In part one of this two-part series, we take a look at the Chat function in Microsoft Teams to help you determine its best uses.
Have you ever wondered which Chat option to use to communicate most effectively with a colleague on Microsoft Teams? Should you send your message through a Teams Channel, or via Private Chat? If you choose a Channel, should you call out the entire Team, or only those following that Channel? Perhaps you shouldn’t call out anyone and hope people are paying attention?
In this two-part blog post, we’ll walk through some etiquette for the most effective ways to communicate when using Microsoft Teams’ Chat functionality.
In part one, I’ll help you determine who your audience is, identify your communication’s level of urgency, and then choose your communication option—email, a specific Team audience, specific Channel audience within a Team, group chat or private message to an individual.
In part two, I’ll explore additional tools to help you capture your intended audience’s attention without causing unneeded alarm or notifying more people than necessary.
Who is your audience, and when is it appropriate to message them?
Before we dive into the different communication options in Teams, let’s determine who your audience is, then discuss how to recognize when it’s appropriate to reach out to someone individually based on their status.
Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself when thinking about your audience:
- Are the people you wish to communicate with all on the same Team?
- If the answer is ‘no,’ then a Teams group chat or an email would be a better option.
- Are the people you wish to communicate with internal to your company, or do you need to communicate with external folks as well?
- If you need to communicate externally, then knowing your company’s policy about reaching out to external users within Microsoft Teams is crucial. Some companies’ policies will not allow external guests into Teams. In that case, email is the best route.
What do the different status colors next to a person’s image or initials mean?
If you decide that a private message would be the right way to send your communication, please make sure you check your recipient’s status before you send it.
Chat uses status indicators to easily allow you to know if a person is available or not merely by the color that is associated with their profile. Here’s a simple breakdown of what the different Teams status indicators mean:
- A green dot represents – Available
- A yellow dot represents – Away
- A red dot represents – Busy, In a call, In a meeting, Presenting, or Do not disturb
- A purple dot indicates – Out of the Office
Email versus Chat
If the status of your intended recipient(s) is set to red or purple, depending on your company’s culture, you might want to shoot them an email instead of a private Teams message. Personally, I default to sending an email any time I see a status that isn’t green.
How urgent is communication, and do you need a response?
Carefully consider how fast you need to communicate information and whether you need a response. Questions to ask yourself before continuing include:
- If I need a reply, should the entire Team, those following a specific Channel, or perhaps just a select few individuals respond?
- Does the entire Team need to see my communication right away, or just those within a specific Channel?
- Could others benefit from reading the communication? Or, could there be a problem with others reading the conversation?
- Is my communication intended for a single person or a small group of people?
- If it’s intended for a small group of people, are they on the same Team?
- Am I sending out a question with the hopes of crowdsourcing an answer quickly?
- Is my communication more of a “PSA” or “FYI” that does not require a response?
Which communication options do I have?
Once you decide which members of your Team need notifying, whether your audience is internal or external, and whether you need an immediate response or not, you can determine which communications option to use within Teams.
However, the most important thing to remember is that notifications within Teams can become overwhelming quite quickly. To be conscientious of your fellow Team members’ time and attention — and to make sure that they listen and respond to you when they need to—try to keep notifications to a minimum, and only alert people who are actually within your intended audience, whenever feasible.
Microsoft Teams offers several options for group communications and notifications, including @team and @channel. This functionality is great because it allows users to tag an entire Team or narrow the audience down to a specific Channel. Just type “@team” or “@channel” from the desired Team you are communicating within, and Chat notifies the Team or Channel without having to type the specific Team or Channel’s actual name.
- @team sends a notification to everyone who is part of your designated Team. A notification appears in the left navigation on the Activity icon, a red @ badge appears on the Teams icon, and the name of the Team within the Teams pane becomes bold:
When you click on the Team name to expand it, the Channel bolds its name and flags the icon with a red badge and number count:
Think of those red badges as setting off fireworks for everyone in your neighborhood to experience. There’s a thunderous bang and a bunch of pretty colors in the sky to see for a large radius around the point of detonation. And to make sure no one misses it, a large red Team icon appears on the right border to show that the entire Team received a notification:
- @channel sends a notification to anyone who has chosen to “show” the Channel within a Team:
As before, the Channel bolds its name and flags the icon with a red badge and number count:
Think of this as a small fountain firework. Only those who are close by will experience the show. The notifications are similar to @team, but with @channel, only those who are following the Channel receive notifications. The conversation will also have this Channel icon on the right border.
Each Microsoft Team can include multiple Channels for different topics. But, because not all team members need to see all topics, members can choose to “show” or “hide” a Channel by clicking the ellipses opposite the channel name:
To sum up, understanding who your audience is, whether they are internal or external, the urgency of your message and whether you need an immediate response can help you decide which Teams communication option is best. @team and @channel are great options for communicating urgent or important messages to a large audience easily.
But don’t forget: in some cases, it may be best to communicate using email or send a private message to a single person or small group directly. You don’t want to overuse group communications, both to prevent bothering people unnecessarily and to make sure that when you do have something urgent to communicate, your message gets noticed.
In Part 2, we’ll explore some additional options available to you within @team and @channel, some helpful tips for using @team and @channel, and how to call out your most urgent messages.