back to article Biggest takeaway from pandemic lockdowns for Microsoft? Teams stopped talking to each other

As the majority of the desk-based workers lurched to working from home during the pandemic-induced lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, communication between teams fell and working hours increased. In a peer-reviewed study published in Nature Human Behaviour today, researchers from Microsoft showed how colleagues at the Redmond-based …

  1. s. pam Silver badge

    Microsoft Teams destroys human race, details at 11

    Then it cheers around in Redmond for the human destruction they’ve delivered!

    Get out the bunting!

  2. Andytug

    My irony meter

    ..has just exploded...

  3. mikus

    Teams vs. Slack

    I do consulting at multiple organizations at a time, and thus tend to participate in multiple Slack and M$ Teams channels at a give time. The biggest difference I see is people actually like using Slack, communicate openly and socially vs. what seems like mere ghost channels on Teams like they're afraid of corporate logging something inappropriate.

    Slack seems to invite communication dumping everyone into "General" first, usually with hails of "welcome!", and folks are typically encouraged to find other channels as appropriate to join. There are typically few private only channels, rather it's built more on social inclusion vs. exclusion. People actually enjoy using it both for being social within the companies and for getting work done in some combination of both.

    Among even my own team Teams channels, it's almost frowned upon to post non-work items, get rare responses, and all teams lock their own channels to only themselves vs. inviting cross-team collaboration (no networking bofh's in the systems channel, please). There is no "General" channel for everyone to socialize in, no "Pets" channels, no specialized "outside work" interests, nothing. It's all entirely sterile and/or depressing. People only use it for direct messages to each other, and most hate it as a conferencing platform, still using their webex/zoom/google conferencing instead.

    This is consistent across every Teams org I've joined.

    As much as M$ gives it away, it just as usual misses the mark to clone Slack as much as they would like it to be.

    1. Danny 14

      Re: Teams vs. Slack

      it depends why you use slavk or teams. As a school teams has integrated into our school management system for years, way before the pandemic. Teams have their calendars auto populated with their academic calendar, classes are automatically scheduled, class workbooks are updated automatically, student work arrives with all the metrics used by departments shared automatically, class and year markbooks work well. policies and profiles are set up automatically from office365 groups or "OU" (hybrid domain). from a teaxher point of view they go on teams and everything is there without their interaction, as an admin there is little we need to do outside showing people how to get to archived teams or how to add guests etc.

      the system just works. ironically the only portion we didnt use before the pandemic was the video/voice facility as classes were face to face. Come pandemic and students joined the classes via video. It just worked.

      So for us (and dozens of schools who also used teams nearby) there was no real issue. Exams were the biggest issue as we couldnt proctor.

      Oh yeah, and its free for schools as long as you have a 100% browser usage. We look after a couple of small primary schools who moved offsite and saved an absolute fortune on licensing.

      The only technical part are a few maintenance powershell scripts for auto provisioning, adding admins to student onedrive accounts to manage issues and global team management (because we dont pay for premium AD we dont get dynamic groups, so script one instead...)

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Teams vs. Slack

        Unfortunately the education version straight jackets you in certain ways, meaning it's a collaboration tool focussed on educating and teaching rather than education, administration, research, business activity etc.

        For example, at least at the start of 2020 individual users on education couldn't create their own custom sidebar of shortcuts - after a few hours it would revert and insist on you having Classes taking up one of the vital 6 spots there, even if you were an administrator working in student records or a manager for in-house facilities like cleaning and maintenance where you would find, say, Shifts a more useful application to shortcut.

    2. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge

      Re: Teams vs. Slack

      "It's all entirely sterile and/or depressing."

      So, absolutely in line as a freshly installed Windows OS on a brand new computer: a depressing wasteland sprinkled with bloat-ware and freemium games.

    3. iron Silver badge

      Re: Teams vs. Slack

      > people actually like using Slack

      Really? Strange people. Slack is an abomination of an app that follows no ui guidelines on any platform but sticks out like 70s wallpaper in an otherwise modern flat. Every time I've had to use it I've been glad to finally uninstall it.

      > There is no "General" channel for everyone to socialize in, no "Pets" channels

      People at work are not your friends. I have no interest in hearing about your dog, cat, child or your husband's vasectomy (a regualr topic at a former employer).

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Teams vs. Slack

        But morale-wise having all the social stuff can make a vas deferens.

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: Teams vs. Slack

          > can make a vas deferens

          In which case, if you've had a vasectomy, avoid using Slack or it might undo all your hard work.

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Slack rules Ok

    Teams is [redacted] in comparison.

    Using Slack does give another take on 'Slacking off'.

  5. Eclectic Man Silver badge


    I once had a desk in an open plan office at the junction of three separate teams who all shared the same floor. I must confess that there was some very distracting 'sharing' of results from two teams to me, being within earshot of lots of conversations.

    I also had the 'experience' that the person sat immediately to my right was a heavy smoker. Every now and then he would disappear for 15 or so minutes and return literally stinking of tobacco smoke (sorry for the offence caused to smokers by this revelation, but I'm asthmatic so found this particularly irritating).

    Some cross team sharing is not always welcome. Although hearing one of my neighbours say over the phone "don't get on your high horse with me", was a bit startling (he was speaking to his daughter).

    On the other hand, every other Friday afternoon I have a conference call with my former colleagues at work, and catch up on all their gripes and worries, which is fun.

  6. Tron Silver badge

    Logic fail.

    So working in an office is far too dangerous but all those crowds at the footy isn't a problem?

    Which unvaccinated red zone country is El Reg being scripted from?

    1. Danny 14

      Re: Logic fail.

      offices are typically enclosed with recycled air. footy matches are typically outside. I imagine it is a sliding risk. Both are risky, one is riskier.

  7. Moonrunner

    Worked for us

    We managed to maintain good communications channels and even increased our productivity per hour worked. There is a lot of general chatter in our team channel and also we have been actively communicating with other teams. Our former CEO had to eat his own words in the end. It really depends on the company structure and how receptive your team members are. I moonlight with another company, in a different industry, also very technical workforce, main platform is Slack and that works quite well for everyone. In the end, as long as the tool is decent and the teams are receptive to tech, it'll work out.

    1. EarthDog

      Re: Worked for us

      how did you measure productivity?

    2. Danny 14

      Re: Worked for us

      did you co tinue to examine logon metrics? how much work was being done "in previously considered free time"?

      employee burnout could be high if people arent used to working from home.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    A coworker ragequit the common channel after people said "hello" in there, literally. (He couldn't figure out how to disable notifications, apparently.) Now the only traffic in there is when somebody accidentally clicks the wrong channel.

    Channels exist, direct chat exists, but it doesn't work unless people are super super meticulous with setting their status, and even then "hey" is more intrusive than sticking your head in somebody's open office door and seeing if they're busy.

    I think we had an all-hands meeting at some point around Easter, those used to be weekly. Please don't ask me what anybody in this department is doing, my line manager is a fool and without tapping a diagonal manager for information three days a week over morning coffee, for all I know we could be a Win-only shop by now, nobody would've told us.

    Yes, I'm just venting.

  9. WilliamBurke

    I see the problem

    I don't miss the commute and will probably hang on to WFH as long as possible. But working in an academic environment, I must admit that many of my collaborations started at lunch in the canteen with "what are you up to these days", with people who are not my "natural" collaborators, and no very obvious reason to ask for my input.

    1. Geez Money

      Re: I see the problem

      This is the biggest issue of WFH and something I've been bleating to anyone who will listen for some time. Too much happens through informal channels by accident. The answer is always 'well we should have a process for that communication' or the like, yes let's have a process for idle hallway chatter that should go well... I hate the expression 'we don't know what we don't know' but in this case it's very true, we simply can't account for all the casual ways information flows and none of these collaboration tools help one iota. Every collaboration tool is more or less equivalent to email in terms of the productivity it enables at the end of the day.

  10. --Jam

    Microsoft 365 Application Stack

    I work in a large environment with many major contractors. Leadership really makes a difference for how people use the tools. In my company (300+ of an 8000+ single domain network) we mostly work from home. They saved a lot by giving up their lease. There is still some turn around space and meeting rooms for those times where an in person meeting is a better option.

    Teams is just part of the tool set. If management buys into Yammer that can be a great place for what Microsoft calls the outer loop of communications. At our location it is used to introduce new employees, for recorded interviews with our management team, providing general information to all.

    For larger all division or all hands meetings we use Teams Live Events. I think the Slack vs. Teams argument ignores all the tools available on the Microsoft side. Whatever the tool set your group, department, and culture matter more. I believe good people make the most out of whatever tool set they have available.

    Spare me the pro or anti Microsoft babble. My wife works in a medium sized company were they use Slack. She loves the pets channel. She hates the unproductive whining that dominates the general channel. She likes where she works most of the time. I think she would have a similar experience with Teams/Yammer/Live Events.

    Once again it is the people and not the tool set that makes the difference!

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