In 2021, the ongoing impact of COVID-19 has seen a continuing shift toward remote working around the world, accelerating the need for businesses to adopt cloud-based collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams.
According to Garter, more than 70% of business users are expected to use cloud office solutions by the end of 2021, and less than 20% of organizations will still be using on-premises capabilities. With Microsoft Teams reaching 115 million daily active users (DAU) earlier this year, we’re inclined to agree; these platforms are no longer optional, but essential for remote work.
But it’s not just about modernising our virtual workplaces: Working from home also demands a modern solution that can maintain business continuity, which Teams is perfectly positioned for.
As a cloud office platform with Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Skype and more fully integrated, it not only brings together all the applications needed to work in one place wherever your users may be working from, but its many features make the unique challenges, dynamics and expectations of the remote work model easily manageable. It’s a new era, but it doesn’t have to be painful!
Not quite familiar with how Teams make remote working better? This blog focuses on highlighting the many capabilities, options and tools currently available now or in the near future.
#1 – Seamless and flexible video conferencing meetings
Out of all our regular work activities, meetings are naturally the most affected by the move to remote work; engaging someone face-to-face is, of course, different compared to on a screen.
Both participating and presenting in virtual chat-based meetings in a business context is still a fairly new paradigm. While some people will have experience using instant messaging tools, most experiences with group messaging tools typically stem from personal use rather than in the workplace. This necessitates a solution that minimises potential problems in the transition.
Modern cloud office solutions like Teams are equipped with features and options needed to ensure communication and collaboration is consistent throughout every virtual meeting, Most importantly, it enables users to ensure calls are inclusive, clear and engaging – very easily.
Here’s a breakdown of the most relevant and helpful tools that enable better remote meetings:
Dynamic View: A feature that arranges and adjusts elements of the virtual meeting, such as attendee video feeds, shared content on-screen and the text chat box, on-the-fly without the host or speakers having to pause their presentation to accommodate. For example, the screen auto-adjusts to display the cleanest view of all elements when new people join, and highlights the feed of the current speaker clearly for all to know who is talking, minimising any confusion or awkward transitions to keep things well on track.
Presenter Mode: An advanced option available on Teams, this mode enables the main presenter(s) to deeply customise the appearance of their video feed and content and how it is seen by the live audience. Options include displaying your feed as a silhouette in front of shared content on-screen, or placing content as a visual aid above the shoulder similar to a live news story report. This underrated feature of Teams can be leveraged to the professionalism and production value of highly important remote calls.
PowerPoint Live: An integration of PowerPoint directly into Teams video conferencing that lets your team members lead remote calls like an interactive presentation, with notes, slides, text chat and video feeds of the attendees all in a single view. It’s customisable and also caters to people with vision disabilities, offering another way to keep up the personable nature of workshopping and feeling of inclusivity intact remotely.
View Switcher: A variety of toggleable modes that can cater to the different use cases a business may have for a particular meeting. For instance, Together Mode removes visual distractions to display the video feeds of all connected attendees on the screen, while Focus Mode hides all feeds to highlight whatever content is currently being shared. These options make remote cals feel as seamless and focused as in-person meetings.
Virtual Hand Raise: It may sound so simple or even silly, but the completely different etiquette of virtual meetings means gestures as simple as physical cues or body language can be unintentionally missed over video, which can lead to disconnect or break the flow of meetings. This simple feature lets you put your hand up, so to speak, with a dynamic alert that allows participants a way to cue their time to speak while negating any potential awkwardness that a regular interruption would cause.
When it comes to its continuously improving and updated video conferencing capabilities, Teams is one of the best choices to ensure virtual meetings are as professional, uncluttered and seamless as possible. Options are so well integrated that you don’t need technical expertise or have to involve IT staff to start taking advantage of them right away.
# 2 – Always-accessible file-sharing and file management
The days of having to use the office computer just to access a critical file, or tracking dozens of electronic files spread across multiple applications, emails and instant messages are numbered.
While there are many solutions today that side-step the unnecessarily siloed nature of traditional file management, Teams is by far the best at ensuring that all work files – Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and PDFs – are always easily accessible in one cloud-based hub.
Staff working from home can quickly share, upload or access files they have received or sent while they use Teams as normal through the main ‘Files’ tab, or each individual channel tab.
Here, Teams seamlessly collects every single file a user has appropriate authorisation for into convenient categories such as Most Recent, Downloaded and Outlook (Cloud Storage).
All files are instantly filterable and customisable by type, name, date and location, reducing time spent searching for information, and it’s significantly easier and faster for everyone to access what files they need whenever they need it, wherever they may be remotely working from on any given day. No more worrying about whether somebody can’t access the latest updates!
The convenient way Teams bring files together should not be overlooked. Users don’t have to use office networks or connect to complicated VPNs to access files anymore, for instance, and files aren’t as siloed as they are now stored in the cloud. It’s easier overall to ensure everyone has access to the information they require at all times, especially if they need to collaborate.
# 3 – Real-time file collaboration and co-authoring
This leads into the next benefit: Editing and commenting on our virtual files at the same time.
It’s safe to say collaborating with a group of people over the Internet isn’t exactly the same as in-person. Rather than having to send amended documents or presentations back and forth via email or IM, Teams allows all its users to directly collaborate on Office documents in real-time.
The cloud-based nature of Teams means users can share files with their colleagues to co-author (add comments, edit and approve content, manage permissions) and instantly see those changes made in real-time, instead of having to keep track of multiple local versions.
Workers can also remotely access, create and share files, such as a Word document or Excel spreadsheet, directly within the Teams interface without having to switch application windows.
Forget having to amend and send a document multiple times over, or confusion from which version is the most up-to-date: When used correctly, Teams makes working on the same file at the same time a very real and easy thing, seamlessly integrated into day-to-day workflows.
#4 – Convenient and clear task management and sharing
Today’s virtual workplace typically includes team members working from multiple countries and varying time-zones, making the need to stay up-to-date on shared projects all the more critical.
Microsoft Teams’ in-built task management and sharing capabilities provide a clean and consolidated hub for workers to create, detail and share critical tasks and milestones to keep all team members aware of and informed on the exact progress and deliverables required toward task completion, without the need for multiple video meetings or time-delayed conversations.
- Teams’ task management features let remote workers:
- Accept, tick off and share tasks to relevant work groups
- Notify team members when a task is completed or needs their input
- Share files and notes related to tasks for more up-to-date information
Bonus benefit: Having task management and sharing features available directly within Teams also reduces software sprawl. Instead of users having to use different siloed tools to keep up with projects, they have it all in the main platform they use to communicate and collaborate.
#5 – Offline Mode for uninterrupted work
The biggest culprit of unproductivity or disconnect in the area of remote working is the Internet.
Aside from the obvious distractions – that funny meme posted on LinkedIn, or that YouTube video in the background tab – the threat of unexpected downtime or intermittent Internet connection problems can really break up the day-to-day workflow for anyone working virtually.
Practically, it also can lead to being cut off from the resources required to do your job, given that most of our documents, files and messages are hosted in the cloud. Microsoft recognised the annoying threat of Wi-Fi dropouts and adjusted accordingly with Teams to keep things flowing.
For starters, Teams’ dedicated Offline Mode doesn’t just let you browse recent conversations. You can browse individual channels and their resources (files, calendar, etc) without having to connect online, meaning that critical files and messages can still be accessed without issue.
You can also compose messages that are automatically sent whenever the network connection resumes. Most importantly, files stored in the cloud can be synced with local drives (via OneDrive sync client) and accessed offline and can continue to be accessed and modified without the threat of interruption, especially handy when working under deadlines.
How to start leveraging better remote working tools with Teams
Interested in finding out more about how Teams could be a good fit for your business and remote working needs? INTELLIWORX Managed IT provides flexible and supportive services that ensure business continuity and minimal operational downtime, including helping you adopt the latest Microsoft 365 solutions such as Teams. Don’t hesitate to contact the team – we’d love to help.
Still need to brush up on your cloud knowledge? Check out our article on the top benefits of cloud computing for small businesses.