MVP Webinar Series Highlights – Advancing Modern Work Through Microsoft Teams Part 2


MVP Webinar Series Highlights – Advancing Modern Work Through Microsoft Teams Part II

Microsoft Teams has proved to be an invaluable tool, enabling businesses to communicate and collaborate more effectively and efficiently. Microsoft Teams is a vast platform and navigating its extensive list of capabilities can be challenging. Our MVP series was developed for this purpose – to help users get the most out of their Teams subscription by connecting them with the foremost experts in the field.

From optimizing your network to uncovering Teams strategies and tools to improve your workflow, this webinar series covers a range of useful topics:

Episode 1: Optimizing Your Network for Microsoft Teams
Episode 2: Empowering Collaboration with Microsoft Teams Devices
Episode 3: Developing Inclusive Communications Through Microsoft Teams
Episode 4: Supporting Neurodiversity with Microsoft Teams

In this article, we will briefly recap episodes three and four, highlighting some of the top tips from each episode. Highlights from episodes one and two can be seen in part one of our webinar series highlights .

Episode 3: Developing Inclusive Communications Through Microsoft Teams

With millions of users working daily in Microsoft Teams, companies must understand the different video-based communication and collaboration interfaces available before choosing the right format for any given situation. In episode three Daniel Glenn , M365 Apps & Services MVP, walks you through:

  • Using Live Events and Webinars
  • Breakout Rooms and when to use them
  • Using video to communicate through Microsoft Teams
  • Viva Engage and Microsoft Teams

In the clip below, Daniel when and how to use breakout rooms to increase engagement and collaboration in meetings.

Tips for Creating Inclusive Meetings

  1. Select the best type of meeting – Understand the capabilities of each meeting type and pick the interface that best matches your participant’s needs.
  2. Use breakout rooms – Large meetings can deter engagement. Breakout rooms create smaller spaces that make it easier and more comfortable for people to interact and share with the group.
  3. Turn your video on – Video shows people that you are engaged. It also allows them to understand your level of commitment while letting them engage with you more easily.
  4. Connect with Viva Engage – Use Viva Engage to connect with leadership and communities, share knowledge, and spark engagement.

Episode 4: Supporting Neurodiversity with Microsoft Teams

Global studies estimate that as much as 40% of the population lives with cognitive differences like ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia. In theory, at least one person you work with has a cognitive difference. This means that they may communicate, consume, and interpret things differently.

Episode four features Megan Strant and Loryan Strant , M365 Apps & Services MVPs who share tools available on the M365 platform that support neurodiverse individuals and help them work more efficiently. In this episode, they cover:

  • Enhanced focus
  • Reading and writing
  • Leveraging audio and video tools
  • Other M365 app enhancements

In the clip below, Megan Strant and Loryan Strant discuss the Enhanced Focus tools that are available in Microsoft Teams and how they can be used to improve your workflow.

Tips for Creating Enhanced Focus

  1. Viva Insights Focus Time – Carve out time to focus and get work done. The Focus Time feature automatically schedules focus time for you, sets your status to “Focus” to alert others, mutes notifications and gives you reports to track how much focus time you honored.
  2. Teams presence and status messages – A Focus mode status is only sometimes enough to deter people from booking a meeting or messaging you. You can manually change your Teams status to let people know you are unavailable and add a status message to let them know why you can’t respond immediately and/or when you will be available again.
  3. Tuning out – Sometimes you need to tune out all the beeps that can derail your focus and reduce the noise and distractions. Learning to manage notifications for posts and chats and leaving meeting chats that you are not attending can help cut the volume. If a conversation has caught your attention and there is an action item in there, rather than becoming a part of the conversation, consider using “Create a Task” to help narrow your focus and return to it when you are ready.

Explore Each Topic On-Demand

Microsoft Teams has become an integral tool in the modern workplace, enabling seamless communication and collaboration regardless of device or location. The multitude of features in the Teams platform can be overwhelming to approach on your own. However, by leveraging the tips and strategies provided by the Microsoft MVPs who joined us for this series, you can easily get the most out of your Teams subscription while improving your workflow.

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Webinar Series Highlights – Advancing Modern Work Through Microsoft Teams Part 1


Webinar Series Highlights – Advancing Modern Work Through Microsoft Teams Part 1

The way we work has changed forever. To adapt our old ways of working to the modern workplace, Microsoft Teams has become an integral tool to create seamless collaboration and communication experiences across locations and devices.

In our latest webinar series, Advancing Modern Work Through Microsoft Teams , Microsoft MVPs and Kollective experts explain how to get the most out of Microsoft Teams to increase communication, collaboration, and productivity. Hosted by Alistair Pugin , Microsoft Azure and M365 Apps & Services MVP, the four-episode series covers a range of topics:

Episode 1: Optimizing Your Network for Microsoft Teams
Episode 2: Empowering Collaboration with Microsoft Teams Devices
Episode 3: Developing Inclusive Communications Through Microsoft Teams
Episode 4: Supporting Neurodiversity with Microsoft Teams

In this article, we will briefly recap episodes one and two and highlight invaluable tips shared by the experts on how to optimize your workflow and efficiency within Microsoft Teams.

Episode 1: Optimizing Your Network for Microsoft Teams

Video communications are key to enabling modern work. Unprepared networks struggle to deliver high quality Microsoft Teams meetings, live events, and webinars.
In this episode, Alistair is joined by Nicolas Blank , Microsoft Azure and M365 Apps & Services MVP, and Kollective’s VP of Product, Garrett Gladden to discuss:

  • Preparing your connectivity options
  • How Teams handles audio and video calls
  • Where bottlenecks occur
  • How to analyze what your network looks like

Tips for Flawless Teams Video Communications

  1. Understand your network – Whether you are about to roll out Teams or your current user experience is not up to par, it is crucial to understand your network’s capabilities and if it is set up to deliver a quality experience through Teams.
  2. Understand what you need from Teams – Not all devices are created equal, and endpoint performance issues may cause poor user experiences. Examine the devices that are consuming Teams video on your network and understand the platform’s impact on the hardware.
  3. Utilize the tools from Microsoft – Microsoft’s Call Quality Dashboard shows you organization-wide call and meeting quality, and you can leverage Power BI to analyze that data.
  4. Know your options – Understand your access points and trace what PoP (point of presence) you are connecting through.
  5. Measure, change, then measure again – Analyze network performance, make changes, and measure again to see if there has been an improvement. Microsoft 365’s network connectivity test is an easy way to measure your network’s performance repeatedly. Be sure to compare the performance on home networks versus corporate networks versus a branch site to gain a complete picture.

Episode 2: Empowering Collaboration with Microsoft Teams Devices

Creating inclusive Teams meeting experiences when only some are physically present is a challenge for businesses offering hybrid or remote work options. Episode two focuses on the latest capabilities and features of Microsoft Teams-enabled devices to bridge the gap between the office and home.

Tom Arbuthnot , M365 Apps & Services MVP and Microsoft Communications Certified Master, takes you through:

  • Microsoft Teams Rooms Pro
  • IntelliFrame
  • Hotdesking
  • And more device ecosystem updates

In the clip below, Tom emphasizes the need for businesses to budget for reasonable devices for those working from home.

“Don’t scrimp on home devices. People are spending so long at home that if you’re impacting the meeting experience, you’re impacting everybody’s productivity.” – Tom Arbuthnot

Tips to Improve Work-from-Home Teams Meeting Experiences

  1. If you are on a tight budget, invest in audio over video.
  2. Logitech 930e webcam and a decent headset (wired or Bluetooth) is a great place to start. If you are looking to upgrade, consider Logitech’s Brio 4K webcam.
  3. Pay attention to your lighting set up. If you have poor lighting, consider a ring light to improve visibility.

Microsoft Teams has unlocked many doors for the modern workplace and allowed us to quickly adapt to changes in where, how, and even why we work. Navigating the Teams ecosystem and the options available can be daunting. The Microsoft MVPs who joined us for this series are a font of knowledge in all things Team related.

Stay tuned for part 2 where we recap episodes three and four or take a deep dive into each topic by watching the episodes on-demand.

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The Drawbacks of Remote Work


The Drawbacks of Remote Work

The pandemic forced businesses and employees to adopt the virtual workplace overnight. Remote work quickly became the standard, leaving little time to prepare employees for this new way of working. Many employees realized the benefits of remote work like a better work-life balance and the flexibility to work their own hours. Others, especially those newer to the workforce, struggled with the lack of social interaction and burnout. As the world continues to reopen and remote options become a permanent fixture of the modern office, it is important that businesses are aware of the downsides of remote work when deciding how to enable workplace flexibility.

Socially Remote

With the move to remote work, the social aspects of office culture have become harder to replicate. Those working from home often experience feelings of isolation and loneliness which can take a toll on their productivity as well as their mental and physical well-being. In a poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association, nearly two-thirds of remote workers experienced these feelings some of the time and 17% felt them all the time. Creating an inclusive hybrid culture can help address these problems.

Professional Growth

Workplace social opportunities are pivotal in relationship building and career growth. However, the networking and mentorship opportunities vital to professional development aren’t easy to access when working remotely. Remote employees miss out on the countless daily interactions that occur in office settings. These seemingly small social interactions play a significant role in building rapport with coworkers. This can also make it difficult for new hires and younger employees to form bonds with a company and its culture.

No generation has been more impacted by this than Gen Z. A growing number of young employees have never worked in an office. They graduated during the pandemic or started jobs as business closed and transitioned to remote work. While many argue that remote work can harm their professional and personal lives in the future by missing office work, research suggests it may also lead to retention issues for employers. In a recent Bankrate survey, 77% of Gen Z workers plan to look for a new job in the next year.


Blurred lines between home and office, longer working hours, less time off, and feeling cut off from peers and management can lead to burnout for remote workers. A survey by Indeed found that 52% of respondents experienced burnout in 2021, up from 43% in 2020. Younger employees who struggle to adhere to work-life boundaries are particularly susceptible to this with 58% of Gen Z respondents reporting burnout.

Hybrid Solutions Address Remote Concerns

Despite these negatives, 87% of employees want to retain workplace flexibility post-pandemic. A popular solution to this problem is the hybrid work model, which allows for in-person meetings or in-office days while still offering the flexibility of remote work. Learn how Kollective solves for hybrid work .

Kollective Empowers Hybrid Strategies

While a hybrid workplace can be a buffer against many of the downsides of fully remote work, it can also put a strain on systems not prepared for this scenario. Live video plays an integral role in synchronous communications for the hybrid workplace, and corporate networks are often overtaxed when delivering bandwidth-intensive video. Even a small number of employees streaming a live event or on-demand video can overload a network. The recent comments by Google’s CEO highlight this concern , predicting that employees will come in less than before but en masse when they do, thus creating peak demand problems for networks. Networks need to be optimized with an enterprise content delivery network (ECDN), to ensure every employee receives the same high-quality video.

Employees expect a seamless video communications experience – their engagement and retention depend on it. Poor content delivery interrupts communications, inhibits collaboration, and stalls innovation. Kollective’s Edge Accelerator offers complete coverage to reliably deliver video to your entire workforce without investing in additional infrastructure. Our multiple delivery methods can be configured or combined to meet the needs of even the most complex networks. With Kollective’s ECDN in place, flawless communications reach every employee.

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How to Make Hybrid Meetings Inclusive


How to Make Hybrid Meetings Inclusive

Building Inclusive Hybrid Meetings

The adoption of hybrid workplaces has forced leaders to “rethink” everyday business activities. Before the pandemic, meetings were planned and structured well in advance. Microsoft found that weekly meeting time for Teams users has more than doubled since February 2020, leaving organizers less time to prepare. Hybrid meetings – meetings that contain a mix of in-person and remote attendees – have become critical to businesses needing to connect dispersed teams. Many face a challenge to make hybrid meetings inclusive for every attendee regardless of whether they are in the office, working from home or joining from a remote office. This article offers several ideas to help design inclusive hybrid meetings.

Create and Communicate Structure

Whether you are running a company-wide all-hands or a small team check-in, remote attendees can be at a disadvantage compared to those in the room with you. An excellent way to lessen the disparities and build inclusive meetings is to use the remote experience to inform how you prepare for and facilitate meetings.

“Creating equitable, inclusive experiences starts with designing for people not in the room.” – Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO | The Hybrid Work Paradox

Create space for engagement. Before the event, reviewing each activity from the perspective of the remote participants will help encourage engagement. If presenting content like a video or slide deck, ensure the camera has an unobstructed view of the presenter and the presentation. Supply remote attendees with copies of any presentation materials or handouts ahead of the meeting. During discussion or Q&A sessions, ask for remote participants’ input first to ensure their voices are heard and consider appointing an in-person ally for remote attendees who can physically participate during interactive meeting activities. Not all activities will be remote-friendly but understanding the meeting from a remote perspective goes a long way towards building equity.

Provide an agenda with objectives in advance. Empower your team to participate by preparing them ahead of time with topics to be covered, the motivation behind the content, and presentation method. Creating a clear agenda will help limit in-person chatter, which can be distracting for remote viewers. For each topic on the agenda, define its objective. Is it to share information, solicit feedback, brainstorm, or work together to reach a consensus?? Including an objective and how each group will achieve that goal will increase engagement.

Put the Right Technology in Place

The technology you use plays a significant role in keeping all parties engaged and connected. Unlike in-person or virtual meetings, hybrid meetings require physical spaces, hardware and software to create virtual spaces, and infrastructure to connect the two.

Develop a technology plan for the whole team. Communicate technology requirements for both remote and in-person attendees and coordinate with IT to ensure everyone has the tools they need to participate. Hybrid meetings also require rooms outfitted with video and audio capabilities so that remote attendees can see and hear what is happening. Ensure the meeting room is properly equipped to handle your meeting structure and that the system is turned on and tested beforehand. With multiple locations and devices connecting simultaneously, there is a higher chance something could go wrong. Creating backup plans in case the room’s wifi goes down or remote viewers or presenters lose their connection will mitigate the damage of technical difficulties.

Prepare your network for the demands of hybrid meetings. As employees return to the office and hybrid meetings become commonplace, the influx of live video can tax existing networks and negatively impact their performance. In larger meetings with a mix of in-person and remote attendees accessing the live stream, ill-prepared networks can result in buffering or event failures. After experiencing multiple delivery failures to employees in critical locations, HSBC turned to Kollective for a solution that would remedy the problem. “Efficient video delivery to staff located on the fringes of the network was key to the requirement of the solution. Kollective was able to meet this requirement bringing communications to areas where it had not been possible before.” Adding an enterprise content delivery network (ECDN) to your technology stack will optimize your network, allowing you to deliver flawless live video to every employee regardless of their location, device, or bandwidth limitations.

Complete Coverage

With the rising demands of the hybrid workplace, other solutions have struggled to adapt and deliver in complex network environments. Kollective developed Complete Coverage to provide businesses with greater flexibility and the confidence that their network will always work. Kollective’s Edge Accelerator is the only ECDN Platform with delivery methods that handle the most diverse network needs to ensure that no employee is left behind.

Begin scaling live video today. Kollective’s Browser-Based Peering delivery solution solves most hybrid meeting challenges by reducing the bandwidth needed to deliver high-quality live video at scale. Browser-Based Peering is a cloud-based, WebRTC technology that can be deployed in minutes without installing software, purchasing hardware, or investing in additional infrastructure.

Reliable delivery in any situation. Combining Brower-Based Peering with Kollective’s Agent-Based Peering or EdgeCache delivery solutions meets the needs of networks with more specific demands like zero-trust or delivery to China or remote locations. Our multiple solutions can communicate using intelligent logic to utilize the most efficient delivery method with every request.

Building inclusive hybrid meetings requires new considerations due to their increased complexity. By preparing your team, leveraging technology, and enhancing your network you can make every employee feel included regardless of location.

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The Hybrid Work Paradox


The Hybrid Work Paradox

In a recent article , Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, “solving the Hybrid Work Paradox will be the challenge of the decade.” The stakes for Microsoft are undeniably high. The Covid-19 pandemic coupled with advances to their hybrid solutions (e.g. Microsoft Teams, Stream, Viva, O365) has resulted in huge increases in usage and directly improved the efficiency and collaboration of their hybrid workforce of over 180,000 employees.

Therefore, it’s no surprise Microsoft released a study in September 2021 titled, The effects of remote work on collaboration among information workers. The study, published in Nature Human Behaviour , analyzes collaboration and communication of 61,182 remote Microsoft employees over the first six months of 2020. In this article, we’ll detail their findings, examine the current state of hybrid work, and explore how business leaders can prepare their workforce for the challenges of the hybrid office.

What is the Hybrid Work Paradox?

Workers want the flexibility of remote work, but also the inspiration and real-time collaboration that in-person work offers. This is the Hybrid Work Paradox. So, can workers have it both ways? To put it simply, yes, but businesses need policies and technology geared for flexibility. As Nadella puts it, companies need to “embrace flexibility across their entire operating model, including the ways people work, the places they inhabit and how they approach business.”

To know how businesses need to flex in response to hybrid work, we need to develop an understanding of the pain points and hurdles to overcome. Microsoft’s study provides many of those insights; let’s dive in and review what they found.

Productivity Increases at the Cost of Creativity

Microsoft’s study analyzed remote work behaviors of employees between December 2019 and June 2020. This time frame is significant as it establishes a pre-pandemic baseline to compare data against once the pandemic struck. While businesses and workers have become more adapted to remote work since June 2020, there’s still valuable information to glean from the study.

The main benefit researchers discovered about remote work was a slight, but noticeable increase in productivity and hours worked per week. However, this came at the cost of creativity. While remote work eliminates in-person communication, they found that workers didn’t always replace in-person interactions with video or voice calls. This was part of a broader trend signaling a decrease in synchronous communications (e.g. scheduled meetings, video calls, etc.). Instead, reliance on asynchronous communications such as emails and IMs grew. Researchers concluded that this makes it more difficult to convey complex ideas and converge on the meaning of complex information thereby reducing creative output.

Another consequence of remote work was the growth of communication silos. Remote work caused workers to have fewer bridging ties with other members in the company and spend less time with the bridging ties they already built. Researchers worried this could become a more significant problem over time, stating “it is possible that the long-term effects of firm-wide remote work are different. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, workers were able to leverage existing network connections, many of which were built in person. This may not be possible if firm-wide remote work were implemented long-term.”

We can summarize the study’s findings on the downstream effects of remote work in three points.

  1. Increase in productivity
  2. Decrease in real-time conversations
  3. Increase in departmental silos

There is no Universal Solution to the Hybrid Work Paradox

The results of the study seem to paint a bleak picture of the current state of remote work – at least at the beginning of the pandemic. Though, perhaps the greatest benefit of Microsoft’s study is that it has drawn attention to the specific shortcomings and pain points of remote work. These problems are not insurmountable. Rather, they give managers and team leads areas to focus on.

So how do we solve the hybrid work paradox? Well, for one, it’s important to understand that these rules don’t universally apply. Each business is unique in their structure and operational methods. And different roles are more affected by remote work than others. For example, professions that are used to prolonged periods of solitary work (e.g., writers, designers, etc.) are not as affected by the pitfalls of hybrid work as cross-functional roles that rely on lots of collaboration.

Managers can start addressing hybrid concerns by embracing the flexibility of hybrid work and ensuring they build an open culture. This starts with increasing synchronous communications and facilitating connections between other departments to enable collaboration and cross-functional work.

Secondly, preparing your company and team with the tools and technology needed to lower these barriers. Workers need functional and reliable communications tools like Microsoft Teams that allow remote workers a comparable level of collaboration offered by in-person work. Additionally, enterprise networks need to be able to handle and consistently deliver these bandwidth intensive forms of communication. Stay tuned for our next article in this series where we’ll review how Kollective’s ECDN uniquely provides the coverage and flexibility necessary to solve the problems presented by hybrid work.

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Use Live Video to Encourage Collaboration Among Hybrid Employees


Organizations all over the world were faced with an unprecedented challenge after COVID-19 forced nearlytwo-thirds of employees to work remotely . Without much warning, employers had to find a way to shift their entire staff to remote work. However, many were unprepared to face this unprecedented challenge.  

Since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, the usage and demand for video collaboration tools has skyrocketed. Even so, with vaccinations ramping up and a return to office on the horizon, it’s clear that hybrid work will continue well into the future. Some employees will continue working from home in order to accommodate safety recommendations, where others will return to the workplace to take advantage of in-person collaboration and advanced technology. 90% of human resources leaders surveyed by Gartner said they plan to let employees work remotely at least part of the time, even after a vaccine is widely adopted. But regardless of where you’re working, one thing is certain – the modern workplace will never be the same.


When employees start trickling back into the office, most organizations will adopt a hybrid work model. For example, your Sales team may continue working from home, but your IT department will be in office. For this setup to function properly without leaving anyone behind, it’s up to you to keep communication lines open and make sure that everyone feels included and connected. 

A simple and cost-effective way to make sure your employees stay connected is with video communications. Most remote workers appreciate face time with their colleagues, and in-office employees will benefit from a streamlined communication platform. Given the new state of the hybrid workforce, you want every member of your team to feel included, regardless of location.  

Plus, if someone misses a meeting, video on demand (VOD) services allow employees to catch up on important meetings or company-wide communications even after the meeting has ended. The more connected teams feel, the better they’ll be able to work together. Research firm Gigaom says 87% of remote team members feel more connected to their team when they can use video conferencing.


Maintaining strong employee collaboration has been one of the largest workplace hurdles IT and Communications teams have had to climb during the pandemic. While convenient, communicating via email or an instant messenger can lead to miscommunications and unnecessary, time-consuming work. Instead of relying on text-heavy communications methods, utilizing a video conferencing software will allow both in-office and remote employees to quickly and clearly communicate with one another in a more collaborative way. 

In addition to being a way for employees to feel connected with one another, video meetings can be much more time-efficient, since the need for back-and-forth email chains are reduced. Many video conferencing programs, like Microsoft Teams , also allow for cross-collaboration and make file sharing, discussing, reviewing and sending documents a lot more streamlined, especially for employees who are working in different locations. 


Enabling cohesion in the COVID age has been challenging. But one of the keys to building a high-functioning team is to establish trust and build rapport among your employees, even when not everyone is working together physically. Instead of deferring to email or chat, use video communication to better humanize the way we work together. Having the ability to actually look someone in the eyes and catch up before or after a meeting can make a significant difference in a hybrid team’s ability to bond with one another. 

If you’d like more insight on how video can help connect your distributed workforce, read our white paper “The Visible Boss.” We cover everything from tips for getting started to best practices from executives thrive in front of the camera. 

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