Brace yourselves: Hybrid work is hard. Here’s how Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 can help

The shift to remote work over the last 18 months is one of the most significant changes in work culture since the Industrial Revolution. To understand how this change is impacting businessess, Microsoft has been conducting regular research and internal surveys. As reported in their recent Work Trend Index, survey data shows that in a year where Microsoft sent 160,000 people home to work and remotely onboarded 25,000 new employees, the percentage of Microsoft employees who report feeling included is at an all-time high of 90 percent.

But there’s no guarantee this trend will continue in the increasingly complex world of hybrid work. For starters, employee expectations have changed. Last year’s Work Trend Index report showed that while 73 percent of employees want the option to continue to work remotely, 67 percent want more in-person engagement. This hybrid work paradox is the new normal, and business’s ability to come together will be challenging without preparation.

As employees settle into a mode where they’re splitting time between in-person and remote work, most organizations are not prepared. Hybrid work is hard. Remote attendees are finding themselves unseen and unheard. In-person attendees want to be inclusive but are not equipped to run effective hybrid meetings. A glaring example: conference rooms, spaces where the majority of hybrid meetings will be happening, do not have the right hardware, software, or furniture to facilitate hybrid meetings effectively. According to Frost & Sullivan, out of the nearly 90 million meeting rooms worldwide, only 7.8 percent are video-enabled, creating a poor experience for remote attendees.

Like you, we’re still learning, but in our experience hybrid meetings are key to building a successful work culture. When done well, hybrid meetings help everyone feel included and provide the environment and tools for better connections, collaborations, and productivity. We’ve identified three “ABC” practices most organizations can do now to enable inclusive meetings and create a solid foundation for a flexible work culture:

  1. Audio: To ensure everyone can be heard when speaking, use a Microsoft Teams certified speaker puck when the room doesn’t have a centralized A/V system.
  2. Bring your laptop: When you are in-person, bring your laptop and join the meeting with your camera on, and your microphone and audio-off. Everyone can participate via chats, live reactions, and raise hands, which has become a new meetings standard.
  3. Collaborate: Assign a meeting facilitator who is in the room for every hybrid meeting. The facilitator ensures participation and collaboration amongst all attendees by moderating the meeting chat, raise hands, and content to be directly shared through the Teams meeting.

As we all continue to learn and share practical guidance in this new world of work, let’s take a look at the latest features in Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 designed to support the diverse needs and work styles of employees no matter where they work.

Physical office spaces designed for all, not just for in-person attendees

In June, Microsoft announced new features designed to support inclusive hybrid meetings such as front row for Teams Rooms, a refreshed Teams experience on Surface Hub, and an enhanced Microsoft Whiteboard to enable visual collaboration whether or not you’re physically in the room together. Microsoft also recently announced the next wave in Teams Rooms innovation with a new category of intelligent cameras. There are three unique technologies that power this new category of intelligent cameras:

  • AI-powered active speaker tracking, enabling in-room cameras to use audio, facial movements, and gestures to detect who in the room is speaking, zooming in for a closer perspective.
  • Multiple video streams that allow in-room participants to be placed in their own video pane.
  • People recognition, which will identify and display the profile name of enrolled users within their video pane.

When intelligent cameras are paired with Dynamic View in Teams, you can deliver more equitable meeting experiences where everyone feels seen and represented. As people join the meeting, Teams automatically adjusts various elements of the meeting, so remote participants see the room and content with ease.

Remote meetings that are as effective as being in person

In the past, many chose to come into the office to deliver an important presentation, but Microsoft makes remote presentations as effective and immersive. Hybrid presentations are not just about delivering content, but also engaging the audience with non-verbal social cues like facial reactions and gestures. Cameo is a new PowerPoint experience that seamlessly integrates your Teams camera feed into your presentation, letting you customize how and where you want to appear on your slides and offering layout recommendations for optimal viewing. When it’s time to present, use PowerPoint Live in Teams for an immersive remote presentation. Cameo will start to roll out in early 2022.

Stay in the flow of work with Microsoft Teams

Flexibility comes from knowing that no matter where you work from, you are connected to your colleagues and work. The latest innovations in Teams bring your favorite applications and experiences together to help you remain efficient, focused, and connected in hybrid work.

With Microsoft Teams meetings and calling coming to Apple Car Play, you can now join Teams meetings and make calls hands-free on the road using Siri.

Microsoft Viva brings communication, knowledge, insights, and learning into the flow of work. With Viva Connections, you can stay informed of company news and resources directly from Teams. You can find personalized announcements, company conversations, and a dashboard of resources for actions like submitting a daily health check or expense reports.

Using Apps in Teams meetings empowers real-time interaction and makes collaboration more engaging and productive. You can now share and interact with app content in the meeting stage, enabling scenarios like real-time visual problem-solving and brainstorming.

Stay in the flow of work with Microsoft Teams

The shift to hybrid work is exciting but will be a challenge for every leader and organization. Organizations that embrace the change and incorporate flexibility into their operating models will create better and more inclusive work environments.

Learn more about our approach to Microsoft Teams.

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About Plow Networks

Plow Networks is a leading IT services provider, connecting businesses to technology since 2012. With deep expertise in network, cloud, and end user support services, we partner with clients to leverage technology in ways that simplify operations and fuel growth. Plow Networks is based in Brentwood, Tennessee.

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*This information is brought to you by our certified partner, Microsoft.