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Brace yourselves: Hybrid work is hard. Here’s how Microsoft Teams and Office 365 can help

The shift to remote work over the last 18 months is one of the most significant changes in work culture since the Industrial Revolution. To understand how this change is impacting our customers and Microsoft employees, we’ve been conducting regular research and internal surveys. As reported in our recent Work Trend Index, survey data shows that in a year where we sent 160,000 people home to work and remotely onboarded 25,000 new employees, the percentage of Microsoft employees who report feeling included is at an all-time high of 90 percent.

But there’s no guarantee this trend will continue in the increasingly complex world of hybrid work. For starters, employee expectations have changed. Last year’s Work Trend Index report showed that while 73 percent of employees want the option to continue to work remotely, 67 percent want more in-person engagement. This hybrid work paradox is our new normal, and our ability to come together will be challenging without preparation.

As employees settle into a mode where they’re splitting time between in-person and remote work, most organizations are not prepared. Hybrid work is hard. Remote attendees are finding themselves unseen and unheard. In-person attendees want to be inclusive but are not equipped to run effective hybrid meetings. A glaring example: conference rooms, spaces where the majority of hybrid meetings will be happening, do not have the right hardware, software, or furniture to facilitate hybrid meetings effectively. According to Frost & Sullivan1, out of the nearly 90 million meeting rooms worldwide, only 7.8 percent are video-enabled, creating a poor experience for remote attendees.

Like you, we’re still learning, but in our experience hybrid meetings are key to building a successful work culture. When done well, hybrid meetings help everyone feel included and provide the environment and tools for better connections, collaborations, and productivity. We’ve identified three “ABC” practices most organizations can do now to enable inclusive meetings and create a solid foundation for a flexible work culture:

  1. Audio: To ensure everyone can be heard when speaking, use a Microsoft Teams certified speaker puck when the room doesn’t have a centralized A/V system (see our IT guide for must-do technology).
  2. Bring your laptop: When you are in-person, bring your laptop and join the meeting with your camera on, and your microphone and audio-off. Everyone can participate via chats, live reactions, and raise hands, which has become a new meetings standard.
  3. Collaborate: Assign a meeting facilitator who is in the room for every hybrid meeting. The facilitator ensures participation and collaboration amongst all attendees by moderating the meeting chat, raise hands, and content to be directly shared through the Teams meeting. 

As we all continue to learn and share practical guidance in this new world of work, Microsoft remains committed to investing in hybrid innovation. Let’s take a look at the latest features in Microsoft Teams and Office 365 designed to support the diverse needs and work styles of employees no matter where they work.

Physical office spaces designed for all, not just for in-person attendees

In June, we announced new features designed to support inclusive hybrid meetings such as front row for Teams Rooms, a refreshed Teams experience on Surface Hub, and an enhanced Microsoft Whiteboard to enable visual collaboration whether or not you’re physically in the room together. Today, we’re announcing the next wave in Teams Rooms innovation with a new category of intelligent cameras. There are three unique technologies that power this new category of intelligent cameras:

  • AI-powered active speaker tracking, enabling in-room cameras to use audio, facial movements, and gestures to detect who in the room is speaking, zooming in for a closer perspective.
  • Multiple video streams that allow in-room participants to be placed in their own video pane.
  • People recognition, which will identify and display the profile name of enrolled users within their video pane.

When intelligent cameras are paired with Dynamic View in Teams, you can deliver more equitable meeting experiences where everyone feels seen and represented. As people join the meeting, Teams automatically adjusts various elements of the meeting, so remote participants see the room and content with ease. Through our close partnership with industry-leading partners including Jabra, Neat, Poly, and Yealink, these features will be available to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the coming months and rolled out as updates over the course of the next year. Learn more on our Tech Community blog.

To help individuals in meeting rooms contribute more dynamically, we’re updating companion mode in Teams mobile to give in-room attendees quick access to engagement features like chat, live reactions, and Microsoft Whiteboard. In addition, we are making it easier to access meeting and device controls, like the ability to join a meeting, cast a PowerPoint, mute the room, turn room cameras on and off, and more. The updated companion mode experience will be available in the next few months.

Meeting planning and collaboration will be easier too. New features in Outlook capture details about when and where teammates are working, and how they will join meetings. The redesigned Working hours will allow you to include work schedule specifics directly in your calendar, so others can know when and where you’ll be working. The new RSVP feature lets people specify whether they will attend a meeting in-person or online so the meeting planners can best prepare by booking a room with video conferencing resources or bringing a speaker puck. New hybrid work experiences in Outlook will start rolling out early next year.

The hot desking experience on Microsoft Teams displays allows people to locate and reserve flexible workspaces in the office. Book a space from the device or in advance using Outlook or Teams and access your personal Teams calendar, chats, meetings, and more. Teams displays can be used as a standalone device or as a second screen when hot desking and upon signing out, all personal information will be removed from the device. This experience is expected to be available on Lenovo ThinkSmart view by the end of 2021.

Remote meetings that are as effective as being in person

We’re continuously committed to creating new ways to work. We envision a future that breaks free from the meeting grid, ensures all users have added choice and flexibility, and empowers presenters to bring their best. From expressive avatars to immersive meetings, we want all users to be there, together.

In the past, many chose to come into the office to deliver an important presentation, but we are investing to make remote presentations as effective and immersive. Hybrid presentations are not just about delivering content, but also engaging the audience with non-verbal social cues like facial reactions and gestures. Cameo is a new PowerPoint experience that seamlessly integrates your Teams camera feed into your presentation, letting you customize how and where you want to appear on your slides and offering layout recommendations for optimal viewing. When it’s time to present, use PowerPoint Live in Teams for an immersive remote presentation. Cameo will start to roll out in early 2022.

As we work to create an inclusive hybrid work culture, where all voices can be heard, Speaker coach in Microsoft Teams uses AI to privately share guidance on your pace, notify you if you are interrupting someone, and remind you to check in with your audience. Speaker coach in Microsoft Teams will be available in early 2022.

Our latest automatic Lighting corrections will help you show up well in video-on meetings even in low-light environments. Lighting corrections will be available in the coming months.

Free up desk space at home or in the office and get clear sound quality for meetings with the new Logi Dock. This docking station has a built-in speakerphone with touch controls, designed to work seamlessly with Teams. With just a touch of a button, you can join Teams meetings, adjust your audio, and more. Logi Dock will be available in the coming months.

Image representing Logi Dock

Stay in the flow of work with Microsoft Teams

Flexibility comes from knowing that no matter where you work from, you are connected to your colleagues and work. The latest innovations in Teams bring your favorite applications and experiences together to help you remain efficient, focused, and connected in hybrid work.

With Microsoft Teams meetings and calling coming to Apple Car Play, you can now join Teams meetings and make calls hands-free on the road using Siri.

Image of teams featured on Apple Car Play

Microsoft Viva brings communication, knowledge, insights, and learning into the flow of work. With Viva Connections, you can stay informed of company news and resources directly from Teams. You can find personalized announcements, company conversations, and a dashboard of resources for actions like submitting a daily health check or expense reports. In the upcoming weeks, Viva Connections mobile app will be available in preview.

Using Apps in Teams meetings empowers real-time interaction and makes collaboration more engaging and productive. You can now share and interact with app content in the meeting stage, enabling scenarios like real-time visual problem-solving and brainstorming. Get started with the Miro, MURAL, Lucidspark, and Freehand apps, with many more coming soon. Learn more at our Tech Community blog.

The shift to hybrid work is exciting but will be a challenge for every leader and organization. Organizations that embrace the change and incorporate flexibility into their operating models will create better and more inclusive work environments. At Microsoft, we’re committed to supporting a hybrid work culture where flexibility leads the way—giving our customers and our employees the power to work from anywhere, anytime, and take control of their personal development and wellbeing. Like you, we are learning to navigate change in real-time. Together, we will create a new era of hybrid work where employees feel included and valued, and businesses perform better.

1 Frost & Sullivan, March 2021; State of the Global Video Conferencing Devices Market, Forecast to 2025