The COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdowns in many parts of the world have resulted in more people working from home, and relying on tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc to stay connected. Even the education sector has moved online with many universities and schools now hosting classes on these platforms. Microsoft has now released its first Work Trend Index report, which provides data on how work from home has changed productivity trends globally.
The data comes from the Microsoft Graph, which compiles data from Microsoft 365, searches in Bing, and connects on LinkedIn. Microsoft says it removes all personal data and organisation-identifying data, such as company name, etc from the data before using it to produce reports.
The Work Trend Index report reveals some interesting stats. For one, Microsoft saw a new daily record of 2.7 billion meeting minutes in one day on its Teams platform on March 31, 2020. This marks a 200 per cent from 900 million minutes in mid-March. The company had earlier revealed that Teams has seen its user base grow to 44 million daily active users in mid-March.
Another boost for Microsoft Teams has come from the education sector. Teams for Education is now being used by 183,000 tenants (which represents school districts with dozens or hundreds of schools) in 175 countries. Teachers across the world are using the platform to connect with their students virtually.
Microsoft is also adding two new features to teams: an end meeting option for meeting organisers and the ability to download participant reports. The latter can be particularly useful for teachers, as it can let them see a report of who all participated in the meeting.
More video calls in Work From Home
The Work Trend Index report highlights how video has seen growth during the COVID-19 outbreak, which is not surprising. Zoom, the video meeting service, is seeing close to 200 million daily meetings take place, but given the privacy issues with Zoom, many enterprises and educational institutes are turning to more secure services such Teams, Google Hangouts.
Microsoft says the total number of weekly video calls grew by 1,000 percent in Teams from the period of March 2–March 31. The countries which turned on video the most were Norway and the Netherlands as about 60 percent of meetings include video. However, in India video was used only in 22 percent of meetings, while in Singapore it stood at 26 percent. According to Microsoft, this may be attributed in part to less access to devices and stable internet in regions like India.
Work from Home appears to be the norm for many of us. We at Indian Express tech have some articles which could help make this easier. First, how to optimise your WiFi, which is really important. Read on that here. Next, we explain how to save data on WhatsApp given we might be using a lot more of this. Then we explain how you can balance screen time while doing work from home. Also these video calling apps can be useful when relying on work from home. Don’t let it be all about work, you can rely on these fitness apps to continue that workout during the lockdown. And finally some general tips to keep in mind while working from home.
Further as conferences and events are cancelled, more and more of these are moving online. The number of Stream videos in Teams per week has increased over five times in the last month with hundreds of hours of video uploaded per minute, revealed Microsoft. Stream is the service that powers live events and meeting recordings in Teams.
Longer hours yes, but more flexibility
The data also shows people working longer hours, though Microsoft says this likely hints at a more flexible schedule being adopted by many users given that they are now working from home. From March 1–31, the average time between a person’s first use of Teams and last use of Teams each day increased by over one hour, according to the data.
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It is likely people are breaking up the day in a way that works for their personal productivity, and that many are making space for non-work related obligations as well during the day. Work from home means that for many users, they now have to manage personal and professional needs from one place, including daily tasks such as cooking, cleaning, etc. So it is likely that people have moved to more flexible schedules.
New features in Teams
Microsoft also announced some features for Teams. For one, the custom backgrounds feature, which lets users replace their background in Teams meetings is now generally available to most users. In future, Microsoft will also include the ability to upload custom images.
The raise hand feature in video calls is rolling out globally this month, confirmed Microsoft. As the name suggests, it will let meeting participants indicate they have something to say during a meeting by clicking on a hand-raise icon.
Later this year, Microsoft says it will bring real-time noise suppression, which uses AI to reduce distracting background noise such as loud typing or a barking dog in Teams meetings.
In addition to this, Microsoft is adding capabilities for organisers to end a meeting for all participants. Further, meeting organisers will get a report to know who joined their meeting.
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