Using productivity tools to understand your own productivity

That sounds a bit Inception, doesn’t it? But bear with me.

Here at TSG, we’ve talked so much about the productivity gains Office 365 brings that we’re practically blue in the face – and we know first-hand the impact it has because we use it ourselves and we help our customers get the most out of it. From streamlining processes to improving collaboration and even removing entire paper-based processes, Office 365 does it all.

Some changes are instantly noticeable. For example, we helped Historic Property Restoration completely replace its paper-based job allocation process by using PowerApps (you can read more about that project in our case study). That small change has revolutionised the way the business allocates jobs to engineers and how field staff update the jobs.

Tools like Skype for Business can be quantified in the costs you save shipping your staff to different offices – not to mention that it’s an eco-friendly way to collaborate. Microsoft Forms is so user-friendly that it has saved me hours of my time in comparison to clunky, website CMS form designers, which I can then put to good use. SharePoint’s advanced searchability takes the time out of looking for that really important document you need for your meeting.

Some tools that you know increase your productivity or help you collaborate with colleagues, however, aren’t as measurable. The same goes for your personal productivity.

Until now.

Microsoft has now introduced Workplace Analytics solutions, designed to not only help individuals understand their own productivity and improve it, but to help business leaders make company-wide changes to see real productivity gains.

Workplace Analytics tracks how much time both individuals and teams spend in meetings and how much ‘focused’ time they have – i.e. time you spend working through your to-do list. Individuals can see how their own time is split and use these actionable insights to improve their productivity, such as reducing the number of meetings they attend.

Business leaders will have access to global analytics that they can drill down into to see how the business performs as a whole or which teams are currently struggling with their productivity. You can then use those insights to introduce company-wide initiatives, like cutting down on unproductive meetings or allowing colleagues to block out time in their diaries for focused work. Out-of-hours work is also tracked, meaning the issue of too-large workloads or outlandish expectations can be addressed to ensure your employees have a work-life balance.

Managers and directors can implement ‘change programmes’ within Workplace Analytics, aimed at improving employee productivity and cutting out noise, with the ability to track the success of the programme throughout its entire timeline.

This alone is a really powerful tool. When combined with MyAnalytics nudges, launched at the same time, employees are prompted with useful tips on how to improve their own productivity. If your week starts to get booked with multiple meetings, Outlook flags this as an issue and prompts you to book time in your diary for focused work that should not be interrupted. It also highlights to you when colleagues often reply to you out-of-hours, encouraging you to indicate in your subject line the urgency of your email; so that if it’s non-urgent, your colleagues don’t feel pressured to reply outside of their working hours.

In keeping with a number of tools within Office 365, Outlook is getting some new artificial intelligence (AI) features. Outlook will use AI to remind you to complete tasks you’ve promised over email so you don’t forget – a significant improvement over the humble red flag, don’t you think? As you read through your emails and go to take on additional tasks, or you get asked to do more, Outlook will give you a nudge to remind you that you’ve already committed to other projects via email.

The new Workplace Analytics combined with MyAnalytics nudges combine to form a powerful, actionable tool that will not only give you a glimpse into how your business performs – from a high-level overview to a proper drilldown into departments and individuals – but allow you to use those insights to make real improvements. For many businesses, business intelligence (BI) is wasted as they struggle to turn insights into action (read our Business Intelligence Specialist Stu Wannop’s blog on why data literacy is critical to business). And that’s why it’s so refreshing that Workplace Analytics empowers you to use the data to drive efficiencies at the click of a button.