Team commuting

Driven mad by the way lockdowns have given Microsoft Teams a chance to snag a portion of the enterprise software market, it seems that Microsoft may have over-reached themselves if this Wall Street Journal article about changes to Teams is anything to go by:

Microsoft Corp. is developing an update to its Teams package of workplace collaboration tools to replace one of the less-mourned losses of pandemic living: the commute to and from work.
The daily commute may have caused its share of headaches, but it at least helped workers define a start and end to their workday while offering a set time to think away from the demands and distractions of the home and office. That positive side of the commute is what Microsoft hopes to re-create. […]
The Teams update next year will let users schedule virtual commutes at the beginning and end of each shift. Instead of reliving 8 a.m. or 6 p.m. packed subway rides or highway traffic jams in virtual reality, users will be prompted by the platform to set goals in the morning and reflect on the day in the evening. [Emphasis added]

So, instead of a morning’s virtual commute in which we all get to choose our own ways to prepare for our working day, be it by contemplating the work ahead or by thinking about everything but work, Microsoft’s vision is that employers can use Teams to invite their staff to spend at least part of the commuting time we’ve been saving by working from home in setting up the day ahead’s To Do list and scheduling the day’s workload (and, in practice, reviewing our incoming emails.)

I trust Teams will also add a module which will automatically keep track of this overtime working each day and authorise additional pay accordingly. 1

Granted, back before the Current Situation pushed many of us into working from home some employees did spend at least part of their non-virtual commuting time thinking ahead and planning their working day. One of the reasons I got into the habit of having a Psion, or a Palm, or an iPad mini in my bag was that I could sketch out ideas/outlines/first drafts for what was coming once I got to work, but equally some days I’d fire up an ebook on the same device. That was my choice to spend my commute organising my thoughts, and to my mind that’s completely different from being prompted to spend time in Teams before work starts.

This notion of employers – formally or informally – expecting staff to bookend their working day with planning/reviewing the day’s work is a terrible idea. We can but hope employers won’t take the bait.

[Via Memex 1.1]


  1. I have a horrible feeling we’ll be offered credit to spend with our official employee rewards scheme instead of actual money in our bank accounts. 

2 Comments

  1. Gordon says:

    Reminds me of a story a developer I knew, who had interviewed at Microsoft, told me.

    Apparently they were keen to offer him a job, and help him get accommodation too, cos they have these apartment blocks where a few other Microsoft employees live so ‘wouldn’t that be cool, you can chat about and work through those tough work issues over dinner, or later in the evening’…

    WTAF? Needless to say he didn’t take the job. They really do want your soul (I think this is the American attitude thing though, they just haven’t realised that Europe isn’t built the same way)

    • John says:

      I can but hope that when the commuting-as-planning module is launched it’ll go unnoticed by the managers I work under. We’re really keen on using Teams for videoconferencing, but most of the rest of what Teams can do for us seems to be going unexplored for now, at least in my corner of the organisation.

      (It’s not so much that I dislike Teams, as it is that I find much of what Teams does to be much less powerful and flexible than what I can already do with other standalone tools. For me, for now, the trade-off isn’t worth making yet.)