Folks have asked me already about Microsoft’s latest announcement regarding their Viva product. And it looks compelling – for the future. But what about now? What are people experiencing in their day-to-day interactions using nothing more than Outlook and Teams meetings? For those of us in our houses, the trend is very simple and similar.
Back to back meetings.
It is not fun: it’s grueling. It is unnatural.
We can do better! How? Read on for some tips.
One of the critical ways we can restore a tiny bit of sanity is to simply adjust the meetings we propose to include a little time for us, between meetings, to get work done or simply to take a breath.
There are two parts to this effort, each equally important:
- Tooling changes inside of Outlook (perhaps inside of Teams in the future)
- Behavior changes we make with our colleagues
Obviously, doing part #1 will make #2 much easier, but doing #1 without #2 won’t accomplish our goals. Only by doing both can we hope to succeed!
Let’s dive into Outlook. To start with, simply go into the backstage by clicking “File” and then selecting “Options” underneath “Feedback.”
Inside of the “Outlook Options” screen (below), you’ll need to navigate to the “Calendar” area. The key area is “Shorten appointment and meetings” – this is what we’re looking to do.
Of course, we can do it two ways. The advantage to ending early is that folks instinctively love for meetings to end this way. The advantage to starting late is that it’s easier for folks to get used to the change and to treat it seriously.
So we’ve done the hard work, and now every meeting we setup will end five minutes early if it’s half an hour long and ten minutes early if it’s an hour. Good, right? Wrong.
The next part, the toughest part, is getting religious about ending your meetings on time. If you don’t do this, then folks simply won’t change their behavior. Many believe tools can change human behavior, but they won’t adjust without enforcement and leadership.
One of the nice new nudges inside of Teams meetings is that it will alert you when the meeting is close to ending. If you’ve setup a meeting from 9:30-10am, for instance, using the new Outlook setting will make that meeting run from 9:30 to 9:55. And, even better, inside the Teams meeting, when you arrive at 9:50am you’ll get a little prompt, telling you that there are only five minutes left in the meeting.
Use that moment for good.
Tell everyone you’ve only got five minutes, and, sure enough, when you hit 9:55, end the call. You can always have another meeting if necessary, but this will help accustom your coworkers to looking at the times meetings start and stop.
Nothing’s worse than going through twelve half hour meetings in a row only to discover that it is now, of course, 2:30pm and you’ve skipped lunch yet again.
To accomplish this tip, simply go into the Insights portion of Outlook by clicking on the picture (as seen below) and then click the gear to go into Settings:
From the below Settings screen, you can see several items, but let’s focus on the first one: lunch hours. Just set-up your time, add a recurring calendar event…and then get religious about telling folks you aren’t available therein.
We’re all professional consultants, so we all know that adjusting our lunch time is easy to do. But taking a lunch break each day is key to performing at peak; those who skip it entirely or vary the time tend to be less effective at thinking and collaborating with colleagues. So, much like the earlier admonition, get religious about it.
Finally, as you can see in the screenshot (above), you have the ability to use Insights to setup focus blocks of time during the day. Now that many of us share our free/busy information with both colleagues and partners at other organizations, having discreet blocks of time blocked out, each day, to do the work we’re supposed to be doing, is critical.
Most of us know it takes a while to get into a groove – and having focus time helps that – so enable this functionality and get used to working better, each day, with less stress and more time.
It’s certainly possible that Microsoft will consolidate these features into its new Viva product, running on top of Teams and providing real-time insights. But don’t wait! Even Viva will require organizational behavior change. To accomplish that, the more folks who understand the desire, and can use existing tools, the better.
About the Author
Reed M. Wiedower runs our Global Alliance function inside of the Cognizant Microsoft Business Group as well as acting as an internal CTO. He has spent the past two decades helping organizations digitally transform using the Microsoft Cloud – unlocking value, automating many processes and helping information workers of all sorts train themselves for a new type of work in the process. He lives in Washington D.C. with his wife and daughter, and enjoys advocating for #DCStatehood.