Microsoft Office 365 and Teams tips and tricks!

With so many of us working from home these days, it’s more important than ever to understand the full power of Office 365 (which for many of you will be labeled Microsoft 365 beginning April 21, 2020). Perhaps your company provided you a license, but you haven’t explored it yet. Well, now it’s time.

First of all, use Teams for communication with coworkers. The Teams app allows for social media type chatting with likes, laughs, replies and more, the whole works, even including gifs, stickers and emojis! It also allows for scheduled meetings or spontaneous face-to-face meetings. If you’re not interested in letting others see you in your jammies at that 8 a.m. conference call, simply turn off the video camera and communicate through audio only. “But how does it work?” my manager recently asked me. “Do I call your cell phone number?” The answer is no; Teams, using the former Skype software, calls your computer via online technology, and if you are using video, up to four people can be viewed at the same time.

Want to take notes during the online call? Simple, just open up the notes task pane and jot down your thoughts, or go to another conversation pane and have a side chat with someone in the group. After the call, download the notes and print them off for your records.

Not only does Teams offer a viable alternative to both written and verbal communication, but Teams also offers screen sharing to work on documents together, to share a website, or even to make that presentation with any presentation software, Microsoft or not. For those rare times we can’t get the support we need in the office, Teams allows you to show your screen to another person on your team to get help, without leaving your home!

Setting your status to “Available” or “Away” will notify others of your availability. It’s kind of like walking by someone’s office and noticing if they’re in or not.

In addition to Teams, Office 365 offers a plethora of applications (apps) to make working at home a successful experience. Of course, using Outlook, Word, and Excel is most likely something you have already done. However, have you tried OneNote, Planner, Forms, Sway, or SharePoint?

OneNote is an app for keeping all your notes and documentation in one safe place, kind of like a three-ring binder with tabs. This is a great place to create a procedural manual or even a crisis communications manual. In times of crisis, we don’t need that well-organized manual in a three-ring binder sitting on a pretty shelf in the office. How does that help us now? Build a notebook with multiple sections as well as multiple pages in each section. Insert text, images, and even video into pages of the notebook, and in videos, take advantage of the option to bookmark special places.

Planner can help by keeping your task list up to date and reminding you of what has been completed as well as what tasks are still in progress. Because Planner works in tandem with Teams, a manager can assign tasks to employees on a specific Team and then is able to better keep track of what the employees are working on—even from home! One reason I love Planner so much is because it automatically creates charts and graphs about productivity. Go see it now and create a “bucket” filled with lots of things to do! In fact, create a bucket for work assignments, kid’s assignments and home assignments, since we are all in this together, in our homes!

Forms is the app to use to create a poll or a full-blown survey and can be distributed to both internal and external audiences. What I love about Forms is that the data is downloaded into an Excel spreadsheet that your organization owns. There is no third party who owns the data that you have collected. Surveys can also be customized with company logos and images to reflect your branding.

If you haven’t tried Sway, you must. Sway, a presentation-based software, guides you through creating a presentation without ever leaving the app. Need additional research or maybe just an image for a slide? Easy, just access the Internet through keywords in Sway, and see the results, right in the Sway app! No more leaving the app, only to be distracted by the billion other pages out there calling your name!

The last app I’d like to address here is SharePoint, a multi-level app used by companies for communication, document storage and information gathering. On a smaller scale, every Office 365 Team gets a SharePoint site. When information is added, SharePoint uses permissions to either allow or disallow employees access to the site or a specific page within the site. SharePoint is the place that companies are moving to in order to replace their shared drives. Files are kept in “document libraries” for storage and can be checked out to be used exclusively and then checked back in to be accessed by others. Also, like One Drive and Teams, new Word and Excel documents can be created directly from within the app. Give it a try, and start by visiting LRS Education Services-Office 365 for information on prerequisites and syllabi for Office 365 Productivity, or Office 365 Online with Teams training courses. For further questions, call us at 877-832-0688, ext. 1493 or email at

Kelly A. Cummings
Applications Instructor
LRS Education Services