The Big Lie of Microsoft Office Tracking Your Work-Life Balance/Well-Being
July 27, 2021
"You don't know me, son!"
I'll start with a shout out to the benefits of tracking my s**t everywhere on the web. I don't mind it. I like when Google knows, based on the time of day, where I'm going and tells me how long it's going take to get there. I'm fine with the running shoe recommendations and more I get from Instagram. Helpful.
Track me all day long, because I live an honest life. You're going to be freaking bored if you track me for dirt.
But don't judge me.
You know who's in the business of tracking AND judging? Microsoft Office.
Google and Instagram don't tell you that you could be a better person. Microsoft does, and it should bother you as an individual, and if it doesn't, you might want to put on your strategy hat and think about the judging and influencing that's going on across your organization. You know—the leadership thing.
WHY I'M TALKING ABOUT MICROSOFT ACTING LIKE MY PARENT
Last week, I was just minding my own business and got an email from the MS Office Suite from a toolset called "My Analytics." The email was titled "My Analytics/Well-being Edition" and was sent at 1:27 am. I'll let you soak for a second on that combination.
The email sent by the MS Office 365 engine proceeded to give a reading on my state of well-being.
Ready for my stats? Remember, I didn't opt into this, it just came to me as an individual employee. Here's what MS Office thinks about my work habits related to their expertise in "well-being."
1--MS Office is not impressed with my commitment to excellence/world domination/crushing it.
In this case, well-being is defined as not allowing yourself to be interrupted after hours, which means outside the normal office hours you set up in Outlook. Apparently, I'm one step away from working in the Nike/Phone factory in China when it comes to well-being, given the fact that I've had two Quiet days protected from disruption.
What Microsoft doesn't measure: how I define work-life balance. It doesn't show when I'm not working during the day, instead showing that as "focus" time. If you call looking at NBA trade rumors as focus time, you're 100% correct. I kid—the point is that this indicates I am outside of some PhD's "boundaries for clean living" but does nothing to show that I work hard during the day.
2--MS Office is also concerned about my health when I'm online in some fashion "past midnight."
At least one to two times a week I wake up in the middle of the night, and I know me—I'm up for ninety minutes at least. Sometimes I grab the phone and scroll. Sue me.
Here's an idea: if you are going to lecture me about looking passively at my email at 2 am, maybe you shouldn't send me your wellbeing email at 1:27 am. Just saying.
3-- MS Office would like to admonish me for being too responsive to email.
MS Office thinks reading 75% of emails is obsessive. That's just me kicking some ass, Redmond. I'm guessing while I hear this, feedback on the well-being front doesn't flow to people who are awful at email. You know, something like, "you have ninety unread emails that are more than a week old. Your employment may be in danger." That's a well-being note for sure, and one that some people need to hear. Who's going to give them that message? I doubt that it's Microsoft.
4--While MS Office is quick to judge my hours, it only reports on the number of emails I receive and send; it has no opinions on this topic.
OK! I send 160 emails a week! Is that a lot compared to my peers? Are people taking action on my emails? I read 1,000 emails a week. Am I responding to the right ones? MS Office doesn't have input for me here. Too bad, lost opportunity.
WHAT'S THE POINT? I THOUGHT YOU'D NEVER ASK.
The point is this: this is less about you and me as individuals and more about the messages flowing in your organization. If you're not aware of the messaging that "MyAnalytics" might be sending to your team, you might want to consider the following realities/impact of this type of reporting (that you didn't ask for):
1--This type of well-being reporting is one-way and doesn't have context. If you give a lot of great flexibility for people to figure out how they want to get it done, the standard version of how MS Outlook won't cut it. They could be doing their own thing during the day (approved by you as long as the work gets done), and that will show up as "focus" time. Translation: your org will be framed with the negative (hey, buckaroo, why are you looking at email at 9pm), with no credit given for the positive (I don't micro manage my people's hours).
2--The standard MyAnalytics Package aims to reduce responsiveness under a cloak of "focus time." You reply to emails with a lot of urgency? Hey, you might want to lay off providing great responsiveness. The problem, of course, is that MyAnalytics won't take on the other side of giving feedback. It won't tell someone they should be worried about further employment because they suck at responsiveness.
3--Performance isn't considered. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. High performers everywhere work harder than average performers 99% of the time. While MyAnalytics makes broad recommendations to cover well-being, a braver tool would not only cover well-being but would give some line of sight for where you fall in these measurements in your company, which makes the guidance culture-specific. That guidance would go something like this: "Hey Kris, you're answering 75% of your email within 30 minutes, the average at your company is 150 minutes. Why don't you still do great things in this area but only check email once an hour? The benefits of doing this are ___________. Plus, consider this: only 13% of people you respond to that quickly look at your email within 150 minutes."
I like the idea of well-being tools. But well-being doesn't exist in a vacuum. It has to be placed in a package with performance, organizational culture, and great recommendations based on data that compares you with others in your company.
Think about those things, Microsoft. And maybe stop sending me wellness emails at 1:27am—if you're going to preach to me about reading emails past working hours.
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Posted by: Nirvi | July 28, 2021 at 10:57 AM
I always feel strange when getting my periodic dose of judgement from Microsoft. Not strange enough to bang out a blog post, but I think you're spot on (even if tongue-in-cheek).
No attention paid to whether my work habits suit me, and whether I'm in my flow throughout the work day. On that note... #'s 7 & 14 plus Wiggins is far too high for Siakam, right? Give me some Beal!!
Posted by: Bryan | July 29, 2021 at 10:09 AM
You know who's in the business of tracking AND judging? Microsoft Office.
Posted by: fireboy and watergirl | July 29, 2021 at 09:41 PM
I believe this is the same company that posted “research” earlier this year on LI claiming that brain scanner data proved that meeting breaks were essential. Also fervent believers in the disproven concept of growth mindset. Maybe they should stick to writing software and stop pretending they have a clue about human behavior.
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