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Here are all the helpful new features coming to Microsoft Teams soon

Building on the momentum of the previously announced Together Mode video chat feature for Microsoft Teams, Microsoft is introducing a list of new abilities and features for its Teams collaboration service.

Announced at Microsoft’s all-digital Ignite 2020 conference, the list includes new well-being tools for employees, calling enhancements, and a whole lot more. Here’s a look at everything you need to know.

Virtual Commute

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Coming to Teams in the first half of next year is a new virtual commute feature. With the virtual commute feature, Teams users will be able to schedule a virtual commute to structure their day so they can have a productive start in the morning and mindfully disconnect in the evening.

As part of Virtual Commute, Microsoft specifically partnered with Headspace to bring a curated set of mindfulness experiences and science-backed meditations into Teams. This is to help assist in making it easier to find time to relax and recover.

“There’s a lot of activity happening in Teams, we can see that. We also hear people telling us that there are adverse effects and that leads us to product strategy and what you’re seeing at Ignite,” Microsoft executive Jared Spataro said during a pre-recorded press briefing.

Well-being tools

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Coming in October, meanwhile, will be a set of well-being features and productivity insights for Microsoft Teams. Powered by MyAnalytics and a new Workplace Analytics experience for Teams, Microsoft hopes this will gives individuals, managers, and business leaders organizational insights personalized about their roles at a job. Microsoft says this is also to help people focus on their work, and be their best.

Thanks to these features, Teams users might see recommended actions to help make changing their work habits and improving their productivity and well-being easier. Examples include suggested tasks for the day, which will be delivered to your Outlook inbox.

In addition, a new stay connected experience will also help individuals strengthen relationships with their colleagues by making it easy to praise top collaborators for key achievements and to schedule one-on-ones to catch up.

There even will be new insights in Teams that allow leaders to ask questions like, “Are employees at risk for burnout? Are people maintaining strong internal connections? Are relationships with customers being maintained?”

Improvements for Together mode

Later this year, Teams’ Together Mode feature will see some improvements. Building on the auditorium setting which is already available, some new Together mode scenes will be coming soon. That includes conference rooms and a coffee shop. Microsoft hopes these features can help people feel connected and engaged from anywhere.

With the improvements, like custom backgrounds in video chats, presenters will soon be able to select a scene from the gallery as the default scene for all together mode meeting attendees. The company is also planning to enhance the feature to automatically scale and center participants in their virtual seats, regardless of how close or far they are from their camera.

Additionally, custom layouts will allow presenters to customize how meeting content shows up for participants during the meeting. Like a weatherman standing in front of a green screen, participants will be able to see the presenter’s video feed transposed onto the foreground of the content being presented on screen.

Breakout Rooms

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Coming next month, in Teams meetings is a breakout room feature. This highly requested feature is finally coming to allow meeting organizers to split participants into smaller groups so they can have their own discussions. It’s ideal for brainstorming and workgroup discussions.

This allows presenters to hop between breakout rooms and make announcements to all breakout rooms, and close the rooms to return everyone to the main meeting room.

“It sounds like a small thing, but this type of thing makes a difference in both presentation and making sure we’re communicating effectively,” Spataro said.

Collaborative Calling

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Coming later this year is a set of calling improvements for Teams. One of these is Collaborative Calling, which enables customers to collaborate and share information in the channel while taking calls in the queue. Also included are transcription, live captions, recording, and the ability to transfer between Teams mobile and desktop apps when doing one-on-one calls.

Also, live captions with speaker attribution is now generally available. It is a recap with the meeting recording, transcript, chat, shared files, and more.

Increase in meeting participants

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For those with Microsoft Teams who depend on large-scale calls or webinars, Microsoft announced a couple of improvements. At the end of this year, the company says Teams meetings will support up to 1,000 participants with “a full-meeting experience.” Teams is also set to scale support for up to 20,00 participants in a view-only meeting experience, with support for Live captions. These features will only be available for those with a special Advanced Communication plan, however.

In addition, Microsoft will also be increasing the size limit of 25,000 members for individual teams, later this year. This comes as a change. Although there’s currently no limit on the number of people who can join Teams, the size limit for individual teams is increasing to support up to 25,000 members.

Also related to meetings is the “recap” feature. With this feature, a recap with the meeting recording, transcript, chat, shared files, and more will be automatically created in Teams once the meeting ends. Microsoft believes that Meeting recaps will “help move work forward for both meeting participants and for those who were unable to attend a meeting.” The recap will even be added to an Outlook calendar by going to the original invite for the meeting event. This is for all users and will be coming soon.

New Microsoft Teams panels

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Microsoft is even working to introduce a new category of all-in-one dedicated Teams display and Microsoft Teams panels. Coming in the next weeks, the Teams devices will feature an ambient touchscreen and a hands-free experience powered by Cortana. Users will be able to leverage Cortana to join and present in meetings, dictate replies to a Teams chat, and more.

Microsoft Teams panels, meanwhile, is a new category of devices that can be mounted outside of meeting space to notify participants of scheduling and occupancy and to assist with wayfinding around the office.

Additionally, with the new information panels, users get an at-a-glance summary of active members, important posts, and other relevant information in each channel.

“We want customers to think about Teams as the hub for Teamwork that we position it as. I like to think as video conferencing as the leading indicator that we need to the digital platform going forward. Work is going all digital and it needs a place to live and follow us wherever we go,” Spataro said.

Other features

In addition to these core features, Microsoft is also introducing several new smaller features to Teams. Coming by the end of 2020, this includes a new search experience, and a redesigned search results page which makes finding messages, people, and files faster and easier. Also included is the ability to quickly create tasks right from any Teams chat or channel conversation without having to switch apps or windows.

At Ignite 2020, Microsoft also announced improvements for Cortana, too. It will be updated to support searching for documents and composing quick emails in English in the United States, and it can soon be invoked hands-free. In addition, Outlook is getting voice commands on iOS and Android for composing emails, the ability to sync contact folders, and emoji reactions to emails.

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Arif Bacchus
Arif Bacchus is a native New Yorker and a fan of all things technology. Arif works as a freelance writer at Digital Trends…
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