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We’ve all found ourselves wishing that we had more hours in the day and we all experience plenty of little (or not so little!) repetitive tasks at work that take up precious time. When it comes to your IT systems, this can quickly leave your employees feeling frustrated.

What drains productivity in your business?

The answers are surprisingly similar, even for very different businesses and anyone who has ever worked in an office environment will recognise most of these. The main areas of inefficiency are:

  • Wasting time on mundane tasks like scheduling meetings
  • Spending too much time in meetings and never having time to do the work
  • Constantly switching between so many different systems
  • Sharing documents and struggling with file version control
  • Battling to keep on top of your email inbox

The trouble is, when you’re so busy trying to deal with all of the above it can be difficult to see any way to improve things. This is where your IT provider can offer support.

Microsoft 365 has been designed to use the latest technology to automate many routine tasks and make it easier for everyone to manage their workload and collaborate efficiently, whether they’re a new starter or an established member of staff.

We also understand that because Microsoft 365 has so much functionality, your people may not realise just how much it can help them. So we’ve put together our favourite tips for improving productivity across the business.

1. Use Single Sign-On (SSO)

The first thing we all do when we start work is sign into all the systems we’ll be using that day. With hybrid working, that means signing in at the office, signing in to our home laptop, signing in using our phone/tablet or any combination of the above in the course of a day. Then there’s signing into all the different web browser-based services you use every day.

Microsoft 365 uses Single Sign-On to access all its apps and services. That means employees only need to remember one password for email, accessing your documents, loading your task management system and any other integrated apps. It will also save time and money on IT support, particularly for lost/forgotten passwords, without compromising security.

2. Use Sharepoint to store files so they’re accessible anywhere

Instead of managing business document storage on your own servers or, worse, on individual employee desktop computers, Sharepoint allows you to store everything securely in the cloud.

Depending on what settings you enable, employees can have access to work files from anywhere they need to: work, home or on the go with a mobile device. Sharepoint also makes it easier to share files and work together even when you’re not all in the same building (more on that in the next tip).

Microsoft Teams screenshot

3. Review documents together using Sharepoint and MS Office apps

If you’re using Sharepoint (or OneDrive) and Office apps like Word, Excel and Powerpoint for Microsoft 365, everyone can edit the file at the same time (as long as they have access permissions).

This means you can streamline the process of gathering input from many different team members: instead of endless meetings, you can either review the document either at the same time, or individuals can make changes at a time that suits them, ready to sign off the final version once everyone has included their input and feedback.

This also avoids the process of sending documents back and forth by email, where you risk losing track of which is the latest version or spending time hunting through email threads.

4. Use Microsoft Teams to gather files, video calls and conversations in one place

Even better than tip 3 above, you can also create new documents or access your existing documents from within Microsoft Teams, thanks to its built in Word, Excel and Powerpoint apps (among others).

Because Teams integrates with Sharepoint, when you create or attach a file to a Teams channel it will automatically be saved to Sharepoint so your files will always stay up to date.

By using Teams channels for work related discussions, scheduling video calls and sharing documents you can keep everything in one place, making it much easier to stay on track.

5. Use Microsoft Whiteboards to work together remotely

It’s a lot harder to get around a flip chart or a whiteboard when everyone is working remotely. However, Microsoft have created a digital whiteboard which is available as part of Microsoft 365.

Microsoft Whiteboard app
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You can do almost anything you would with a physical whiteboard:

  • add sticky notes
  • write or draw (for example to add arrows or sketches)
  • attach files or presentations
  • add photographs

You can also save the whiteboard, so you don’t have to worry about someone wiping it off.

An online whiteboard can be a great tool to use during video calls to ensure everyone can collaborate and stay on the same page. 

6. Use the Planner app in Microsoft Teams to organise projects and workload

Did you know that you can organise and assign tasks to colleagues using Microsoft Teams? Instead of struggling to keep track of who is doing what with a spreadsheet or by following your email threads, you can set up a simple planning board, with individual cards for each task.

Microsoft Teams Planner app
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Once the task is assigned to the relevant colleague, they can check the deadline, add updates, share files and mark the progress they’ve made. This then makes it easy for the whole team to get a quick overview on how a project is progressing.

You may already use a separate task management app, in which case check to see if it’s one of over 250 business apps that Teams can integrate with (examples include Trello, Evernote, Zendesk and Github). If so, you should be able to import your existing planner straight into Teams.

7. Make use of built-in AI to design professional Powerpoint slide layouts

Have you tried using Powerpoint Designer yet? Available to Microsoft 365 subscribers, Designer automatically uses AI (Artificial Intelligence) to make design and layout suggestions while you’re putting your slides together. It aims to help you improve the visual impact of your slide decks.

Designer also suggests photographs matched to the content of your slides and adds icons to your bullet point lists. It uses AI to learn how you respond to the design ideas so it can show you useful suggestions at the right time. 

8. Catch up on your latest emails without having to look at a screen

If you use Outlook on your mobile, you can make use of the Play My Emails function. This uses Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant, and will read out all changes to your schedule for the day plus the 30 most recent unread emails you’ve received in the last 24 hours.

You can also use voice commands to tell Outlook how to action each email, for example to dictate an email reply, flag an email for later or skip to the next email (among other commands). This means you can plug in your headphones and catch up on your inbox while you’re away from your desk.

9. Agree meeting times without frustration using Scheduling Assistant

When you really do need a meeting, how often do you end up wasting time simply trying to find out when everyone is available?

By using shared calendars in Outlook across your organisation, you can select which colleagues can see your online calendar. Once you’re sharing calendars you can then use the Scheduling Assistant. Set up a new meeting in Outlook and add all your attendees. The Scheduling Assistant time picker lets you try selecting different meeting times and will go green as soon as you find a time everyone is available. It’s a lot easier than emailing everyone to check their availability.

10. Use Microsoft Viva Insights to block out time for focused work

We all know we spend too much time in meetings and it can be a challenge to make time for focused work, where you can really make progress.

Viva Insights is an AI-powered app that analyses data about your emails, meetings, calls and chats (all from within Microsoft 365) to make recommendations on how to get into better habits and improve your productivity. Viva can recommend when to block out time to work on your most important projects and help you keep distractions to a minimum.

Microsoft Viva Insights
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11. Use “do not disturb” feature in Outlook

Did you know it can take around 20 minutes to regain your concentration on a task when you’ve been interrupted? Once you’ve scheduled some focused time, Teams and Outlook will automatically set your status to ‘Do not disturb’ and will stop all your email and chat notifications.

You can also set your status to ‘Do not disturb’ manually on Teams, which will also stop all notifications from appearing for whatever time period you need.

Do not disturb feature in Outlook

12. Use Microsoft Viva to save time on preparing for your meetings

Microsoft Viva can also help you prepare for your meetings by automatically showing you the important details. It can show:

  • Percentage of attendees accepted – are enough people planning to attend?
  • Meeting conflicts – so you can reschedule in plenty of time
  • Attachments – know what you need to review so you can plan time for it
  • Related documents – avoid endlessly searching through your email
  • Book preparation time – an option to block out time for travelling or preparation

Microsoft 365 is a very powerful system with a huge number of useful features. Getting to know them all, however, could become a full time job in itself.

Ready to increase your productivity?

Our expertise in IT systems like Microsoft 365 can make a big impact on your productivity. Contact ITS to discuss how to make IT work better for your business.

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