A look at remote working and meeting fatigue with some tips on how to use Microsoft 365 to promote employee wellbeing

For many of us, the boundaries between work and life have been blurred in 2020. With the shift to home working, the 9-5 perimeter has been somewhat torn down and a flexible more agile working model has emerged.

But what is the impact on employee wellbeing? While there are clearly many benefits to remote working, not least business continuity and added flexibility for employees, there are naturally downsides as we transition from the traditional ways of working.

Research has repeatedly pointed to employees finding remote working, particularly video meetings, more tiring than in person collaboration. With more meetings taking place via Microsoft Teams than ever before, Microsoft has been keen to address “meeting fatigue”. Two key updates released this summer were Together Mode and Dynamic View. Together Mode leverages AI to create a simulated auditorium view of up to 49 participants, while Dynamic View allows users to tailor the meeting interface and dynamically share content.

Small changes to existing tech like this are having a big impact. The diagram below shows the results of research conducted in Microsoft’s Human Factors Lab, proving that the brain exerts significantly less effort when participating in a meeting using Together Mode.Researchers believe the new interface is less tiring and more experiential than the old grid view, placing less strain on the brain.

Together Mode Beats Brain Fatigue

Together Mode beats meeting fatigue (image courtesy of Microsoft)

Trustmarque’s approach to remote wellbeing

Trustmarque recently appointed five Wellbeing Champions who are passionate about mental health and encouraging colleagues to engage in wellness activities. The team recently launched a new, collaborative programme revealed in open Q&A session via Microsoft Teams.  All colleagues were invited to discuss various initiatives and asked to generally provide a temperature check on how they are feeling.

Wellbeing Champion Chloe Craughan, who is Head of Marketing at Trustmarque, commented: “Because we’re not connected physically, it’s so important to create channels for our teams to have open conversations and to feel like they are still part of a community. We’ve asked for feedback on how people are feeling and coping with remote working and and we know the thing they miss the most is the social interaction of seeing colleagues in the office. We’re therefore trying to recreate that virtually through online coffee chats, reading clubs and other social activities.

“We are committed to creating a culture of wellbeing across Trustmarque. Thankfully, due to the investment and evolution of Microsoft 365, there are some great tools within the stack that can be used to support employee wellness. Also, a lot of it can be automated so it becomes highly accessible for all types of organisations.”

Trustmarque’s summer wellness ideas:

  • Virtual team relay to the top of Everest
  • “Tour de France” cycle challenge
  • Online book club
  • Guided meditation
  • Team photography challenge

Six tips for using the tools readily available in Microsoft 365 to support remote wellbeing

How to support remote workers wellbeing with Microsoft 365

1. Teams Video meetings done the right way

While we still strongly advocate video meetings, it might be a good time to sense check with colleagues about the frequency and duration and, where possible, utilise other collaboration tools. If you just need a project update, this can be easily achieved using Microsoft Planner, Trello or Teams. When video meetings are preferred, try to limit the length to around 30 minutes. Microsoft’s researchers found that due to high levels of sustained concentration in video meetings, fatigue begins to set in at 30-40 minutes. If you need longer, then make timely pauses for short comfort breaks.

Unless you’re holding a team briefing or town hall type meeting (i.e. broadcasting), it’s important to involve everyone actively on the call. Employees can utilise the raised hand function or chat window to participate easily in the discussion.

2. Wellbeing hubs in SharePoint

SharePoint is the Microsoft 365 channel for creating intranet hubs. You can create pages for any type of content you like which can be used as a single point of information for all colleagues. Within Capita and Trustmarque, we have an established Wellbeing Hub which houses SharePoint libraries of resources, tips and guides on how to look after your financial, physical and mental wellbeing.

Within SharePoint, employees can upload their own content and page owners can email any news, updates and documents to individuals, selected groups or to all staff via SharePoint News.

3. Create common interest and community groups in Yammer

Yammer is Microsoft’s version of a social platform allowing you connect with colleagues outside of your day to day role. Providing more of an informal setting. It can be a great channel for creating interest groups (a bit like Facebook groups) for topics like arts and crafts, walking, photography, baking, meditation, whatever. Employees can then connect with each other on a more personal level and share their tips, inspiration and experiences to get a better sense of community. Think of it as the virtual common room.

4. Schedule quiet hours and quiet days in Teams

The Teams mobile app allows you to set ‘quiet hours’ like evenings after 6pm or whole ‘quiet days’. These are great for switching off notifications during holidays, weekends or for part-time workers who are not available five days per week. The quiet settings allow you to set some boundaries with colleagues so that everyone is clear about when they can and can’t contact you. But they also can help you to stick to a more regular working pattern so that you don’t fall into the habit of constantly “checking in”.

5. Cortana – your personal assistant

Cortana is your Microsoft 365 virtual assistant. You can “chat” to Cortona in the Windows 10 toolbar to find information and to stay on track. For example, you can ask Cortona to set reminders and reveal tips and advice. As well as searching for content in apps and documents in your Microsoft 365 account, Cortona also acts like a search engine and will direct you through to Microsoft Edge to complete a web search.

In addition, Cortona can create a daily email briefing that organisations enable on behalf of employees. It brings together useful information to help you prepare for your day, including content linked to upcoming meetings. You can also review outstanding tasks and it will flag questions addressed by colleagues in Teams chat or email. You can then decide whether these are tasks and/or if they have been actioned.

6. Create the space you need with MyAnalytics

MyAnalytics dashboard view in Microsoft 365

MyAnalytics dashboard view in Microsoft 365

MyAnalytics is your personal dashboard of activity within Microsoft 365. It is a helpful overview of how you’re spending your working time with insights on how and when different channels are used.  For example, email Vs meetings Vs chats and calls. It will also show you how much focus time and collaboration time you have with tips to improve the balance. The wellbeing tab tells you how effective your quiet days are and what the main source of disruption is to quiet hours, for example email or calls.

Like the Cortana daily briefings, MyAnalytics can also be shared via a personal weekly email update, which Microsoft keeps fresh with different themes like the ‘Collaboration Edition’ or the ‘Wellbeing Edition’. You’ll see a snapshot of the past week and can even schedule up to two hours of daily focus time directly from the email.

Key takeaways

With remote and flexible working likely to replace the traditional working model long term, it is important that we all stay mindful to our physical and mental wellbeing when we are socially distanced. While organisations need to embrace and encourage a culture of wellbeing, there are many smart tools in the Microsoft 365 stack and beyond that can make this easier to achieve. Whether you use ‘Quiet Hours’ take a 5 minute micro pause or start a book club in Yammer, do something every day that makes you feel connected, energised or valued.

Optimise your Microsoft 365 adoption with Trustmarque

As we shift to a new normal and a better way of working remotely, we are committed to helping our customers to unlock the value of their IT investments. So, whether you are looking to improve performance, wellbeing or collaboration, our Microsoft 365 certified experts can help you to adapt to an agile future.

We’re in IT together.

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By Katherine Murphy, content enthusiast