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The COVID-19 pandemic has been a once-in-a-lifetime disruption in the way we work, and one area that has been highlighted is the modern workforce’s is struggle in its relationship with work, particularly with the way we draw work boundaries in a remote or hybrid workplace. Microsoft’s WorkLab studied how feelings towards work have changed due to the pandemic. The data found that while productivity has remained steady, 54% of workers said that they feel overworked and 39% feel exhausted. In a world where the Microsoft 365 collaboration stack can offer accessibility to work at virtually any moment, the question becomes where to draw a line in the proverbial workplace sand?

Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft 365, said that the future of work beyond COVID-19 will require healthier boundaries between work and life.

“We think [companies] really need to lean into well-being and helping their employees understand that they’re just not going to perform well if you’re trying to work 24/7,” Spataro said on the Bloomberg Businessweek podcast. “The numbers are showing [that] you can’t treat people like machines and try to increase their productivity by simply increasing their uptime. It turns out humans aren’t like that.”

Microsoft 365 has many features that can help reduce the overwork and exhaustion that has come with the COVID-19 pandemic. These features can help you and your team minimize distractions during the day while building better boundaries between work and life. Here are 5 ways that Microsoft 365 can help set healthier work boundaries.

#1. Establish Your Work Hours in Outlook

45% of workers who went remote during the pandemic say that they work more each week than they did before. Work and life may be more flexible in a remote world, but it is important to establish set times when are you disconnected from work.

Set your standard Work Hours in Outlook so that your co-workers know when you plan to be available most days. If your hours are different on a given day, create “Out of Office” events that show when you plan to disconnect. Setting Work Hours in Outlook also automatically updates your Teams availability to reflect your daily work hours.

M365 Collaboration - Work Boundaries Teams screenshot

Tip: Manually changing your Teams status will prevent it from syncing with your Outlook status. To change this, reset your status in Teams so that it manually resets.

#2. Use Outlook to Build In Bathroom Breaks Between Meetings

Back-to-back meetings can make it difficult to deeply focus on important work and take breaks during the day. It is ideal to provide 15 minutes between meetings, but everyone has days when that is not possible. However, building buffer time into Teams meetings can help fit those bathroom breaks and coffee runs into busier days.

Outlook has made it easy to create buffer time between meetings. This feature allows you to change your default meeting length to provide short buffers before the next meeting you may have. You can extend your default meeting length to 35 minutes to allow a meeting to run past the top or bottom of the hour, or commit to 25 minute meetings that provide space to end early. Make sure to stick to these unique meeting lengths so you can take advantage of this buffer time built in.

#3. Analyze Your Focus Time with MyAnalytics

Microsoft’s WorkLab data found that Microsoft Teams meeting time has increased by almost 150% since March 2020. That means that people are spending over twice as much time in meetings as they did before COVID. This pattern is not sustainable long-term, with meetings coming at the expense of the deep work opportunities needed to excel outside of meetings.

MyAnalytics provides statistics around the time you spend collaborating and your ability to complete deep work. You can use MyAnalytics to see how much time you spent in meetings each week. MyAnalytics can also provide a list of people you frequently collaborate with. This data makes it easy to see who you can work to reduce time with, or the people who you need to spend more time collaborating with.

#4. Schedule Focus Time with Viva Insights

Reading insights can provide the information needed to understand your working style, but Viva Insights goes one step further. Viva Insights make it easy to establish Focus Time for you to focus on deep work during the day.

M365 Collaboration - Tips for Work Boundaries - Viva Insights Screenshot

The Protect Time feature in Viva Insights uses AI to schedule Focus Time blocks on your calendar. Viva Insights recommends these blocks based on your typical schedule, ensuring that they can be minimally disrupted.

Viva Insights can also remind you when it is time for you to log off for the day. Setting a time to wrap up your work day can ensure that you can intentionally disconnect.

Disconnect to draw work boundaries using Viva Insights Screenshot

#5. Build Collaboration Around Microsoft 365

The Conversation found that business leaders used an average of nine collaboration and communication tools each day. Every organization has tools to manage different elements of their work, but committing to Microsoft 365 can create efficiencies

The Microsoft 365 collaboration stack is a best-in-class productivity software suite that over 250 million business users rely on. Microsoft 365 provides a unified experience across all the tools it offers. This unified experience makes it easy to manage the full plate of technology solutions that your organization relies on. If your organization is looking to migrate to Microsoft 365, or need help setting up Microsoft 365 for your team, Total Solutions is here to help. Reach out to schedule a consultation today.