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3 ways to meet new hybrid expectations with Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365

Article By Nicole Herskowitz  (Vice President, Microsoft Teams)

Five years ago, we embarked on an exciting journey with Microsoft Teams to build a hub for collaboration and teamwork. Video meetings were not the workplace norm, but it was clear from the beginning that the combination of asynchronous and synchronous collaboration in a single product presented a unique opportunity to reimagine how we work, learn, and connect with others.

As we reflect on this milestone, we want to pause and say thank you to our customers and partners who have inspired us to do our best work. From hospitals to schools to non-profits and commercial enterprises, we’re humbled that so many of you use Teams to achieve your goals.

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Today, more than 270 million people rely on Teams for hybrid work. Over 50 percent of organizations have standardized on Teams, according to a recent Morgan Stanley chief information officer (CIO) survey. With the shift from remote to hybrid work, active Teams Rooms devices more than doubled year over year, and Teams Phone now has nearly 80 million active users. From the office to the frontline worker, Teams supports every employee. In fact, usage of Teams by frontline workers has doubled year over year.

Our work is far from over. We continue to listen, learn, and innovate to enable every organization to thrive in the new world of work. With insights from today’s release of our 2022 Work Trend Index, it’s never been more apparent the ways we work and the expectations we have from work are dramatically different than just two years ago, and our solutions need to evolve, too.

Today, we are announcing new product innovations designed to help make hybrid work work. Whether it’s creating more engaging meeting experiences, enabling collaboration with external partners or customers, or giving you the flexibility to work on your terms, these new features and solutions address the new expectations people have for the workplace.

Let’s dive in.

1. Reimagine the office experience

After two years of hybrid and remote work, our data shows the office still matters for workers and managers. However, business leaders will need to rethink both physical spaces and cultural norms to make office time worth the commute. This means being intentional about the who, why, and where of in-person gatherings and ensuring physical spaces are designed to help hybrid teams feel connected and engaged.

In our survey, 38 percent of hybrid employees say their biggest challenge is knowing when and why to come into the office, while only 28 percent of companies have established team agreements about who will be working from where. 

To help coordinate your office time with your team, we are updating Outlook to allow you to RSVP to meetings and note whether you plan to join in person or virtually. These new RSVP options will be available in public preview in Outlook on the web in the second quarter of 2022.

We are updating Outlook to allow you to R S V P to meetings and note whether you plan to join in person or virtually.

For those joining hybrid meetings from within a conference room, we’re making it easier and less distracting to establish a personal presence with new enhancements to the companion device experience for Teams Rooms. Today, when you join a meeting in Teams Rooms with your personal device, your audio is automatically turned off to avoid feedback. Soon, you’ll be prompted to turn your laptop video on so you can be clearly seen by remote participants no matter where you are in the room. To avoid distractions, your video will be hidden from the front-of-room screen as well as from the gallery of people joining from companion devices in the room. These enhancements will be generally available in the second quarter of 2022. Learn more from our Tech Community blog, Elevating hybrid experiences with Microsoft Teams Rooms and Teams devices.

In a Teams meeting on a laptop, in-room attendees' video shrinks from the gallery, bringing others' video to larger view.

To bridge the gap between digital and physical workspaces, we’re introducing a new meeting layout for Teams Rooms called front row. Designed specifically for hybrid meetings, it brings the video gallery to eye level at the bottom of the screen so people in the meeting room can see remote colleagues in a more natural face-to-face interaction—similar to as if they were in the same physical space. Content is centred on the screen and surrounded by additional meeting information and attendee sentiment, including chat, raised hands, and live reactions. Front row is now available in preview, with enhanced features to follow later this year. Learn more about front row for Teams.

We’ve been working to bring the latest Microsoft experiences built for hybrid work—across Teams, Microsoft 365, Windows, and Whiteboard—to Surface Hub 2S, a collaborative canvas and meetings device certified for Microsoft Teams. Remote team members now have a dynamic view of in-room interactions, thanks to the new AI-powered Microsoft Surface Hub 2 Smart Camera. Automatic framing technology within the device dynamically adjusts the view of the room, reframing when someone leaves, more people come in, or a person interacts with content on the display. Surface Hub 2 Smart Camera is now available. Learn more from our Devices blog.

Being seen and heard is essential to an inclusive meeting environment, as is being able to collaborate seamlessly. New touch-enabled display solutions for Teams Rooms from Neat and Yealink are in the process of being certified for Teams Rooms on Android and will be available in the second quarter of 2022. These devices combine audio, video, touch display, and compute in a single unit—allowing for easy deployment and enhanced collaboration experiences. Learn more from our new Tech Community blog

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2. Make every meeting matter

We gather trillions of data points to understand how work is changing. Weekly time spent in meetings increased over 250 percent since March 2020. At the same time, more flexible collaboration patterns are emerging as employees are reshaping their days. Meetings are getting shorter and more ad hoc. Users are turning to asynchronous channels like chat to get work done.

We are committed to enabling new ways to work. Whether it’s empowering presenters to be their best, or enabling asynchronous collaboration across different time zones, our goal is to create inclusive and engaging experiences, make your meetings efficient, and ensure everyone sees the impact of your work.

In September 2021, we announced cameo, the 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. It also offers layout recommendations through Designer in PowerPoint for optimal viewing. Cameo will be generally available in the second quarter of 2022.

We recently released recording studio, which allows you to record your presentation in PowerPoint and deliver on-demand video, enabling your team to consume content on their terms. PowerPoint recording studio is now generally available.

Today, we’re announcing that we’re bringing cameo and recording studio together. You’ll now be able to seamlessly create and produce your presentations, decide how and where you want your video to appear on your slides with cameo, and then record yourself speaking to any slide with recording studio. When it’s time to deliver your message, share your presentation with PowerPoint Live in Teams, whether or not you’re attending the meeting. The combined cameo and recording studio experience will be available in the second quarter of 2022.

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It’s not easy to be in the spotlight. It’s especially challenging to deliver impactful presentations without an in-person audience. Speaker coach in Microsoft Teams, which is coming in the second quarter of 2022, uses AI to privately provide guidance on your pace, notify you if you are interrupting someone, and remind you to check in with your audience.

To make sure the impact of your words doesn’t get lost, we are announcing Language interpretation, which allows live interpreters to convert what the speaker says into another language in near real-time. The meeting organizer will be able to assign interpreters from their participant list and select up to 16 source and target language combinations, while attendees will hear the interpretation with the original audio playing at a lower volume in the background. Language interpretation will be generally available in the second quarter of 2022.

Meetings often serve as collaboration spaces to ideate and solve problems as a team. Microsoft Whiteboard in Teams has evolved to become a valuable visual collaboration workspace where groups come together for effective hybrid brainstorming and learning. It offers a rich set of capabilities that bring visual collaboration to life in Teams, including collaboration cursors, more than 50 new templates, contextual reactions, and the ability to open existing boards and collaborate with external colleagues in Teams meetings. These features will be generally available in the second quarter of 2022. 

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3. Collaborate and communicate – your way

More than 50 percent of hybrid workers are considering going fully remote in the year ahead, according to our data. With that demand for more flexibility and mobility, the days of a fixed desk phone in a fixed office are over.

Teams Phone will soon offer a truly mobile-first experience with Operator Connect Mobile in partnership with some of the world’s most innovative telecom operators including BT, Rogers, Swisscom, Telia, and Verizon. This gives you one phone number for your desk number and your mobile number, no matter what network or device you’re on. You also can move calls across networks and devices with no interruptions—as you’re transitioning from your cellular service while on the go to your office Wi-Fi, for example. Operator Connect Mobile for Teams Phone will enter preview next quarter with select operator partners. To learn more, check out the Operator Connect Mobile announcement blog.

Teams Connect is designed for seamless, secure, and easy-to-use collaboration across organizational boundaries, allowing everyone to work as one extended team while staying in their own Teams environment. In late 2021, we announced Teams Connect shared channels, which help enable collaboration with people inside and outside your organization from a shared workspace. For example, a team working on a new product will be able to share a Teams channel with an external design team to create one joint workspace across organizations. Everyone can communicate, schedule a meeting, share files, and collaborate on apps without switching accounts. Shared channels for Teams Connect will enter preview starting at the end of March 2022. To learn more and try out shared channels, read the Microsoft Teams Connect shared channels blog.

With Microsoft Teams Connect shared channels, multiple organizations can now work together as one team in a shared workspace for seamless collaboration.

To effectively create and collaborate, we need a way to bring distributed information, documents, and teams together. In January 2022, we launched Loop components in Teams chat, offering a new way to ideate, create, and make decisions together. Today, we are introducing Loop components in Outlook mail. Now you can brainstorm, complete action items, and get the latest status from your team without having to switch context or apps. A single component can be updated at the same time whether you are in Teams or Outlook. To get access to the latest Loop components in Outlook, sign up to become an Office Insider.

Our data also shows that positive culture ranks as the number one thing employees want companies to provide, followed by mental health and well-being benefits. A new world of work requires technology to bring company culture to life—digitally. 

Today, we’re announcing the Inspiration library, a new feature available in preview through the Viva Insights app in Teams. The Inspiration library turns insights into action with access to curated content and best practices from top sources like Harvard Business Review and Thrive. The productivity and well-being insights delivered by Viva Insights are enhanced by premium content focused on driving better employee experiences and boosting engagement. The Inspiration library preview will begin rolling out to Microsoft 365 users with the Microsoft Viva Insights app in Teams later in March 2022 and will be available worldwide in 11 supported languages by the end of April 2022. Pin the Viva Insights app in Teams and learn more about the Inspiration library.

The Inspiration library, available in preview through the Viva Insights app in Teams, helps customers turn insights into action with access to thought leadership.

Finally, a common challenge of remote and hybrid work is maintaining social capital: the network of relationships that enables people and organizations to thrive. While creating friendships and relationships can be challenging in the hybrid work environment, we are investing in tools that help you express yourself and have fun while doing it.

Now you can bring even more of your personality to the conversation with the new Fluent emojis in Teams. With vibrant and fun styling, over 1800 three-dimensional emojis can infuse expression and playfulness into messages. Select a category and use the skin tone selector to pick an emoji that better represents you. Fluent emojis are now available in preview.

Bring playfulness and vibrancy to your messages with the new fluent emojis.

Looking ahead

While so much has changed about work, one thing remains constant: people are at the centre. With technologies like Microsoft Teams supporting people, we can make hybrid work really work by bringing everyone—and everything—together.

We want to again thank our customers and partners who have been with us every step of the way over the last five years. To celebrate with us, look for the new custom backgrounds on Teams and check out our anniversary community blog for the behind-the-scenes on how Teams came to life.

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