Microsoft introduces deskless worker-connecting StaffHub

New software is a part of the company's enterprise productivity offering Office 365
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Microsoft has launched a new Office 365 service geared towards workers who aren't at their computers all day called StaffHub. The new software is a part of the company's enterprise productivity offering and it allows managers to set schedules for deskless workers.

The company has spent the past couple of years trying to expand usage of Office 365. The productivity suite has built up a strong following among tech-savvy workers, but has traditionally been less-than useful for people who aren't typing Word documents, plugging stats into Excel, or sending emails through Outlook all day. 

The software works like an old fashioned shift rota schedule, but makes it much easier for managers to block out time for shifts and assign particular people to each one on a color-coded calendar. Those schedules are then pushed to employees through the StaffHub mobile app.

There's also a fully-fledged chat functionality built in, so employees can easily request to swap shifts with those requests going through to the manager for the final sign-off. Managers can also use the service to distribute files to employees. Microsoft hopes that StaffHub can become a central location for employees to access resources from one, easy to access place.

The only potential problem is the cost of the program. Each StaffHub user will require a subscription. Deskless workers – i.e. those who won't be using the productivity software like the aforementioned Word and Excel – can use Microsoft's Office 365 K1 plan, which costs $5 per user per month, and doesn't include access to the Office desktop apps.

In terms of the market, StaffHub puts Microsoft into competition with companies like Zinc, which are trying to focus on deskless workers such as service techs and retail employees, and which have used Microsoft' lack of focus on that sector as part of their pitch.

StaffHub is initially available through a web portal, along with Android and iOS apps. Speaking in an interview, Office 365 general manager Bryan Goode said that Microsoft had taken aboard feedback from customers for StaffHub, and and decided to release on those platforms first, but he didn't rule out expanding to other platforms in the future. 

In addition, Goode said that Microsoft will be going more to make Office 365 more useful for people who aren't traditional knowledge workers: "you should expect to see more of us here, focusing on empowering these staff workers, as well as empowering small businesses, which is a separate category altogether."

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