How to use Microsoft Teams to keep your business running

Most of the UK is switching to remote working in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic. Your business is sure to be going through one of the most challenging and transformative periods it has ever experienced. Whether you’ve never operated outside of an office before or you’ve had remote working systems in place for years, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers, data and finer details of keeping a company up and running. It’s important to think about the bigger picture too; how to establish the kind of seamless collaboration and easy, natural communication that’s made business successful in a traditional setting.

Culture

One of the crucial things your business can do at this stage is retaining its culture. The atmosphere and values should be transferred into the home of each and every employee. This is far more important than just making sure that everybody’s logged on and working. Not only are these vital aspects of continued success, but with many companies likely to maintain remote working after the coronavirus crisis has ended, prioritising them is an important way to futureproof your business.

For companies making the switch for the first time, the amount of software on offer can make deciding what to use a daunting prospect, especially with IT security concerns growing around technologies that have seen a surge in popularity. The right remote working software will help you to steady the ship in this uncertain period. It will also enable you to continue looking after employees, fostering a positive culture and nurturing talent. When you take away the spreadsheets, the cash flow and IT infrastructure, it’s the people that make your business – and Microsoft Teams allows you to place them front and centre.

If you’ve never used Microsoft Teams, here’s how to get the best out of it for your company’s individual needs.

What is Microsoft Teams?

Many pieces of remote working software will allow you to collaborate in different ways. You can chat with colleagues on messenger, collaboratively share and edit files, make video calls or organise your calendar. Microsoft Teams does all of this, with each function accessible from a single application.

If your office computers already use Office 365, it also integrates seamlessly with these applications. This means that your Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations and Outlook email files can easily be shared with colleagues. These capabilities are the sort of thing we all take for granted in a physical office setting. Without the ability to hand documents to somebody sitting opposite you or fire a quick question out loud across the room, you’ll value anything that makes collaboration a more straightforward process.

Microsoft Teams can be accessed via a desktop application, a web browser or a mobile app. This means that it’s not strictly desk-bound. Effectively, wherever your employees are, they can work flexibly and easily. Here are the main functions you can use to keep everyone in the loop:

Teams and Channels

The first thing you need to do on setting up Microsoft Teams is create your team. This simply involves adding the relevant people to the group you create. Depending on your business and how you intend to use Microsoft Teams, this could be a single department or the entire company.

If you opt for the latter, don’t worry about casting the net too wide. You can add employees who are only slightly connected to what you do; because that’s where channels come in, and you can create multiple channels within a Team. These can be created around specific departments, projects, topics, clients or even sub-teams. In a channel you can exchange instant messages, attachments and links. You can also set channels either to private or public in order to maintain confidentiality where needed.

This instant and easy messaging function allows teams to communicate in the informal style of WhatsApp messaging. It is useful to have a back-and-forth conversation in real time. It also helps to avoid overly formalised, cumbersome and difficult to track email conversations that many offices tend to use.

Each channel contains a central conversation, where all activity including written messages, calls and video conferences, is recorded. It also contains sections for files, notes and planning.

For more information on using teams and channels in Microsoft Teams, click here.

Collaborating on Files

It’s here where the integration with Office 365 proves really useful. In each channel you can share files with all team members, either by uploading an existing file or creating a new one. Once stored in your team’s file library, a file will be viewable to everyone with access to the channel. You and your colleagues can not only view but co-edit and comment on files at the same time.

Whether it’s the first draft of a major business proposal or the final tweaks to a department presentation, the great thing about collaborating in this way is that you can edit at the same time.  There is also no need to worry about who has the file open or whether you’re overwriting someone else’s changes. Edits are integrated as you work, and files can easily be shared with people outside of your channel or team if you choose to.

Especially right now, you are not always able to hand-annotate pieces of work and pass them around the office. Virtual collaboration on Microsoft Teams is a way to recreate the spontaneity, energy and unpredictability of teams working together.

or more information on collaborating on files with Microsoft Teams, click here.

Video Conferencing

The UK is becoming accustomed to lockdown life as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. More people are now video conferencing than ever before. Families are able to keep in touch with elderly relatives. Friends are recreating their weekly pub quiz.

Colleagues are keeping each other in the loop – inside and outside of working hours. We’re all using video call apps to maintain a sense of normality.

In Microsoft Teams, it’s easy to take an instant messaging chat and turn it into a video call. There’s no need to worry about whether everyone’s downloaded the software, created a user ID or been sent the password. Simply click on the camera icon within an existing conversation on your channel. In a new one, you can invite all members of the team to join.

When creating a meeting you can also add phone numbers. This means that people who aren’t in the channel can take part too. Once you’re in the virtual meeting, you can easily share your screen as well as record the video if you need to.

Maintaining face-to-face conversation is an efficient and time-saving way to communicate with colleagues. It is also crucial for maintaining your company’s culture too. One of the main things that will help employees stay motivated during this uncertain period is a feeling of genuine connection to their colleagues. It is much easier to keep a sense of team spirit going if people are able to interact directly and in real time.

For more information on video conferencing in Microsoft Teams, click here.

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