It will come as no surprise that Microsoft’s flagship collaboration platform, Microsoft Teams has exploded in usage following the shift to remote working.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently revealed in the company’s latest quarterly report to Wall Street, in April there were more than 200 million Teams meeting participants in a single day, generating more than 4.1 billion meeting minutes. Also, Teams now has more than 75 million active daily users.

With so much demand for the platform, and competitors also upping their game, has Microsoft sat back and rested on its laurels? No, far from it. Instead, they are advancing full steam ahead with upgrades as part of their ongoing investment in Microsoft 365, which last month replaced Office 365.

We look at five recent upgrades to Microsoft Teams and how they will improve the home working experience.

1. Gallery view of 9 participants

In fast response to rivals Zoom and Google Meet, Microsoft has added the ability to view up to 9 participant windows in Teams – up from 4 previously. It still doesn’t quite match the capabilities of Zoom (49 participants) and Google Meet (16 participants) but it certainly improves the option for small to mid-size meetings.

With this added functionality, it’s as good a time as ever to expand your use of video meetings which can help employees to feel more connected.

Microsoft Teams 9 person gallery view

2. New raised hands feature

Another nifty trick for video meetings is the ability for participants to raise their hands when they wish to speak. For anyone who has been on a call with multiple participants you will know that it can be quite tricky to know when to interject, especially with any time delays. With this new feature, everyone will get their say and be able to contribute fully to the discussion – even the more timid employees.

3. Background effects

This is probably the most hotly anticipated feature. Teams already came with limited preloaded background options but now you can upload your own backdrops and images. Whether you want to place yourself on a beach in Barbados, give the illusion of an organised, peaceful office space or you just want to have a little fun – the options are endless.

You can see below how our colleague Seb Burrell went all Star Wars for May the 4th (although no one else got the memo and he was a bit of a lone Jedi). Also some additional examples from yours truly, the “Queen” of content. Although meant to be tongue in cheek, the top right is a good example of how you can brand your Teams background.

How to personalise your Microsoft Teams background

  1. Download an image or create a graphic using a tool like Microsoft PowerPoint. Thanks to the new Design Ideas feature in PowerPoint, I find this particularly easy to use.
  2. Save the image to your Teams background folder. This can be found by copy and pasting the following code into your Windows File Viewer:
    %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds
  3. If File Viewer doesn’t work, try using run dialogue (Windows Key+R) and enter the code into the search box
  4. Start or join a teams meeting and hit the three dots on your toolbar, then navigate to ‘show background effects’
  5. In the right hand side you can select the pre-set images or find your own newly uploaded images. Select and hit ‘apply’

4. Live events for up to 20,000 attendees

Many organisations like Trustmarque are taking their events online this year. In response, Microsoft will temporarily raise the default limits to all Microsoft 365 Live Events hosted in Teams, Stream, and Yammer.

Live events in Teams allows you to plan and host “broadcast-style” video presentations for large events. Usually capped at 250 attendees, until 01 July all live event hosts will benefit from the following:

  • Increased attendee limit: events will support up to 20,000 attendees
  • More concurrent events:  50 events can be hosted simultaneously across a tenant
  • increased event duration:  event length has been increased to 16 hours per broadcast

Find out about Trustmarque ConnectIT Live, a week of webinars and online broadcasts with leading vendors.

5. Yammer integration in Teams

As part of Microsoft’s broader improvements to Microsoft 365, Yammer has also received an upgrade. Yammer was made popular thanks to its early ability to provide a safe and secure social networking option for colleagues. Many users have been reluctant to move away from Yammer and solely onto Teams. Thankfully, now they don’t have to.

The new Yammer app called ‘Communities’ brings your connections and conversations directly into Microsoft Teams. All you need to do is pin Yammer app in the navigation rail in Teams and you can access all your conversations, alongside the existing chat, communities, projects and meetings in Teams. Users need to install the Yammer app in Teams to get started.

Microsoft Teams at a glance

Teams can be a great tool, not only for connecting your employees, but also enables collaboration with external partners, customers and stakeholders.

  • Designed for a mobile and modern workforce​
  • Makes unified comms simple​
  • Most deployed business to business collaboration tool on the market​
  • Guest access for better multi-organisation collaboration​
  • Integrated with first and third-party apps​
  • Collaborate with all your productivity tools in one place

New to Teams?

Find out how Trustmarque can help you get up and running as soon as possible.

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Responsive solutions to support your remote working

We know that the rapid transition to home working is placing pressure on IT teams, as increasing numbers of employees work remotely – perhaps for the first time.

That’s why we’re offering a range of responsive tactical remote working solutions including infrastructure services, software and hardware procurement and expert consultancy to help get your virtual office off the ground. We can provide quick, secure options to help maintain your business continuity and advice to overcome any immediate issues you’re facing.

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By Katherine Murphy, content enthusiast