It’s strange to think that at the beginning of 2020, we had no idea of the turn the world was about to take. At the beginning, even the idea of quarantining and social distancing was confusing. Now, although it still isn’t ideal, most people have found innovative ways to connect. It’s incredible to see how many more online platforms have changed and adapted their gameplan to fit this unexpected event, but there’s one that we would especially like to spotlight: Microsoft Teams.
New Updates for Microsoft Teams:
Microsoft Teams is a collaboration platform that combines video calling, chat messages, as well as file storage. It’s been around since 2017; however, since that initial release it has evolved into a leading communication service. For more information on Microsoft Teams, click here.
In the past couple of months, the need for excellent virtual collaboration platforms has surged, and with that comes a whole host of new updates. Microsoft has addressed 3 main issues that are the most relevant right now: connection/meeting fatigue, inclusivity, and efficiency.
This first point contains two subsections, the first of which is making people feel connected. While apart and lacking the traditional office environment, it’s easy to feel lonely. For those not used to working from home, there can be a sense of anxiety derived from the lack of a bustling workspace. Microsoft Teams has created Together Mode to tackle this issue. It allows AI to place occupants on the same background, therefore making it feel as if you are sitting in the same room as your colleagues. When faced with the challenges of quarantine, some may forget how important non-verbal communication and cues are. Together Mode allows people to feel united as well as brings back some of the “normal” office environment and will be coming out in August.
The second subsection is about meeting fatigue. It’s easy to get overtired and quite frankly bored during long meetings, especially if you can’t see who’s talking. Gallery Mode, another new update also being released in the next few months, optimizes shared content and allows for personalization of what is being seen. For example, it can have up to 49 people shown on a screen and then break into smaller meeting rooms. Or you can program it to switch not only to specific speakers but also shared content.
In order to keep meetings not only inclusive to larger numbers, making the tool engaging and interactive is also key. Microsoft Teams will be releasing a plethora of updates in the upcoming months, but we will highlight a few of our favourites. Live Reactions is a new feature that mimics the important role that non-verbal cues give. During a presentation or meeting, members will be able to react through emojis that update to give feedback to the speaker, and bolster support. Another exciting feature coming out later this year is live captions and speaker attribution. This will allow for ease while following along in a meeting as well as recognizing who is speaking.
And thirdly, saving time and increasing efficacy of Microsoft Teams has become an increased priority. Because of the lack of a traditional workspace, it’s hard to keep track of how you spend your time during the day. To combat this, Microsoft Teams has come up with the Tasks App, in conjunction with Teams. It will allow for tasks to be added on a rolling basis, viewed on a platform, and notify other team members about what has been done. Cortana will also be added to Teams. Using AI and the Microsoft Graph, Cortana can listen to directives, dictate, and handle tasks, all through voice assistance.
Problems that the World is Facing and How Teams Can Solve Them:
Amid all this chaos, it’s important to look at what good can come out of this situation. This time has forced us to really re-assess the future of “work” and “workspaces” in their traditional sense. Why are we so confined to our office spaces? And will 9-5 hours become more flexible? Working from home and taking advantage of virtual collaboration may actually be the future. Innovative communication tools such as Microsoft Teams will not only help us connect with each other from a distance, but also build a future that may be more creative and effective than the status quo.