Artificial Intelligence. The Key to Reducing Workplace Distractions.

Artificial Intelligence. The Key to Reducing Workplace Distractions.

Do you want to boost staff productivity by 50%? 

According to Gloria Mark, Professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds for an employee to regain focus following a distraction – so that quick, 30 second question could be costing your business almost half an hour of lost productivity. 

Studies suggest that the average person is interrupted once every 8 minutes, and your typical interruption lasts for 5 minutes. Crunch the numbers, and we get some sobering results: your employees could be losing 50% of every single workday due to distractions. 

But is artificial intelligence (AI) the key to reclaiming this 50%? 

In this article, we’ll be exploring Microsoft’s MyAnalytics, a powerful AI-powered tool that analyzes your employees’ work habits and suggests practical, actionable changes that can help them avoid the distractions that are costing your business time, productivity – and ultimately money.

Build better habits, with Microsoft’s MyAnalytics 

MyAnalytics, formerly known as Delve Analytics, is a Microsoft application that’s designed to boost employee productivity by providing a unique, AI-powered insight into how your staff are currently spending their time – and how they should be spending their time. 

The MyAnalytics dashboard is divided into four sections: Focus, Wellbeing, Network and Collaboration. 

All of these areas are worth exploring in detail, but in this article we’ll focus on two areas that can help your employees minimize distractions and reclaim up to 4 hours every single workday

Focus Time: Optimize your schedule 

MyAnalytics’ Focus dashboard records how much time each employee spends in meetings, emails, chats, and calls across Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business

Your employees can access this information by logging into the MyAnalytics tool and then either clicking the “Make more time to focus” link, or selecting “Focus” from the left-hand menu. 

The Focus dashboard displays raw data about the employee’s work habits, but it also uses powerful AI algorithms to suggest changes they can make, in order to create more “focus time.” Your employees can view these AI-powered recommendations, by selecting “View Suggestions.” 

The Focus dashboard also gives employees the option to enroll in a focus plan. Once enrolled, MyAnaltyics will automatically book focus time every day based on the employee’s schedule. 

During focus time, MyAnalytics silences all chats in Teams and Skype for Business, and changes your status to “Do Not Disturb.” Note that employees will still receive notifications for messages that are marked as urgent, or messages from contacts that have Do Not Disturb: Priority Access, so you don’t need to worry about your employees missing anything important. 

By eliminating these distractions, MyAnalytics ensures that all your employees have a block of time where they can focus on high priority tasks, without any interruptions. 

Even with MyAnalytics’ AI algorithms, your employees may occasionally receive an unexpected, last-minute invitation that conflicts with their scheduled focus time. Rather than cancelling focus time, MyAnalytics will display inline suggestions and email digests to help the employee reschedule their focus time, so they can attend urgent last-minute meetings without sacrificing focus time. 

MyAnalytics Collaboration: Stop getting distracted by meetings!

MyAnalytics’ Collaboration dashboard displays how much time your employees are spending in meetings, emails, chats and calls every single week. 

Armed with this information, your employees can schedule their collaborative activities to be less disruptive, and create periods of time where they can work without distractions such as meetings, instant messages, or yet another new email. 

Similar to the Focus dashboard, MyAnalytics doesn’t just present data and then rely on the employee to interpret this data. MyAnalytics uses AI to suggest changes the employee can make, in order to minimize disruptions based on their schedule and previous collaborative behaviour. 

Your employees can view these suggestions by logging into the MyAnalytics tool and then either clicking the “Explore collaborative habits” link, or selecting “Collaboration” from the left-hand menu. Once inside the Collaboration dashboard, the employee can view all of MyAnalytics’ recommendations, by clicking “View Suggestions.” 

3 ways to minimize workplace distractions 

MyAnalytics’ suggestions are customized based on the individual’s habits, behaviours and schedule, so we’d recommend implementing all of the Focus and Collaboration suggestions unless you have a specific reason not to. 

In addition to implementing all of Microsoft’s personalized, AI-powered recommendations, there are some additional changes that all employees can make, in order to minimize disruptions.

1. Create an email schedule 

According to Adobe’s annual email usage study, the typical employee checks their emails 36 times an hour

While some emails do require immediate attention, does anyone really need to check their inbox every 1.6 minutes? 

Your employees can use MyAnalytics data to see exactly how much time they spend checking, reading and responding to emails. Based on this information, they can take steps to manage their email more efficiently. 

Many people get positive results by creating an email schedule, where they read and respond to new emails once every hour, or once every few hours depending on the volume of emails they typically receive. 

By restricting email-related activities to a once-per-hour window, your employees can immediately turn 36 distractions into a once-per-hour distraction, potentially creating hours of uninterrupted “focus time” every single day. 

2. Maximize your time, with batching 

Let’s imagine you have 4 meetings to attend, and you can choose from the following schedules: 

1. A meeting at 9AM, 10AM, 11AM, and 12PM.

2. A meeting at 10AM, 12AM, 2PM and 4PM. 

You also have an important project that must be completed by 5PM – which schedule gives you the greatest chance of meeting this deadline? 

While both schedules include 4 hours of “free” time, most people will get far more work done in 4 consecutive hours, compared to dipping in and out of a project throughout the day. 

Wherever possible, you should try to group your meetings together in your calendar, as this will create blocks of time where you can deep-dive into projects, and work completely undisturbed. 

3. Don’t get drawn into long email threads  

Some topics are difficult to discuss using text alone. 

If you feel yourself getting drawn into a lengthy email or instant message discussion, then you should consider switching the medium, and scheduling a meeting instead. 

Setting aside an hour where all participants can discuss an issue in real time is going to be far less disruptive than constantly having to pause what you’re doing, in order to read and respond to yet another incoming email or instant message. 

If you’re an Office 365 user, then Microsoft Teams has a “Meet Now” feature that lets you launch a video meeting directly from any chat window – perfect, when you’re midway through an instant message exchange and realise that this issue could be resolved much more quickly via a video call. 

To turn any Teams instant message conversation into a meeting, simply select the “Meet Now” icon, which appears alongside the box where you type all of your instant messages: 

When prompted, give this meeting a name and click “Meet now.” Microsoft Teams will now launch a video meeting within the context of the current conversation. 

If you need to schedule a meeting in Microsoft Teams, then: 

  1. Select “Calendar” from the left-hand menu. 
  2. Select “New meeting.” 
  3. Give your meeting a title. 
  4. Enter the names or email addresses of everyone who needs to attend this meeting. 
  5. Specify the date and time when this meeting should take place. All attendees will receive an email invite, regardless of whether they have a Microsoft Teams account. 
  6. Create an optional description, or you can use this opportunity to share a meeting agenda, define some goals, or suggest a few talking points that need to be covered during the meeting. 
  7. Once you’re happy with the information you’ve entered, click “Save.” 

All of these contacts will now receive an email invite, which they can either accept or deny. 

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