Regular breaks, short meetings, and other advice

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Schedule super quick meetings just to check in with colleagues. Read more. And try to fit “moments of transition” into your daily schedule.



Satya Nadella smiling for the camera: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)


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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Those are some tips from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to help manage well-being with the new WFH lifestyle.

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Nadella spoke this week at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council. He said he’s focused on three major considerations of how the nature is work is changing amid the pandemic: how collaboration happens, how learning happens inside companies, and how to ensure employees aren’t burning out.

The last point has become even more important over the past several months as workers conduct multiple meetings per day via video and don’t have the same interactions with colleagues at a physical office. Microsoft studies show that people are now working after hours and on weekends more frequently, and that remote work is leading to more stress and mental fatigue.

Nadella said people can get more tired because of the concentration required during video calls. That’s why Microsoft earlier this summer rolled out the new Microsoft Teams “Together” mode, a feature for video meetings that places participants against a shared virtual background, out of the traditional grid view, to help create the perception of sitting together.

Nadella also called out the new “virtual commute” feature for Teams, which uses automation tech to help users close out tasks and designate work for the following day, log their sentiment about the work day, and direct them into a guided meditation process. Microsoft said its research finds that the blurred lines between work and home are hurting remote workers’ feelings of well-being.

Whether it’s the bus ride to and from work, or even walking down a hallway for your next meeting, there are fewer “transition times” during the day for workers, especially those that schedule back-to-back video calls. There aren’t as many “cognitive breaks,” Nadella said.

Previously: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella warns about the consequences of embracing remote work permanently

The CEO said he’s trying to learn more about these “transitions.” He’s heard people say WFH sometimes feels like sleeping at work.

“If that is the case, how do you have the transition?” he said. “Do you actually have dinner with the family, or are you booked for one more meeting? In some sense it requires even more attention personally to your schedule so that you really do book in those moments of transition.”

With people no longer working together at the office, “we’re burning some amount of social capital,” Nadella also noted, as we lose natural places to run into colleagues and chat. To recreate those interactions, Nadella recommended scheduling short video meetings.

“The one thing I have definitely done a lot is to have very short meetings to be able to connect with people,” he said.

Asked how he’s tried to build in a level of normality and not be tied to notifications or browsing feeds all day while working from home, Nadella said he’s trying to do more “deep reading.” He said he’s using Microsoft’s new dual-screen Surface Duo phone, with a reading app on one screen all the time.

“In this abundance of computer-mediated work, what is scarce is how you allocate your attention,” he said. “So it’s being more thoughtful about it. The days when I get it right, I know I have a better sense of well-being.”

Microsoft was one of the first companies to shift its tech workforce remotely when the coronavirus hit and will likely continue to pioneer flexible arrangements for employees. Other tech giants such as Twitter and Zillow said they’ll allow employees to work from home indefinitely.

“It’s probably best not to get overly dogmatic,” Nadella noted today. “…We need to be more grounded in the flexibility that every one of us needs in order to deal with the unexpected in our lives.”

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