New Microsoft tool aims to make teams more efficient by learning how they spend their days

Microsoft Workplace Analytics dashboard. (Microsoft Photo)

Microsoft today released a new tool that lets company leaders track how teams spend their time.

The new program, Microsoft Workplace Analytics, is now generally available to purchase as an add-on for Office 365 enterprise plans. Alym Rayani, a director at Microsoft Office 365, described the new program as something like Fitbit for work productivity. It uses metadata that comes out of other Office 365 programs like Outlook and measures things like time spent in email, meeting time, and how often people work after-hours.

The program is an extension of MyAnalytics, an Office tool that shows individuals how they spend their time. Both tools are the result of Microsoft’s 2015 acquisition of VoloMetrix, a Seattle startup that helped large corporations quantify employee efficiency.

“It’s that concept of looking at how you spend your time in meetings, on emails, after-hours,” Rayani said in an interview with GeekWire. “We wanted to take a step back and say what if we looked at that concept, but at the organizational level, what would that Fitbit for the organization look like?”

Alym Rayani, director for Microsoft Office 365. (Microsoft Photo)

Microsoft recently commissioned a study by research company Forrester that found many executives see increasing employee productivity as a top priority priority of organizations in the next year. According to the study, many organizations lack the tools and understanding to interpret and apply data to improve the workplace.

To some, this level of monitoring teams’ work habits might seem a little invasive, but Microsoft envisions the program helping companies figure out not just how to make their people more productive, but also happier. For example, a company could look at how many hours the team is working outside the traditional time of business and conclude it needs to make a change to keep from overworking the staff. Or, perhaps employees are spending too much time in meetings, hampering their productivity.

Workplace Analytics offers custom query capability, meaning leaders can look at any number of metrics to decide how to run the company.

Microsoft has been testing the program, and some of its beta customers include Johnson & Johnson, PayPal, Freddie Mac and CBRE. Real estate giant CBRE has used the tool to help clients plan out their spaces. In one case, CBRE analyzed the metadata attached to employee calendar items to look at travel time for meetings. After a relocation, CBRE found travel time to meetings dropped for the 1,200 employees involved in the move, saving them a combined 100 hours per week.