Microsoft unveils tools to increase productivity at work

Microsoft has introduced Office 365 tools that monitor employee time and email activity to improve productivity at work.

Microsoft released a set of reporting capabilities for its Office 365 suite that are designed to help subscribers increase productivity at work.

The reports are part of Microsoft's continued expansion of the Office 365 Admin Reporting Center, an online portal that measures companywide usage of tools, including OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, Skype for Business and Yammer. Microsoft launched the Admin Reporting Center last month and added the extra reporting capabilities last week.

The revamped Admin Center reporting tool can generate reports on Office 365 users, Exchange email activity, and Office activations in the U.S., Canada and Australia. Microsoft plans to open up the portal to customers in Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America later this month.

Increasing productivity at work becoming a priority

Also in April, Microsoft unveiled its personnel monitoring tool, called Delve Analytics, which gives an employee a usage chart on various work tools. The charts show an employee's time spent on email and in meetings.

For example, the meeting section within Delve shows meetings that lasted the longest or went over the allotted time. Delve also provides reasons on why some meetings may have been unproductive or redundant. Microsoft's goal is that workers can see the information and take actions to increase productivity at work.

For the email portion, an employee can see in a chart if he or she is bogged down in sending and receiving messages. Employees have universally complained that email is a time-drain and decreases productivity at work. The Delve application lets the user compare his or her time spent on email with the company average.

"So far, there hasn't been a report card you can look at and see how you can make better decisions at work," said Alan Lepofsky, an analyst at Constellation Research, based in Silicon Valley, Calif.

Another section within Delve is called Focus Hours, which displays the periods of time when an employee has at least two hours between meetings. Users can also monitor their work-life balance with a section called After Hours. After Hours tracks the amount of time users log into work tools when they're off the clock.

The Delve Analytics application can be enabled through the Office 365 personal dashboard.

To curb fears of companies using the information against employees, Microsoft has stated that only an individual can access his or her analytics in Delve. The application has been available since late 2015, but only recently did Microsoft talk about the feature publicly.

Measuring analytics and reporting, like Microsoft is doing with these features, is starting to gain popularity in the consumer world, Lepofsky said. The thought driving the trend is that monitoring the day's tasks can help increase productivity at work.

"Analytics are becoming part of our lives and that's extending to the working world," Lepofsky said. "Microsoft is becoming very focused on allowing employees to get a handle on their work day."

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