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Microsoft Teams gets new family-and-friends-centric features

In many states, families have been isolated from their extended families, friends from friends and so on. Microsoft is aiming to ease the isolation with new features in Teams, all the new features were posted today in a blog post:

Personal features

Together Mode for family and friends

Together mode is now available for personal use. You can now turn any regular video call into a shared virtual environment using ‘Together mode’ to help feel like you’re in the same space as your family and friends. Together mode reduces fatigue, because according to Microsoft “your brain doesn’t have to work as hard when compared to a standard video call. You can choose from a variety of new virtual environments such as a family lounge, coffee shop, or even a summer resort to make your calls more engaging, fun, and connected, even when you’re apart.”

Example of various Together mode scenes in a video call

Now you can use live emoji reactions and GIFs, with friends and family.

Users sending various live emojis in a video call

If you miss a call where everyone in your group got together, you can always come back to catch up, read the chat thread and post your favorite GIF to carry on the conversation because chats in Teams don’t go away even when your call is done.

Example of a persistent chat between participants of a video call

Video call links in Teams can be shared with anyone, even if they don’t use Teams. Your friends or family can join a meeting using any device like a PC, Mac, iOS, Android device or a web browser.

Make plans

First, bringing people together in a group chat is as simple as adding people using their email or phone number. Even if someone you add doesn’t use Teams, they can still see and respond to all group chats via SMS text messages. Once in a group chat, you can create a shared to-do list and assign tasks to others in the group. Everyone in the group can view and edit task details or check-off items when completed.

I also love that I can convert a message from a group chat into a task, so if my wife reminds me that we’re out of bread, I can add it directly to the grocery list. This way, whether it’s managing chores at home or planning the next weekend trip, I can get to the finish line with the help of everyone.

But what happens when the group has to make a decision? This was another place we knew we could take our learnings from Teams for work and apply it to consumers—with polls. Polling is a great way to track decisions such as where to meet for dinner or what day to hold Grandma’s birthday party.

What makes Teams unique is that once the poll is completed, anyone in the group can take action based on the results, whether it’s adding a group event or assigning tasks. To do this today, you’d have to use three different apps; one to coordinate through chat, one to add it to everyone’s calendar, and one for tasks. Now you can do it all in Teams. Polls is coming soon, and I can’t wait to use it to get my family to decide what to order for dinner.

It is also super slick to see the dashboard view in every chat. The dashboard neatly organizes all your group’s shared content, from photos, files, web links, shared tasks, and upcoming group events. This has saved me so much time because I can now quickly jump in and out of my different group chats and easily access all the shared information related to that chat. For example, when I go to the chat with my family, I can see my kids’ locations on the map3 or check what tasks my wife asked me to help her with. Then I can jump over to one of my group chats with friends, and I can see all the photos they shared with me, plus help fill out the spreadsheet they started to track all our favorite restaurants. 

Balance life at home and work together in one app

This past year, the lines between work, life, and learning have blurred for so many of us. Many are constantly switching between tasks focused on our work and more personal tasks. Finding the right balance in this “new normal” looks different for each of us. I love the ability to manage my whole life in Teams, but I also want to be able to keep my worlds separate when necessary. Teams ensures separation is kept between your work and personal accounts. All files, contacts, chats, and other information for each of your accounts are kept separate. And I can easily switch between the two just by clicking on my profile.

I love that Teams can now be the true cornerstone of communication and collaboration across my entire life, streamlining how I stay connected but still maintaining important separation to help me find my right balance.

Switching between work and personal accounts

Use personal features in Microsoft Teams today

Personal features in Teams are available today, for free, and for people around the world. If you’re using Teams for work, just click on your profile to add a personal account. If you’re new to Teams, you can download the iOSAndroid, or desktop app to get started today. You can also use Teams on any web browser, including my personal favorite, Microsoft Edge. Learn more about personal features in Teams.

We’re so excited that Microsoft Teams, which so many of us have come to rely on at work, can now help people connect and get things done with their family and friends. We can’t wait to hear your feedback and look forward to delivering more features over time.

Based on all the updates for Microsoft Teams, Microsoft may be leapfrogging Zoom in many aspects, heat competition like this delivers innovation from companies looking to win our business and we all benefit no matter which service we choose.

A former industry insider and tech industry enthusiast.

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