Right now, many organizations are implementing optional or required work-from-home policies. And while it may seem easy in theory for employees to work remotely, in practice, it becomes much more difficult. Many of us take for granted the ease of collaboration when everyone is physically located in one place.
However, there are solutions to make your home office feel like your work office. Various collaboration tools exist that keep you connected with your team, allowing you to continue being as productive and efficient as possible.
Today, we’re going to talk about one of these tools: Microsoft Teams. Teams is one of the best tools out there for bringing you and your colleagues together. It’s packed with different features, and we’re going to walk you through some of them in this blog.
Challenges of Working From Home
Before we dive into Teams, let’s talk about why working from home can be difficult.
Firstly, security is a significant concern when employees work remotely. When you’re working at a workstation in your office, everything is controlled. Most businesses have IT personnel that physically secure servers, set up firewalls, and manage access to specific files. However, your home computer and network can create security risks because they don’t have the same security measures.
Poor connectivity is another issue you might encounter when working from home. You will no longer be using the LAN (local area network) at your office. If your internet and broadband are not up to par, it can present issues with connectivity. You’ll want to check your internet capacity and ensure you’re not experiencing latency to improve your connection.
Your personal productivity is another aspect that might change while working from home. Because your home might present many more distractions than your office, it can be difficult to maintain the same level of efficiency. Setting up a workspace away from distractions, planning your working hours, and getting ready each morning can be extremely beneficial for productivity. Make your home office feel like your work office to help you get in the right mindset every day.
Last but not least, company culture can be another challenge when employees work from home. Culture is a significant focus for many organizations, and many rely on building relationships to maintain a positive culture. When workers are isolated from each other, building and maintaining relationships can seem impossible.
So, although working from home might seem like no problem, it can present unique challenges. The great news is that there is a multitude of tools out there that support remote work. So, let’s take the mystery out of one of those tools, Microsoft Teams, and learn how you can use it when working from home.
Microsoft Teams Functionality
Microsoft Teams is a tool that allows you to chat, video conference, share files, and more. It has so many amazing features to help improve productivity and collaboration. There are six main sections of Teams, found on the left-hand sidebar. These sections are Activity, Chat, Teams, Calendar, Calls, and Files. We’ll be going through each section, giving some helpful tips about navigating Teams to get the most out of it. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the most useful features.
The first thing to know about Microsoft Teams is there are two main types of divisions: teams and channels. You can create teams from a variety of divisions, depending on your organization. Many organizations create teams based on geographic location or department. You can see each team you are a part of in the Teams section on the left of your window.
Beneath a team, you can then create channels. Each team can have multiple channels made up of different members of the team. For example, say you have a team for your finance department. You could then create a channel for those in the department who are working on a specific project together.
The team administrator has the responsibility of adding and managing members. However, users can request a certain person to be added to channels or teams.
Whenever you see ellipses in Microsoft Teams, by clicking on the dots, you will be offered various options. For teams and channels, these options can include things like hiding the channel in your window, managing the team, adding team members, leaving the team, and more. Your choices will be restricted if you are not an administrator for the group.
What You Can Do In Channels
By having a channel for a set of people under a team, you can create posts that will blast to all members of the channel. You can also share files in the channel, giving everyone access to necessary work material easily. Any files uploaded to Teams will then exist in SharePoint, meaning they are backed up in the cloud.
Under the ellipses in the top right-hand corner of a channel, one excellent feature is the ability to create an email for the channel itself. When someone emails the channel address, all channel members will receive the information. This is extremely helpful to give to individuals external to your organization — like a distribution list. This way, they can send any relevant information to the channel email instead of keeping track of each members’ email address.
Moving on, let’s talk a little about chats. The chat feature in Microsoft Teams is likely one of the most used features in any organization. With it, you can instantly message individuals or groups. You can pin specific chats to the top of your feed that you know you’re going to come back to. You can also see all of your recent chats.
When you are messaging team members, you have a ton of great options for sharing files, tables, or links. You can even use emojis and gifs to bring some fun and humor to the chat. This can be great for keeping employees connected and having a good time, even while working from home.
When you are sending a chat, you also have delivery options. You can send something as standard, important, or urgent. Any message sent as important will be marked. Any message sent as urgent will continue to notify the user at timed intervals.
Integrated into chat is Stream, which gives you the ability to send recorded meetings. When employees are working from home, they may be in different time zones, making this feature super useful.
There are many other integrations you can utilize as well. For example, you can implement certain types of bots or add-ons like the YouTube connector, which lets you imbed YouTube videos.
At the top of the window, you will see a search bar. Using this search bar, you can search for a person, subject, or keywords to help you quickly find specific chats.
Setting Your Status
One extremely helpful feature provided by Teams is the ability to change your status. There are five status settings you can choose from:
- Do Not Disturb
- Be Right Back
By clicking on your profile picture in the top right-hand corner of your Teams window, you will be able to change this status. Your coworkers will be able to see if you are available or busy, helping them determine if it is a good time to reach out. You can even set a status message, giving more details into your schedule.
These statuses are valuable when working from home because you can see who is available and who is not at any time during the day. Also, if you are in an important meeting, you can set your status to do not disturb. Then, only urgent messages or those from priority contacts (which you can set under settings > privacy > manage priority access) will come through.
You can set these statuses to display until certain times, meaning you don’t have to worry about manually changing them every time. And these statuses will sync with meetings set through your Outlook calendar, changing to busy during set meeting times.
Under settings > notifications, you can also set extremely granular notification settings.
Moving on from chats, you can also call and video conference in Teams. You’ll find this ability under “Calls” on the left-hand side of the window, but you can also directly call someone in a chat by clicking the phone icon in the top right corner. This can be beneficial when you are brainstorming with a group of people and find it easier to talk than message back and forth.
With these calls, you can stick to audio only, or you can use video. While you are calling or video-conferencing with someone, you can share files, powerpoints, and more for the group to see. Organizations might have two separate systems for instant messaging and video-conferencing, but the great thing about Teams is that it’s all there in one place. This ability to call or video-conference helps teammates come together and connect even while working remotely.
The calendar inside of Teams is another beneficial feature for organizations. It automatically syncs with your Outlook calendar and allows you to schedule meetings directly in Teams.
When you schedule a meeting, you can invite teammates, external users, and channels. When inviting external users, ensure that your administrator has turned on guest privileges. By default, this setting is turned off, meaning you won’t be able to invite anyone that doesn’t already have Teams. Once your administrator has turned it on, you can invite anyone to your meetings in Teams, and they will enjoy almost all of the functionality available.
You can also add files before meetings so that everyone has access to the information being discussed before the meeting begins. You can record meetings to send to coworkers that weren’t able to attend or even playback for yourself. And, you can integrate a whiteboard that can be saved for future use.
Overall, with Teams, you will find that hosting a virtual meeting can be just as productive as in-person meetings.
Microsoft Teams is an amazing tool for collaborating both in the office and remotely. It has a variety of functions that help teammates connect and work together virtually. If you have any specific questions about what Microsoft Teams can do, contact us today. We can help you get up and running on Teams quickly and easily. And don’t forget to watch the webinar above to get a visual representation of the features we discussed in this blog!