Introduction

How big is your to-do list? Office 365 and Microsoft Teams have transformed the way teams interact and collaborate. But as remote work becomes the norm, having all the tools at hand is not always enough to remain efficient. If you’re finding it tough to stay productive and stick with the changes in habits and routines of working from home, this one’s for you! Check out top ten productivity boosters – even though they’ve got incredible value, they’re yet to be discovered by most! Handy, right?

Hack 1

Managing your status

The first tip has to do with status setting. As you’ve probably noticed, your status setting (which you see on the top right hand corner of your Teams interface) automatically switches from available to busy based on your personal Outlook calendar, and it will indicate when you’re ‘in a call’.

As most of us are working from home these days, staying focused has become more challenging.
It’s easy to get even more distracted by Teams notifications or when colleagues are starting a chat or a call. The good news is, you can avoid all distractions by selecting the ‘Do not disturb’ status option. This will block all incoming notifications, unless a message is marked urgent by the sender. If you’ve marked some of your colleagues as priority contacts, their messages and calls will also dodge the DnD filter.

Setting your status on Microsoft Teams

 

Another useful hidden gem is the possibility of asking “busy” or “away” colleagues to ‘Notify when available’. You can of course regularly check their status for an update, but this hack notifies you automatically, allowing you to be productive in the meantime.

Notify when available

 

Hack 2

Creating group chats

Still within the chat environment, instead of one on one communication, let’s see what you can do with
group chats.

There are multiple ways to start a group chat. For example, you can start with one colleague and
then add others. But the smartest way to start a group chat is by clicking the ‘New chat’ icon at the top of your chat list. By clicking it and expanding the form, you get the option to give the group chat a descriptive name, such as ‘Online lunch‘, add whoever you’d like and start sharing messages in the group chat with your colleagues.

How to start a group chat with the ‘New chat’ icon

However, at a certain stage you might realize that you’ve forgotten to include someone - no problem! Add that person by clicking the top right corner, and you’ll notice some very powerful features: You can give them access to all the previous content in the conversation, limit their history access to a specific set of days, or involve them only from now on. In short, you have full control over what you share with new entrants in an existing group chat.

Hack 3

Blurring your background

This next one is a small but highly appreciated one: background blurring and virtual backgrounds in video calls. Once you’ve started and connected on a video call with a colleague, under the three dots icon you get the option to add background effects: either blurring or adding a complete virtualized background image. Through artificial intelligence that’s automatically applied, your background will automatically change – any laundry, messy room or even pictures on the wall will vanish and help you keep a professional setting wherever you’re taking calls from.

The caller’s background before and after he applied ‘background blur’

By the way, note that Microsoft has announced that by the end of the year we’ll also have automatic background noise cancellation in Teams.

Backgrounds for Microsoft Teams video call

 

Hack 4

Keeping your Teams organized

Many people who are just just starting out with Teams are often struggling with keeping an overview of all the teams and channels they’re involved in, because it’s just a flat list. So here are some simple tips and tricks to get your teams and channels organized.

The first thing to be aware of is the filter option on the top left of your interface. Many people look for a team in the central search bar located at the top, but that’s not the best idea. The best way to quickly find a specific team or tab based on its name, is the filter on the left.

Quickest way to filter

A second tip is to use the drag and drop function to move important teams to the top. Note that new teams are currently added at the bottom and there is no way to sort them alphabetically or apply any other type of order. This is why you should really make the most of the drag and drop feature to organize your Teams.

Third and last tip for this section: Hide your irrelevant teams and Pin your highly relevant channels. If you have a team that’s no longer relevant to you, you can simply hide it with a single click and it will move to the bottom
in a separate section of ‘hidden teams’. You can, of course, also make it visible again from there.

How to hide teams on

For Channels, there’s a similar feature. If you’re not interested in a given channel, just hide it and it will move 1 level deeper. On the other hand, if you have channels that you always need to keep an eye on, then you can pin them so they’re always visible on your Teams list. For unknown reasons, only channels can be pinned in Teams, not entire Teams.

How to pin channels

 

Hack 5

Using advanced messaging options

 

Let’s move to the conversations within Teams channels and explore the advanced messaging options available. All too often, people neglect the little options present below the messaging form.

The first thing to note is support for @-mentioning people, a team or a whole channel. This ensures that the people mentioned get notified of your message.

You can also apply tons of formatting to your message. You can even switch from a default conversation to an announcement, which includes even more formatting options with pictures, a title bar and more.

Using the ‘announcement’ feature to spread team news and updates

You can select who can reply to your message: all users or just the moderators, and you can post your message in the current channel or in a number of different channels at the same time. Just one thing to note: if you post in multiple channels, the replies will not be synchronized.

You can also add files, emojis, gifs, memes and youtube videos. Although all of this might depend on what your Teams administrators allow you to use.

Last but not least, one that’s often overlooked is the option to give praise or kudos to someone.

Using the praise feature to send praise or kudos to your team

P.S.: Most of these options are also available in the chat application.

Hack 6

Making the most of online meetings

Hack number 6 is about meetings. Most of you have probably experienced online meeting on Teams over the past few weeks, but have you exploited the full potential of those meetings? Did you know that you can record meetings, have them automatically transcribed, and that you can easily link each online meeting with its meeting notes?

You can start a meeting directly in a channel by clicking the camera icon on the top right hand side. You can then select a meeting topic such as “go-to-market meeting”, plan the meeting or, start the meeting immediately.

How to get a meeting started

If you’d like to record the meeting, you just need to click the three dots and you’ll notice that a privacy policy will be shown to all participants regarding the recording. That’s all you need to do to record a meeting.

How to record a meeting

Again, click the three dots and add some meeting notes. These meeting notes will be managed in OneNote, and they will be coupled to this meeting.

How to add meeting notes

Note that an entry will be added to the conversation in the channel where you started the meeting, showing who participated, its duration, etc. You can also open the notes for this meeting with a simple click from there. The recording will be saved and transcribed, and should be available a few minutes after the meeting’s over.

One more thing: because the transcription is now available, you can now also search within the meeting transcription. Let’s say you want to know if and when something was mentioned, simply search for the term
and jump to the part of the meeting where it was mentioned.

Hack 7

Don’t let messages get lost without translation

Now onto a simple but powerful one, especially in multilingual organization environments: the integrated translate function. This feature allows you to translate messages you don’t understand into ones you do by clicking the three dots next to a message and selecting ‘translate’. You’ll notice the translated message in a blink. By the way, the translation feature is not enabled by default. So if you don’t have it in your own environment, talk to your Teams administrators.

Microsoft Teams’ integrated translation function

You can even go one level deeper if you have trouble reading or interpreting the English message, by enabling the immersive reader. The message will be shown in a larger format, and you’ll be able to apply additional features such as having it read aloud, adding some grammar indicators such as syllable splitting or noun detection, and even clicking on words and getting descriptive integrated pictograms.

Using the integrated pictograms in immersive reader mode within Teams conversations

 

Hack 8

Managing documents and document libraries

Let’s move to the Files tab in a channel, the place where you manage your documents. This is actually a more advanced hack, but a question that pops up a lot.

All files and folders that you see in your Channel Files are managed within SharePoint in the background. That’s why you’ll also have the ‘Open in SharePoint’ button there. If you click on that button, you’ll notice that Teams manages its documents in a structure within the default ‘Documents’ document library.

You’ll also notice that in SharePoint, there’s also another document library for the final files. Since it’s a separate document library in SharePoint, and not under this Documents library, it won’t be shown in Teams by default. So how can you add that? Well, there are two ways.

1. First option: you can add it as a folder within the Files tab of a team by using the ‘Add Cloud Storage’ option on top. Just click that one, select the desired document library and it will be added.

2. Second option: add it as a separate tab. So click the plus icon on top, select the ‘Document library’ app and again, go through the same flow for adding the document library.

Hack 9

Synchronizing Teams files to your OneDrive or file explorer

Better than browsing through files and document libraries within Teams would be to have your Teams documents available in your file explorer, or even offline. Can you do that? Yes, you can! Using the Sync function located at the top of your Files tab.

Using the sync function to synchronize Teams files to your OneDrive

If you click on it, you’ll be able to synchronize this library to your OneDrive, which in turn will give you offline access to your files from your file explorer.

Note that you can of course read your document from your local drive, but can also add documents by dropping them into that folder structure. If you edit them or move them within your OneDrive, the changes will sync back to your Teams environment.

Hack 10

Monitor Teams’ activity and users’ engagement

Final hack: Teams Analytics. Would you like to get some insight into how your team is being used? Well, as a team owner, you can also do that. You’ll need to select the ‘Manage Team’ option, and then the Analytics tab. You can select the previous week or month and get an overview of the number of active users, the roles they fulfill, the activities over time and the number of messages that were posted within that period.

A snapshot of Team analytics

 

Table of Contents

10 Productivity Hacks for Microsoft Teams

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