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By 20 March 2020 | Categories: feature articles

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In light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and the very real need for social distancing, the first part of 2020 is quickly becoming characterized by two words: remote working.

Certainly it is not a new trend. Forward thinking businesses, freelancers and technology companies alike have embraced the idea that work is a thing you do, not a place you go, for decades. But now, remote working has become a very serious necessity.

Are you a Teams player?

The good news is that there is already an array of tools available that enable people to connect and collaborate almost as if they were in the same room, across significant distances. Along with Zoom and Webex, a major enabler of this is Microsoft’s Teams.

The app essentially brings together chat, meetings, voice and video calling and collaboration on Office documents all within one interface. It enables users to have a central storage place for files, organized by the team working on those files, and allows organisations to create separate channels.

The latter can be used to enable different departments to have their own dedicated space where their conversations and files are stored for secure and exclusive access.  

A matter of life and death

For those working in the digital/information economy, it is a boon. For those who need to collaborate and communicate frequently, but who also need to practice social distancing right now, it can quite literally be a lifesaver.

It seems somewhat prescient then that at the recent Microsoft Ignite conference  when events were still held in person and the Sandton Convention Centre was comfortably packed with people – that Teams was explored in detail.   

In light of the frightening exponential expansion of this global pandemic, today Microsoft answered the question: How much has this impacted the growth of Teams?

According to the company, it has seen an unprecedented spike in Teams usage. It now boasts more than 44 million daily users, a figure that has grown by 12 million in just the last seven days. And those users have generated over 900 million meeting and calling minutes on Teams each day this week. 

If that doesn’t tell you how seriously this pandemic is being taken by companies, with a massive increase in remote working in a very short time, then nothing will.

Turning point ahead

According to Microsoft, this sudden, globe-spanning move to remote work will be a turning point in how we work and learn. Already, the tech titan noted, we are seeing how solutions that enable remote work and learning across chat, video, and file collaboration have become central to the way we work.

Indeed, Teams may be the best investment Microsoft ever made. And, the company today confirmed, it is not done developing the app either. Some of the features users can expect in the months to come include:

  • Real-time noise suppression, which will minimize distracting background noise (e.g., keyboard typing, vacuum cleaner), allowing you to hear what’s being said. 
  • The raise hand feature, which will let anyone in a virtual meeting send a visual signal that they have something to say. 
  • Offline and low-bandwidth support, which will let users read chat messages and write responses—even without an internet connection—making it easier for users to move things forward no matter where they are.   
  • Users will also be able to pop out chats into a separate window to help streamline their workflow and move more easily between ongoing conversations.

The good news is that with the rapid uptake of a (relatively) new platform, new opportunities abound. With some innovative thinking, Microsoft Teams can be leveraged in some industries to offer new services to clients, and to translate increased collaboration into increased value, and thus open new doorways to profitability.

Hopefully the global health crisis will pass, and social distancing will be replaced by relieved reuniting. But, if businesses and organisations are wise enough to look for positives from the experience, the viability of remote working – and the benefits it has for workers and the environment alike – should be on their list. 

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What new tech or developments are you most anticipating this year?
New smartphone announcements (8 votes)
Technological breakthroughs (11 votes)
Launch of new consoles, or notebooks (8 votes)
Innovative Artificial Intelligence solutions (7 votes)
Biotechnology or medical advancements (13 votes)
Better business applications (4 votes)