the OWA calendar to display locations in the scheduling assistant or to adjust the set location when reviewing a calendar event. No doubt the bytes are on their way.
Teams Update to Change or Clear Work Locations
On May 26, Microsoft followed up with message center notification MC561188 to say that the changes in Teams to allow users to set the work location for a day (Microsoft 365 roadmap item 125375) has started to roll out to targeted release tenants and Teams preview. Standard release tenants can expect to see the functionality starting in early June with full worldwide deployment complete by early August.
Once again, not all the code has shown up yet. The bits to allow users to change their work location for the current day (Figure 2) are present but work locations don’t yet appear on user profile cards alongside the other information to help schedule meetings like someone’s office and local time.
Updating your work location in Teams has no effect on the settings defined in OWA. There is no link between acting to update the work location for the current day and the set of work locations defined for a (default) week.
It’s not unusual for Microsoft 365 code updates to arrive in pieces. Being able to set a work location doesn’t depend on the user profile card and vice versa, so Microsoft can deploy the code at different times. Unless you’re expecting something to be present, you won’t notice that anything’s awry.
Restricted Work Locations
Nice as the idea of helping colleagues know where someone is when arranging meetings, the implementation is limited by the choice between two locations. You can’t add a third location, and you can’t rename the locations (for example, from “Remote” to “Home Office”). It would be nice if OWA settings supported more flexibility in managing work locations. In addition, there’s no word if Outlook desktop or Outlook mobile will support work locations.
There’s also no way for an administrator to block the work locations feature or to set it for users. Public availability of a way to set a new feature in a user’s calendar through a cmdlet like Set-MailboxCalendarConfiguration normally appears a few months after it is introduced.
Which brings me to the point that the most important way to inform co-workers about your working arrangements is to make intelligent use of the Teams status message. Update your status message daily to let people know important details about how to contact you and where you’re located and you’ll find that the work location feature is a lot less important (and useful) than it first seems. You could even exploit the pronoun support in Teams to insert a 30-character message to make people aware of your current status and use the more expansive text available in the status message for precise details of how and when you can be contacted.
Synchronization is Important
It’s good that OWA and Teams are synchronizing the introduction of new features. The unfortunate thing is that the current implementation of the work locations feature is really not all that useful. Perhaps this will change in time. Let’s hope that this happens.
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