While the practice of working remotely was previously creeping into a growing number of organizations, the current COVID-19 pandemic has turned it from an option to a necessity. Now, remote work is the new normal.
For many of us, remote work is a totally new concept, but even those organizations that are familiar with it at some level are struggling to adapt to its rapid, full-scale adoption. Managing a team during this time comes with some unique challenges, but luckily, there are many tools at your fingertips to help make the transition, leadership, and management possible with Microsoft 365.
Microsoft 365 for a Remote Workforce: Microsoft Teams
In our opinion, Microsoft Teams is the most valuable tool for a remote workforce in the Microsoft 365 suite and the one that has been leaned on the most during COVID-19.
Microsoft Teams brings the best parts of Microsoft 365 together in a single tool. It is a powerful communication platform that serves as a teamwork hub, combining chat, meetings, file storage, and integration with many apps. Microsoft originally developed Teams to address the common problem of day-to-day communication faced by every business, and have continued to invest heavily in updating and improving it since then.
Today we find our teams more spread out than ever, working in different places, on different devices, and at different times. Microsoft Teams is the best tool to support this new era of remote work and collaboration.
There are a few key features of MS Teams that makes it especially valuable in the management of a newly remote workforce:
Chat is really the foundation of MS Teams. You can message, call, screen share, and add other people to the conversation all from a one-on-one chat. It allows you to have private conversations with one or many people, as well as public conversations with any Team that you are a member of. MS Teams chat allows for responses, replies, reactions, sharing of files and links, and other features. Conversations in chats, either with one person or a group, are all linear. They’re not broken up into smaller conversations, but instead, flow one after another. That makes it a richer, more real-time experience than using email.
With your team’s daily routines likely adjusted by the fact that they are now working from home, status updates are a great way to display your current status so that other users know when they should or shouldn’t reach out to you. Plus, using a status message means that you’ll know when you should or shouldn’t expect a quick response from your team members. This is an easy way to foster transparency and improve communication between team members, and a practice that you should institute for your organization.
Meetings are a vital part of collaboration and something that can seem hard to replicate when operating with a remote workforce. Keeping your normal schedule of meetings, huddles, and check-ins helps to make working remotely still feel like working. Plus, adding video is super helpful as it allows teams to feel connected to one another and read each other’s body language.
MS Teams has a number of features that make scheduling, holding and reviewing video meetings so easy. Your calendar is available directly in Microsoft Teams so you don’t need to go to MS Outlook to check availability and schedule meetings. You can instantly launch a virtual meeting from a chat with audio and video. It also makes the sharing of content quick and easy.
Think of the MS Teams Activity Feed as your new inbox. It aggregates your team’s activities in a single location and is a summary of everything that’s happened in all different channels that are on your team’s list.
If you feel like you’re getting spammed with MS Teams notifications now that everyone is relying on it so heavily, this can really help. You can use the activities feed to filter your activities by type – for example, unread messages, @mentions, or replies. When a red circle appears next to ‘“activity”, that means you have a notification in your feed. A notification will remain in your feed for 14 days and then expire.
If you’d like to learn more about Microsoft Teams and how to best leverage it with your team, check out our Microsoft Teams Top 10 productivity tips and tricks!
Microsoft 365 for a Remote Workforce: SharePoint Online
For efficient collaboration, and to store important information on the cloud, a robust intranet on SharePoint in Microsoft Office 365 is key. With SharePoint, your employees are able to efficiently communicate and collaborate virtually on a global scale.
For example, SharePoint Online helps remote team members working together on a project stay on the same page. Create a collaborative project site in SharePoint, outlining the project statement, individual roles and responsibilities of team members involved, a document library, and a task list. This way your team will have a focus point to connect them to each other and their work, making it easy to have alignment around the project, along with its progress and objectives.
Your team can also use SharePoint to connect to all their projects and tasks using ‘My Work’ reports, project dashboards, and the document library.
Microsoft 365 for a Remote Workforce: OneDrive for Business
OneDrive is a cloud-based file sharing service that is essentially Microsoft’s version of DropBox or Google Drive. Using OneDrive for Business allows you to share almost anything with your team, be it a document, video, project, spreadsheet, or more. It gives your 1 TB of space, which should be ample for any project.
Need to collaborate on a Word document or Excel Spreadsheet? All individual documents and drafts are saved in OneDrive where files are private by default, but can be shared with others. Users can then save shared documents to the Teams or SharePoint sites where their group works.
You can also share documents in OneDrive with external stakeholders.
Real-Time Collaboration in Microsoft 365
For many of us, Word, Excel, and Powerpoint are our most used Microsoft 365 programs. Using them with Microsoft 365 adds some incredibly useful tools for team members who are spread out. Once a file is in OneDrive or SharePoint, you can edit a single Word document or Excel file together, track all changes and leave comments or feedback.
To add comments in Word, go to the ‘Review’ tab, select’ New Comment’, and add your comment. You can also reply to comments with ‘Reply’. To comment in Excel, right-click the cell you wish to comment on, select ‘New Comment’, and click the ‘Post’ button. Others can respond to your comment by right-clicking it and choosing ‘Reply to Comment’.
Multiple users can access and work on documents simultaneously, replicating the feel of a group huddle. This functionality also solves the problem of figuring out who has the latest version of a file – there’s only one file, in one place.
Microsoft 365 for a Remote Workforce: Outlook and Calendar
If your organization uses Microsoft 365, you will already be familiar with MS Outlook as an extremely powerful email management tool. The built-in calendar is great for setting virtual meetings and seeing when your colleagues are busy or free. As we previously mentioned, you can do these things in MS Teams too.
If you are confused as to when to use MS Outlook and when to use MS Teams, we recommend as a general rule to use email for the more formal things and Teams for more task-based communications that would otherwise clutter your inbox.
Microsoft 365 for a Remote Workforce: Yammer
When working remotely, especially when your team is used to working in the same space, keeping your team connected on a social level can be the most challenging thing. That is where Yammer comes in.
Yammer is essentially Office 365’s answer to Facebook. It’s a social network for co-workers, a common space where they can feel like they are together, even when they are not, allowing them to maintain the bonds they developed working together in the first place.
Yammer allows them to just say hi, laugh at jokes together, share important updates – all of which are important parts of the social life of an organization that employees need to feel connected, informed, and bonded. These are the less measurable things the COVID-19 pandemic will take away from our teams, making them all the more important to protect.
Work Smarter in Microsoft 365 With Orchestry
Thanks to COVID-19, we are living through the world’s biggest remote work experiment. Luckily, with Microsoft 365, you have all the tools needed to successfully manage your team through this difficult time.
Orchestry makes work simple in Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, by empowering your IT Administrators and employees to define a winning Microsoft 365 adoption and change management strategy, with a roadmap of what to use when, for what purpose. Orchestry increases usage and adoption while empowering through governance and simplifies through intelligent provisioning in Microsoft 365, organization-wide at a fraction of the cost, on a subscription basis.