Microsoft announces new product updates to facilitate hybrid work

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on September 10, 2021


The tech giant is updating the companion mode in Teams mobile to give in-room attendees quick access

Microsoft has announced a range of new product updates across products including Microsoft Teams, Viva and LinkedIn to further facilitate hybrid work.

The tech giant is updating the companion mode in Teams mobile to give in-room attendees quick access to engagement features like chat, live reactions, and Microsoft Whiteboard. Additionally, it is also making it easier for users to access meeting and device controls, like the ability to join a meeting, cast a PowerPoint, mute the room and turn room cameras on and off.

The updated companion mode experience will be available in the next few months, Microsoft said. It has also announced the launch of intelligent cameras that leverage technologies such as AI-powered active speaker tracking, multiple video streams and people recognition.

With intelligent cameras, “as people join the meeting, Teams automatically adjusts various elements of the meeting, so remote participants see the room and content with ease,” Microsoft explained in a blog post. These features will be available to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the coming months and rolled out as updates over the course of the next year, it said.

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Speaker coach, another feature in Microsoft Teams, will also leverage AI to privately share guidance on a user’s pace while presenting. It will also notify them if they are interrupting someone. Speaker coach in Microsoft Teams will be available in early 2022.

It will also be introducing a Lighting corrections feature which will show users if they show up well in video-on meetings even in low-light environments. Lighting corrections will be available in the coming months. Microsoft is also bringing Apple Car Play to Microsoft Teams this month.

“You can now join Teams meetings and make calls hands-free on the road using Siri,” it said. It is also introducing new features for its mailing service Outlook. This includes a redesigned Working hours feature that will enable users to include work schedule specifics directly in their calendar.

A new RSVP feature lets people specify whether they will attend a meeting in-person or online. New hybrid work experiences in Outlook will start rolling out early next year. It is also rolling out a new ‘hot desking’ experience starting with the Lenovo ThinkSmart view expected to be available by the end of 2021.

“The hot desking experience on Microsoft Teams displays allows people to locate and reserve flexible workspaces in the office,” it further said.

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“Book a space from the device or in advance using Outlook or Teams and access your personal Teams calendar, chats, meetings, and more. Teams displays can be used as a standalone device or as a second screen when hot-desking and upon signing out, all personal information will be removed from the device,” it added.

In PowerPoint, it is introducing a new experience called Cameo. “Cameo is a new PowerPoint experience that seamlessly integrates your Teams camera feed into your presentation, letting you customise how and where you want to appear on your slides and offering layout recommendations for optimal viewing,” it explained.

When it’s time to present, presenters can use PowerPoint Live in Teams for remote presentation. Cameo will start to roll out in early 2022.

With Viva Connections, users can get company news and resources directly from Teams. It will also provide personalised announcements, company conversations, and a dashboard of resources for actions like submitting a daily health check or expense reports. In the upcoming weeks, Viva Connections mobile app will be available in preview.

The tech major is introducing new search filters on LinkedIn to make it easier to search for remote, hybrid and onsite roles. LinkedIn is also launching its new skill-building platform, LinkedIn Learning Hub, to help employers identify and promote personalised content for their employees, Microsoft has announced.These product updates are based on customer feedback.

Microsoft Work Trend Index

Apart from the updates, Microsoft has also announced its latest Work Trend Index comprising of survey data from 1,80,000 Microsoft employees in over 100 countries regarding hybrid work.

According to the report, 58 per cent of employees who plan to spend the most and least time in the office plan to do so for the same reason: focused work. Managers also plan to spend a higher share of their time in-office than non-managerial employees (45 per cent vs. 39 per cent).

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Furthermore,inclusion at Microsoft is at an all-time high (90 per cent). LinkedIn also surveyed more than 500 C-level executives in the US and UK on how they’re thinking about work today and in the future.

As per the report, 81 per cent of leaders have already or are planning to offer employees greater flexibility while 87 per cent prefer to stay remote at least half of the time. Additionally, 58 per cent of leaders said that greater flexibility is good for people and the business.

For 72 per cent of executives, training is essential for people to build the skills needed to work effectively in the new hybrid and flexible work environments.

Published on September 10, 2021

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