In 2020, the use of collaborative apps boomed, facilitating productivity and teamwork for millions of people forced to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s hard to predict what will happen in 2021—some businesses may incorporate hybrid in-person setups, while others may make telecommuting a more permanent part of their schedule. No matter what, tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, and others will remain popular.
That’s because these apps keep colleagues and co-workers in constant contact, collaborating to keep day-to-day operations running. While Zoom works great for video meetings and Slack works well as a chat app, Microsoft Teams combines the best of both worlds into a unified collaboration and communication solution. Best of all, it’s now an integral part of the Microsoft Office/Microsoft 365 package, which includes other standard apps like Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
Teams’ key features—cohesive calendars, group chats, shared workspaces, and intuitive meeting interfaces—can empower your staff to work faster and stay connected. And as Microsoft adds new capabilities to the app and further integrates it with the rest of the Office productivity suite, new efficiencies emerge.
When the regular use of apps like Teams began last year, many early adopters noted that new users often had trouble following activity in the app. That kind of learning curve is normal with new platforms; luckily, customizing your notifications in Teams can help. Navigate to Settings > Notifications to ensure that you receive alerts about messages, group chats, meetings, and other activities—with the notification format and frequency that works for you.
Teams works great because it allows for efficient ad-hoc communication between specific meetings and outside group channels. Occasionally, you may receive a one-off message like this that requires action but you don’t have time to respond quickly. After you read it, though, it can get lost—like a single email in a crowded inbox—among other important messages. Click the three dots or ellipsis next to a message while in a conversation or the Activity feed to mark it as unread. That way it will appear in a prominent position in your list of all messages. You can also select Save this message to bookmark it for future attention.
The constant back and forth of messages in Microsoft Teams are great for collaboration—but it can be distracting if you’re focused on a big project or deep in thought. Teams allows you to limit interruptions by changing your status so that teammates can see what work state you’re in. Personalize your appearance—from available to offline to do not disturb—by clicking on your icon and selecting your status.
If we’ve learned anything over the last year, it’s that a calming background—or a distracting one—can make a world of difference during video meetings. For those of us who may not have dedicated home offices or professional decorations, Teams (and other apps like Zoom) offer a plethora of video backgrounds. Click the three dots or ellipsis at the bottom of an existing video call and choose Blur my background, or click Meet at the top of the Teams interface, then choose Background filters. You can even upload your own custom image.
One of the newest features rolled out by Microsoft after the use of Teams soared last year, Together Mode situates all of a meeting’s participants in virtual “chairs” on a shared background. That way it looks more like a classroom or auditorium. Together Mode is located in your in-call background options by clicking the three dots or ellipsis at the bottom of the call.
With the robust group chat capabilities built into Teams, many users may have multiple conversations going on at the same time. Some of them may be pertinent, but some of them may fall in the “no longer need to follow” category. You can quickly mute a message by clicking the three dots or ellipsis next to a message, then selecting Turn off notifications.
Say you’re in an existing discussion and want to communicate directly with a specific participant. You can type @ and that colleague’s name, then type a message that will be seen immediately by that person. You can also start a new chat with an individual simply by typing @ in the search bar at the top of Teams. A list of names will populate and you can select from the list or keep typing until just the right person is highlighted. Using the @ function also allows you to filter your own messages and prioritize those that were directed specifically to you.
This function might seem a bit more advanced, but once you have a good handle on Teams it can help you speed up your day. These shortcuts are easily accessed simply by typing the / symbol and then a command like Away (to quickly set your status) or Calendar (to swiftly jump to that part of Teams). When you type / into the search bar at the top of the app, a list of commands will populate as a drop-down list and you can select common ones. Microsoft’s support page also includes a full list of available commands for quick reference.
Adding notes or agenda items to your meeting can make it easy for team members to access important information before, during, and after a Teams meeting. Simply click the three dots or ellipsis next to a meeting, then select Meeting Notes to add a chat-like panel to the side of the Teams screen. These notes, along with chats from the meeting, are accessible any time—one of many major collaborative enhancements built into Microsoft Teams.
Want to empower your employees to work collaboratively? Ready to elevate cohesion among remote teams and enhance their use of collaborative apps like Microsoft Teams? Concerned about maintaining productivity while keeping business information secure? Contact CMIT Solutions today.
We’ve helped thousands of businesses navigate the new reality of work since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, and we’re committed to helping our clients continue to succeed in 2021.