Tech

Microsoft’s new tools help you adapt to the realities of remote work

There’s a real chance you’ll be working from home long after it’s safe to return to the office, and Microsoft thinks it can make that remote work easier to handle. It just introduced Viva, an “employee experience platform” that helps you connect with and grow inside your workplace, even if you’re strictly a virtual employee. Not surprisingly, the tools integrate closely with Microsoft 365 and Teams.

It’s effectively a modern, more elegant take on the company intranet. Viva Connections offers the usual internal communications, communities and policies from a Teams app. Viva Insights, meanwhile, gives you a window into how you and your company are doing, including wellbeing — it’ll help you carve out time for breaks and “focused work” (read: no meetings). That could be particularly helpful for striking that work/life balance as a remote employee. Insights will tap into data from Microsoft apps as well as third-party platforms like Slack and Zoom.

Knowledge will also play a key role. Viva Learning pools together education resources from services like LinkedIn Learning and Coursera as well as a company’s own courses. Viva Topics adds to this with a “knowledge discovery” system that surfaces relevant info for conversations and documents while you’re using Microsoft 365 and Teams.

It will take a while before all Viva’s pieces fit into place. Only Topics is widely available now as a Microsoft 365 commercial plan add-on. Insights and Learning are currently limited to public and private previews respectively. Connections won’t be available in a public preview until sometime in the first half of 2021, and will have a mobile app later in the year.

Microsoft has a clear motivation to launch Viva. If it can cover more aspects of work life outside of the work itself, companies might be more likely to stick with 365 and Teams instead of switching to alternatives like Google’s G Suite. However, it’s also addressing a real problem with remote work. Right now, companies frequently have to rely on a patchwork of apps and services to keep you connected and informed. If Microsoft can offer a sleeker, more unified experience, your employer might be happier to keep you working at home.


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