7 Must-have Microsoft Teams apps for Hybrid Work Culture in 2023
There is no shortage of lists out there for the best apps to increase productivity, however, most of these focus on how to maximize the efficiency of the "human resources" which can often make the team feel a little less..."human". Whether you have decided to be fully remote, back in the office, or choose a hybrid model it's become clear that the way in which we work has had to adapt.
It might be a curious concept to download apps for culture but few of us would argue the importance of culture. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that human connection matters and when distributed. It's the culture that a team adopts that allows them to move forward when things aren't going according to plan.
"Culture eats strategy for Breakfast" - Peter Drucker
With the obligatory Peter Drucker quote from (insert the latest buzz business management book), if culture is that important then we need to invest in tools to support this objective. The keyword here is "support", no tool can walk the journey to the culture you want but having the right tools will make the difference between walking the journey vs. riding a bicycle to get there.
Microsoft Teams users have now grown accustomed to the "there's an app for that" thinking but with the explosion of apps, it's hard to distill which are the apps to use. To remedy this, we didn't just list our opinions but collated feedback from our customers based on their experience. We asked our hybrid customers what they really wanted from Microsoft Teams and which apps improved their team culture; making their lives at work a little bit happier. After all, it can't all be about productivity and optimization.
fikaTime helps build a stronger culture by building personal relationships through one-on-one virtual coffees. These interactions help foster stronger bonds, the type that allows for people to help one another when that looming deadline requires a few extra hours outside of work time, or to be that supportive ear when you need to vent. These regular interactions help support better mental health, break down barriers and make work a happier place through a better relationship with your peers. The dashboard offers you insight into how the relationships in your organization are improving. The free trial will have you up and running in a few minutes so you can experience the product with your team to know if it's a good fit or not.
As inclusive as you may want to be, trying to get everyone's input isn't easy. Trying to arrange a meeting with everyone just to make a quick decision is also impractical. You could use a chat or a team conversation to poll answers but with asynchronous work schedules, this can be quite difficult to track. Polly's a well-known Teams integration that allows you to send quick surveys to your team. It's a simple but efficient way to get feedback. Now at the beginning, we said this is not about productivity, and we mean it. Being efficient means it is easier to get others' views on something in the company and that helps build a culture of inclusivity.
Trello is one of the most well-known tools for visual planning. If you are familiar with terms like Kanban then you are probably already familiar with it. Trello helps you organise tasks with cards on a board that can be used in many forms. It was one of the most well-known tools from those we surveyed. The Trello Teams app helps bring your Trello boards into Microsoft Teams so you can have a view of your board without having to leave Teams. Microsoft offers a planner app that can also offer a similar view but this falls short of the UX that Trello brings.
Praise is an app that encourages employees to recognize one another with a little thank you. It can be done privately in a chat or to a wider audience to show appreciation more publicly. These little acts can help create more visibility of the work people do to help each other in the organization. Research has shown that these public displays can have a big effect on employee morale because they feel like they don't go unnoticed which encourages more good deeds, etc. Another well-known app for this type of behavior design is the Karma app which has a more gamified experience and ties into tangible rewards that can be purchased with the "karma" they earn. Praise is free to use and made by Microsoft. One overlooked feature when it comes to apps, is that Praise supports over 130 languages.
Soapbox really does fall into the productivity side of things but when you are constantly called into meetings that don't seem to go anywhere, you realize that meeting management is not just about being productive but keeping oneself sane.
Soapbox allows people to collaborate on meeting agendas, allowing any user to add to or edit the list of talking points. The agenda will then show up within the Teams meeting so you can tick items off as they're discussed, without switching tabs. This allows the meeting to stay on track so that the key items can be covered in time. With regard to culture, this app encourages team members to respect each other's time by staying on point when it comes to meetings.
When it comes to collaborating with colleagues that may all not be in the same place, it helps to have a place where "everyone" can contribute and have that contribution visually displayed. The Mural plugin gives your workforce a space to draw, graph and note ideas down on sticky notes during meetings or brainstorming sessions. Microsoft Teams has offered a whiteboard feature for meetings, however, most of the customers we surveyed said that Mural offered more value.
What's the 7th app?
You tell us! Each organisation is unique so there's bound to be something that is unique to your industry, business or team. So if you use a Microsoft Teams app in a category that we didn't touch on that helps with culture, let us know by emailing us firstname.lastname@example.org and we may include it in a future post.