Microsoft Teams: The Ultimate Guide for Remote Work

Organizations worldwide have shifted to remote work in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, many of them were not prepared for such a significant change in their day-to-day operations. Even for those that are equipped with the right technology, they may not fully understand how to implement it. Microsoft Teams has been a game changer for many companies, as evidenced by its nearly 44 million users today.

That’s up from 20 million daily active users in November. For users already familiar with other Microsoft offerings, utilizing Teams is a no-brainer. This is especially true for those who have Office 365 – sorry, the soon-to-be-rebranded Microsoft 365 – in place already. It’s a powerful platform for enriching collaboration and communication, and it allows operations to continue in a safe and secure virtual environment.

Getting started with Microsoft Teams

Go straight to the source

If you want a quick reference guide for implementation, download the Teams Quick Start Guide from Microsoft.

Install the desktop version

Have your users install the desktop client. Microsoft has advised that the desktop client will deliver a better performance than a web client if there are any bandwidth restrictions or networking issues.

Tip: The mobile app is also great and has almost all the features of the desktop app.

Stay secure

Microsoft Teams leverages the security capabilities of the 365 platform – keeping your corporate data secure. Some of the security features include:

  • Data loss prevention to prevent data-matching patterns you define from entering or leaving Microsoft Teams. This could include SSNs, credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers or any other sensitive data.
  • Powerful access controls to control who can do what in Microsoft Teams. Restrict logins from IP addresses associated with botnets, control access from geographical regions, require multi-factor authentication – and much more.
Authenticate less frequently

Microsoft Teams has much less in the way of authentication prompts than some other platforms. In most instances, users can sign in once and stay logged in until their next password change. It’s just as secure, without all the hassle. 

Know your admin capabilities

The Admin Center in Teams streamlines admin duties. You can control who can set up teams or make changes – or just limit the available features for any given channel. Set restrictions that work with your organization’s communication and security policies.

Tip: Teams can be archived from the Admin Center. We recommend writing a Microsoft Flow to automatically archive a team that has no activity over the last 120 days.

Train your users

Make sure your users are empowered to securely and efficiently collaborate with each other and with guests. Without governance, users can create excess teams, channels and content, making it more difficult to track. For a successful deployment, strike a balance between control and freedom – and offer training opportunities for users to have clarity on best practices for using Teams features. Key topics we’ve found to benefit users the most:

  • Using teams and channels
  • Managing notifications
  • When to use Teams, and when to use email

Communicating

There are many ways to communicate within the Teams platform. There is the obvious Chat option on the left sidebar, as well as the ability to make comments in the lower-level Conversations tab to the group.

Tip: You can notify a specific person with an @mention by typing @ and then their name

Set up your teams and channels

Teams allows you to set up various, well, teams. A team is a one-stop collection of people, conversations, files and tools. Within each team you have channels, which are like a breakout within a team, dedicated to a department or topic. Depending on your organization and the number of employees, there are different ways people choose to organize their teams, including:

  • A single all-company team divided into several channels for each business function
  • A team for each department, with multiple channels for projects
Meet with others

It’s simple to set up group meetings in Teams, both privately and for channel meetings. You can also record and save meetings to the Conversations tab for later viewing. Meetings are integrated with Outlook and can be joined with one click.

Tip: Use the background blur option while working from home so everyone can focus on the meeting, not the background

Have fun with your team

There are a few other helpful Teams-specific communication tips for remote work:

  • Set a status message in Teams to help clearly communicate your working hours
  • Pin your favorite 1:1 or group chats so they always appear on the left
  • Have fun with memes and GIFs
Get the notifications you want

There are a ton of ways to control how you get notified about posts or messages. If you find yourself getting interrupted too often, you can choose to only be notified at certain times, or for certain content. If it’s more important that you catch everything, there are powerful notification options for that as well.

Collaborating

Teams is a great platform for remote collaboration, particularly because of how easy it is to integrate other Microsoft and third-party apps. Teams automatically sets up a few tabs (like Conversation and Files) for any channel that you create, but you can quickly access other apps to suit your team’s needs. This includes easy access to SharePoint, OneNote, Planner, and more.

Enhance your capabilities

There are hundreds of helpful integrations for Teams, with thousands of potential use-cases. For example, you can use the RSS feed to post to a channel whenever Microsoft releases product news. You can also link a Teams channel to Salesforce to notify members when an important deal needs attention. Developing custom integrations takes relatively little effort, making the automation and integration capabilities of Teams nearly endless.

Access the Office suite

A major benefit to Teams is its integration with the Microsoft Office suite. On any channel, you have built-in access to the Office apps, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Your team can easily co-author documents – or add an integrated OneNote page to store project or team-related notes. Teams has contextual chat, letting your team chat about a file or document, keeping the chat section of a team uncluttered and focused on the topic at hand.

Plan together

On a basic level, Teams makes it easy to search for content, files and people. If you integrate Microsoft Planner, though, you have access to a great project management tool. The integrated Planner board allows you to create channel-relevant tasks and delegate them to members. You can create and assign tasks, add attachments, checklists, or any other detail you might think of.

Keep projects in one place

Teams provides a centralized hub for each project. Whether it’s the project Plans, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, or other document types – Teams makes it easy to house all content related to a project in one place.

Tip: You can pin any website (or SharePoint page) to a tab in a channel

Work as a team

Some bonus tips for collaborating in real time as a team:

  • File share in a chat
  • Add comments next to files, or comment within a file itself
  • Create a OneNote that everyone can read and edit as desired
  • Use the Microsoft Whiteboard app for large brainstorms
  • Easily onboard guest users from external organizations

The all-around, versatile solution

Teams is a Swiss Army knife of collaboration and communication. Working from home lately, we have all had the opportunity to use a variety of tools – and each has useful features depending on your needs. However, we can safely say that Microsoft Teams offers a complete experience for any organization.

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