As workforces evolve and become more flexible, professionals find themselves navigating a world fragmented by distance and time, connected by digital tools that bridge the gaps but often fall short of replicating the human connections once prevalent in the traditional office. The Microsoft Work Trends Index shows teams have become siloed and remote workers increasingly isolated, as the shift to flexible work continues. Amid these challenges, 43% of leaders consider relationship-building to be the biggest hurdle in flexible work.

Recognizing this, Microsoft has unveiled the Mesh platform, an innovative solution that offers immersive shared experiences to a flexible workforce, recreating a sense of co-presence and helping reduce the financial and environmental impacts associated with travel and facilities.

Microsoft Mesh: Bridging the Gap

Microsoft Mesh brings shared immersive experiences to life, integrated seamlessly into Microsoft Teams, fostering personal connections in the virtual workplace. It also opens up exciting opportunities for developers and creators to build custom experiences, helping bring people together within an organization.

Key milestones in the development and rollout of Mesh include:

– The introduction of avatars for Microsoft Teams, rolling out in phases starting this week to various Microsoft 365 packages.

– The private preview of immersive spaces for Microsoft Teams, available for Teams Technology Adoption Program (TAP) customers.

– The private preview of the Mesh platform, available for interested organizations and developers.A

Adding Fun and Flexibility with Avatars

With the introduction of avatars in Teams, Microsoft offers a refreshing alternative to the standard video or no-video option in Teams meetings. Customizable avatars and reactions provide a breather from the camera, while still showing colleagues you’re present, fostering engagement and collaboration.

New Connective Experiences with Immersive Spaces

Immersive spaces for Teams is a groundbreaking feature that lets you add an immersive experience to any Teams meeting, recreating a sense of natural co-presence regardless of where participants are located. Using spatial audio, immersive spaces mimic many elements of in-person interaction, offering a novel and intuitive way to connect and engage in the virtual workspace.

Mesh at Work: From Onboarding to Virtual Museums

Beyond Microsoft Teams, Mesh provides a platform for organizations to build custom applications designed to strengthen connections between employees. Early adopter customers like Takeda, Accenture, DXC Technology, PwC, Telefonica, and the World Economic Forum are already exploring the transformative power of Mesh.

Takeda, for instance, has created multiple environments in Mesh to foster learning and collaboration, bridging the gap between office and remote workers. These environments include the “Hirameki Garden,” representing Takeda’s corporate philosophy, and a virtual museum where employees can learn more about the company’s business portfolio.

Powering Innovation for Developers and Creators

At its core, Mesh offers developers and creators a robust foundation to build custom environments that foster presence and interaction. Integrated with Microsoft 365, it ensures enterprise-grade privacy and security.

With Mesh, developers can use Unity to create new 3D environments or import existing ones. They can enrich user experiences by integrating interactive web content, use cloud scripting to add interactivity, infuse AI, and more. Moreover, Mesh’s advanced event management capabilities enable the creation and customization of rich immersive experiences.

As Microsoft continues on its journey to reshape the flexible workspace, Mesh stands at the forefront, blending the physical and digital worlds in a way that’s never been done before. It not only offers users a new way to connect but also offers developers a powerful tool to shape the future of work.