Has your in-person workforce suddenly become a remote workforce?
You’re not alone! To help combat the spread of the Coronavirus, businesses across the globe have instructed their employees to work from home – but how do you manage a remote workforce during these challenging times?
Previously, we’ve shared advice on how you can support your newly-remote workforce, including helping staff manage their mental health. However, if your employees are going to remain productive, then they’ll also need access to practical tools – including tech to help them keep in contact with their colleagues throughout this crisis.
There’s no shortage of communication tools on the market, but more people are using Microsoft Teams than ever before. In March 2020 alone more than 12 million new users signed up to Teams, and at the time of writing Microsoft’s communication tool had over 44 million active users.
With so many businesses now relying on Teams, we’re sharing 6 productivity hacks to help you get the most out of Microsoft Teams. By following the tips in this article, you can ensure your employees remain productive and motivated, even in these challenging times.
Don’t have access to Microsoft Teams? Microsoft is offering a free six-month Office 365 E1 Trial that includes Microsoft Teams – so why not sign up for your free trial, and start using Teams today?
1. Pin important documents and apps
Is there a tool or document that’s particularly important to your team?
Perhaps you’re currently collaborating on a PowerPoint presentation, or you’ve created a group Planner. You can ensure your team’s most frequently-used apps and documents are always within easy reach, by turning these items into tabs.
To create a tab:
- Open the Team or Channel where you want to “pin” your tab.
- Give the little “+” icon a click.
- If you’re transforming an app into a tab, then select the app in question. To pin a document, select the app that contains this document, and on the subsequent screen you’ll see a list of all the available documents.
Microsoft Teams will now turn your chosen app or file into a tab. Once you’ve created a tab, you can post comments directly on that tab, so you can discuss the document in-context.
Note that any comments that are posted directly to a tab, also appear in the associated team or channel, so you can keep up with the conversation without having to continuously check various tabs.
2. Bookmark any Microsoft Teams conversation
Has someone posted a comment in Teams that you just know you’ll need to revisit? Perhaps it’s instructions for setting up a new app or service; contact details, or the long-term goals your team is working towards?
While you could use Teams’ filtering feature to find this message at a later date, why not make your life easier by bookmarking the message instead?
To bookmark any part of a conversation, hover over the content in question. Then, when the three dotted icon appears, select it and click “Save this message.”
To access your booked content:
- Select your avatar in Teams’ upper-right corner.
- Select “Saved.”
All of your bookmarks will now appear along the left-hand side of the Teams user interface.
3. Save time, with slash commands
Microsoft Teams supports a range of “slash” commands, which allow you to perform common tasks by typing a command into the “Search” bar.
To get started with slash commands, simply type the “/” character into the “Search” bar and you’ll see a dropdown of all the available commands.
Note that if your organization has disabled or restricted certain features, then you may not be able to access certain commands.
4. Start asking questions: Install Microsoft’s Who-bot
If you’re part of a large, or geographically distributed organization, then you may not personally know all of your co-workers, which can make it difficult to figure out who you need to speak to about a particular task. Even if you’re usually in close contact with your colleagues, with so many people currently working from home, it’s easy to lose track of people outside of your immediate team.
If this sounds familiar, then Teams has a “Who” application that lets your search for people, by asking questions such as:
- Who knows about…?
- Who works with…?
- Who reports to….?
- Who was in the meeting about…?
- Who have I messaged about…?
- Who have I emailed about…?
To add this application to Microsoft Teams:
- In Teams’ left-hand menu, select the three-dotted icon.
- Select the “Who” application.
- Read the onscreen information, and if you’re happy to proceed then click “Add.” Teams will now install and launch the Who application.
- In order to find information about people in your company, you need to give Who permission to access this information, so click “Allow” when prompted.
You can now start quizzing Who about your colleagues, by typing your questions into the messaging field.
5. Record all your meetings with Microsoft Stream
Love them or loathe them, we’re all spending more time in meetings than ever before. With the average worker dedicating almost 12 hours to meetings every single week, it’s easy to lose track of who-said-what, and when!
If you’re struggling to remember, then Microsoft Teams can record all of your meetings, and then automatically upload these audio files to the Microsoft Stream video-sharing service.
If you do plan to start recording your meetings, then there’s some privacy concerns you’ll need to address before rolling out this feature. For more information, check out Microsoft’s step-by-step guide to preparing your business for cloud meeting recording.
Once you’ve completed these steps, you can enable the record meeting feature:
- Log into the Microsoft Teams’ admin center.
- In the left-hand menu, navigate to “Meetings > Meeting policies.”
- Select the “+ Add” button.
- Give your policy a name, and enter a description so that your employees understand what this policy entails.
- Find the “Allow cloud recording” slider, and push it into the “On” position.
- Find the “Allow transcription” slider, and push it into the “On” position.
- Save your changes, by clicking “Save.”
Now, whenever you want to record a meeting:
- Start the meeting, as normal.
- Select the three-dotted “More actions” icon, and then select “Start recording.” Note that both the meeting organizer and the recording initiator will need to have recording permissions enabled, in order for you to record the meeting.
Once you’ve finished, end the meeting as normal, and your recording will be automatically processed and uploaded to Microsoft Stream.
You can access this recording from the Microsoft Teams user interface:
- In Teams’ left-hand menu, select “Chat.”
- Select the “Chat” tab. This screen contains information about all the meetings you’ve arranged and attended, including any recording you’ve made.
Alternatively, you can access all your recordings in Microsoft Stream:
- In your web browser, log into the Microsoft Stream app.
- In the toolbar, select “My content > videos.”
To play a recording, simply give it a click.
Want more advice on managing your remote workforce? Check out our guide to supporting your workforce’s mental health and emotional wellbeing, and our tips for successful remote working during a crisis.
6. Communicate with people on the outside
Microsoft Teams is perfect for communicating and collaborating with colleagues, but occasionally your staff may need to work with people outside your organization. For example, perhaps your business has partnered with an external company, or your employees need to regularly communicate with clients or suppliers.
When it comes to adding external organizations, you have a few options – log into the Teams admin center, and let’s take a closer look at them! Need to add multiple people? Consider whitelisting an external domain.
Do your employees need to communicate with multiple people within the same organization? In this scenario, it may be easier to add the entire external organization to your Microsoft Teams “whitelist,” rather than adding users individually.
- In the admin center’s left-hand menu, click to expand the “Org-wide settings” section.
- Select “External access.”
- Find the following slider: “Users can communicate with other Skype for Business and Teams users.” Push this slider into the “On” position.
- Click “Add a domain.”
- In the subsequent panel, enter the domain that you want to whitelist.
- Make sure the “Allowed” button is selected, and then click “Save.”
Now, your employees can communicate with any employee who works at this organization – but communication is a two-way street! The Microsoft Teams admin at the external organization will also need to add your organization to their own whitelist, by repeating the above steps.
Add Skype for Business users
Microsoft may be planning to discontinue Skype for Business Online, but there’s still plenty of organizations who have yet to migrate away from Skype.
If your staff need to communicate with one or more Skype users, then:
- In the admin center’s left-hand menu, navigate to “Org-wide settings > External access.”
- Find the following slider “Users can communicate with Skype users,” and push this slider into the “On” position.
Your employees will now be able to search for Skype users via the Teams user interface, and can start a text, video or audio conversation with that person.
Setup Guest access
If you’re a team owner, then you can also invite guests to join your team(s):
- In the admin center’s left-hand menu, navigate to “Org-wide settings > Guest access.”
- Push the “Allow guest access in Teams” slider into the “On” position.
You can now specify which features guests will have access to, including IP video and screen sharing.
For more information about the rules and limitations surrounding guest access in Microsoft Teams, check out the official Microsoft docs.
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