The technology that enabled a new world of working

When COVID struck, Microsoft Teams became the office substitute for hundreds of thousands of businesses. How did this and Microsoft 365 help organisations to adapt to changes in the way we work?

The phrase “the new normal” has been bandied around an awful lot since the start of the pandemic, but there’s no doubt that COVID has had a massive impact on our work lives – and some of the changes made during 2020-2021 look set to become permanent. It’s almost beyond doubt that working from home and hybrid working – some days in the office, some working from home – are going to become much more commonplace. Indeed, it’s already become an employee expectation.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 85% of adults who have worked from home during the pandemic want to use a hybrid approach to working in the future. That’s going to require a fresh look at the technology and software solutions within businesses, ensuring that they have the tools to maintain productivity and employee happiness in this new world of working.

The agile advantage

When the pandemic struck companies had to move quickly to remain operational. Those companies that had already embarked on the journey to support remote working and collaboration had a huge advantage, because they already had the infrastructure in place to rapidly scale home working. For others, it was a rapid rush to source the technology needed to keep the business alive.

You simply need look at the adoption of Microsoft Teams to see how businesses suddenly had to find a new way of doing things. Before the pandemic struck in March 2020, Microsoft Teams had 32 million users. Little more than a year later, at the end of April 2021, Teams had 145 million active users, a more than four-fold increase.

For hundreds of thousands of businesses, Teams became the office substitute. It was used for inter-team and company-wide communication, for collaborating on work, as a replacement for the office phone system.

Andy Bevan, head of cloud and digital transformation at Daisy, says that many businesses had to find ways to “continue to work in this hybrid environment, yet have everybody remaining engaged, and Teams has proven itself with flying colours,” during the pandemic.

While tens of millions of people have suddenly picked up Teams and made it part of their daily workflow, thanks to the rapid scaling that’s possible with cloud services such as Microsoft 365. And while Teams isn’t difficult to use, it does take training to use well – which is why partners such as Daisy offer comprehensive employee training programmes for Teams and other parts of the Microsoft 365 portfolio.

Many of those businesses that were suddenly thrust into using Microsoft Teams during the COVID crisis might still benefit from taking a fresh look at the way the software is being deployed within their organisation, making sure that the company is taking full advantage of the many plug-ins and third-party add-ons that are available to enhance their use of Teams, and so on.

When you’re working from home, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everybody else is too. But within almost every organisation, there are certain roles that simply cannot be done remotely. While a lot of focus has been placed on making sure remote employees still feel part of the business – whether that’s using tools such as Microsoft Teams or Yammer to keep open lines of company communication – it’s easy to forget that ‘frontline’ workers who are still in the workplace can feel isolated too.

One of the ways in which Microsoft 365 helps to bridge the gap to those employees is with a special ‘F3’ tier that includes a targeted set of applications for frontline workers. That includes access to Outlook/Exchange email, the well-known Office apps and selected features from Microsoft Teams that are designed for frontline staff. These features include, for example, the Walkie Talkie app. This provides instant push-to-talk communications for teams of employees using Android devices, allowing staff to talk one at a time, much like they would using handheld radios. The key difference here being that staff don’t need to be within radio range of one another to communicate. If a supervisor is working remotely or at a different site, for example, they can still keep in touch with their team as if they were in the same location.

The Walkie Talkie app on the F3 tier is a good example of two things. First, that there are hundreds of different features across the Microsoft 365 portfolio that businesses may not even be aware of – a partner such as Daisy can direct clients to these little-known parts of the portfolio that will make a substantial difference to their business. Second, that businesses can waste an awful lot of money on the wrong type of licence. The standard E3 licence is more than four times the cost of the F3 tier, and there will be many companies who are paying more than they need to for the features they use.

Again, Daisy can help audit an organisation’s requirements and tailor licensing to ensure businesses aren’t paying more than necessary.

Baking-in certainty

Nobody can say with any certainty what work will look like on the other side of the pandemic – or even when the ‘other side of the pandemic’ will be. Uncertainty and disruption are the only things guaranteed for the immediate future. Business leaders must do their best to minimise the impact of both.

One way to do that is to bake maximum flexibility into the company’s IT solutions. Whether it’s cloud storage, familiar desktop applications that can be installed on employees’ devices, mobile apps that allow staff who don’t work behind desks to stay in touch, or business analytics that allow managers to keep abreast of everything going on across their widely dispersed workforce, Microsoft 365 has a varied and comprehensive set of tools that can help companies thrive in this new world of work.

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