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After Zoom, Microsoft tweaks Teams for hybrid work

One of the features called 'front row' brings the video gallery to the bottom of the screen so that people calling in remotely are displayed at eye level with those in the conference room

Microsoft is also integrating Headspace meditation sessions, a new focus mode, and quiet time settings into the Viva Insights app in Microsoft Teams Microsoft is also integrating Headspace meditation sessions, a new focus mode, and quiet time settings into the Viva Insights app in Microsoft Teams

Microsoft on Thursday said it will be tweaking the design of Teams over the course of the year to make its video conferencing tools stay relevant even in a hybrid work setup as the pandemic abates in various parts of the world.

The tech giant's announcement comes a few weeks after rival Zoom also pegged itself as a must-have tool for the hybrid work model as a majority of workplaces are considering adopting a more flexible approach to work.

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One of the features called 'front row' brings the video gallery to the bottom of the screen so that people calling in remotely are displayed at eye level with those in the conference room. Other features include a more integrated digital whiteboard in Teams, and users being able to see the remote presenter alongside the content being presented.

Starting at the end of this month, Microsoft is also integrating Headspace meditation sessions, a new focus mode, and quiet time settings into the Viva Insights app in Microsoft Teams.

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"Covid-19 also taught us that meeting fatigue and digital overload is real, and remote work has challenged our wellbeing. To help, Microsoft has built Microsoft Viva-our integrated employee experience platform-into Teams, so that employees can find ways to protect time and preserve their well being right in the flow of their work," said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, in a pre-recorded presentation.

In the 2021 Work Trend Index the company released a few days ago - a study of over 31,000 people in 31 countries - over half of the respondents reported feeling overworked and over a third described they were exhausted.  

Based on the findings, the firm noted that employees want flexible remote work options to stay, but the digital overload associated with more remote work is challenging their wellbeing.

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The Covid-19 health crisis, which forced several millions around the globe to work, study and socialise remotely, made household names out of video conferencing tools Microsoft Teams and Zoom.  

The Teams chat and calling app reached 145 million daily active users as of March 2021, while Zoom declared a 191 per cent jump in revenue during January-March to $956.2 million.

In an analysts call after the results, CEO Eric Yuan said Zoom announced features such as smarter gallery, virtual receptionist and environment-monitoring sensors to help companies "enhance the hybrid work experience".

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