Here at Onebridge, our teams are working from home to reduce the risk of contagion. This trend was already on the rise before the pandemic and will continue to be popular across the world. One of the most effective tools our teams have used to enable remote work is Microsoft Teams. Microsoft recently made Teams available for free to support remote workers during this swift transition.
Below, we’ll share:
- How to get free access to Microsoft Teams.
- Our best tips for using Teams to make remote work easier and more effective.
- Additional Microsoft tools to consider.
- How to get training for your employees to begin using Teams.
Free Access to Microsoft Teams
Microsoft recently announced they are offering free access to Microsoft Teams premium tier for six months to support remote work due to the coronavirus outbreak. Microsoft already has a freemium level of Teams, but it has limitations on video calls and conferencing. These restrictions have been lifted and Microsoft is also providing a free Office 365 E1 trial license.
Here’s how to access Teams:
- If you have an email address through work or school, sign in using this link.
- If you’re using an email address like Gmail or Outlook, you can sign up for the freemium version of Teams by following this link.
- If you work for a business that isn’t currently licensed for Teams, you can get a free Office 365 E1 offer for six months. You can contact Onebridge if you need help getting started. The same offer is available in the Government Cloud, but not available in GCC High and the Department of Defense.
- If you work in education and want to set up teachers, students, and administrators on Teams, use Office 365 A1. This free version of Office 365 is available to all educational institutions. Sign up by following this link.
The prices of Power BI Robots and Power BI Tiles Pro have also been reduced by 30% to allow organizations to report remotely. Just use the discount code STAYHOME when purchasing.
Using Microsoft Teams to Empower Great Remote Work
Microsoft Teams is designed to empower remote teams to collaborate closely. It is a chat-based workspace that makes it easy to host meetings, have conversations, and share files.
Teams allows you to:
- Co-create content and deliverables
- Manage project plans and timelines
- Share files to give/get feedback
- Make quick decisions
The best thing about Microsoft Teams is that you can find everything you need in one place, any time and on any device.
According to a Gallup poll, while remote employees are generally more productive and engaged in their work, they can sometimes feel disconnected from colleagues. That means that tools to enable highly collaborative and communicative work are more important than ever. With Microsoft Teams acting as the nerve center for all information, documents, and communication needed to stay productive, workers don’t have to spend time figuring out the easiest and best way to get work done remotely. All the critical components to enable remote work are built-in and ready to use.
Workers can also use the Microsoft Teams app for both PC and mobile devices, as well as within a web browser. At Onebridge, we use Teams daily to securely meet and share files. The whiteboarding feature is a great tool for facilitating communication and brainstorming, and the ability to record meetings and then search through those recordings makes it easier to stay organized and on track with team expectations. We also get a lot of use out of the add-on for Teams that enables voice and video calls. It integrates so seamlessly with Outlook email and Teams chats that you can make calls and meet virtually with the click of a single button.
Here are our favorite tips for getting the most out of Microsoft Teams:
#1 Have virtual meetings with people inside and outside the organization.
The next time you schedule a meeting in Teams or Microsoft Outlook, just include the email address of your external guests. Teams will take care of sending an email invitation with instructions on how to join your online meeting. Your external guest can click on the link, enter their name, and join the meeting from their browser without installing or downloading anything.
In the meeting, Teams offers several tools to help participants feel included, focus their attention and engage fully with the meeting. Examples include high-fidelity audio and video, live captions, rich real-time co-authoring with Office 365 apps, digital whiteboard, and distraction-free backgrounds. Even when you are using the most advanced features for Teams meetings, it’s easy for external guests to join without an Office 365 account. They can join using the Teams app or through most web browsers because Teams has full WebRTC support for meetings and calling. For anyone without a fully supported browser, there is a lightweight meeting join experience.
After the meeting, all the related assets (like the recording of the meeting, chat, meeting notes, digital whiteboard, transcript, and shared files) are saved in a persistent conversation that helps the team continue the discussion, stay on task, and drive work forward. It’s easy to review the recording of the meeting. You can search for keywords and jump to the point in the recording where a specific topic was discussed.
#2 Offer dial-in options to make easier for guests to join from anywhere.
These days, it’s sometimes necessary to get creative about when, where, and how you get work done. If meeting participants are on the go, don’t have access to the internet, or prefer to dial in to a meeting, you can ensure these meetings remain inclusive. Users who are enabled for Audio Conferencing will automatically see dial-in instructions added to their Teams meeting invitations. Clicking on the dial-in number from a mobile phone will automatically launch the phone dialer, dial the number, and even enter the conference bridge, making joining meetings easy and fast – no memorizing conference IDs or other numbers.
#3 Maintain control over your meetings.
Teams meeting organizers have many options for defining roles and permissions of online meeting participants. Options include enabling a meeting lobby, which lets you define who is admitted into the meeting and when. You can also choose who can present, mute attendees, start/stop recording, and more.
#4 Increase engagement with face-to-face video conversations.
Meeting online with video helps your employees stay connected and feel less remote from one another. Unless you’re hosting very large meetings and want to conserve bandwidth, encourage video meetings to facilitate engagement and a sense of team togetherness. Participants may find it helpful to turn on background blur to make it easier for colleagues focus on them rather than distractions in the background.
#5 Use flexible sharing options for easier collaboration.
When sharing content in Teams meetings, you can control what others can see. You can decide whether you want to show your entire desktop or just one window. If someone is sharing their desktop or an application, you can request the presenter to give you control. File sharing outside of meetings is simple and easy, as well. No more searching through shared folders or email attachments. Your team can set up their own workspace to collaborate on documents and compile resources.
#6 You can still whiteboard – even while remote.
Whiteboarding is one of the most productive tools available during in-person meetings. Microsoft Whiteboard is integrated with every Teams meeting, so guests can contribute to the conversation just as easily as they would in person. Whiteboard sessions are saved as part of every meeting and available for future use and reference – no more taking photos of the board with your mobile phone before leaving the meeting!
#7 Never miss a detail again, whether you attend the meeting or not.
It can be difficult to coordinate schedules in the best of times, so it’s critical to have meeting recordings available afterward for those who couldn’t make it. With Teams, the recorded meeting is stored in the cloud and a link provided in the meeting chat. Participants can search the meeting transcript and jump to specific points in time during the conversation/presentation. Even if you made it to the meeting, this automatically generated transcript is incredibly useful when you need to recall parts of the discussion. This capability is great for preventing details from falling through the cracks.
#8 Kids being too loud? Follow along with meeting captions.
Microsoft offers a unique feature that allows meeting participants to turn on live captions and read subtitles in real-time. This is game-changing for those who are hard of hearing, have different levels of language proficiency, or are connecting from a loud location. Live captions are currently available in English for users located in the United States.
#9 Enable clear communication with high-quality video and audio.
There is a full portfolio of Teams-certified devices available to ensure you look and sound clear with high quality video and audio.
#10 Add a Power BI Tab to Teams.
If you use Power BI for business analytics, you can add a Power BI report as a tab in Teams. One thing to keep in mind is that you'll need to give your team members permissions to access the report in Power BI. Here are the steps:
- Click Add a tab Add button next to the tabs in a channel or chat, then select Power BI.
- Add a name to the Tab name field and select your Power BI workspace from the Workspace menu.
- If there aren't any Power BI reports already in the workspace, click Power BI to create one.
- If you have access to an existing report in the workspace, add it by clicking it and then clicking Save.
Training Your Employees on Microsoft Teams
Onebridge is a Microsoft Partner, and our experts understand every aspect of Teams and other Microsoft offerings inside and out. When it comes to implementing these tools for your business, we can facilitate a fast and effective rollout with expert training for your teams.
Additional Microsoft Tools for Enabling Remote Work
Microsoft Intune is a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution that helps your business quickly set up computers or laptops in the home for users without the need for a visit to a physical office. Key applications are loaded remotely but controlled centrally.
Microsoft Power BI can provide insights and signals into how your business is performing in a remote work environment. Power BI is a business analytics solution that lets you visualize your data and share insights across your organization or embed them in your app or website. Connect, model, and then explore your data with visual reports that you can collaborate, publish, and share. Power BI integrates with other tools, including Microsoft Excel, so you can get up to speed quickly and work seamlessly with your existing Microsoft solutions.
Committed to Helping You Make A Smooth Transition to Remote Work
Adjusting to remote work can be a challenge. We understand, and we can help you meet that challenge with the right tools and training. Whatever your needs, we’re in this together, and we remain available and committed to helping organizations stay connected and productive.