Woman looking stressed and biting on a pencil while she works from home
By | Published On: 22 April 2021 |

Microsoft has been looking at new and exciting ways to keep employees connected and engaged. In this blog, we focus on some of the features that Microsoft recently announced, designed to foster a culture of employee wellbeing in the workplace.

April is Stress Awareness month and as we slowly but surely awake from our northern hemisphere winter hibernation (and the UK’s third lockdown), we can start to shift our attention to how we can better manage our stress levels, and those of our teams.

This includes:

  • The Virtual Commute – scheduling time at the start and end of the day for prep and wind down.
  • Partnership with Headspace – bringing meditation to employees.
  • Productivity Insights – to help you better manage your workday.
  • Manager Insights – providing managers with a holistic view of their team’s productivity.

According to research by International Wellbeing Insights, 65% of people in the UK have felt more stressed since March 2020. The main culprits of that stress being disconnection, uncertainty and a loss of control.

So what tools are available to help you and your teams better manage their stress levels and bring a sense of calm, connection and control.

Microsoft Teams has been supporting organisations to work collaboratively since it launched in 2017, with the goal of becoming the go-to platform for all your work needs.

Over the past twelve months, Microsoft has worked at breakneck speed to develop new features that address the challenges of remote working. They’re designed to improve remote working practices and aim to boost employee wellbeing and productivity, preventing employees from ‘burning out’.

Here’s some of the new features:


Virtual Commute

Employee Wellbeing Headspace

The Virtual Commute experience has been designed to create a better work and home-life transition. It helps to put boundaries and structure in place which a physical commute once provided.

Following research on a Pulse on Employee Wellbeing Shamsi Iqbal, a principal researcher in Microsoft Research AI said: “People will say, I’m happy I don’t have to commute anymore. I’m saving time. But without a routine for ramping up for work and then winding down, they’re emotionally exhausted at the end of the day.”

She’s right, nobody misses queueing in traffic or packed public transport but having that time to prepare or reflect on your day, can have a really positive effect on productivity.

Teams will offer the opportunity to schedule time to prepare for work, whether that’s a walk or planning out your day over coffee. End-of-the-day commutes can be scheduled (with reminders as below) and customised with prompts of reflection, celebrate accomplishments and meditate with Headspace to make sure you fully disconnect.


Employee Wellbeing: Partnership with Headspace

Employee Wellbeing Headspace App

Following on from that, Microsoft has announced a partnership with global leader in mindfulness and meditation, Headspace. The integration with Teams will launch this year and offers science-supported mindfulness and meditations.

A Microsoft study on the Future of Work found that people felt like they were always ‘on’ as the boundaries between work and home blurred. Aimed at helping employees focus or de-stress, the integration with Headspace allows people to schedule recurring time to meditate from Teams.

They can add it as part of their morning ‘commute’ to help them focus for the day, to prepare for a big meeting or to unwind and disconnect at the end of the working day. 


Productivity insights

Employee Wellbeing Productivity Insights

From October, people will be able to harmonise employee wellbeing and productivity with their personal productivity insights in Teams. Powered by My Analytics and Workplace Analytics, Teams will use data to provide recommendations for how you can improve your working day.

Think of it as your personal productivity assistant. You’ll receive emails (in Outlook) with tips and suggestion on how you can be more productive with your day but also with tips for how to protect your wellbeing.

You can ‘Protect Time’ by setting aside time for focused work, breaks and personal commitments, before your calendar fills up with meetings. This will limit the stress and ‘burn out’ from endless virtual meetings and help you stay focused and fresh.


Manager insights

Employee Wellbeing Manager Insights

We know from research that managers are the lifeline during times of uncertainty and change as employees look for stability and support. The impact on organisations can be huge with research showing employee burnout accounts for as much as 50 percent of a company’s attrition.

Rolling out in October, Manager insights in Teams will help managers and leaders support their teams by understanding the employee wellbeing and productivity of individuals.

Manager insights will provide a tailored view of employees’ after-hours collaboration, focus time, meeting effectiveness, and cross-company connections so managers can monitor and step in if there’s a risk of burnout due to long working hours. It also provides data for how those habits compare to teams of similar size and function so they can make any necessary changes or recommendations to help them thrive at work.

Managers will also be able to launch and track change programs that remind team members to avoid after-hours interactions and preserve quiet days. And weekly summaries will empower team members to monitor their progress and celebrate successes.

With working from home looking like the new ‘norm’, there’s so many new and exciting O365 features that organisations can use to support their colleague. And we’re more than happy to demonstrate these for you. Contact us at [email protected] for a free consultation today.


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