Microsoft is diving deeper into building tools for the hybrid workplace. It announced several Microsoft 365 updates today as a part of its annual work trends data, and it has also scheduled an event showcasing Windows' plans for the future of hybrid work.
Some of the new features include the ability to indicate in-person or remote attendance on Outlook RSVPs, a new Microsoft Teams layout called "Front Row" and a smarter Surface Hub 2 Smart Camera. The "Front Row" view on Teams places the video gallery at the bottom of the screen so employees in a conference room can talk to their remote counterparts at eye-level instead of awkwardly craning their necks to look up at a wall-mounted screen. And the new Surface Hub 2 Smart Camera will automatically reframe video when someone leaves or enters a meeting room. Microsoft has poured a lot of time and effort into figuring out the hybrid meeting, showing Protocol its visions for the perfect conference room last June. The stakes are even higher now that we are inching our way back to the office.
Microsoft also announced some updates to PowerPoint. There are more workplace productivity apps than ever before, including in the realm of corporate presentations. Presentation format is in flux, as presenting a slide deck remotely is not a particularly engaging experience. Microsoft previously introduced Cameo, a feature that allows users to integrate their Teams video in their PowerPoint slides. It also introduced a recording studio within PowerPoint so users can record and send presentations. Today, Microsoft is bringing the two features together.
"One of our big lessons from hybrid is that as the world went remote, people were focusing on their well-being," Shawn Villaron, VP of Product at PowerPoint, previously told Protocol. "You couldn't necessarily get everyone into a room to do a 40-minute presentation. You needed an asynchronous way of communicating and sharing your presentation."
The updates stem from Microsoft's work trends findings after surveying 31,000 people across 31 countries. The report essentially confirms what we already know: More employees are likely to prioritize health and well-being over work, leaders need to make working from the office worth the inconvenience and workers are spending more time in meetings. Microsoft also found that 54% of managers think leadership is out of touch with employee expectations.
Windows apparently plays into Microsoft's hybrid work vision, too. It posted a sparse event page for a "Windows Powers the Future of Hybrid Work" April 5 presentation. Windows EVP Panos Panay will present the keynote and explore Windows' productivity, management and security tools.