If you’ve been working from home the past few months, it’s likely that you’ve been introduced to Microsoft Teams. Teams is a chat-based collaboration tool, which provides remote workers the ability to work together and share information in a common space. Companies are able to perform all of the functions essential to their business that being in a physical office would be able to provide, including messaging, coordinating meetings and voice and video calls. On top of that, Teams is able to connect with Microsoft Office 365 and many other critical tools.
Using Microsoft Teams is a fantastic way for business members to be able to collaborate creatively from a remote location, with the knowledge that they’re sharing information in a secure communications hub. In this article, we’re going to take a look at how to use Microsoft Teams, so you and your team can start reaping its many benefits right away.
1. How to Access Microsoft Teams
You can access Teams directly from a browser on your PC or Mac by heading to https://teams.microsoft.com/start, as well as downloading the desktop app. You can also install the Microsoft Teams app on your iOS or Android device. It’s important to note that the Teams browser app does have the same functionality as the desktop app. However, you will have several options available in order to download the app to your desktop once you’ve signed in from your browser.
From here, you’ll be asked to sign up for free, which is where you can make a Microsoft account. If you already have an account, you can login. If you’re already using Microsoft Office 365 for business, your Teams will be automatically available on the Office workspace.
After logging into your Microsoft account, you will be prompted with what organization or people you’ll be using the Teams app with. Your options will either be at a Business, School, or with Family and Friends. What’s great about selecting the environment is that each option will slightly customize your Teams experience to these profiles.
If you’re on a desktop, Teams will offer you a desktop app and you will be able to access the download in multiple places.
2. Create a Team
Now it’s time to create a team! This is the essential reason why you’re using the app and works as the core structure of Microsoft Teams.
To create a Team, click on the bottom Join or Create a Team button on the bottom left section of the page. If you’re looking to join a team, you will see any public teams that are already available or you can enter a code to join a private team.
When you create a team, you will first have the option to either build it from scratch, or create it from an existing Office 365 group or team. This second option is for any business that already has an Office 365 group. Groups are great as a quick way to create a team with members already attached.
You then decide if the team is public, private or Org-wide. While anyone is able to join a public team, private is invite-only and Org-wide will automatically add and include everyone in the business.
From here, you need to decide what the team will be called and are able to give it a description before selecting Create. It’s important to keep in mind that if you do have a private team and later wish to switch it to public, or organization-wide, then you can change it later, as long as you are the creator.
If you are in an education account, you may have some different options than a standard business account. When you create a team, you will be presented with a team type. This will include the following:
- Class: Discussions, group projects, assignments
- Professional Learning Community (PLC): Educator working group
- Staff: School administration and development
- Other: Clubs, study groups, after school activities
You will now have the same options to add a name and a description of your team, followed by the prompt to add members. You can then quickly upload class materials from here, as well as being able to view your class notebook, assignments and grades.
3. Adding Team Members
You will be prompted right away to add team members once you have created your team and a text box will appear to start typing a name or group. You can choose to skip this option for now as there are numerous other opportunities to add your team members.
The easiest way to add team members is to send them an email link, which will go ahead and enroll them when it is clicked on. You can also simply add their email address directly into Teams.
Another way to add team members is to import their names and email addresses from applications such as Outlook, People or another contact repository where your business may keep their contact names and emails.
4. Add a Channel
Channels are sections within a team in order to keep conversations organized by specific topics, projects or disciplines, which as you can imagine, is incredibly handy! When you share files within a channel, they are then stored in SharePoint.
The information that is required when you create a channel is very similar to when you create a Team. Your channel will require a title, description and whether it is standard or private. Selecting Private is useful if you wish to enter a private conversation with another team member that you don’t wish the rest of your team to see.
Once the channel is created, you can then add posts and load files within it that relate to that particular topic, as well as interacting with others in your team. It’s important to note that when you are chatting with multiple team members within a channel, you can use the @ feature to get their attention. This calls out specific team members, and the ‘@’ can simply be added before their name to select them.
5. Channel Conversations
When chatting in a Channel, your conversation is with the entire team and not just exclusively between two parties. As well as being able to send text, you can easily upload files in your conversation, as well as gifs, emojis, badges, stickers and more, which allows for a more personalized experience. When uploading a file to your conversation, you will have the option of browsing teams and channels, uploading from OneDrive, Google Drive or from your computer.
If you’re looking for a particular file that your team member has uploaded within the chat and do not want to look through the entire conversation, you are able to switch over to Files, where all of the upload documents within the chat will be listed.
You can also create a file right from here, as well as copying the link of an existing file, downloading it, adding to cloud storage or opening in SharePoint.
While your main chat on your channel will be inclusive of all of your team members, you can also start a private chat with one or more team members. You can do so by selecting the ‘chat’ feature on the left-hand side and selecting the individual team member. You will have all the same options in your private chat, including the ability to add documents, stickers, gifs, etc.
In the upper right-hand corner, you will also find the option to have an audio call, a video call, or to share your screen with your chat member(s).
6. Video Chat
Within your chat conversations, you are able to find a list of interactions that go beyond just words, stickers and gifs. You’ll be able to find the video chat option within these additional options, which appears as a little video icon. If you hover your mouse over the Meet Now button, it’ll start a video.
While the Meet Now option does automatically default to video, you can also disable the video by clicking on it again. You can also give the meeting a subject title as well. Once you’ve made those choices, you proceed to start the meeting, and wait in the Meeting Room for others to join if you are the only one in attendance.
You’ll be able to see the video screen of yourself in the meeting, and a control panel on the bottom of the screen where you can toggle the mute button to mute your microphone. This is helpful when at home distractions may interrupt and you don’t want to be disruptive to your other team members. You also have the option to distribute files to those who are attending, show the messaging chat and also see a list of who is attending the meeting.
You also have the ability to share your desktop, or share the whiteboard functionality, showing it much in the same way that you’d use it in person. You can also project a PowerPoint right from here.
A unique and interesting feature of Microsoft Teams is the Background Settings option. Here, you can blur out your current background for a little more privacy, or you can apply preset backgrounds, all while keeping yourself in focus.
7. Managing Channels
If after joining a channel, you want to leave a channel that’s no longer relevant to you, then you can go ahead and delete the channel from your Teams. However, a deleted channel can’t be recovered, and the same goes for all of the shared files in that channel, like any recorded meetings or conversation history. Fortunately, any attached files that were shared in the channel are kept on SharePoint, even if the channel is deleted.
It’s important to keep in mind that even if you don’t require a channel right at this minute, you may require it at some point. It is often safer to keep a channel on your page that you may end up needing, rather than getting “delete happy” with your channels and realizing that it would have come in handy later.
8. Adding More Functionality
While we’ve reviewed with you the core version of Teams, you are also able to add various integrations and features to Teams based on what your office uses in the workplace.
A particularly handy feature is the ability to integrate Office 365’s calendar that saves to the cloud. Those who do have this feature within their organization will see a Meetings icon on the left-hand menu. This integrated feature enables future meetings to be scheduled and sends notifications to every team member if a meeting is cancelled or rescheduled.
You also have the option of connecting apps to your Teams account. By selecting the three dots in the bottom of the left-hand menu, you can select apps from there, or you can select More Apps to search for the one you’re looking for. This may include more helpful business apps like Trello, Flow, Zoom, Smartsheet and more.
Making sure you have your Cloud storage hooked up is incredibly useful to make sure you don’t misplace any files. In order to do so, you can select ‘files’ from the left-hand menu and proceed to Add Cloud Storage.
You can then choose how you want to store your files, with the options of Dropbox, Box, ShareFile and Good Drive.
Ready to Join a Team?
We hope you’ve enjoyed our beginner’s tutorial on how to use Microsoft Teams. Teams is an incredibly useful tool to have at your disposal when working from home and is also a great education tool for teachers and students. It includes much of the same functionality as Google Meet, even including some additional features. Whether you’re more partial to Google Meet or Microsoft Teams, we can guarantee that we’re all grateful for the fantastic work from home options available to us, making it easier than ever to stay connected outside of the workplace or classroom.