Recently, Microsoft unveiled Viva: the new employee experience platform to help employees ‘thrive’ in Microsoft Teams. But, as a symptom of company culture moving online, what does the creation of Viva really mean for Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS)?  

In many organizations, Teams is now the first app staff open in the morning. With remote work here to stay, Microsoft is extending the platform to help organizations create a stronger culture online.  

In short, Viva is the beginnings of a digital version of the office. (Can it offer me a cup of tea, too?)  

Accordingly, the fact that Viva means ‘life’ hints at what Microsoft is trying to create. It replaces some of the benefits of being in a workplace, such as knowledge sharing, as well as reviving the boundary between work and home, with a ‘digital commute’. 

Therefore, I am curious about what this means for EHS.  

At the very leastif you want to keep EHS at the front of company culture, you should be aware of Viva and, more importantly, its underlying drivers. 

Why? Let’s look at Viva in more depth and its potential ramifications for the EHS landscape. 

Firstly, what is Viva?

Viva is a combination of existing Microsoft 365 services (née ‘Office 365’) and new functionality, available as apps in Teams.  

It is made up of four modules

  1. Viva Connections 
  1. Viva Topics 
  1. Viva Learning 
  1. Viva Insights  

Viva Connections brings your SharePoint environment natively into Teams. In other words, it is the existing SharePoint Online service adapted for the Teams experience.  

Viva Topics is like an internal Wikipedia. A Topic has its own page with definitions, connected people, key documents (held in SharePoint), and the ability to submit questions to the subject matter experts within the organization.  

Viva Learning brings courses from the multiple sources your company uses, such as LinkedIn Learning, Pluralsight or LMS365, into a central area for learning in Teams.  

Viva Insights helps employees wrap up their tasks, prepare for tomorrow, and mindfully disconnect with help from Headspace. It also gives managers data about their team to help avoid burnout, such as how often staff are working after hours.  

With these modules, Microsoft’s aim is to extend Teams as a platform for engagement, knowledge, learning and wellbeing. 

Early adoption

With these modules, Microsoft’s aim is to extend Teams as a platform for engagement, knowledge, learning and wellbeing. 

At this point in time, Connections seems to be the most advanced module and the one most well received by Microsoft customers.  

Viva Connections brings SharePoint Online natively to Teams

That may be because it makes Teams more suitable as an intranet portal.

On the other hand, the three remaining modules may take longer for companies to adopt given their cost.

All in all, Viva is the start of something bigger. For the EHS professional, it poses questions about EHS involvement in the emerging ‘employee experience platform’.

The Employee Experience Platform (EXP)

With these tools, Viva’s purpose is to enhance the ‘employee experience’. It is Microsoft’s response to remote work becoming the norm.    

“As the world of work changes, the next horizon of innovation will come from a focus on creativity, engagement and wellbeing so organizations can build cultures of resilience and ingenuity,” said Jared Spataro, corporate VP of Microsoft 365. 

For EHS, the relevance is two-fold: 

  • The need to put EHS in this company culture hub 
  • The increasing focus on mental health and wellbeing 

To win engagement in future, EHS leaders need to start laying the brickwork now.  

Occupational Health, Mental Health and Wellbeing

This renewed focus on mental health is not surprising. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global economy loses around US$1 trillion per year in productivity due to depression and anxiety.  

Consequently, we are seeing wellbeing discussed more on the EHS stage. In fact, in the Verdantix Global Corporate Survey 2020: EHS Budgets, Priorities & Tech Preferences report, Occupational Health, Mental Health & Wellbeing Monitoring placed second when ranked by planned spending increases, behind only PPE.  

That represents one third of respondents planning to increase spending by at least 10%.  

And, in the words of Verdantix analysts, 

“The COVID-19 crisis has amplified the increasing long-term focus on wellbeing solutions, with remote working necessitating the use of technology-based solutions to manage mental health.”  

According to Murray Ferguson, Director at Pro-Sapien, a Microsoft Gold Partner, this is a big part of what Viva is responding to. 

“For me, Viva’s integration with Headspace is particularly interesting. Clearly, working from home has some serious downsides such as lack of human interaction and missing out on the decompression of a commute. We already know good employers care about the wellbeing of their staff, and, culturally, we’ve become far more open to talking about our mental health – which Viva brings digitally into Microsoft 365.”  

Whether you believe mental health is the responsibility of EHS or not, Viva lays the digital foundations for it in Teams. As a resultit makes Teams the go-to platform for yet another aspect of working life.  

This takes us onto our next point. 

Keeping EHS in the employee experience

According to Verdantix in Global Corporate Survey 2019: EHS Budgets, Priorities & Tech Preferences, one of the biggest challenges EHS leaders face is disconnected IT.  

Unfortunately, too many EHS teams are still burdened with slow spreadsheets and old software. This leads to frustration, lost time and lack of insight.  

However, Viva signals a changing business landscape where employees and executives alike expect more from corporate IT.  

Not only are more employees working remotely, but the upcoming generations demand modern technology. (As my boss puts it, “the generation coming through the workplace now didn’t have Nokias or Motorolas as their first mobile phone, they had iPhones.”)  

Undoubtedly, this merits a response from the forward-thinking EHS Director and board.  

Therefore, with Viva set to strengthen Teams as the employee hub, it’s the perfect place for EHS.  

In other words, as you get more value out of Teams, the attraction of Microsoft 365 as the home for EHS grows.  

“From an EHS perspective, to be integral to company culture, there is no better place for your EHS software than the ascending Microsoft 365 platform.” 

Murray Ferguson, Director at Pro-Sapien

There are considerations, but here is an opportunity for EHS to piggy-back Microsoft and leapfrog into the future of engagement.  

Moreover, we know with EHS software, you can’t just “build it and they will come”. It’s now time to take your EHS software to them in Microsoft 365.  

What should you do now?

To summarize, Microsoft has seen the vast, rapid changes in work over the past year and has created an online platform more suited to today’s workforce.  

My question for EHS leaders is: are you doing the same? 

Is your EHS software suited to today’s workforce?  

All employees, regardless of whether they’re at home, in the office or on the shopfloor, benefit from IT simplicity. Whether reporting a near miss, checking your EHS to-do list or analyzing KPI reports for trends, a smooth user experience (or should I say, ‘employee experience’?) does wonders for EHS engagement. 

Ergo, this is what Viva means for EHS. More and more, employees and executives are in Microsoft 365 apps like Teams, so make sure EHS is there, too!  

The opportunity is better EHS engagement in this new, more remote, culture of work.  

What are you going to do about it?  

Learn more about Microsoft 365 for EHS

Disparate IT has been a problem for years. So much so, ability to integrate with existing IT is the top functionality EHS software buyers look for. EHS software in Microsoft 365, like Pro-Sapien, is an attractive alternative to the mainstream vendors. Read this whitepaper to learn more.

Office 365: An EHS Portal No-Brainer? Is it right or wrong for you? Decide with this PDF →

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