Going into 2020, many business leaders were sceptical about remote working, fearing the impact that doing so would have on productivity. But the work from home ‘experiment’ that the pandemic brought has proved to be far more successful than many predicted.
Collaborative technologies like Microsoft Teams, and now Microsoft Viva, have played a vital role in making remote working a viable option for so many organisations, letting teams stay connected digitally, despite being apart physically.
Viva is Microsoft’s new approach to ensuring businesses can provide a consistently good employee experience, while enabling remote and hybrid work. Part of the drive behind Viva is an acknowledgement of the need to help workers stave off the isolation and loss of connection that can occur with these new ways of working. It is also helping business leaders safeguard the mental health of their workers by providing a full picture of how people across their organisation are working, thereby allowing them to tackle the warning signs of stress and burnout before they become a problem.
Microsoft has announced a new product, Microsoft Loop, which will allow users to create highly-interactive pages in a collaborative way.
Loop will be the first significant use of the hotly-anticipated Fluid Framework, which treats data in Office 365 apps as ‘live’. That means data remains linked to its original source when copied into Loop.
One of the challenges of working from home with Microsoft Teams is that it’s much harder to gauge how those in a meeting feel about what someone is saying. In person, we intuitively pick up on what people are thinking about what’s being said, based on their body language. On a screen during a video call, it’s not quite as easy 😭.
A new feature, being introduced over the next month, aims to restore the ability to show how you feel about what’s being said, without interrupting the speaker. Borrowing somewhat from social networks like Facebook, Microsoft are adding emoji-based ‘reactions’ to the video meeting experience.
It’s a common problem – you’re happily using Teams, when you get distracted by some activity, or a colleague messages you. You switch to another area of Teams to address the task at hand. Moments later, though, you want to go back to what you were originally working on… but where did it go?
Never fear. Much like the back button in popular browsers, Teams is now gaining a ‘History’ menu, which will let you retrace your footsteps through Microsoft Teams.
Retrace your steps in Teams
Thanks to the new History menu, it will be a piece of cake to navigate to previous locations. By simply hovering over the ‘back’ and ‘forward’ buttons at the top of the Teams window, you will be able to see all the tabs, conversations, teams and files you recently looked at.
Two new types of usage report – for Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Search – are being rolled out to Microsoft 365 in February 2021. Here’s what you need to know.
Microsoft Teams usage report
Admins will be able to find a new Microsoft Teams usage activity report in the usage reports section of the Microsoft 365 Admin Centre.
The report gathers together data from across your organisation’s use of Microsoft Teams, and reveals useful information both at an overall (tenant) level, and on a team-by-team level. This gives you a ‘big picture’ view of how your organisation is making use of Teams.
The Teams Usage Activity Report started rolling out in January, and everyone should have it by early February 2021.
Microsoft has said Breakout Rooms in Microsoft Teams will finally be rolled out to all users during November 2020.
Breakout rooms let video call participants create separate ‘rooms’ for private discussion, before being brought back together into the main call. The meeting’s organisers or hosts can move between breakout rooms and even send messages to all participants.
Breakout rooms – a most-requested feature
Microsoft has taken its time rolling out breakout rooms. This is despite it frequently being used as an excuse for businesses to use competing video calling tools, like Zoom. The feature has been present in those apps for years, so it’s no surprise that it quickly became one of the most-requested features in Teams, even before so many of us moved to remote working. A request for the feature on Microsoft’s Feedback Forum, started two years ago, quickly gained more than 18,000 votes from users.
Breakout sessions will be enabled at the same time as Microsoft plans to drastically increase the number of participants you can have on a call. The limit of active participants is going to be raised from 300 to a massive 1,000, while ‘view-only’ participants in Teams Live Events will be doubled, from 10,000 to 20,000.
And with the introduction of a larger 7×7 video grid, you will be able to see up to 49 people at once on your call, rather than nine on the current 3×3 grid.
Set up Breakout Rooms in Microsoft Teams
In order to use breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams, your tenant administrator will need to enable certain settings to allow users access to the feature. The features that must be enabled are:
Scheduling private meetings
Meet now in private meeting
Channel meeting scheduling
Meet now in channels
With these features enabled, users can now use breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams. All users who want to participate must switch to what Microsoft calls the ‘new meeting experience’. To ensure you have access to breakout rooms, in the Teams app, click your profile image, then ‘Settings’, and ensure ‘Turn on new meeting experience’ is selected. If it wasn’t already selected, you may need to restart Teams before it takes effect.
You can be certain that Teams is set up correctly with the new meeting experience if your meetings open in their own, separate, windows.
Once you’re in a meeting, it’s easy for meeting organisers to create breakout rooms. Look next to the ‘raise hand’ icon and you’ll see a new icon for breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams. Note that participants in the meeting who aren’t meeting organisers won’t see the option. Also note that you can only create breakout rooms on the desktop Teams app – it’s not yet possible to do from an iOS or Android mobile or tablet device.