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The four ways we can achieve a healthy work-life balance in the new world of work

The four ways we can achieve a healthy work-life balance in the new world of work

Now that the great work-from-home experiment is a success, it’s time to explore the best tools to provide long-term solutions for hybrid working and collaboration

CTech | 11:43  02.12.2021

There’s been a lot of talk recently about our collective ‘new normal’ and what it means to balance the hybrid model of working from home and our offices once the impact of COVID-19 finally subsides. For many workers around the world, the urgency of feeling connected to colleagues and managers – and more widely, to a large organization and its goals – has been a difficult sentiment to maintain.

Working from home more often could possibly lead to some people balancing a flexible work/life routine in their day-to-day lives. The hybrid model is here to stay, but what does it mean for a company’s culture now that work is being carried out in a brand new way? Importantly, is it possible to increase your organization’s productivity while also prioritizing the well-being of employees who now work from home?

Hybrid working. Photo: Shutterstock Hybrid working. Photo: Shutterstock Hybrid working. Photo: Shutterstock

As the future of work gets ‘reworked’, including the introduction of new tools like Microsoft Viva, we’ve outlined four ways that companies can use technology to alleviate some of the external pressures that occur in widespread hybrid adoption.

  • People are the heartbeat of your business

Any manager knows that the success of the company ultimately lies in the work of each employee. When it was once easy to foster a sense of community in our day-to-day office lives, it can now be harder for managers to check-in and motivate those working long hours at home.

However, in the last year employees have reported that they feel half their workday isn’t well-spent. This could be due to a myriad of reasons, such as balancing the home chores or simply being unable to reach team members for guidance or advice. Therefore, it’s important that managers give employees the chance to thrive in this new world of work.

Working smarter in the new hybrid world of work:

Helping employees feel connected to one another when working remotely could include expanding your communication from web-based chat to video-conferencing tools like Teams, making sure there’s no issue or concern that isn’t raised.

Alternatively, Microsoft research from Work Reworked reported that offering employees specific times to maintain their focus, often referred to as a ‘flow state’, can help produce superior results when not constantly distracted by calls or messages. Protecting this flow state for employees to spend uninterrupted time on projects can have extraordinary results. This can be achieved by encouraging team members to set their status on Teams to ‘Do Not Disturb’, or by using MyAnalytics to provide data-based insights on how to best optimize workflow performances.

Healthy work-life balance in the new world of work. Photo: Shutterstock Healthy work-life balance in the new world of work. Photo: Shutterstock Healthy work-life balance in the new world of work. Photo: Shutterstock

Empower every individual:

Of course, finding these times to operate in ‘the zone’ is easier said than done. Individuals have different needs, limits, skills, and priorities that determine what works best for them. These limits are overcome when organizations understand that technology can be used to reflect the diversity of their people.

This can be achieved by offering workers larger screens if they are visually impaired or closed captioning if they have difficulty hearing. There are also a number of accessibility features within Windows that can improve the day-to-day interactions with devices for people with disabilities. Customise the size and colour of text or icons, or change your screen’s colour with different filters. Narrator is a screen-reading app that reads aloud text and provides users with image descriptions, while Windows Speech Recognition gives users the ability to control their device with their voice.

Managers should be aware of the transformative changes that occur when teams start to adopt a work-from-home balance that suits the individual needs of their employees. As such, they should take note of the technologies that can help them alleviate these challenges.

Make every kind of meeting better:

There are many ways that managers and employees can work to make meetings more effective when working remotely. We all know the perils of meetings that go on for too long or risk wasting time and energy through ineffective planning or communication. These challenges are felt more by millennials than they are by those in older age or more experienced work brackets.

Microsoft Teams facilitates a variety of meetings: collaborative sessions, status check-ins, customer meetings, knowledge sharing, or formal meetings. Tips on how to make these better can include sending calendar invites via Outlook ahead of time (millennials hate lack of structure!), adopting digital note-taking tools like OneNote, or even capping meeting times to certain limits to avoid fatigue within your teams.
Work-life balance. Photo: Shutterstock Work-life balance. Photo: Shutterstock Work-life balance. Photo: Shutterstock

Make online events better:

We’ve come a long way since those initial video calls of the 1990s! Today, entire conferences can be held online, far exceeding the tools needed for basic check-in meetings or simple calls with one-on-one workers.

As such, online meetings with large teams in organizations should replicate the experience of being together in an actual conference room. This can be done with Microsoft Teams for small meetings, or Microsoft 365 live events to mirror the ‘town hall’ events or public announcements that can hold 10,000 participants.

  • Automation is the key

Today we’re sitting on one of the most valuable tools to make our lives easier while we navigate work/life balance: automation. Microsoft Viva Topics, for example, can be used to automatically organize content and expertise across systems and teams into related topics. This can turn content into useable knowledge while making it easier to discover and use.

While AI and automation are tools that are there, they still need to be integrated into our existing frameworks so employees can deploy them into their regular workflow. For most, that means Microsoft Teams.

Bring apps and automation to Teams:

There are 115 million daily active users of Microsoft Teams - that’s a lot of content that could benefit from automation. Each day, there are millions of chats sent, email invites posted, and notes taken. It can be overwhelming to organize it all, especially when sitting alone at home and juggling work meetings and tasks with personal errands or children’s homework.

The benefit of Teams is how it acts as an ecosystem for all apps and services that improve workflow and increase efficiency. Alongside productivity apps like Share Point and Excel, there are low-code dev and automation apps, too. These include Power BI, which is the Power Platform data visualization tool; Power Apps, which is a low-code application development platform; and Power Automate, where you can automate routine processes and tasks.

Since they can each be integrated within Teams and 365 applications, automation can be deployed by employees easily without the need for external IT help.

Create solutions that are tailored to your needs:

This may seem like a clear piece of advice, but it cannot be overstated: use the tools available to you for the specific needs you require. Remote work is becoming more mainstream, and so organizations are using tools like Teams to unify the myriad of solutions available and make them easily deployable for employees who each have different needs and requirements.

Custom solutions can be built within Teams by using external apps. In fact, there are more than 500 easily deployable packaged apps and more than 3,500 apps through a variety of partnerships. These could include chatbots that function as virtual assistants, project management software that can execute effective business processes, or measuring sales productivity through feedback loops - to name a few!

  • Trust is a must

The final way to ensure that companies can help in alleviating some of the pressures of remote work is through trust: not necessarily in their employees but also in the actual technology they choose to deploy.

Security and achieving compliance:

As more workers rely on tools like AI and machine learning to carry out tasks or store sensitive information, there is also an evolving set of laws and regulations that hold organizations accountable for protecting the data that belongs to their customers. For example, the Microsoft Viva employee experience platform brings together communication, knowledge, learning, and insights. While it helps foster a culture that brings people and technology together, it sure is a lot of data to hold on to employees and information! As more workers rely on tools like AI and machine learning to carry out tasks or store sensitive information, there is also an evolving set of laws and regulations that hold organizations accountable for protecting the data that belongs to their customers. For example, the Microsoft Viva employee experience platform brings together communication, knowledge, learning, and insights. While it helps foster a culture that brings people and technology together, it sure is a lot of data to hold on to employees and information!

Data is increasing exponentially, and so organizations must find ways to collect, store, and protect this sensitive data without compromising their legal or regulatory obligations.

Office 365 Message Encryption (OME) allows organizations to send and receive encrypted messages, and Customer Lockbox enables employees to control access to Microsoft 365 data during service operations to make sure nothing is stolen or compromised.

Conclusions:

There are many ways that companies can use technology to help alleviate some of the challenges of a changing workforce. By operating within an ecosystem of apps, services, and tools, productivity and well-being can both be fostered and cared for by managers and employees alike. With tools like Microsoft Viva, the newly reworked world of work in the era will help employees love work in a whole new way. 
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