How Microsoft enables its employees to work remotely with Microsoft Teams

Aug 15, 2023   |  

Microsoft Digital storiesWhen Microsoft employees choose to work remotely, they are empowered to stay productive and connected by using Microsoft Teams.

“Over the past few years, employees have embraced hybrid work and enjoy the balance that it brings to their lives,” says Claire Sisson, who leads the internal deployment of Teams at Microsoft in her role as a principal group product manager. “Microsoft Teams has been key to enable that empowerment.”

Combined image of Sisson and Jensen.
Claire Sisson and Chanda Jensen help lead the effort with the Employee Productivity Engineering team to increase inclusivity across Microsoft to empower everyone to achieve their best.

It’s empowering your employees to do their best work no matter where they’re working.

“Having the right tool to enable boundaryless collaboration, asynchronous work and meetings that scale from 1:1 to large events make all the difference for our employees,” Sisson says. “With the recent Microsoft 365 Copilot capabilities added to Teams, the AI infused experiences will make hybrid work even more seamless. We’re very excited about the journey we’re on to enable everyone to reach their goals however they wish.”

Microsoft relied on Teams to support remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, including in China, where company employees were among the first to work from home. To learn more, read this blog post from Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, and Lily Zheng, director of Microsoft China. You can also go here to read Spataro’s post on the company’s commitment to customers during COVID-19.

Sisson says there are many other examples of how Teams helps employees tackle all the different types of work they need to do in a day, including this one on a snowstorm that hit company headquarters in Redmond, Washington, shortly after Microsoft upgraded from Skype for Business to Teams.

“Ninety-five percent of our Redmond-area employees worked from home during that massive snowstorm,” she says. “We were interested to see how Teams would hold up, and it did so with flying colors.”

The larger Employee Productivity Engineering team also used Teams to hold a 500-person live global meeting that connected employees from 48 different countries. “That one also went very smoothly,” Sisson says.

[Discover how Microsoft uses Signature Microsoft Teams Rooms. Explore how Microsoft is rethinking the hybrid meeting room experience with Microsoft Teams. Learn more about advancing your meetings with the Microsoft Teams Meeting Guide.]


A woman sits at her kitchen table using Microsoft Teams to attend a meeting from home.
Click through to get a sample communication message that you can use to show employees at your company how to get the most out of using Microsoft Teams while working remotely.

Guidance for working remotely

Microsoft wants employees working in Teams to feel like they’re not losing anything from working away from their office.

“With Microsoft’s commitment to flexible work (and teams spread across the world), face-to-face connection isn’t always possible. We want everyone to feel heard and included,” says Sarah Lundy, senior content program manager in MDEE in charge of communicating to employees about how to get the most out of Teams. “We have a set of tips that we share with employees when they need to work remotely in large numbers—things like turn on video to help everyone feel connected, pause to give people on the call a chance to speak, and remind people to mute themselves when they’re talking to cut down on distracting background noise.”

Sisson added to that list, saying remote meetings are much more effective when you record them for people who are not present if that’s acceptable to the team. Also helpful, she says, is to send an agenda in advance, and to identify a facilitator for the meeting that can monitor questions and make sure everyone’s voice is heard.

Check out the devices that can improve your meeting room experience with the help of Microsoft Teams.

“When everyone remembers to make a few adjustments, remote meetings can be as effective as being in person,” she says.

Features designed to help

In some ways, remote meetings can be more additive than meeting in person.

“When you make it a Teams channel meeting, then everything is captured in a single channel conversation for your reference,” Sisson says. “All the documents, all the chats, and of course, the recording of everything everyone said is in one place, and much of it is searchable.”

Channel meetings are highly effective for reoccurring meetings, where keeping track of a project over time is crucial, she says.

Headshot of Bush in front of lush greenery.
Sara Bush, a principal program manager, helped pave the way for inclusive services and culture on the Healthy Teamwork team.

Teams channels themselves offer a great way for groups of employees to work together asynchronously, Lundy says. Collaborating in a channel ensures that the interactions employees have are transparent and open. Files, applications, and conversations are easily accessible to every team member.

Microsoft Teams launched the AI-infused intelligent meeting Recap feature to further support asynchronous workstyles. By collecting information shared in recorded and transcribed Teams calls, employees can view a video summary of the call and quickly jump to the highlighted chapters and topics that were discussed, read AI-generated notes and tasks from the call, and even see where their name was mentioned in the meeting.

“In a hybrid workplace, effective teamwork habits that keep everyone informed and connected become more important than ever,” she says.

When teams across Microsoft hold meetings larger than 1,000 people, they are asked to use live events in Microsoft 365 in conjunction with Viva Engage to broadcast the meeting while allowing the audience to engage via chat.

Teams pays attention to the strength of the network and adapts as needed, which helps make sure the experience is optimized. When employees work remotely in large numbers, their use of chat in Teams shoots up, Lundy says.

“If you chat with a person or group frequently, you can pin the chat so it always shows up at the top of your chat list,” she says. “We suggest that you name your group chats to keep them organized and easy to find.”

And when deeper-level collaboration is needed, employees are encouraged to move their chats into a channel.

Lundy urges employees to ask themselves a few key questions:

  • Will you be collaborating on multiple related workstreams, each with their own conversations, files, and applications?
  • Do you envision multiple conversations happening at once?
  • Will the project last longer than two weeks?
  • Are more than three people involved?
  • Do you want files to be available for coauthoring to all members of the team?

When they answer “yes” to any of the questions, she encourages them to start a threaded conversation in a Teams channel.

There are many other Teams features that come in handy when employees work from home, Lundy says, including meeting backgrounds, live captions, and cloud recording.

“Use a background when you’re not happy with your backdrop, whether it be the airport, a coffee shop, or a messy room at home,” she says. “It keeps you in focus while hiding anything distracting behind you.”

Teams’ live captioning feature can detect what’s said in a meeting and, in real-time, present captions to anyone who wants them, she says. Cloud recording captures the audio, video, and screen sharing activity for anyone who missed a meeting or needs to refer to what happened.

Other steps Lundy encourages employees to take include downloading the Teams mobile app, managing Teams notifications to avoid missing important conversations, and setting their status message in Teams to include their current location (such as “working from home”) so that people know where they are.

“There are lots of trips and tricks that we use to help employees get more out of working on Teams,” Lundy says. “There’s a lot that they can do to stay effective, no matter where they’re working from.”

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