Ignite 2020 Keynotes | Wellbeing & Mindfulness Take the Forefront

It is undeniable that 2020 has brought some of the most significant globally-universal challenges we’ve seen in our lifetime, but it’s also been humbling to see how people have rallied around the common goal of innovation. Microsoft Ignite kicked off today with a keynote from Satya Nadella and rolled into a powerful presentation by Jared Spataro, who dove into the future of work, with an obvious emphasis on remote work.  

Back in April, Satya was quoted, “we’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months. From remote teamwork and learning to sales and customer service, to critical cloud infrastructure and security—we are working alongside customers every day to help them adapt and stay open for business in a world of remote everything.” Today, Satya reemphasized the insanely accelerated rate of change in the digital workspace. 

Jared Spataro further affirmed this change stating, “When, where, and how we work is fundamentally changing. In fact, I think we’re experiencing a year of digital transformation every month. This acceleration, in my mind, marks the end of the post-industrial age. We’re entering a new era of the digitization of everything.”  

COVID-19 has dramatically changed our world, and we’re all trying to find the ‘new normal.’ While 2020 is accelerating a shift to remote work, which can have many promising aspects, it also amplifies stresses and further blurs boundaries and disrupts work/life balance.

“There’s a recognition that employee wellbeing is important and a catalyst for productivity,” says Barbie Stafford, marketing director of Microsoft 365. 

While there are some very exciting technical features and updates coming to Microsoft 365, what I found most compelling about both keynotes was their focus and attention to employee wellbeing. Here are 5 ways Microsoft is committing to making Microsoft 365 a workspace not only for innovation, efficiency, and productivity but one that fosters employee wellbeing 

1. Together Mode in Microsoft Teams Meetings (Now Available)

 Together Mode—which admittedly still makes me giggle when I see in action—is designed to help us combat meeting fatigue.  Our brains must work harder when meeting virtually in the standard grid format. In together mode, we are able to better focus, and our brains actually function more productively in this format. Read more on Together Mode and the science behind it.  

More options and features for Together Mode will be coming in 2021.  

2. Virtual Commute (Coming 2021) 

One thing I never thought I’d utter as a Californian was, “I miss my commute,” but as much of the workforce was forced to remote work nearly overnight, those few moments in the car might have had a bigger impact on our mental health than we all realized. Beginning in 2021, employees can schedule a virtual commute to help properly decompress and transition to and from ‘work mode.’ “Commutes provide blocks of uninterrupted time for mentally transitioning to and from work, an important aspect of well-being and productivity. 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, we’re emotionally exhausted at the end of the day,” said Shamsi Iqbal, principal researcher at Microsoft Research. 

3. Headspace Partnership to Encourage Mindfulness (Coming 2021) 

Another word I was pleasantly surprised to hear repeatedly was “meditation.” Microsoft has also teamed up with Headspace to encourage mindfulness through meditation and wellbeing check-ins. We can expect to see these integrations in 2021.  

4. Personal wellbeing and productivity insights coming in Microsoft Teams  

So much of feeling overwhelmed and stressed is the ‘unknown.’ Microsoft is now making insights into our personal wellbeing and productivity transparent so we can proactively pinpoint and address issues and take control of our workday. Personal insights will begin rolling out in October.  

5. Manager Insights from Workplace Analytics  

Beginning to roll out in October, an aggregated view of organizational insights will help managers know if their team or individual employees are at risk of burnout. According to Microsoft, “the dashboard will provide recommended actions based on research to help managers and leaders facilitate wellbeing. Installing the new Insights app in Teams will allow people to see the new features.” We all know tone starts from the top, so providing management valuable insight into team wellbeing is vital to curating a positive culture. 

What’s New?

For a full rundown of what’s new, check out the Ignite 2020 Book of News.

Virtual Hub | Microsoft Adoption 

There’s a lot going on today, but have no fear! Microsoft is bringing all the essential content in a more digestible way via their Virtual Hub, live now! If you miss a session or want to revisit one, this is your go-to resource. 

But what does this mean for my organization today?  

Looking for a quick rundown of what all these announcements mean for your organization? Register for our webinar this Thursday.  

Webinar | Through the Looking Glass: A Review of Microsoft Ignite 2020
Thursday, September 24th from 11:00 AM to 12:15 PM PST 

Register for the webinar! 

Join Microsoft MVP’s Eric Overfield (@EricOverfield) and a panel of special guests from the Microsoft community for the next episode of the PixelMill WebinarsSharePoint and Microsoft 365 continue to grow and mature. It keeps us users on our toes to stay up to date. And what better way to do that than with a team who has the inside track to all this craziness? If you’re unable to attend Microsoft’s biggest conference of the year, but don’t want to miss out on all the exciting announcements this one’s for you! Not only will you get updates on where Microsoft’s headed, but Eric and friends will give you their predictions for the future of the digital workspace as it relates to Microsoft’s initiatives and how your organization can capitalize on the latest and greatest. 

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