Over the past few months, the future of work and education has been shaped before our eyes, as businesses look to implement a culture of flexible working moving forward.

Although widespread remote working was originally used as a social distancing measure, many organisations have been pleasantly surprised by their productivity levels during this period, encouraging some to make working from home a serious long-term option.

Of course, for this to be possible, organisations need Microsoft to continue making improvements to its popular collaborative platforms, like Microsoft Teams, so that employees can continue delivering high-quality results, despite being in different locations.

For this reason, Microsoft recently announced a range of exciting features aimed at making virtual interactions more natural, engaging, and human, so that they can act as a suitable replacement for face-to-face meetings.

In this blog, we’ve taken a closer look at some of the most significant changes and how they will streamline our client’s operations, while enhancing their remote working experience.

Together mode

According to Microsoft’s recent research, people feel less connected since moving to remote work, as they experience more fatigue during video meetings than during in-person collaboration.

With this being a common complaint of those organisations looking to reintroduce office working, Microsoft has taken steps to address this issue, with the introduction of Together mode.

This new Teams meeting experience uses AI segmentation technology to digitally place participants in a shared background, making it feel as though people are together in the same room, whether it’s for a meeting or class.

With this new technology, participants should feel more engaged, as they find it easier to pick up on non-verbal cues that are important for human interaction, making it ideal for board meetings or roundtable discussions.

Together mode with auditorium view is currently in the process of being rolled out and will be made generally available in August.

Dynamic view

Although Together mode offers an extraordinary meeting experience, it’s not always feasible to interact this way, especially for informal conversations or short briefings.

For most business users, traditional video meetings are perfect for contacting colleagues and clients, as participants feel more comfortable using the technology and do not intend to stay on the call long.

With that being said, there are still ways in which the experience can become more engaging and dynamic for users, which is why Microsoft have introduced dynamic view, giving users greater control over how they see shared content and other participants.

Using AI, meetings dynamically optimise shared content and video participants, offering users new controls, including the ability to show shared content alongside specific participants.

Dynamic view also builds on key features that were announced last month, including the large gallery view and virtual breakout rooms, which allow meeting organisers to split participants into smaller groups.

Reflect meeting extension

In Microsoft’s recent research, it was shown that employee wellbeing is more important to productivity than ever before, especially given the difficulties faced over the past few months.

Creating an emotionally supportive environment is key to keeping people happy and healthy, so Microsoft have introduced the Reflect messaging extension, which gives managers and teachers a way of seeing how their students and team are feeling.

Once the extension has been installed from GitHub, it can be made available to employees in the message extension, providing users with questions in a poll-like experience that can be used to gain valuable information.

Managers and teachers can also make these poll results anonymous if they feel it would encourage participants to answer truthfully.

Live reactions, speaker attribution and transcripts

As mentioned previously, it’s not always easy to spot non-verbal clues like smiles and head nods during online meetings, especially if an interrupted connection is affecting the picture quality.

For meeting organisers, this can be a problem in the sense they are not able to fully gauge audience reactions without interrupting the meeting flow. In response to this, Microsoft will soon be introducing live reactions, allowing participants to send emojis that will appear to all participants.

Meanwhile, the company has also built on its live captions service, which helps people follow along with what is being said. Soon, speaker attribution to captions will be introduced, so everyone is aware of who is speaking.

Later this year, live transcripts will also be rolled out, giving employees a permanent record of what has been said. After the meeting has ended, the transcript file will automatically be saved in a tab as part of the meeting.

Collaborate with ease…

Whilst the past few months have been extremely difficult for businesses and their employees, it has also proved that collaboration and communication can be made possible through over methods.

Now, with Microsoft Teams experiencing record usership, it seems many organisations are willing to give remote working a chance long-term, which is a positive sign for workers who favour flexibility.

To make this possible, Microsoft is doubling down on its efforts to improve the online meeting experience, implementing features that make online interactions seem more natural.

If you haven’t experienced the power of Microsoft Teams for yourself yet, then contact our in-house team and find a solution that meets the unique needs of your business.