A virtual commute from Microsoft for better work/home transitions


The arrival of WFH offered the promise of more time and flexibility. However, studies now show it's taking a negative toll on most of us. The solution: smarter tech and better habits. 

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In the beginning, remote working was brilliant. The novelty of skipping the work commute and having more time to perfect our work/life balance was appealing. It sounded like the answer to our work woes, and to be fair, it was for most... at the start.

But here’s the thing: while we’ve saved time by skipping the traditional commute, our work lives seem to have gotten longer, and work responsibilities have slowly taken root in our private time. The boundary lines have blurred, and because there’s more crossover, many people are finding it harder to ‘turn off’ from their work – ironically while at home.

But how’s this for a turnaround: studies now show that your dreaded work commute is actually beneficial for your productivity and mental health. Wait, what? Yes, recent research by Microsoft has shown that a commute can help prepare workers for the start of their workday, and it can help them wind down at the end of it. “Commutes provide blocks of uninterrupted time to help you mentally transition to and from work, an important aspect of wellbeing and productivity,” says Shamsi Iqbal, principal researcher in Microsoft Research AI.

Microsoft has taken this research seriously and has invested their assets and expertise into providing new tech tools to help remote workers and their workplace wellness. At their recent annual innovation conference, new features in both Outlook and Teams were launched to help people globally with productivity and wellbeing. These include a virtual commute experience for better work- and home-life transitions, and a partnership with Headspace, one of the most effective meditation and mindfulness session providers in the world. It’s used in over 190 countries by 65 million people.

There are also other tools which can help colleagues connect more easily, and to schedule time for breaks and focused work, and to reveal patterns and provide insight on habits and work techniques that are personalised for each user.

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We’re big advocates of health and wellness here at Because, I mean we would be very little without our incredible people. So, we’re going to be huge drivers of these smart tech tools from Microsoft within our agency. We’re also betting on this trend growing massively in the next few months (we’re not alone here) and these tools are only the tip of the iceberg. As our working world has changed, so our benefits should change too, not so? How about employee benefits, that cover access to professional therapy, alternative forms of wellness (remote yoga or exercise classes) and meditation. Compassionate leadership will be needed too to encourage employees to take control of their schedules and include more focus and personal time (using data and insight provided by companies like Microsoft). And yes, we’ll need to make a digital commute to start and end each day – it just won’t include any traffic or road rage.

We’re constantly looking for new ways to work more effectively, and truly believe that the mental health and wellness of our employees plays a huge role here. That’s why we’re putting a big focus on these two areas this year – both for our own team and in all the projects and experiences we create for our partners and clients. Yes, it’s said that a happy healthy workforce is a productive one, but really looking after the people we love is the least we can do in these crazy times.

Want to chat to us about this or work on an employee wellness project together? Give us a shout! We’d love to share a ‘virtual’ coffee with you.