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New Microsoft Teams features focus on hybrid work productivity

Microsoft Teams is already regarded as a business-critical tool for many. Over 270 million users worldwide currently use the platform, making it the world’s leading business collaboration tool. That level of adoption is no surprise, given Teams’ potential to drastically boost productivity and communication across the workforce, whether users are office-based, working from home, or making the most of a hybrid working model.

At their recent Inspire 2022 event, Microsoft unveiled a suite of new Teams features that will start entering public availability within the coming month – here’s some of the new additions we’re most excited for, and our thoughts on how they can boost productivity across your organisation.

  • Live collaboration

Real-time collaboration on live documents is one of the most impactful benefits available with Microsoft 365. But for employees working outside the office, the level of collaboration they can achieve even when working in a live document can be limited. While working remotely, they may need to choose between staying in-touch with their colleagues on Teams or working on a document – especially on a single monitor set-up.

To overcome this, Microsoft is introducing “live” versions of its apps, offering full functionality within the confines of a Teams call – giving users the ability to work together and collaborate in real time, no matter where they’re working from. PowerPoint Live is already widely available, and now Microsoft is adding the same functionality to Excel with Excel Live. Using Excel Live, users can open up a live spreadsheet within a Teams call for attendees to work on simultaneously, without needing to close the call window. This offers a real productivity boost for users working from home who can easily collaborate, communicate and share ideas with office-based colleagues.

Excel Live isn’t the only new collaborative option coming to Teams calls, however. Microsoft has also announced a significant expansion to its annotation feature allowing collaborative annotation on any content shared via screen share during a Teams call.

This enables participants to quickly add commentary to any documents shared during a call, and enjoy in-Teams collaboration for Microsoft 365 apps which currently lack such features. While PowerPoint Live is available, and Excel Live is on the way, the collaborative annotation feature offers a useful stop-gap measure while we wait for this functionality to be available in other apps such as Word.

  • Microsoft Viva

As hybrid and remote working models become more common, it’s increasingly difficult to assess the outputs and progress of teams to understand which work streams are on track, and which need action. There are plenty of tools available to help organisations track and capture their progress – but they all come with a unifying flaw: users need to adopt secondary solutions to share files and communicate their progress with colleagues.

That’s why one of the biggest announcements at Inspire 2022 was a new set of tools for Viva – Microsoft’s own employee experience program. Viva already offers additional tools that can help organisations boost productivity, and while new features are added regularly, one upcoming addition that offers some real benefit is Viva Goals. This allows users to track everything from minute-to-minute tasks to aspirational company milestones – all within the flow of work – and, because it’s built inside Teams, it’s easy for users to share their progress with colleagues.

Microsoft also announced its plans to build Viva-based tools for specific workflows, starting with Viva Sales, an application to integrate with Teams and Microsoft 365 apps to makes sales processes more efficient, helping users manage their relationships and collaborate with their colleagues about the needs of their customers.

  • New hardware for Teams

One of the biggest hurdles for organisations adopting a hybrid work model is the delivery of hybrid meetings. While it’s simple enough to organise a meeting through Teams, remote workers often enjoy a very different experience to those physically gathered in a meeting room. We’ve spoken before about the importance of video-enabled meeting rooms to address this problem, and judging by their reveals at Inspire, Microsoft seems committed to bringing this capability to as many organisations as possible.

Key to this is the unveiling of new Teams-enabled devices, which use intelligent audio and camera systems to give remote attendees the experience of being in a room with their colleagues, being able to see people’s expressions and track the meeting from every perspective. These announcements were accompanied by some adjustments to the pricing for Teams rooms, allowing users with certified hardware to use the basic tier of the service at no extra cost, helping organisations make the most of their new meeting room capabilities without needing to pay out for additional software.

What’s next for Teams?

These announcements are only our recent top picks, and there are plenty of other new features for Teams (and Microsoft 365) ready to help boost the productivity of your team. Whether you’re new to Teams, or are a video-calling veteran, get in touch with our team to see how you can make the most of what’s available.