If you’d have asked ‘will you be working from home next year’ in 2019, many of us would have answered no. There were many reasons. For some of us this “work from home” thing we saw as only for trendy tech start ups in the City. For others, particularly those of us that run our own companies, home working was a radical and unnecessary break from an office dynamic that worked. Didn’t need it, didn’t want it. 

Then 2020 happened. 

There is a higher percentage of us now working from home than there ever has been. This has been great for some, but a lot of us found the sudden change took the wind from our sails. We relied on being present to do our best work. Verbal communication was the foundation of our teams, face to face meetings the life blood of our revenue stream, water cooler chats the fuel of our productivity. 

A lot of us out there couldn’t imagine succeeding without those things. We’d been part of the bums-on-seats workforce for too long. The overnight change to a world wherein our customers, clients, colleagues, and employees alike were suddenly only accessible via a screen was terrifying. 

Screens are always going to be a substitute for a firm handshake for some of us. Fortunately, thanks to Microsoft Teams, that substitute doesn’t have to a be a poor one. 

WHAT IT IS 

In a nutshell, Microsoft Teams is an out-of-the-box solution to your basic remote workday needs. In particular, Microsoft Teams enables remote working connectivity within the working world.  

Whilst also catering to both personal users and the education sector, it is within the professional space that Teams has made the most impact. So much has Teams been relied upon by offices across the globe to get them through the sudden change that its success has been used as justification for more than one conspiracy theory involving Bill Gates and Covid19! 

Ridiculous theories aside, it’s undeniable that Microsoft Teams has become one of the most widely used applications in the professional world. In less than 12 months Teams has gone from a relatively niche one of Microsoft’s offerings to a staple product of the brand.  

WHAT IT DOES & WHY YOU NEED IT 

Microsoft Teams replaces (or at least alleviates the pains from the absence of) face to face communication in the workplace. Those of you who use services like Skype, Facetime, or Facebook Video Messenger will already be vaguely familiar with video chatting. For those of us who aren’t, Teams offers a wide variety of features that make the process as easy and seamless as possible.

Video messaging is provided by a lot of services though, as that listed demonstrated. So why is Microsoft Teams the go-to service for professionals everywhere? Well, there are a number of reasons. Microsoft have gone to great lengths to create a product that can be used by any business, regardless of size and sector, and the end result is an app that is both accessible and functional.  

The first of Teams features users notice is the easy-to-interpret navigation bar. Activity, text chat, your calendar, and your call history are all easily accessible. One of the key complaints non technical users have with other work from home products is the difficulty in navigating through heaps of features to get to what they need. Being user friendly has been a key goal of Microsoft Teams since inception, and it’s safe to say they delivered. 

Alongside the standard tabs one would expect from a messaging platform, there are two that will be of great interest for professional users. The first of these is the Teams tab (represented at time of-writing by the Microsoft Teams logo). 

In the context of Microsoft Teams, a ‘Team’ is a go-to feed containing everything you need for that named project/group/team/company etc. Each Team ‘channel’ can contain contact information, a direct link to reach people you need directly from app, documents and presentations… almost anything you can think of which you need to contain somewhere that can be shared and accessed quickly. 

Each Team is displayed as a social media like feed, with separate channels to focus on individual projects. The option to hide and tag channels is also present, so you can keep your virtual workspace uncluttered. Comments and discussion are encouraged with a social media style comments interface. Documents, photos, videos, all can be added in comments, removing the need to arrange whole meetings for every minor update. 

A Team can be directly transferred from Office 365 if this is already in use, or details can be entered manually. Invites can be sent via generated code- so onboarding new staff or 3rd party stakeholders isn’t the hurdle many fear in the work from home era.  

External communications are also covered. Want to make a Team for potential customers or clients to share your own company news and information? No problem. Microsoft Teams also includes options for public groups. Not only can it allow you to continue business without office presence, but it can also be used as an additional marketing channel or lead source. 

The second tab that will interest us workplace users is a little more self explanatory- Files. The function of the Files tab is pretty obvious. It’s used to upload, store, and share files. It’s the fact that this is made so quick and easy which makes Microsoft Teams stand out.  

Whilst something like Skype or Facebook Messenger can cover the video chat needs, having to flick between programs or apps mid-meeting is frustrating to say the least. Not to mention, in a meeting with a client, it can come across as unprofessional. Microsoft Teams navigates around this problem by allowing you to contain the files you need in the same app you host your meetings on. 

Microsoft Teams also integrates with other workplace tools and platforms like Sharepoint, Power BI and Trello. At every stage Microsoft Teams enables sharing and collaboration, regardless of the medium. Be it a shared Word document or a Power BI dashboard, Teams makes group working and sharing the easy and straight-forward process it should be.  

For some of us there will never be an alternative that lives up to the buzz and activity of being in the office. However, in years like 2020 when we’re not given a choice, creating a virtual workplace using Microsoft Teams at least makes it a little less lonely and a lot less chaotic. 

WE CAN HELP 

There is both a desktop and mobile version available. The mobile app is self installing on both Apple and Android as most apps are. Our IT department they will help you login and get you up and running. The standard Microsoft Teams account is free and includes basic calling functionality and collaboration services. Microsoft offers three tiers of paid business account starting at £3.80 per month. If you already hold one of these licenses all upgraded features of Microsoft Teams will be available to you.

 

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