Since the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged, many businesses across the UK chose to implement Microsoft Teams to enable remote working. Home working or hybrid working both in the office and at home looks here to stay on a long term basis. Business are now reaping from the benefits Microsoft Teams more than ever to keep their customers and remote workforces secure, productive and connected and Microsoft is continually updating the Teams application with useful new tools and features to further benefit their users.
Similar to Zoom, Microsoft Teams are beginning to roll out breakout rooms which allow you to split call participants into separate virtual ‘rooms’. Breakout rooms are a private place where you can have smaller group discussions and then come back together on the call later.
The meeting organiser can create a specific number of rooms they require and assign participants to each room. They can also go from room to room to participate in the different group discussions and make announcements to all rooms and then bring them all back together when needed, which is extremely beneficial for your remote workforce to get together and discuss ideas.
Breakout rooms are a useful feature for meetings as they encourage group collaboration and enable brainstorms. Many schools use Microsoft Teams for Education and the new breakout rooms are very beneficial as they enable students to learn in small groups similar to how they would learn in a classroom environment even though it’s a home working situation.
How to set up breakout rooms:
1. Schedule your meeting
It is very important you plan ahead with your breakout rooms, so you have them ready and set up when the meeting begins.
2. Create your breakout rooms
Take note that the icon may be one of the two shown in the picture.
3. Choose how many rooms you want
You can have up to 50 rooms
4. Assign attendees to each room
You can organise the room randomly or manually
5. Keep them ‘closed’ until you want to use them
6. Open your breakout rooms to use them
The Manager and Leader insights feature now enables Managers and Leaders to get a clear line of sight into teamwork norms such as:
Managers receive a weekly summary every week which enables their different teams to monitor progress and celebrate employees’ successes. This proves to be very beneficial when creating an action plan for improving health and effectiveness, as the insights then enable Managers to answer questions such as, “are employees at risk for burnout?”, “are people maintaining strong internal connections?”, “are relationships with customers being maintained?”, “is remote working being utilised the best it can?”. They are then able to use this insight to improve their team’s performance and well-being.
The calling experience within Teams has been streamlined to clearly display:
It is now easier to initiate or return a call with a single click making the switch from physical phones to Teams much easier, especially when you have a remote workforce who don’t have access to the physical handsets.
Users now have the option to pop out calls and meetings in a separate window enabling them to keep their main Teams window open for multi-tasking whilst on a call. This separate window also enables you to take meeting notes whilst still being able to view the call.
When Teams first launched you were only able to view the video streams of four meeting participants on the screen. However, this number has continually grown, and the current update enables you to see 49 video participants which benefits home working, so everyone still sees their work teams ‘face-to-face’.
How to turn on the new experience:
1. Click on your profile picture in the top right-hand corner of Teams, and then Settings > General.
2. Click ‘Turn on new meeting experience’.
3. Restart teams.
Right-click or Command-click the Teams icon in the windows task bar or Mac System Tray.
Start Teams up again as you normally would.
You can now invite up to 1,000 participants to join your Microsoft Teams meeting with the full meeting experience. This is huge when considering your remote workforce as everyone within a company can come together when needed and have their say. However, for larger meetings and events which require additional control, soon Teams will seamlessly scale to host 20,000 participants although it will be in view mode with live captions.
A new partnership has recently been announced between Microsoft and HeadSpace to introduce virtual commutes.
The virtual commute feature has been added to help employees from any business have a productive start in the morning and to help to mindfully disconnect in the evening with scientific-backed meditations. The goal of the virtual commute is to keep a sense of routine when home working.
Teams can schedule a virtual commute within Outlook so you set time aside for yourself as you would do during your daily commute. The idea with virtual commutes is to create a distinct separation between work commitments and home/family duties to help enable you to switch off after a day of remote working.
Another enhancement that is being introduced to Microsoft Teams is the reporting dashboard. This benefits someone hosting a presentation or Teams live event, enabling the presenter to understand how their participants are engaged. It also enables the meeting organiser to manage attendance as it introduces attendee registration with automated emails.
Microsoft Teams has also made it easier to bring this data into your CRM and marketing automation apps as attendee reporting and scheduling APIs will soon be available.
Prioritising well-being is very important in our current climate as there is so much uncertainty around COVID-19 and remote working. Microsoft has noticed this and taken it on board, therefore, introducing a few new features within Teams focused solely on well-being.
Microsoft are currently rolling out their virtual assistant Cortana into Teams. Cortana is a useful assistant to help you manage your time and stay on top of tasks. You can set Cortana up to:
Bring the power of your SharePoint home site along with the rest of your intranet into Teams with the new Home Site App which Microsoft are slowly introducing. The new Home Site App will enable you to use all of these brand-new features:
You can customise the app name and icon to match your company branding and add it to the app bar in Teams. This gives you quick and easy access to search, and a personalised view of relevant news stories and important sites which are all in one place.
More than 20 partners have now implemented one of the new Microsoft Teams features into their own platforms, meeting extensions. These partners include HireVue, ServiceNow, Range, Buncee and PagerDuty.
Teams meeting extensions enable all these partners to integrate their apps within Teams. It will enable you to access apps from either AppSource or the Teams store and add them as you schedule the meeting.
The meeting extensions are revolutionary as it enables custom meeting experiences in Teams, whatever the nature of your meeting is.