Microsoft is launching Viva, a bid on the future of remote work

Microsoft Viva is a recent push by Microsoft to support companies with remote jobs, and a big gamble on this new way of living being the norm. It is designed to serve as a hub for staff and companies to manage the challenges of operating from home. Microsoft is launching Viva today, with portions of the product phased out during 2021.

“We have participated in the largest, at scale, remote work experiment the world has seen,” says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, underlining nearly 11 months of a pandemic that has reshaped how people work, learn, and live. “As the world recovers, there is no going back. Flexibility in when, where, and how we work will be key.”

Microsoft Viva is not an app or even a service, but rather a forum for enhancing remote work and helping companies adapt to it. Although companies spend billions of dollars per year on employee well-being, Microsoft claims Viva can help in this modern digital age of work.

“We need to stop thinking about work as a place, and start thinking about how to maintain the culture, connect employees, and harness human ingenuity in a hybrid world,” says Jared Spataro, head of Microsoft 365. Spataro was able to say early on in the pandemic that it will forever transform the way we work and learn, and Microsoft Viva is simply the product of developments that Microsoft has experienced.

Built for this current agile and modern age of operation, Viva fits with Microsoft teams and operates much like the old intranet by collecting the vital pieces of a business in a single location. Microsoft is breaking Viva into four separate modules: links, perspectives, subjects, and learning.

Connections provide organizational relations or tools such as incentives and business policies. It’s also planned to be a gateway to which you’d go if you just started working at a business because you’ve never really seen your co-workers because of a pandemic lockdown.

Viva Connections is built on top of Microsoft’s SharePoint technology, which can include items like business news, town halls, or even employee resource groups and societies. It’s essentially a dashboard for remotely communicating with coworkers.

Viva Insights sounds like the next move in the contentious Usability Score feature of Microsoft. Microsoft has been highly criticized for encouraging administrators to browse data on individual workers through metadata obtained from its applications and services. The organization has been forced to make adjustments to its productivity ratings, and Viva Analytics includes similar data-driven insights for managers and staff.

Microsoft says that Viva Insights will provide data for managers and leaders to track job habits and developments, but that privacy will be covered. “This means personal insights are visible only to the employee, while insights for managers and leaders are aggregated and de-identified by default to protect individual privacy,” says Spataro.

Viva Learning is Microsoft’s third module in Viva, and as the name suggests, it’s about employee learning and growth. This is where employees can house educational manuals, courses and other employee education content. This will include lessons from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, and even enterprise content, along with educational materials from third-party suppliers.

The last module in Viva is Topics. “Think of Viva themes as an organization’s Wikipedia,” Spataro says. It uses AI to arrange the content and automatically surface theme cards with records, photographs, and related users. Viva Topics can create theme cards from applications like Workplace, Teams, and SharePoint.

In part, Microsoft Viva is releasing today. Viva Topics is also open to Microsoft’s 365 clients, and a public sampling of Viva Insights is also beginning today. Microsoft is already releasing a private beta of Viva Learning with expects to announce more additions to Microsoft Viva during 2021.

Microsoft says it’s only beginning with Microsoft Viva and that it’s planned to be an “open and extensible platform” for collaborators. Viva further furthers Microsoft’s desire to place teams at the forefront of its job plan and to serve as a platform for everything the company does.

Like Microsoft Teams’ Together mode feature, Viva is obviously inspired by the pandemic-era push to remote work. Although there is already a question over how radically office jobs can change after the pandemic is over, Microsoft is very much betting that the way we operate right now is the new standard.