The pandemic has forced millions of people around to work from home over the past year, and now many companies appear to be embracing this as a more permanent change.

Among them is Microsoft, with the tech giant announcing back in October that it would allow all employees to work remotely on a permanent basis. This forms part of the company's drive for flexible working, acknowledging that some employees will still be required on-site at times. 

The next step involves building up the online infrastructure to enable this new way of working. Its Microsoft Teams collaboration software is a key vehicle for that, with the newly-announced Viva platform leading the way. Integrated directly into the app, it offers a range of tools designed to help improve employee wellbeing. These include four distinct subject areas - connections, insights, topics and learning.

Connections is most similar to what Teams already offers, acting like a hub for communicating with employees and accessing company documents. Insights provides an overview of of how you're spending your upcoming events, as well as offering direct integration with the Headspace meditation app. Crucially, personal insights and data will only be tailored to the individual, with only anonymised general trends offered to managers.

Topics is where you'll find documents, videos and relevant people, all intelligently organised with AI. Learning is perhaps self-explanatory, providing a range of courses and training material from the likes of LinkedIn Learning and Microsoft Learn. It will also allow businesses to upload their own company-specific content.

However, it's clear Microsoft wants to go further. The company has already attempted to simulate the office environment with Teams' Together mode, while the trailer at the top of this page shows a young professional using holograms to keep in touch with colleagues. That seems like a long way off, with the deep integration of technology in her life leading some to compare it to an episode of Black Mirror. Microsoft will be hoping that Viva doesn't turn out the same way as some of the technology in the dystopian Netflix series.  

Microsoft officially announced Viva on 4 February, with Insights available to Microsoft 365 subscribers now and the other areas expected to make their way into Teams during 2021. The company has also expected to make further announcements on remote working tools later in the year. 

Want to know more about the software Viva is built into? Check out our guide to Microsoft Teams.