Imagine trying to survive lockdown without tools like Teams? Necessity has made us all experts in video-calling, and it’s left us wanting more!

During lockdown, we got the ability to change the video call background so other participants couldn’t see where you were really calling from, provided you were using a machine that was powerful enough to process the backgrounds. There are a couple of hacks that let you add custom backgrounds and, like many people, we all added pictures of our favourite spots around New Zealand. I also added a couple of work-branded backgrounds as an experiment.

 Background features are now rolling out to the mobile versions of Teams as well – Apple iOS and presumably Android.


Here are our favourites:

1. You can now have 9 video callers on the screen at once. This will be one of the most popular features in the next update of Teams.  Just be aware that the more video feeds, the more internet performance is required. Microsoft say that it will automatically adjust the number of video feeds to optimise your experience, but we’re yet to use this enough to get a clear assessment of that. The worst case scenario is that you have to turn out the number of feeds for some meetings – that seems perfectly acceptable. There is more coming, with a tweet from Rish Tandon (Microsoft CVP Engineering for Microsoft Teams) promised they will soon let us see ALL participants in the meeting at the same time.


2. Hands Up.  This one is pretty simple but effective. It can be hard to get the attention of the meeting host sometimes, especially if you are on ‘mute’ or on a call with some very active participants that’s making it hard for you to get a word in. You can now raise your hand so that they can see you have a contribution to make to the discussions


3. End Meeting for All.  This can be is a bit of housekeeping. When the meeting is done, the organiser will now be able to shut it down for every one – great when you have lots of participants on the call and one or two walk away as the call ends, leaving it running.


4. Auto-Lobby admission.  If you have meetings with people outside your organisation, you might have noticed how sometimes people go into a ‘Lobby’ and have to wait to be accepted. That makes sense in many situations but sometimes it can be a real nuisance. You can click on the “Meeting Options’ in the appointment and change it to let people get straight in without the lobby barrier.


Finally, number 5 is coming soon. The one feature we’re looking forward  to that is coming by mid-year is to have multiple Windows “Multi-Window Chat” – so you can have multiple chats or video callers AND shared content on the screen at your preference.


How to get the most from Teams

Firstly, these updates are rolling out slowly. It might take a few weeks to appear for you. You can accelerate the downloads if they are available by picking ‘check for updates’ from the right hand top menu. If it is available, you’ll see the 3×3 option in your settings, and for now you turn it on manually, and in time this will become the default. Just be aware that the more video feeds, the more internet performance is required.


I really like Teams because it combines video-calling with messaging and discussions. It includes online file sharing, and it lets us embed intelligent forms and work processes. Teams is so much more than any of these things individually, because it gives us the ability to bring these capabilities together and combine them to create immersive work experiences. The result is allowing us to be more efficient and more productive. Of course, that can require some guidance and handholding for some people as not everyone has the same interests or strengths. That’s why we offer our Adoption and Change Management services.

Likewise you can use Teams, or you can really USE teams and get the most from it. That includes

  • User rights management, for example including external guests
  • Setting up channel moderators to curate content
  • Setting up channel life cycle management
  • Configuring data privacy policies to help you maintain your stakeholder data obligations
  • Building apps and bots to connect data and automate workflows
  • Assessing insights from Teams usage (using the built in “Analytics and Reports” and the new “Meetings Dashboard”) to make sure every user in your organisation, even the most IT-challenged ones, can get the best usage from the tools.

We can you help you with all of these to help your organisation to become real Team players!