Microsoft Teams Feature Releases Improve Remote Worker Collaboration In Wake of COVID-19Danielle Bucella
With the increase of COVID-19 and efforts put in place to reduce the spread, millions of workers worldwide are being sent back to their homes to work remotely. While this safety precaution is an extremely necessary one, it does pose many uncertainties and problems for businesses – one being collaboration. To counteract any collaboration issues, businesses are turning to Microsoft Teams.
On March 18th, Microsoft announced astonishing numbers for the platform, stating there are now 44 million daily active users on Teams. Only four months ago, that number was only half of what it is today and within the past week alone, usage has increased by nearly 40% – showing the impact that COVID-19 has had on Teams utilization. As we patiently await the demise of this pandemic, businesses are also realizing the full potential of Teams. It has helped employees stay connected and fully immersed in their roles even though they’re now outside of the traditional office environment.
With the growing usage of Teams, there has been an influx in new feature releases & unveilings. The highlights of this week’s Microsoft announcements include:
- Improved Audio Quality for All Networks: When users experience high data packet loss, audio quality can be negatively impacted. Teams has made algorithmic improvements that ensure better audio quality – despite a poor or congested network. This will be ideal for remote employees who do not have superior WiFi connections at home. It will be also be embraced by those who must take calls on-the-go or conduct meetings from conferences or hotels.
- Bookings App: At a time when we are turning away from face-to-face meetings, the Bookings App (being released within the coming weeks) will be the go-to choice. The Bookings App is your one-stop for scheduling appointments & conducting meetings with any external participants. This app has been designed for holding job interviews, customer meetings, healthcare e-Visits, customer service appointments, business consults, and more. Despite the number of departments a business has, users can manage all schedules from one unified place. Attendees will receive a customized invite with a Teams link to join at the appropriate time.
- Noise Suppression: Later in the year, Microsoft plans on rolling out their real-time noise suppression feature. Remote workers can worry less about distracting background noise – whether it be a dog barking, children playing, or even just snacking while at their desk. This feature will leverage artificial intelligence (AI), which will eliminate any background noise while on a Teams call. AI will ensure that all of the microphone’s attention is on what you’re saying/your voice, reducing interferences & disturbances.
- Background Blur Reduction: When answering video calls from your iPhone or iPad, your face is what should be in focus – not the background. With Background Blur for iOS (coming soon), all attention will be on you, while the background will be appropriately blurred.
- Raise Hand Feature: Additionally, Teams will also be releasing a “raise hand” feature where users can click a button to “raise their hand” to ask a question. This will help reduce chatter and interruptions during busy or larger scale meetings.
- Microsoft Business Voice: Available in the United States on April 1st, the SMB will be able to make/receive calls by using Microsoft 365 Business Voice. This cloud-based phone system was originally released in the UK & Canada in November of 2019, but will be available to purchase in the United States in the coming weeks.
- To help aid in situations where Internet connectivity is unreliable, Teams will also feature an “Offline Mode” for reading any Teams chat messages. Users will also be able to draft responses whilst offline.
On the hardware side, Yealink recently brought the VC210 Teams Collaboration Bar to market. This compact device allows users to turn any small space – including a home office with compatible screen or TV – into a collaboration hub. It features the familiar Teams interface and is simple to set-up with its plug-and-play capability. Poly will also be releasing the Poly Studio X Series (X30 & X50) for Teams. Currently, Poly is offering their CCX Series of desk phones, comprised of three variants that feature large intuitive color displays and have the option to be personalized with the user’s choice of headset.
The COVID-19 pandemic is going to alter the way that employees work in the future – and Microsoft Teams will be there to assist in the transition. Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft 365 believes that this crisis is “…an inflection point [where] we’re going to look back and realize this is where it all changed. We’re never going to go back to working the way that we did.” Now is the time to begin transition to a Teams-friendly workplace. It will prepare you for the short-term challenges of the current pandemic, as well as future-proof businesses for long-term changes.
If your customers are turning to remote workspaces & are looking to move to Microsoft Teams, 888VoIP is your top choice for Teams hardware distribution. We offer the latest in Teams devices – including desk phones, video conferencing devices, and audio solutions. To learn more, contact an 888VoIP Channel Account Manager at 888-864-7786 or view an array of our Teams offerings here.