Some thoughts on using MS Teams for remote working

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Teams showing muted audio

This is unlikely to be the first post-Covid 19 musings you will have read. In my defence, I’ve been using full fat Teams at work for about two years now since my employer, an Edinburgh-based tech company, went all in on Teams and dropped Skype for Business. So my views have been formed over a wee while, not just the last 15 days of full locked-down Scotland.

First thought – why hasn’t Microsoft or someone cleverer than me come up with some way of detecting when someone in speaking, and automatically un-muting them? The current Mute experience is jarring for users and for their would-be audience. There’s the realisation that it’s your turn to speak, the frantic grope for the mouse, the wiggle to try and get the control bar in Teams to appear, and then the spearing attempts at moving the microphone from Mute to active. It all takes time and disrupts the flow of the meeting. The others are thinking: “Has Stephen fallen asleep? Has he used his device to brain a passing seagull? Has he NOTHING to say? Is he even there? Is he on his phone pretending to be listening?” You get the point.

Then there’s the baffling choice by Microsoft to assume that you know how to find the settings for Teams. Everyone else uses a cog or gear icon to show Settings. Here though, you need to guess that you have to click on your avatar, or more likely your professional mugshot in the top right if you want to get to the place where you can stop the incessant stream of annoying attention-grabbing notifications and pop-ups. And you will want to know how to control this. So, click your mugshot, find Settings, then work out what the obtusely named settings actually mean, and choose the right one for your level of neediness.

And then there’s the experience in using the Chat and Posts features, where you need to know that you should use a special feature if you don’t want to publish your comment every time you hit the return key. That’s the A command on the left hand side of the control bar. Hit this, and you can format your message to make it slightly more likely that people will read it. Particularly if you use @notifications, which tells them you are mentioning them in your post. When I get a minute I’ll add screenshots to this post to make finding the keys to Teams a bit easier for you.

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