Well-being has become a workplace KPI

Workplace Analytics have shifted management focus away from its long obsession with efficiency towards effectiveness and well-being. How do these new metrics overlap with household well-being?

At some point in early 2020, my work-only Outlook 365 inbox started receiving automated weekly emails from Microsoft with the subject line “MyAnalytics | Wellbeing Edition”.

I first thought this was just a different spin on the email metrics offered by the 3rd-party Outlook plugin market for quite some time.

However MyAnalytics was telling me something different. First it was telling me how many Quiet Days I’ve had in the past week. “What the heck are Quiet days?”, I thought.

Quiet days

Quiet days are days without significant activity outside your working hours of 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Configure working hours

Quiet days are based on whether you send and read emails, attend meetings, take calls, or send chats during your quiet hours. Your quiet hours are outside your working hours of 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM and also include your weekends.

Why it matters

People who disconnect daily from work report lower levels of stress and anxiety.

Ok so now Microsoft is advising me on stress and anxiety - this is interesting (see also Microsoft Viva Insights). Drilling down some more, MyAnalytics informed me on my focus time vs. collaboration time.

Collaborating outside working hours can lead to emotional exhaustion. Studies have shown even checking email during your quiet hours can block restoring the physical and mental energy expended during the day.

This was definitely not your typical Outlook email metrics. Microsoft was warning about burnout and the harmful effects of collaborating outside of working hours on my well-being.

In Covid-19: Reclaiming ‘home’ in work from home, I wrote about how Covid-19 induced work-from-home gave rise to working outside of normal working hours :

In the two years prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, only 1% of the work-related emails I sent were sent outside of standard working hours. This amounts to just 15 of the 2675 work-related emails I sent in all of 2018 and 2019 were sent before 8am or after 7pm.

One year after Covid-19 pushed many of us to work from home, 15% or 103 of the 670 work-related emails I’ve sent have been outside of normal working hours (see Figure 1).

There is no denying that this new capability to measure and monitor our well-being in the workplace is creating significant new risks for us all. At the same time, the fact that the leading vendor of office productivity tools is now advising us of the physical and emotional impact of sending too many emails outside of working hours, for example, means that the burden of reinforcing positive work culture practices has been transferred to the likes of Microsoft, freeing us from the sometime uncomfortable conversations that occur when we don’t subscribe to certain work practices.

There is a lot more to explore regarding Workplace Analytics and how it overlaps with our household well-being. Stay tuned.