Teams and Outlooks enhanced for hybrid work.
Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Fizkes

Microsoft has unveiled several enhancements to Teams and Outlook designed to make them more hybrid work-friendly. The update for Outlook will let users indicate whether they’re working in the office or remotely. The updates for Teams will help remote workers more easily feel as if they’re physically part of a meeting.

The past two years have changed how and where people work. Because of the pandemic, organizations and employees had to shift from working in the office to working remotely. And now many have adopted a hybrid model where people can work in the office and/or at home. With that transition, the tools we use have to adapt as well. In a Wednesday blog post, Microsoft described how Outlook and Teams are being updated to catch up with this new way of working.

SEE: How to work from home: IT pro’s guidebook to telecommuting and remote work (TechRepublic Premium)

For Outlook, you’ll be able to respond to meeting initiations based on how and where you plan to join the meeting. A new RSVP window will let you indicate whether you plan to join in person or virtually. This option not only clarifies your involvement in a meeting but can help organizers better prepare their meetings based on how people will attend. The new RSVP options will appear in a public preview of Outlook on the web sometime during the second quarter of 2022.

Outlook hybrid worker feature.
Image: Microsoft

For Microsoft Teams, a speaker coach feature will allow meeting presenters to better gear their presentations for a virtual crowd. The AI-based feature will help you with your pacing, alert you if you’re interrupting a meeting attendee, and remind you to periodically check in with your audience.

A language interpretation option will help live interpreters translate a speaker’s words into another language in real time. Meeting organizers will be able to choose from among 16 source and target languages. The translated words will play in the foreground, while the original audio will play in the background at a lower volume.

Microsoft is also beefing up the whiteboard in Teams with more collaboration cursors, 50 new templates, contextual reactions, and a way to open existing whiteboards and collaborate with external participants. The speaker coach, language interpretation, and whiteboard enhancements are set to launch in the second quarter of the year.

Teams hybrid worker features.
Image: Microsoft

Other improvements are geared toward Teams Rooms, an option that uses video and audio, and content sharing to try to make a meeting more inclusive for in-person and virtual attendees alike.

SEE: 11 ways to be a consummate professional during Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings (TechRepublic)

To more smoothly include both remote and in-person participants, Microsoft is unveiling a new meeting layout called front row. Aimed specifically at hybrid meetings, front row displays the video gallery at eye level so that people physically at the meeting can more easily interact face to face with those joining virtually. Any shared content is centered on the screen and surrounded by other meeting activities and reactions. Front row is currently accessible in preview mode, with more features to pop up later this year.

Other changes for Teams Rooms are in store. If you join a meeting in Teams Rooms from a PC or mobile device, your audio will automatically be turned off to eliminate feedback. You’ll be prompted to turn off your laptop video so you can more easily be seen by those joining virtually. Further, your video feed will be hidden from the screen in front of the meeting room to avoid distractions. All these enhancements are set to debut in the second quarter of this year.

Finally, since Teams Rooms relies heavily on the right hardware, new products also are set to appear. Microsoft has already launched a new camera known as the Surface Hub 2 Smart Camera, which offers remote meeting attendees a more dynamic view of a meeting room with automatic framing. Slated for the second quarter, touch-enabled display products for Teams Rooms on Android are coming from Neat and Yealink.

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