Outlook and Teams get new features to protect users' mental health

Screenshot of an Outlook user planning a meeting whose length has been reduced by a company policy

Microsoft has announced a couple of new features that are designed to help workers take breaks in the digital age, especially given the number of meetings that can fill up a workday. The company says that back-to-back meetings with no breaks are one of the main reasons for the digital overload that many workers experiences in its Work Trend Index research.

The first feature is for Outlook, and it basically makes all meetings shorter by default within an organization. Last year, Microsoft made it possible for individual users to create these rules for themselves, but now employers can set it at the organization level, making meetings shorter for everyone so they can catch a break. Rules can be set so that the break is at the start of the meeting (as in, the meeting starts late) or at the end (meaning it will end early), and employees are notified of the company policy once it's in place, so they can understand why their meeting times may have changed by themselves. This is available starting today.

A screenshot displays the interface for setting events to automatically start late and are shorter

Then, there are a few new features for Viva insights in Microsoft Teams. Viva Insights is one of the four modules in Microsoft Viva, the company's Employee Experience Platform introduced in February, and this specific module lets workers get insights into all kinds of information about the members of the company, such as whether they've had time to take breaks, how much mentoring time they've had, and so on.

The new additions announced today include a new reflection feature that will prompt workers to think about how they're feeling and identifying certain patterns; a send praise feature that allows colleagues to compliment each other and "build a habit of sharing gratitude"; and a virtual commute feature that helps workers wrap up for the day and prepare for the following day. These will be available starting next week.

Microsoft is also bringing new guided mediations and mindfulness experiences from Headspace into the Viva Insights app. These experiences are curated and designed to help users relax before a meeting or close out their work day. This will come later in the year, though.

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