Ever since the global pandemic chaotically scrambled workforces, Microsoft has been developing tools within its Office 365 suite. The tech leader is on a mission to help make it easier to collaborate, communicate and manage remote working teams.
Microsoft recently announced they are in the process of developing a new feature that will eliminate one of the most common problems of remote working: disruptions.
We’ve all been there. Whilst working from home has plenty of benefits, small children and pets can be distracting. Who hasn’t experienced the joy of a two-foot Spiderman running into a Zoom conference, a dog climbing into your lap whilst you’re analysing a spreadsheet or a cat walking across your keyboard when you’re typing an email.
At least you’re not constantly being interrupted by your workmates like you are in the office.
Oh wait – you are!
A report published by ZDNet earlier this year revealed that employees said that “notifications are worse than commuting” and they are suffering from email fatigue. Now there’s a damning indictment for communication tools.
One of the issues with collaboration tools is the number of alerts that come through various channels. The problem is exacerbated when you integrate various communication channels into a central hub; like Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft’s proposed solution will enable users to turn notifications on and off in the activity feed at will. So you can silence all your apps when you want to focus without being interrupted, and turn on the channels you need to communicate with the people you are collaborating with in real-time.
The tech giant also says they are synergising the feature so that you can turn off notifications during meetings.
What is Microsoft Teams?
Microsoft Teams is a software platform designed to streamline communication and collaboration between distributed workforces. It provides team members with a space where they can easily share and work with the same documents.
As a communication tool, Teams enables you to set up specific channels. Simply add and remove individuals you want in each group. Team members can communicate through instant chat, share files, conduct video calling and share screens.
One of the key advantages Microsoft Teams has over other communication apps is that you can send files of up to 15GB of data – for more than the measly 25MB offered by other solutions. You can also send videos and them from inside the app.
In addition, Microsoft Teams has a host of other integrated apps that enhance remote working. You can add Microsoft Team apps from the Microsoft Teams Admin Centre then click on: Team apps > Manage apps.
Adding apps to Microsoft Teams gives you access to all the tools you need without having to flick between screens. This increases productivity because people often lose concentration when they flit between apps – and subsequently forget what you are looking for.
Microsoft Teams Collaboration Tools
Microsoft Teams has been designed with innovative features. Although you will find many similar features on other collaborative tools, Microsoft makes a few tweaks that support users in a wide variety of workplace scenarios.
One of the advantages Teams has over other productivity apps is that you can customise the tool by integrating other apps that perform specific jobs. And because the programs are intuitive, there is only a minor learning curve.
Below, we’ve listed some of the app integrations you will probably find most useful, but there are many other apps you can integrate into Microsoft Teams we have not included on this list.
Adobe Creative Cloud
When you need to get creative, the Adobe Creative Cloud gives you access to a raft of tools including imaging and design, vector graphics, page design, animation and video production. When you integrate the Adobe tool with Teams you can share your work directly with team members in a matter of clicks.
Mural enables you to create diagrams and enhance communication using visuals. You can either use this tool to help make complex ideas understandable or to make boring team news that is instantly forgotten via email more engaging and memorable.
Users can also share the app with team members and work on the same document together in real-time. You can also alert other team members that you want to share the document via the messaging extension.
We know, the search tool is not a novel idea but it comes in useful when you need to find a document or email quickly. You can do this through Teams, and, in addition, you can also search for apps – which saves you clicking between screens. You can speed things up, even more, using your keyboard: Ctrl or cmd+F.
If you’re working on a document that someone needs urgently, or there is an element of immediacy to a conversation, you can grab attention by using the @-tag to somebody’s name or group.
When someone is tagged they will see a red circle in their notifications. This could indicate there is a requirement to address the matter immediately, or at some point. You can make your own rules internally.
Or you may just want to show your appreciation. For example, “@microprocustomerservice…you’re doing a great job!”
The Wiki app is included in Microsoft Teams by default so there’s no need to integrate it. Designed as a productivity app, it’s useful for making relevant notes you want to share with the rest of your team.
The app features a smart-text editor so you can chat, draft and edit in a central location. It’s great for sharing ideas or creating instructions such as a how-to guide or FAQ.
Using Microsoft Teams For Meetings
One of the other major gripes of remote working was the number of emails and video conference meetings. Not only does meeting eat into time that could be better spent being productive, video conferencing led to a new phenomenon that has been dubbed ‘zoom fatigue’.
Soapbox is designed to help make meetings more efficient. You can build shared agendas which can be sent out in advance, add suggested agenda items and tick off points once they have been discussed or actioned.
When used correctly, you can focus on meeting topics to ensure you have a meaningful conversation in the shortest possible time. The concept of soapbox is that productivity is heightened when everyone works from the same space and pulls together.
By sharing the agenda in advance, respondents have the opportunity to prepare answers, documents or action points ahead of the meeting and easily navigate potential stocking points. This will help you zoom through a meeting without feeling fatigued.
The purpose of ScrumGenius is to track progress and status updates to keep your team members on track of deadlines. It’s an automated tool that configures multiple reports and can be used to encourage team members to provide insights by recording what happened the previous day.
ScrumGenius will come in useful for managers that are bedding in remote working – especially if you have adopted the hybrid office model. New ways of working always have teething problems and this tool can help you get feedback from your team to navigate roadblocks and create an online working environment that is easy and enjoyable.
Create a Survey
An alternative option to gather feedback from your team is with the Survey app, Polly. This app enables you to create customised surveys in Microsoft Teams so can be used for all manner of reasons.
In addition to feedback, you could simply create a one tick survey to vote for the restaurant you want to go to for a team night out. All you have to do is prepare the survey. Polly counts the votes, performs the analysis and delivers the results.
There are also advanced options such as scheduling, hiding results, comments, recurring polls and multiple votes per person. You can also use Polly externally so comes in useful for your marketing team.
If you don’t like Polly, try Qubie. This is similar to Polly to also include pre-built surveys which are useful if you need inspiration. The surveys are geared more towards improving your leadership and identifying areas that can be developed and improved.
Tools for Managing Remote Team
Managing and organising a distributed workforce is far more complicated for team managers. Common issues include keeping your staff motivated, supporting individuals and building a bond, and coaching and decision making.
Microsoft Teams Karma
Karma is an app that is intended for boosting morale, confidence and trust among your team members. Managers can use it to provide engagement with your team, send instant micro feedback, offer perks and rewards, monitor performance tracking, gain valuable insights and reinforce long-term vision and goals.
Employees can also adopt karma to help team bonding by praising teammates and giving credit where credit is due. And if you want to boost healthy competition among your team create a leaderboard and award points.
Karma can be used to motivate your team and encourage them to raise or maintain their performance.
Microsoft Planner and To Do
Microsoft Planner is a task management tool that is best used in conjunction with Microsoft To Do. Planner helps you manage work tasks whilst To Do is used to make daily to-do lists and separate personal and professional responsibilities. It basically breaks down your plans into bite-size chunks every day to help avoid you from feeling overwhelmed.
Planner is ideal for managing projects. It helps you create plan overviews and highlight workloads in a colourful chart. Keep your team members in the loop by assigning tasks and setting deadlines which then pop up each day in To Do.
We’ve written an in-depth piece on Planner and To Do in a previous article which you can see by clicking the link.
Microsoft Teams Shifts
Microsoft Shifts is a time management app that is ideal for scheduling work shifts, time off, holidays, absenteeism and any other type of leave request. The major significance is that Shift is mobile-first so is ideal for team members to refer to on their smartphones.
The beauty of Shifts is that it’s more than a timetable. You can use it to deliver news bulletins or add notes if you have a specific message for someone such as “can you call a client” or “pick some hobnobs up on your way in”. You know, the usual stuff.
Microsoft 365 with Micro Pro
Micro Pro offers Microsoft 365 as an add-on service to complement our IT Support solutions. Recognised as the leading productivity suite for businesses of all sizes, Microsoft 365 is a critical component to facilitate a hybrid workplace.
Microsoft 365 is a cloud-based platform that gives you access to critical tools such as Teams together with over 700 tools that can be integrated into a customised suite of office tools that enables you to raise the bar for communication, collaboration and productivity together with project and people management.
This is where the expertise of our experienced specialists comes into play. Our knowledgeable IT experts have years of experience in building customised Microsoft 365 platforms, creating strategies that make you more efficient and finding solutions to existing problems.
In addition, we are far easier and less frustrating to work with than Microsoft’s customer service team – which is notoriously poor. Rather than muddle through over 700 apps trying to build an office suite by yourself, why not let the experts at Micro Pro do it for you.
Our Managed IT Support agreements have the option of 24/7/365 for those that need it. With our 24/7 Support Agreements, no matter where your remote workers are situated or what time they are calling, there will always be someone to answer their questions and solve their IT problems.
Why not call us today and see what we can do to help you get your remote team mobilised?