The best Microsoft Teams productivity applications for remote work
By: Emily Finlay
Since its launch in 2017, Microsoft Teams has become a dominant player in the productivity tool market. It gained about 20 million active users within two years, reaching this number by November 2019.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, many businesses added Microsoft Teams to their technology kit to simplify remote work. By the end of October 2020, the platform had reached 115 million active users, with that figure now at 145 million active users as of April 2021.
These numbers clearly show how important Microsoft Teams has become for remote work within organizations. But video calls aren’t the only ways for companies to use this tool. Companies use it to help teams stay connected and collaborate on their projects.
Microsoft Teams now integrates with over 700 applications to give workers access to the resources they need to stay productive. In this post, we’ll introduce you to the types of applications you can add to Microsoft Teams to help employees stay focused, efficient, and productive.
Microsoft Teams improves productivity by keeping teams connected, informed, and empowered to do great work through its features and integrations. Adding applications, such as the ones we discuss below, can help your team collaborate even more effectively, even when everyone is physically distant.
Once you’ve added the applications you need, you can pin them to the Microsoft Teams toolbar or find them in your library for quick and easy access.
Project management applications
Staying on top of your projects means tracking all of the moving parts. You need to know who is responsible for what tasks, when deliverables are due, and if your progress meets internal or client expectations. Adding a project management application to Microsoft Teams gives you the control and visibility you need to do all of these things and more.
For example, you can choose an application that uses visual project tracking tools, such as Trello, Asana, or Monday.com, to list all of your tasks. This allows you to easily tag employees in their assigned tasks to clarify responsibilities. You can also add notes and files to tasks and projects, helping to add context and resources.
By providing access to all of these capabilities within a single tool, you can save employees time and effort, which helps minimize the risk of losing momentum or getting distracted while navigating to another tool.
If anyone has questions, they can quickly jump quickly on a chat within the Microsoft Teams platform to get answers. All team meetings can also be held using the platform, which helps further centralize work.
Keeping everything in one place can decrease the chances of misplacing information or having to spend valuable time searching for it. To that end, encourage team members to add all relevant information for specific projects to Microsoft Teams. Having this type of high-level project management strategy in place can help everyone work more efficiently and productively.
Many businesses rely on tools that are designed for specific types of work, such as coding or graphic design. Using multiple tools often means toggling between programs and windows, which can lead to wasted time and possibly even frustration. Microsoft Teams integrates with several tools for specific industries, such as marketing, coding, and even cryptocurrency to help minimize these problems.
Having specific applications integrated within the same platform can allow team members to work on deliverables simultaneously, even when separated by distance or time zones. You can also add information stored within your Microsoft tools, such as appointments saved in Outlook or files shared within Microsoft Teams.
For example, let’s say you need to create a mobile app for a client. You could use a Microsoft Teams integration such as FollowAnalytics to build and publish the app collaboratively. Since the app resides with Teams, you can add and link to other important information with ease.
Once you launch the app, you can continue to track its performance within Microsoft Teams, allowing key stakeholders to view the data and make important decisions.
When you’re leading a remote team, it can be harder to understand who’s thriving and who’s struggling. If an employee reacts negatively to a situation, you can’t rely on the same visual cues you might pick up on if you were in the same room with them.
Even if everyone on your remote team is happy with the way things are running, gathering feedback about processes and changes—and making changes where needed—can help. This way, you can course-correct quickly to maintain high workplace satisfaction.
Microsoft Teams integrates with several applications that help you gather and measure employee feedback. With Polly, you can run polls to find out things like which type of project management methodology people prefer, or what day is best for holding weekly meetings.
With an application like Qubie, you can use surveys to gather feedback on your leadership style and how well certain processes work for your team. Some applications will even use the results to recommend changes that may solve the problems you uncover.
The success of your remote team depends heavily on your leadership, and these tools can be instrumental in solving challenges so things run more smoothly.
Gamification uses game-like incentives (e.g., receiving awards or points that can be redeemed for things like swag or gift cards) to encourage productivity. Depending on the type of work your team is responsible for, employees can win points for submitting work on time, receiving positive client feedback, or hitting certain milestones on time.
The benefits of gamification can be huge for remote teams. In a recent survey, 72% of employees say gamification increases their motivation to work harder, and 87% feel more socially connected when their work is gamified.
You can also use incentives to encourage better collaboration within Microsoft Teams. By integrating the TeamsChamp application, employees are rewarded for communicating and working together within the tool. Along with streamlining teamwork, this application can build better collaboration habits that can lead to long-term success.
Microsoft Teams offers several gamification applications through its application store. Karma, for example, gives points through positive feedback, while Health Hero uses team-building challenges to encourage better employee health.
Managing a remote team often means shifting most of your work online, including many of the administrative tasks that you would normally handle on paper or in -person. Microsoft Teams simplifies these processes with several applications.
You can add applications that allow you to sign, annotate, and share important documents through Microsoft Teams, such as SignEasy. You can also use these tools in meetings to make them more productive if you need to review things like legal documents, for example.
You can also create and share meeting agendas with applications such as Decisions, which employees can use to take notes during meetings. When the meeting is over, you can provide attendees with a clear recap of key takeaways and decisions made so your entire team is on the same page.
While administrative tasks may not be the most exciting part of your day, they’re nonetheless essential work that many managers must make time for. Using applications specifically designed for these tasks within Microsoft Teams helps you store all important information in one place, making it easier to find when you need it.
Mind mapping applications
Mind maps offer a unique, visual way to take notes during meetings and brainstorming sessions. Though Microsoft Teams integrates with note-taking tools, these traditional options aren’t always as effective as visual diagrams.
Consider using a Microsoft Teams productivity maps application like MindManager® to map out ideas, processes, and projects.
During Microsoft Teams meetings, you can open the MindManager tool within the large shared window and add a starting topic or idea. As the discussion progresses, you can add new ideas in real time and connect them to the central topic with lines to show how they relate to one another.
Once a diagram is complete, you can add additional resources to each section, such as external links and data, and assign tasks directly within the MindManager for Microsoft Teams application. You can then pin your mind map to your Microsoft Teams toolbar so everyone on your team has access.
Whether you use them to record meeting minutes or plan out key project steps, mind maps help keep your team on task and ready to tackle the next milestones.
Download the MindManager application for Microsoft Teams today to empower your remote team to work more effectively and collaboratively.