Five evidence-based insights: Working effectively as a team in Microsoft Teams

You just received the all-company announcement; everyone is to work from home (WFH). Your new workplace is Microsoft Teams. This is the first time you have to work from home for more than just a day here and there, and you’ve never used Microsoft Teams before. If you’re a team leader, your team is now out of sight, and with little experience in running a remote team you’re probably wondering; “How do we make this work?” 

Here at SWOOP Analytics, we have just published our very first global benchmarking report of the interactions of more than 47,000 people in more than 5,300 Teams across 15 organisations. This is the world’s largest benchmarking study ever undertaken of team interaction patterns on Microsoft Teams. What follows are five evidence-based insights on what the best performing teams are doing and what you can do to achieve better business outcomes. We start by assuming you’ve just created a Team within Microsoft Teams. What now? 

Five evidence-based insights  

#1: Only invite the team members who would typically interact with each other on a daily basis

We found that the most engaged teams had less than 10 members. Don’t invite people who you think might potentially benefit, or you think you ought to invite out of politeness. Teams are noisy places, if there’s no real reason for them to be there, don’t invite them. They will appreciate not getting endless notification beeps and at the same time you make your Team a safe place to collaborate where everyone knows who is who. 

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#2: Use ‘Channels’ in your Team to broadly categorise conversations, but don’t go overboard. 

Aim for a maximum 4 Channels to start with. SWOOP’s benchmarking identified the full range from everyone in the one single Channel to more than 10 Channels. On average 4 channels is a happy medium. No one had 20, so unless you have a really special situation, limit yourself, or you’ll end up having ghost Channels which make the Team feel inactive, even when it’s not. 

#3: Post frequently. 

Our benchmarking study found that while the chat function is highly used, our panel of experts all recommended you use Channels for posting everything which has relevance, or could have relevance, for the team. Aim for at least 1-2 channel messages per person per day. Best performing teams had each member posting 14 messages per day, on average!  

#4: Actively gather intelligence on what others are working on which might impact your team. 

People are members of an average of three teams but are mostly active in one, and we found 83% of Teams are private. Therefore, it’s very likely no one will know what colleagues in other parts of the business are working on. When you’re in the office you’ll hear things at the water cooler, the café or lunch room. But no one bumps into a colleague from another business unit in Microsoft Teams, so you now have to make a deliberate effort to reach out, and report back to the team. 

#5: Make the most relevant and most frequently accessed file available directly in your Team

Our benchmarking found Excel was the most popular app added to Teams. When you add Excel as a tab you’re just one click away from seeing the content without having to 1) browse for the file 2) click to open and then 3) wait for Excel to load up. Also, you can do this with many different applications. Pick your favourite from the Microsoft Teams app store. 

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Nurturing Your Team’s Online Performance 

Once you start working as a remote team, you’ll start thinking about how things are going. While you can easily see posts and replies in Microsoft Teams, it can still be difficult to visualise strengths and weaknesses. But if your organisation is using SWOOP for Teams, you can consult your SWOOP insights to see what’s working well and what can be improved. 

For instance, you can start by looking at the User Activity and Channel Activity as you start to build your digital profile. The User Activity Widget shows you the number of posts, replies and likes you and your colleagues have posted in the channels:  

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Look at the chart and ask yourself: Are people contributing as predicted? Have you found your rhythm? 

The Team Channel Activity widget provides a more in-depth view of our how the team’s work tasks are being progressed inside the channels: 

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Have you been successful in using channels effectively? Do you have ghost channels? Is everything in a single channel? 

Your Team Interaction Map provides a holistic picture of team member to team member interactions:  

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People who get energy from interacting with colleagues in the office may find the transition to working from home a challenging experience. Look at the map and consider what it ideally should look like. Do you see a colleague who normally loves interaction, but is on the fringe of the map? This is a good prompt to use the video calling feature to check in to see how things are. 

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This brings us to the last point. We performed a cluster-analysis of the collaboration patterns in the 5,000+ and found 4 very distinctly different team types: 

  • Self-directed team – all members interact with each other, no obvious team lead.
  • Single leader team – interactions tend to be directed by a single member.
  • Community – a larger team that has a core of connected members.
  • Forum – a larger team directed by line management leaders.

What sort of team would you like your own team to be? What sort of interaction patterns would work best for your team? Would your team be able to perform best as a Self-directed team or a Single leader team? Consult your SWOOP Team Persona to see what your team interaction patterns show. 

Closing Thoughts

We are in challenging times and no doubt you will experience times when you become frustrated by an inability to meet face to face. You are not alone. We have identified many teams who have been in fully digital working mode by necessity and their practices and experiences are available to learn from. 

To find out more about how high performing digital teams connect interact and perform, download our free Microsoft Teams Benchmarking report

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