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02 October 2020 | Marcin Kapuscinski

Virtual Commutes - next step in remote work humanisation?

What do we miss in the era of remote work? A coffee with co-workers? Fruity Thursdays? Incentives?

It turns out that for … commuting to and from work! At least, this is what the creators of the Teams communication platform decided. They are going to present a new functionality in 2021: virtual commuting. Stay with us, we will try to defend it 🙂

Do we really miss commutes?

Most of us associate them primarily with traffic jams, impatience, waste of time and – when using public transport – discomfort.

However, it is worth appreciating the positive and sometimes non-obvious aspects of the road to work. It certainly defines the beginning and the end of the working day, helping to distinguish the private sphere, which is not so simple now.

Commuting to work allows to put tasks in our head, and the way back is an opportunity to sum up the day, think about what has gone well and what could have been done better. And most importantly, it helps you smoothly switch your mind between “modes”.


Virtual Commutes – new MS Teams functionality

We have already written about the trend of making remote work similar to traditional work in the article Remotely and Almost Next to You. Everything indicates, that the next chapter of this story will be added by Microsoft, the producer of the Teams communication platform, one of the most popular tools for remote work on the market.

Next year’s Teams update will allow users to plan virtual commuting. How will it work?

In the morning, you will be greeted by the virtual commute assistant – as soon as you start working in Teams. It will ask about your well-being, tasks and challenges. If you feel overwhelmed by the workload, he will suggest, for example, blocking an hour for de-stress in your calendar, or simply complete a task that should not be interrupted by, for example, conversations with co-workers.

Work day will be finished with the Headspace application. It will put you in a state that you usually achieve falling asleep on the seat of the bus that is taking you home: the tension goes away, you have time to reflect on what happened at work, sometimes you even start to unconsciously meditate.

But first, Teams will give you a list of unfinished tasks, that you can carry over to the next day, and congratulate on completing others. It will also ask how you day has been, asking you to click one of the five emoticons. At the very end of this “virtual homecoming”, a pleasant, relaxing voice will guide you through 10 minutes of meditation.

You just got home.

The purpose of the new Teams extension is:

  • making our “remote day” similar to the one before the pandemic and getting out of the monotony imposed by it,
  • helping the mind smoothly switch between modes of functioning (home-work-home),
  • reducing the level of stress and thus improving employees’ quality of life,
  • paying more attention to intellectual and emotional needs, which we tend to forget about.

Smooth Return or Laptop Shutdown?

Interestingly, for some reason, the journey to and from work is important for us. As early as 2001, a study was published, which found that the majority of economically active respondents would choose to commute to work, even if they had the choice of not traveling for work purposes.

Over the past six months, Microsoft – competing with programs such as Zoom – has rolled out many updates to make remote work look more social – sitting “side by side” in a remote meeting is just one example.

Time will tell, if the virtual commute will be accepted and to what extent. Many people want and are able to simply turn off their laptop or log out of e-mail and instantly “change the operating mode” – just like switching tabs in a browser. For them, the virtual simulation of returning home is just another moment, spent at the same computer on which they were working a moment ago.

We’d love to know your opinion – share it with us on our social media channels!