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Disclosure: The following post is sponsored by Microsoft Teams, the new chat-based workspace in Office 365.
Whenever I interview potential employees, they are surprised to hear our distributed workforce has a tight-knit, family-feel culture.
We laugh together hundreds of miles apart.
We aren’t simply working on the same projects together. We improve processes, brainstorm about tasks, and frequently help one another.
But it can always be better. I’m constantly looking for ways to improve our employee experience.
Come Recommended isn’t alone in this respect. Inspired by the distributed workforce trend becoming popular worldwide, Microsoft launched Teams to change how people and teams accomplish work. Their goal? To reinvent productivity for mobile work by going beyond a traditional chat-based operating system.
“Teams is an entirely new experience. It brings together people, conversations, and content, along with the tools teams need to easily collaborate to achieve more,” said Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate VP for Office.
So we gave it a try. Following our experiment, here’s why I believe Microsoft Teams is the tool to beat:
Bringing teams together
Strong communication and connections are crucial for both Come Recommended’s culture and individual success. When my team is on the same page, we’re truly firing on all cylinders.
We’re not the only ones who believe employees hold the key to company success. In fact, a recent Raconteur study found 73 percent of North American business and IT leaders agreed that their organization would be more successful if “employees were able to work in more flexible and collaborative ways.”
Because Teams is an integrated part of Office 365, I became a document-sharing machine. No matter what type of document I set up — Word, Excel, or PowerPoint — I could notify my team without typing in 10 different email addresses.
Each person on the Come Recommended team works with multiple clients, which can get confusing if we’re not careful. Teams allowed us to separate editors, team leads, and content creators into multiple channels.
Keeping each conversation organized, streamlined, and separate allowed our team to discuss specific clients in a chatroom with only the team members working on that account.
Keep up the chatter
Without mobile chat capabilities, my team wouldn’t have freedom to work however and wherever works best for them.
I logged onto the mobile Teams app expecting to spend a good 15 to 20 minutes attempting to understand the setup. But it turns out the mobile app was a seamless experience.
The design and functionality is almost exactly the same as the desktop version, making it easier for everyone on my team to transition between the two — no matter how tech-challenged a few of us may be.
I thought I’d put the app to a true test when running out for an errand that day. Even when I’m out and about, I like to be available for any emergencies or urgent questions. An editor with a question about a client we were discussing earlier in the day not only could directly reach me, but also was able to reference our previous conversation, enabling me to answer her question quickly.
Even though it was great to be available for my team while I was out and about, a feature I’d like to see on mobile is being able to upload customer documents in case of an emergency. I found everything wasn’t exactly like the desktop version when someone tried to message a file from OneDrive while I was out and this would be a great addition.
Sleep in peace with tight security
Like many companies, Come Recommended’s virtual office is filled with sensitive customer information. With major hacks and security breaches all over the news, we are always concerned about keeping customers’ information safe — no matter where it is within our network.
Teams provides an extra layer of protection with a multi-factor authentication process, keeping our data safe. At moments when I would’ve felt uneasy about emailing customer information, I knew it was safe for my team to view all in one place in the cloud.
Know the differences
If you search for “Microsoft Teams,” you’ll find many articles comparing it to another popular chat-based app, Slack. The similarities in many of the features and design are obvious, but there are differences that make Teams stand out in the collaboration app crowd.
Aside from the seamless integration with Microsoft 365, Teams offers WhoBot — their version of a personal, highly-intelligent rolodex that answers questions about specific employees, searches your company’s intranet from within Teams, and seeks out personal information.
From there, WhoBot pulls up an employee’s department, manager, and entire organizational chart of who they report to in the company.
This feature isn’t extremely useful to Come Recommended because we’re a small company. However, in larger structures, I can see how WhoBot helps with both organization and communication efforts.
Another feature setting Teams apart from other chat-based systems is their Skype integration. In fact, during one of their brainstorming sessions, our content creators asked if I could hop on the video call and provide some feedback. I could see their call in my left-hand navigation bar, allowing me to jump right in.
I saved the best for last.
One of my favorite features in Teams is a custom meme generator and pre-made memes specific to the workplace. At Come Recommended, we’re always looking for new ways to express how we’re feeling to our remote co-workers. Despite being writers, words somehow never seem to be enough.
With the custom meme generator, we’re able to stay true to our company culture by keeping the work environment light, fun, and full of laughs.
One of our content creators takes pictures of the dogs on our team — yes, we consider them part of our team — and inserts jokes pertaining to the funny, or frustrating, topics of the day. After all, nothing brings a team together like custom dog memes.
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