Breakout Rooms, Tasks, Approvals, and More: Here’s a Look at What’s New in Microsoft Teams

written by Michael Anderson posted on March 8, 2021

Microsoft’s suite of programs, including Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams, has quickly become an invaluable tool for businesses in recent years. However, 2020 saw an unprecedented upswing in the adoption of Microsoft Teams, as it proved to be indispensable in helping businesses maintain communication and productivity as the COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to switch to a remote workforce. While Teams already provided countless features that helped employees to collaborate in a secure and productive environment no matter where they were, Microsoft has used the first months of 2021 to continually roll out new features and updates to Teams that have made this program more indispensable than ever before. In case you have not heard about the latest updates to Microsoft Teams, take a look at some of the newest features that have been added in order to ensure that you are getting the most out of this platform.

Breakout Rooms Have Been Introduced

A video conferencing feature many businesses have found essential throughout the pandemic is breakout rooms; however, they were previously unavailable in Teams. Fortunately, Microsoft has listened to its customers, and members now have the ability to create breakout rooms for their staff in large meetings.

Breakout rooms can be extremely beneficial by making large meetings more manageable and productive for your team. They allow you to easily divide your meetings into smaller groups, which can better facilitate discussions, brainstorming sessions, and group learning. This also makes it easy to divide tasks amongst a larger group that can then reconvene later to discuss their progress.

Breakout rooms in teams make it easy for organizers to jump between breakout rooms to check on progress, deliver announcements to all breakout rooms simultaneously, and bring all rooms back to the main meeting at the same time. Teams also helps keep everything from breakout rooms organized and easy to access later by making all meeting files, whiteboards, recordings, and transcripts available to the meeting’s organizer to review and use later. If you frequently conduct meetings in Teams, it is likely that you will quickly find breakout rooms to be an invaluable asset.

Connect Your Organization With Tasks Publishing

Another great feature Microsoft has added to Teams is task publishing. This allows corporate offices to better communicate with their workforce by creating tasks centrally at the corporate level and publish those tasks to different locations as needed. For instance, a large nationwide retailer can create a specific list of tasks meant to help stores reopen safely, send the list to specific locations that have been affected, and track the progress of assigned tasks in real-time. Managers can even assign sub-tasks to specific employees, making it simple to divvy up the work and keep track of who is in charge of what task. This can greatly improve efficiency and ensure that tasks are completed in a timely manner, as everyone will know what they are individually responsible for.

New Partnerships Simplify Scheduling

Microsoft Teams has also created new partnerships with Blue Yonder and Reflexis that have allowed them to add new workforce management tools to their platform. With this new integration, Teams customers now have access to a more unified workforce management solution that enables employees to see and swap shifts, review their upcoming schedules, and make changes to their schedule, all from within teams. It is now easier than ever before for staff and management alike to keep track of and control their schedule with new flexible workforce management tools in Teams.

Track and Manage Approvals Within Teams

Managing approvals has never been easier with Team’s new Approvals feature. Approvals makes it simple for you to create, share, and manage approvals right in teams from the same place you send chats, in a channel conversation, or in the Approvals app itself. All you have to do is select the type of approval you need, add details, attach files, and choose approvers. Once submitted, approvers are notified of the approval, and they will be able to review and act on the request as necessary.

Simplify Lists and Tasks

Newly added features to Teams now make it easier than ever for users to track, prioritize, and organize tasks, and access lists, on the go. While this feature is limited to Apple users, the new List mobile app for iOS provides users access to their lists with full functionality right on their iPhone. This makes it easier than ever for you to keep track of your lists as you can quickly reference, edit, or add to a list wherever you are. You can even create a new list from scratch in the app, or use a ready-made template, making it easy to stay organized.

For Android users who are worried about missing out on this feature, Microsoft says that they are working on an Android version and should have an update on its progress in the coming months. Of course, all Teams users now have access to To Do. Microsoft To Do will use AI to help you plan your day better and keep you focused on the tasks that matter most. AI will help you to identify critical tasks based and keywords and deadlines, helping you to stay on top of critical projects and maximize productivity.

New Features for Meetings

Microsoft’s latest round of updates also includes features that will make managing meetings simpler than ever. With new meeting chat moderation settings, meeting organizers and teachers can now choose from several chat settings that help to create safe and inclusive meeting environments. Meeting organizers can now disable chats, preventing the organizer and participants from using the meeting chat altogether. Alternatively, organizers can set chats to only be active during the meeting, ensuring the chat is only used when the organizer is present (the organizer, however, can send chats at any time). However, the default setting will be to have chats enabled, which will allow all meeting participants to use chats at any time.

As Microsoft Teams becomes increasingly integral to the way companies conduct business, Microsoft has done an excellent job at continually adding new features that allow their customers to get the most out of this platform as possible. If you are new to Teams, or you do not feel that you are getting the most out of it, feel free to contact us to learn about how Teams could be better benefiting your business.

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