Microsoft is updating Outlook to allow companies to automatically start or end all meetings early to ensure employees have a break between back-to-backs. New settings are being implemented in Outlook to help reduce the digital overload of remote working.
Companies can set their own default schedule settings, and they are fully customizable. That means you can have five minutes blocked before or after a 30-minute meeting, or 10-15 minutes after an hour-long meeting. Individuals can also set their own schedule defaults, but the company-wide option is the most significant change here.
Calendar software like Outlook has defaulted to meetings by the hour for decades, often unintentionally like the idea of back-to-back meetings with default settings that don’t account for the need for a break in between. If you create a new meeting in Outlook today, it will default to the hour and 30 minutes. Even the drop-down menu does not make it easy to select a custom time without entering it manually.
Microsoft is making these changes after it is own research about digital overload, in response to the millions of people who worked from home during the pandemic. Video conferencing has become a popular way for employees to communicate, but this change in the way we work has its drawbacks. “More remote work is a challenge to our well-being,” said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of Microsoft 365. “Digital overload is real and something needs to change.”
Microsoft thinks this small change to Outlook could be a new way to think about meetings for many and to promote well-being. Whether companies make this possible on a large scale or whether it even has an impact is another matter. Meetings often start late or overflow because people are unmute or join late because another meeting has exceeded the scheduled time slot. New Outlook settings won’t immediately improve that aspect of meetings, but it could sow a seed of change to help employers and employees think a little more about the impact of meetings and the need to give everyone’s brain a much-needed rest.