Microsoft Teams business application on smartphone screen.
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Microsoft Teams updates: Virtual commutes, meditations and more

23 Sep 2020524 Views

Updates announced at Microsoft Ignite will see Teams zone in on productivity and wellbeing as businesses continue working from home.

Microsoft’s virtual developer conference Ignite kicked off yesterday and has already shed light on a number of updates, including a satellite service to rival Amazon. But there were also plenty of details about new Microsoft Teams features that will become available later this year and in 2021.

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Back in April, the number of daily Teams users hit 75m and it looks like Microsoft is set to continue catering its online collaboration tool to newly remote businesses. Its updates for Teams will focus on mimicking a workplace virtually, with an emphasis on communication and wellbeing.

Virtual commutes on Microsoft Teams

One example is the new ‘virtual commute’ offering. Skipping the daily commute has been one of the benefits of remote working for many. However, the time it takes to reach your place of work can help clear your head and boost your productivity levels by as much as 15pc, according to Microsoft.

So, in the coming months, Teams will let you schedule time for a ‘virtual commute’ at the start and end of your work day.

“This virtual-commute experience allows you to take a step back, again going into and coming out of your day to just organise your thoughts and to make sure you’re really processing, doing some pre- and post-processing of your work,” said Jared Spataro, corporate vice-president at Microsoft 365. “It turns out the research shows us that can be very helpful.”

Breakout spaces 

Breakout rooms will also become available on calls this October, Microsoft said. Instead of having one big virtual meeting – where it’s common for people to talk over each other and prolong the process – the organiser will be able to split attendees into smaller groups. This will help with brainstorming and group work and will let the host move between the breakout spaces as needed.

Webinar management

If you’re hosting a webinar, Teams is one way to do it. A new feature, however, will go a step further, automating attendee registration and providing a dashboard to reflect on the event afterwards. Down the line, the platform will also get APIs for attendee reporting and scheduling so users can bring data into their customer relationship management or marketing apps.

Streamlined calls

Teams’ calling function has also been given a rethink. Microsoft said it will get a “streamlined view”, making it easier to see your contacts, voicemail and calling history at the same time. Collaborative calling also means you can connect a call queue directly to a Teams channel and transfer calls between the Teams desktop and mobile apps.

Productivity insights

Another feature that will launch in October is productivity insights, which will be driven by Teams’ Workplace Analytics function. Managers and team leads will be given a window into how useful team meetings are and which hours of the day are most conducive to focus and collaboration.

Team members will also get insights tailored specifically to their own role, such as recommendations on habits they could change to improve their work ethic and wellbeing. These personalised features won’t become available until 2021 but will be accompanied by an “emotional check-in experience”.

Headspace

A lot of us have been turning to apps to help us work from home, whether it’s to listen to podcasts, schedule our day or remind ourselves to take much-needed breaks.

Headspace is one of the most popular apps for minding mental health and now Microsoft is partnering with it. The company announced that a series of curated mindfulness and meditation resources will become available on Teams, something Spataro said will be “really powerful” in reducing stress and burnout.

Meeting recaps

As well as promoting productivity and wellbeing, it looks as though the updated Teams will aim to become more accessible. Live captions for speakers during virtual meetings have already become available for some users, but a new feature will also generate a recap after any meeting held on the platform, providing a recording, transcript, shared files and more.

Teams users will also have the option to share their meeting recordings externally with stakeholders by automatically storing them as files in SharePoint.

Custom layouts for Dynamic view

The Dynamic view option on Teams uses AI to let meeting attendees share content alongside participants. Custom layouts are on the way for this aspect of the platform, allowing hosts and presenters to customise how the content appears for participants.

The idea is that this will mimic physical presentations. For example, it could overlay a presenter’s video feed over the slide they are discussing, removing the need to choose between the speaker and the content.

New backgrounds for Together Mode

Team’ Together Mode was launched in July, drawing on AI-segmentation technology to implement a shared background and places attendees beside one another within the virtual space. It has already been used to digitally create audiences at events, such as basketball games.

New backgrounds were announced for Together Mode at Microsoft Ignite. They will include a coffee shop, conference rooms and auditoriums.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa joined the team as senior Careers reporter in July 2019 with previous experience in science communication and media. With a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication, she is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos.

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