Five tips for creating ‘virtual office’ hours in Microsoft Teams

  • Posted on June 3, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

Microsoft Teams is giving a lifeline to a socially-distanced workforce hard pressed to collaborate productively amidst a global pandemic. We can’t think of another application that has been so rapidly deployed over so wide an area in so short a time. 

While that’s understandable given the speed at which organizations have had to adapt to dramatically changed social circumstances, it is not without its costs: When you add a rapid deployment of Teams to existing network, configuration and infrastructure issues, tickets to your already stressed support centers can increase by 20-30%.

Meanwhile, in the absence of well-planned, best practice readiness and adoption activities – T-minus  (Ready, Set, Go) communications, visual cues like table tents, posters and monitor reminders, in-person ‘lunch and learn’ activities, etc. – end users working virtually, and anxious enough already, are missing out on a wealth of Teams capabilities. A one-message communication approach that says, “Here’s Teams; use it and you’ll love it,” won’t get them up-to-speed.

Given a virtual workforce and the absence of best practice change management, one way to help reduce the demand on support centers and increase end user understanding is to implement virtual office hours. 

What are virtual office hours?
Virtual office hours are a Teams-based chat or meeting where anyone can ask questions of a subject matter expert. They’re often bolstered by and contribute to a frequently asked question (FAQ) document. This type of support is proactive, helpful and capable of reaching a wide audience.

But they must be proactively managed: virtual office hours can too easily be sidetracked by:
  • Stealth listeners. They attend as a silent participant hoping to learn something helpful.
  • Monopolizers. They over share and monopolize a session.
  • Repeaters. They ask the same question repeatedly and derail other people’s hopes to have their questions answered. 

Five tips for making the most of your virtual office hours
To get the most out of your virtual office hours, building Teams knowledge among users and taking some of the stress off your support center in the process, we recommend these five tips to help keep them on track: 
  1. Take questions only via the chat window, while muting all participants. That will help minimize duplication and disruption.
  2. Include a question form in the invitation.  When returned forms include questions that are already answered in your FAQ documents, you can mention it in the virtual office hour and include a link to the FAQs in the chat window. Unanswered questions will also allow your subject matter experts (whether internal or external) to prepare answers and potentially to discover previously unknown use cases. 
  3. Schedule 10-minute question windows that users can sign up for. And make asking a question the price of entry for signing up. This allows you to send answers to end users asking already-answered questions to users with and minimizes both the time people have to wait to get their questions answered and the number of users signing up for the office hour or calling the support center.
  4. Segment your Office hours to focus on a specific application or task. (For example, for MS Office 365, a session on Exchange vs Office vs Mobile; or for Teams, a session on files: uploading/downloading, co-authoring, finding versions, moving/copying files between channels and Teams, etc.) Doing this will a more focused session and more targeted reach.
  5. Tag team the virtual office hour with assigned roles. For example, one subject matter expert to answer questions and another to document the questions and publish prepared FAQs in the chat window if appropriate.
  6. Record each “office hour.”  Then review the recording for unanswered questions that can be posted to the FAQs with answers.  Alternatively, though more labor intensive, create an index of questions and answers for each recorded session with links to the session (and ideally, to the time in the session when the question was asked and answered.)

Rapid deployment of Teams is the right answer at the right time for socially-distanced collaboration during a pandemic. Delivering virtual office hours as one part of an overall adoption strategy can help ease that stress on your support center while preparing end users to make Teams a value-added part of their workday.

Discover what Microsoft Teams can do for your business.

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