Any hope that 2021 would bring some normality to working life has been extinguished, as the current lockdown restrictions show no signs of easing, with entire workforces encouraged to work from home for the foreseeable future.

This means that platforms and services like Microsoft Teams are more important than ever, as they facilitate collaboration and communication between colleagues in different locations.

For this reason, businesses should keep a close eye on the latest update cycles, so they can get a good understanding of the new and exciting features that will enhance the remote working experience for employees.

From new chat and collaboration features, that are designed to improve productivity even without a network connection, to enhanced meeting chat moderation settings that allow organisers to set specific meeting rules, January’s Teams update cycle featured a range of exciting changes.

In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most significant updates and analyse their impact on new and existing users.


As already mentioned, meeting organisers and teachers can now choose from three chat settings to help create a safe and inclusive meeting environment. With this update, chats can be ‘disabled’ to prevent participants from using chat features, which may be suitable for online training courses or classes.

Meanwhile, the ‘only during the meeting’ option can be used to restrict messages to a certain time period, whilst allowing the organiser to use chat features at any time. The ‘enabled’ setting lifts these restrictions entirely, so participants can communicate whenever they want.

Another key update is the ability to add a shared calendar to a Teams channel, which will automatically update to include details of upcoming events, as and when new channel meetings are created. Users with notifications turned off will see the event in the channel’s calendar and they have the option to add it to their own personal calendar if needed.

This feature means that all members within the channel will have visibility to upcoming events, which is an important feature in ensuring people don’t miss important meetings during a period of remote working.

Chat and collaboration

With face-to-face interactions temporarily limited due to the Covid-19 restrictions, seeking approval or sign off from colleagues can be more difficult in the current working environment. For this reason, Teams has added a new ‘approvals’ feature that will streamline the entire process, so that actions can go ahead without delays.

Users can quickly start an approval flow from the same place they chat, in a channel conversation, or from the approvals app itself. Just select an approval type, add details, attach files and choose which people you want to review and approve the work. Once submitted, approvers are notified and can act upon the request.

The approvals tab is located on the left side of the Teams dashboard, and when accessed, users can handle approvals requests from SharePoint, Power Automate and Microsoft Dynamics 365. From this hub, users can also send their own approval requests if needed.

Another key update is offline autosend, which allows users to create and edit messages without an internet connection, so that when they’re back online, the messages will be automatically delivered to colleagues without the need to manually press send. This means users can continue to work productively, without missing or forgetting important communications due to a lack of internet connection.

Compliance capabilities

Included in January’s update cycle, were a range of Microsoft 365 compliance capabilities that are now generally available for Adaptive Card content. Being platform-agnostic, Adaptive Cards are the preferred vehicles for sharing information between Teams and other apps.

Legal hold is one such compliance capability, that allows users to automatically preserve Adaptive Card content generated through apps in Teams conversations. When a reasonable expectation of litigation exists, it may be necessary for businesses to save electronically stored information, including Teams messages that are relevant to the case.

Another capability worth noting is eDiscovery, which allows Microsoft Teams messages, including Adaptive Card content, to be searched and exported if such evidence is needed in legal proceedings. With this update, selecting Teams as a location in Core or Advanced eDiscovery workflows will now automatically include card content.

Finally, retention policies that are designed to help businesses effectively manage their sensitive information can now be used to include card content in addition to Teams chat and file content. These policies ensure that sensitive information is safely secured, whilst deleting the data that’s considered a liability or is no longer needed.

Collaborating in the current climate…

With many experts warning that the current restrictions could be in place for another few months while the vaccine is rolled out, it’s crucial that organisations implement systems that make collaboration easier, despite the ongoing challenges.

Of course, working from home is far from ideal, but with services like Microsoft Teams, it needn’t be an uphill struggle, as employees can benefit from a range of online communication features that make the remote working experience more efficient.

With monthly update cycles designed to address any ongoing issues, Microsoft are constantly looking for ways to improve the service, making changes in direct response to customer feedback.

If your business is yet to implement Teams for its employees, then contact our in-house team of experts and find a solution that meets your unique requirements.