This past year has really shaken up the workplace and how people come together to collaborate and communicate in an all-digital remote way. Covid-19 accelerated companies roll-out plans for this new wave of digital workplace technology and has left many users scrambling to learn how to work in this new modern way.
I give Microsoft, and other companies, credit because they have done a lot to improve these platforms over the past year and provide people with tools and features to work better and smarter. With all these new features coming out so quickly it has been quite a challenge for companies training and learning development departments to keep up. This leads to people in the organization figuring out the tools on their own which leads to different areas or groups within an organization using the tool differently.
I have been using Microsoft Teams for many years now for a variety of uses cases but most notably as a collaboration hub (department, customer, project) and primary chat/meeting application. The following tips, tricks and guidance will focus on those use cases, as this is where I have seen the most differences in how people use the product. This also gives me a chance to introduce some additional shortcuts into your life.
Tips & Tricks
Do not disturb status
Have you ever been sharing your screen in a meeting and suddenly notifications start to pop up from Teams and now everyone on the call can see and read your messages? If you set your status to Do not disturb those notifications will no longer appear and the best thing about that is now Microsoft does this automatically for you if you are sharing your screen within Teams. However, if you find yourself having to use WebEx or Zoom for a meeting don’t forget to set your status to avoid those moments.
Edit a message or post
Have you ever been typing a message or new post and you go to create a new line, so you hit Enter and accidentally send the message to early? Did you know you can simply edit that message and pick up where you left off? If you are a fan of keyboard shortcuts, like I am, you can simply press Ctrl + Shift + Up Arrow and you will instantly be put into the editing experience for the last message/post you sent. If keyboard shortcuts are not your thing you can always hover over a post until you see the message toolbar and can click on the … (Ellipsis) and then Edit to make changes.
If you are like me and use the Enter key all the time, this tip is going to change the way you work and become a habit every time you start a new message or post. Simply press Ctrl + Shift + X and you will be taken into the formatting mode. No more having to use your mouse and clicking on the Format icon (A with a pencil) to format messages the way you would like.
Insert a hyperlink
This shortcut has saved me countless time and frustration, plus it has the added benefit of working in almost all the other Office products like Word, Outlook and even SharePoint Online. You can insert a new hyperlink or edit an existing on (just click on the link) by simply pressing: Ctrl + K, it is that easy.
If you haven’t noticed yet I really dislike having to navigate with a mouse and click on an icon to perform an action and if there is a keyboard shortcut I am going to find it and use it instead. These 3 keyboard shortcuts have been my go-to in meetings:
- Toggle Mute: Ctrl + Shift + M
- Raise or lower your hand: Ctrl + Shift + K
- Admit people from lobby notification: Ctrl + Shift + Y
Now these shortcuts work both in Teams meetings and even in one-to-one calls. Hopefully, they bring you as much joy as they bring me and save you some time while looking like a Teams pro.
Pin a post
You may be aware that you can pin a person in the Chat app or pin a channel in the Teams app to send them to the Pinned section for easy access but did you know that you can pin a post in a channel 🤯. You can then use the channel info icon in the top right to access them. This is a great way to easily get back to important post threads or even pin channel / team guidance for new members to easily find.
To pin a post simply hover over a post until you see the message toolbar and can click on the … (Ellipsis) and then Pin.
You will see a new pin icon on the post and when you click on the channel info icon, in the upper right-hand of the screen, you will see a new section with pinned posts.
Post in multiple channels
Countless times I have seen people post the same message or question in multiple channels across different teams even by copying their message and pasting it in as new post. Well Microsoft makes it easy to do all that work without the copy paste. Simply enter the formatting mode, Ctrl+Shift+X, and you will see a toolbar appear above the post and an option to Post in multiple channels.
Click that and you will see a To field appear with a button to select additional channels. It could not be any easier to share your post in multiple channels.
There are many different use cases and scenarios in which you may be using Teams to collaborate, communicate and simply work. There is no right-way to work within Teams but there are definitely processes / steps you can put in place / follow to have a better experience within the product.
- Define the use cases for a Team and set up clear ways of structuring, storing files, and working based on the use case. This will help to create a unified experience across the Teams and allow for people to quickly navigate and work across multiple Teams without having to learn how it done.
- Teams, like everything else, has a lifecycle and one should be defined so the Team and Resources are not sitting out there forever.
- Check before you create. Before you create a new team, check to see if one already exists that serves that purpose of intent for the Team you would like to create.
- Not everything needs a new channel. Channels should be thought of a way to break apart a larger team into logical segments of the team, so they have their own space to work.
- Leverage the general channel for use cases that require cross channel collaboration within a larger team. This helps to eliminate the need for those team members to have to constantly jump between channels to stay up to date.
- Set up a dedicated channel for casual posts / team bonding so that it does not dilute the purpose of the other channels.
- @ mention users within a post that you need a response from. This will be the queue they need to know you are waiting on them for a response.
- Note: I have seen people pick up the habit of adding CC: at the end of a post and @ mentioning folks so that they are aware of the post and get an alert in their Activity feed. This can either annoy people or be very beneficial, so I recommend having a discussion with the team about this practice to see how everyone feels.
- Implement a folder structure when you create a new Team or Channel, preferably one is defined based on your use case, so that the Files tab does not become a blackhole where no one can find any information.
- Rename tabs to the application they are. When you add a OneNote tab or Planner tab, they typically will name the tab the name of the notebook / section or plan name. This can create confusion and make users have to click on a tab to know what resource it is.
- Be pro-active and manage the way you are notified for the Teams you care the most about. Teams allows you the flexibility to customize how you are notified overall but even down to the channel level in each Team. Take control of how the application keeps you informed and do not feel like you need to engage and stay up to date in every team or channel you are a part of.
- Embrace the fun-ness Teams provides and use GIFs and Stickers in your messages and posts. We have enough troubles going on with a pandemic and rapid shift to work from home that these features can help bring joy and fun to our digital workplace.