Microsoft Teams – 10 things many people don’t know

The last month has been exhausting for many. For me, it has been supporting organisations in a very reactive manner with the massive move of staff to working from home. To do so, many moved urgently into Microsoft Teams, mostly big bang with little planning.

It has been a strange time having companies call us wanting to enable Teams within days and push such rapid change.

A major component of that is obviously training, and rapid adoption campaigns to quickly embed new behaviour.

Outside of our standard ‘Microsoft Teams 101’ there are tips and key features that get those ‘aha’ moments. Even to people that have been using Microsoft Teams for a while, the below detail are the things I find many people don’t know and find to be those gems in training that get them excited. These are the items that regularly produce the “I never knew that!” comments and are taken on quickly.

Notification settings

You (or your people) have the power to edit notification settings!
Head to the top right of your Microsoft Teams app and click on your profile pic/ initials. Then select ‘settings’, and ‘notifications’.
You can adjust the banner alerts and email settings to reduce notifications and adjust in the below categories.
And then, stop complaining that you get too many alerts because you can now shut them off! You’re welcome.

Set status message

In Microsoft Teams you can override and update your status/ presence, AND you can also add a message. This can be some text to accompany your status to help colleague’s perhaps understand why you are less responsive, or where you are located.
Even a quick ‘on site with limited wifi’ or ‘half day workshop’ can help people know why you might be green and not responding to chat, or offline on a work day.

Make an activity item unread

The activity feed is great, but it can at times be a lot of items creating noise in your day. Sometimes you need to have clarity with what you have looked at versus what requires some attention later on when you have more time. With new activity, you can click on it to go to the post or thread you were tagged in. If you decide you need to read something later on in more detail, right click and mark unread to draw you back to it later. I love using this as a reminder to review posts and threads.

Notify when available

When we need to contact a colleague but they are in a call or a meeting we keep checking when they are free. At times we then click back into chat regularly to see if they are green/ available yet. Sound familiar?
If you are not aware of this feature, it’s super handy.
Hover on the for the ‘more options’ dots to appear and select ‘notify when available’ to get an alert when their status changes to available. This way you can go back into work mode and know a pop-up will notify you when you can give them that call.

Mute all in a meeting

Sometimes when running a meeting you start with a polite “can everyone please mute to reduce background noise” and this isn’t as successful as hoped.
There is always that one person not realising they are the loud typer or one in a café which is impacting the meeting. Or even just sniffing, chewing or with background noise at home. So, simply click on the attendees list and ‘mute all’ in the meeting. I often let people know that I have click mute all and feel free to unmute for a question or comment if they need to.

Book a meeting in a Channel

With training, we recommend using Outlook for booking Teams meetings because it’s familiar, however one of the reasons why it’s useful to book a meeting in the Microsoft Teams app is to book it in a specific channel. This automatically is available to all the members and when booked they can choose to ‘accept’ and push into their Outlook calendar as a reminder for the meeting time. The meeting comes up in the channel when the meeting starts and members can choose to join.

Background Blur

Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you have to lose privacy of your home environment, or look less professional with laundry or chaos in the background. Use background blur to blur your background around your body shape. It only works in desktop client and only on certain machines, so check the meeting options to see if available for you.

Background effects make this cooler, however I feel background blur is immediately available and useful for the average user to tweak their video and how they present themselves in a meeting online. Background effects is not yet in all tenants so this feature is the solution short term until they can eventually have that beachside or office background.

Whiteboard in a meeting

Do you miss those great whiteboarding sessions in a meeting room at the office?
If you have that need to brainstorm or ideate, try whiteboard within the meeting. You access by clicking on ‘share’ and it comes up as a tile. The image below on the left shows how whiteboard appears in the meeting window. Go one step further and click on ‘open in app’ to get the full Microsoft Whiteboard experience with all the features, including the rainbow pen and easy access to other previous whiteboard sessions.


MeetNow is a way to quickly trigger a meeting in a channel in Microsoft Teams. It is great for ad-hoc meetings and discussions that might be triggered by a discussion thread. You simply click MeetNow to start the call that will be clearly labelled and visible in the channel for any member to join.

Upload and sharing links for documents

Make sure you or your staff know how to avoid uploading duplicates when uploading a document in Microsoft Teams.
Don’t constantly click ‘upload a copy’ duplicating files resulting in colleague editing the separate version and later pain or messy work.
Where possible, share links. This can be in 1:1 chat or a Team post. Links. Link. Links!
And if you or your colleagues don’t understand how to share with links, or apply rules, educate and drive change in that behaviour.

Bonus tip – Keyboard shortcuts in Microsoft Teams 

Have you see the keyboard shortcuts in Microsoft Teams?
One of my favourites is Ctrl-Shift-P which immediately blurs your screen in a meeting. It saves a few clicks.

Check out the rest of the shortcuts for cool features buy going to the top right and click on your profile pic or initials. In the dropdown menu there is ‘keyboard shortcuts’.
Go to the top right and click on your profile pic or initials. In the dropdown menu there is ‘keyboard shortcuts’.

Try these great features and also share your learning with people around you to lift the value of the tools across your organisation.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.