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Cisco revamps Webex's People Insights feature

Cisco says the 'always-on' nature of remote work exhausts workers. It believes information from the revamped People Insights feature in Webex will help.

Cisco plans to roll out this summer a revamped version of Webex's People Insights feature. The overhaul adds feedback on how workers' individual and team activities affect well-being.

The updated People Insights, launched at Cisco Live this week, offers information to help workers manage time better to cope with the fatigue-inducing, "always-on" nature of remote work.

"People talk a lot about productivity, but they don't talk as much about well-being," Cisco executive Jeetu Patel said. "Without well-being, you can't have sustained productivity."

The improved People Insights will provide personal, team and organizational observations. Individual feedback will be available to only the employee. It will look at whether the person attends meetings, turns on the video camera or multitasks during sessions.

If an employee arrives consistently late to meetings, for example, People Insights will suggest rethinking his approach to scheduling. The software will not forward individualized information to the worker's boss.

The team and organizational categories don't tie data to individuals. Instead, they provide broader insights into how groups function. The teams feature lets employees see if others have scheduled meetings within their preferred working hours. Organization-level feedback ensures teams do not become siloed and helps businesses determine how companywide changes affect communication.

Webex's People Insights
Cisco's well-being insights in Webex provides feedback on how workers collaborate.

Cisco competitor Microsoft has taken similar steps to address the worker burnout problem. The company's recently introduced Viva platform encourages workers to schedule breaks when needed and notifies managers when a glut of meetings creates a burnout risk.

Zeus Kerravala, founder of ZK Research, said it was good to see vendors like Cisco and Microsoft address the problem of "always-on" work. When employees were in the office, they had a natural "end of the day" demarcation -- the commute home, he said.

"You don't have that now -- walking from the living room to the kitchen doesn't break [people] out of the work mode," he said. "People tend to work all the time, and I think that's a dangerous thing."

Mike Gleason is a reporter covering unified communications and collaboration tools. He previously covered communities in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts for the Milford Daily News, Walpole Times, Sharon Advocate and Medfield Press. He has also worked for newspapers in central Massachusetts and southwestern Vermont and served as a local editor for Patch. He can be found on Twitter at @MGleason_TT.

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