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Using Microsoft Teams Effectively: Tips and Tricks


Each of us is surrounded by a plethora of technologies designed to make life and work easier. Very few of us are leveraging these tools to their full potential. As many of us find remote work becoming the “new normal”, we have summarized below a few helpful tips to take you from zero to hero with Microsoft Teams. This isn’t a training document, but rather a guide to help make you aware of some of the great Microsoft Teams features that can help you and your team in using Microsoft Teams effectively in a remote setting.

While your organization may utilize SharePoint (or a similar knowledge repository) for each business unit, Microsoft Teams has become the go-to platform to organize teams of any size. Many organizations that have invested in Office 365 are using Skype for Business today. While the chat functionality in Teams offers little over Skype, it’s expected that Microsoft will sunset Skype in 2021. If you’re looking to double-down on virtual collaboration, we recommend creating a critical mass of users in Teams.

Organize Your Teams and Channels

The fundamental structure of Microsoft Teams centers around two units: the Team and that Team’s channels. Using Microsoft Teams can be created for everything from strategic collaboration across an entire business unit to tactical collaboration for a specific project. Think of the channels within each Team as individual topics or areas of focus. By default, each new Team will come with a General channel within which all activity could be organized. Additional channels simply create more organization—and can offer additional privacy based on a given channel’s settings.

When Should You Set Up a Teams Site? Teams sites are a great resource when you are working on highly collaborative projects and initiatives, recurring meetings, or even to manage department-wide communication. Even if you are working on a single file with a small team, Microsoft Teams brings together personal document storage in the cloud (OneDrive) with powerful chat capabilities

Private or Public Team?  One of the first questions to answer when creating a new Team is whether this team’s activity should be public to the organization. A Private Team will require you to invite and approve members before they are added. A Public Team allows users self-elect into your Team without any approval. Therefore, if you expect your activity to contain confidential information, a Private site would be more appropriate. If your Teams group is designed for broader collaboration across the company, Public may be best.

Hidden Teams It’s very easy to hide teams and channels that are not immediately relevant for your use. You will be notified if someone @mentions you within the Activity of the hidden team or channel.

Owners It’s a best practice to always have more than one person listed in the Team Owner role so that you have a backup to help administer the Team.

Channels Your files and chat are organized into one or more channels. It’s best practice to create a channel per topic of discussion.

Download the Microsoft Teams Toolkit Here

Your Presence/Status in Teams

Your availability, or ‘presence’ as Microsoft calls it, is published across most products in the Office 365 platform. In a virtual world, it’s a useful way to indicate to your colleagues whether unscheduled interruptions are invited. While it’s fundamentally controlled by your Outlook calendar (e.g. meeting = busy), you can manually set your status to one of the options below:

Available – It’s recommended to use this as a default if you welcome a quick chat with a colleague

Busy – Set your availability to this status if your task requires uninterrupted focus. It is not recommended to leave your status set to Busy for the duration of the day. In fact, messages from colleagues will still come through via Chat.

Do not disturb – When sharing your screen in a meeting via Teams, your status will default to this status. This is useful if an interruption on the screen would be disruptive to your task, or if you need to mute all Chat temporarily. Messages will not appear on your screen when using this status.

Be right back – It’s recommended to use this status if you intend to return to your keyboard in < 5 minutes

Appear away – Though Teams will default to this status if you leave your computer unattended, you can manually set your presence to this status if you know you’ll be away for a while.

Using Microsoft Teams Notifications

Notifications are an important feature to help you get the most out of Microsoft Teams. Check your settings (click on your photo in the top right) to set up your notifications.  To start, set your notifications to both Banner and Email on the topics where you want to be notified. You can always come back to the settings at any time to change your preferences.  You can also set your timing here to automate any missed activity emails.

As Teams becomes more integrated into your daily workflow, you’ll find yourself spending less time in Outlook. At this point, disabling email notifications from Teams will ensure a tidy email inbox

Do not disturb is a very important feature when sharing your screen or presenting. Use the notification settings in Microsoft Teams to mute your notifications during meetings.

File Management Tips: Word, Excel, PowerPoint & Visio

Collaborating on files in Microsoft Teams is simple.  Files shared in your team’s file library are accessible to every member of the Team’s channel. Edits to documentation can happen simultaneously across users without a need to check out files.

PRO TIP: Office files on Teams open in the online version of the product (e.g. Word Online, PowerPoint Online, etc.). If your edits will involve changes to formatting, it’s recommended to open the file in the full version of the product. Simply hover over the filename in teams, click the 3-dot drop-down, and select Open > Open in <Product Name Here>. This is particularly useful when collaborating on PowerPoint presentations.

In order to see prior versions of a document in Teams, click on the File > Info > Version History. All the changes are easily found and restored from that location.

If you need to alert a team member to a document, it’s always recommended to use Chat (described below). If email is a must, it’s best to send a link to the uploaded file. Avoid sending the attachment directly.

PRO TIP: When emailing a colleague a link to the file in Teams, try starting in Outlook instead of Teams. When drafting the email, select Attach File and allow your Recent Items to refresh. It’s likely you’ll see your file listed with a cloud over the file icon. Select this and choose to send a link (and not attach a copy).

Alternatively, with your document open select Share (upper right corner), provide your colleagues email, compose a brief message, and select Send.

Chat with Teams

Using Microsoft Teams chat feature has some nice benefits for collaboration. Make your colleague laugh with some funny GIFS, send them praise, or correct a mistake by editing your message after you sent it. Here are some more tips for Chat on Teams:

  • @Mention someone in the search bar to try to send a quick message to someone but don’t want to lose focus on the task at hand.
  • Microsoft Teams has rich text editing which allows you to make your chat visually appealing and stand out.  You can add titles, mark messages as important, add bullets, highlighting and color features as well.
  • A bookmark in your chat lets you save a message or attachment for later reading and helps you find frequently used information.

Download the Microsoft Teams Toolkit Here

Using Microsoft Teams for Calendars & Meetings

Scheduling and Hosting a meeting can be simple if you have a Microsoft Outlook plugin but you can also use the calendar in Teams to schedule a meeting. Simply click in your calendar and schedule in the details of the title, required attendees, time and location for the meeting.  You can even publish the meeting to a specific Teams channel.  Switch to scheduling assistant to check the calendar of others in your organization.

To do a quick call with someone you are chatting with, simply open up the chat and click on the video or call icons in the top right corner.  The screensharing button is in the same location for easy access.


Similar to the other Microsoft products available today, a mobile version of Teams is available for both iOS and Android devices.

Integrations to Other Applications

Microsoft Teams is a compelling option to use as your “hub” for all things collaboration. In fact, its integration into other Office 365 products is extensive. We recommend adding a tab in one of your Team’s channels for MS Planner, which is a great way to manage tasks, due dates, and checklists across your team. OneNote is another must-have for keeping meeting minutes for your team. This, too, can easily be added as a tab to a Team’s channel for quick access to the team’s collective knowledge.

Other Microsoft Teams Resources

The bottom left corner of Microsoft Teams has a great help feature which provides access to Live training, popular help guides, and support for Admins. This is a great place to start if you have any questions. Here are a few more options:

19 Microsoft Teams Tips to Save you Time

5 Must-Know Microsoft Teams Tips and Best Practice

If you found this useful, you may also enjoy a recent post on tips for working remotely. If you are looking for more information about using Microsoft Teams effectively during COVID-19, please contact us. We’re happy to share with you how we are using Microsoft Teams effectively for project management and collaboration.

Download the Microsoft Teams Toolkit Here

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Tags: IT Strategy, Organizational Health, COVID-19