Microsoft's Geeta Gurnani on why enterprise collaboration tools ‘must have’ for successful hybrid workplace
The workplace has evolved significantly over the last two years, and thrown up new aspirations and expectations for employees.
As per a recent Microsoft study, 77% of employees said it’s important or very important for their employer to provide a sense of purpose and meaning at work. At the same time, 69% of employees said it’s important or very important to be rewarded for impact, instead of hours worked.
Today’s working professionals not only want to feel more connected, more aligned to their company’s purpose and mission, but they want to grow, make an impact, and make a difference.
Geeta Gurnani, country head – modern work, Microsoft India, says with these evolving needs of employees, it is imperative that organisations relook their strategies and the tools they use to understand, and meet, in the new evolving scenario of work.
“Hybrid work represents one of the biggest shifts to how we work in our generation. It has redefined our concept of work, our relationships, and our sense of connection at the workplace. One of the biggest challenges facing leaders today is delivering a re-imagined employee experience that brings a sense of community, connection, and inspiration to day-to-day work," she says.
Gurnani says this was the idea behind Viva Engage - the newest app in Microsoft Viva, designed to help people and teams to be their best, have a voice, and feel included in the workplace.
Viva Engage is touted to give leaders a new way to shape culture at their organisations by unlocking communication and engagement opportunities for everyone. It brings people together across the organisation to connect with colleagues, find answers to questions, share their unique story, and find belonging at work.
The social builds on the existing capabilities of the Communities app for Teams and Microsoft 365. And as an integral part of the Microsoft Viva suite, Viva Engage contributes to Viva Connections and Viva Topics and over time will extend community, conversation, and knowledge experiences into other areas of Viva.
Gurnani says for leaders, Viva Engage is a place to share news and strategy, model culture, speak with employees, and weigh in on conversations.
“Features like virtual events, pinned conversations, and announcements with notifications across Teams, Outlook, and Viva Connections make it easy to stay connected. For employees, Viva Engage enables people to build communities and professional networks, share their work and perspective, and find answers to their questions. Features like storyline and stories, best answers, @mentions, and topics help drive participation and build communities and relationships amongst coworkers,” she contends.
The growing need for collaboration platforms
Collaboration platforms are no longer “good to have” but a “must-have” for enterprises to survive in the hybrid/remote workplace, notes Gurnani.
With people working more flexible hours, they need tools that support asynchronous collaboration.
“We need a new class of apps that are centered around collaboration versus individual productivity. With collaborative apps, end users can easily work with others to complete their projects at any time, from anywhere, and stay in the flow of work without needing to switch across multiple apps and data. Microsoft Teams was built with the very purpose of enabling seamless collaboration at its core,” she says.
How collaboration tools boost productivity, teamwork
As organisations around the world are adapting to new ways of working, one of the biggest challenges they face is how to bring together culture, technology, and space to make hybrid work work.
“The tools we use every day need to be flexible and inclusive to empower people of all different needs to be productive from anywhere, at any time. Our focus has been on designing technology experiences that help individuals and organisations prioritise well-being, improve accessibility, support flexible workstyles, and offer more ways to make your voice heard,” says Gurnani.
“As employee experience becomes even more important in a hybrid world, last year we launched Microsoft Viva, the first employee experience platform built for the digital era,” she says, adding that since its launch, Viva has over 10 million monthly active users now – with companies witnessing significant business impact by prioritising employee well-being.
“We are also re-imagining every aspect of the meetings experience in Teams, to make virtual interactions more natural, more engaging, and more human. Wellbeing insights and integration with apps like Headspace bring meditation and mindfulness experiences directly into Teams,” she adds.
Together mode is a meeting experience in Teams that helps participants feel closer together even when they are apart by placing them in a shared background. “We’ve added a virtual commute feature to help employees add structure to a remote workday – and slot time for cognitive breaks, a productive start and mindful disconnect,” Gurnani says.
Much of the digital overload today is due to back-to-back meetings with no breaks in-between, which make it harder to stay focused and engaged. Research shows that even a small break between meetings can help.
“To address this, we have created settings in Microsoft Outlook that make it easier and automatic to carve out breaks between back-to-back meetings. Individuals can set scheduling defaults that automatically shorten the meetings they schedule. Outlook also provides users detailed insights and AI-powered suggestions to help them plan their wellbeing better and work smarter,” says Gurnani.