New Notifications and Video Settings Improve Microsoft Teams Meetings for Users

Suppress Meeting Notifications

Microsoft is making two changes to improve the user experience of Microsoft Teams meetings. Microsoft 365 message center notification MC312489 (updated January 13, Microsoft 365 roadmap item 87452) describes a problem where the focus of meeting participants can be interrupted by Teams notifications. Microsoft characterizes the issue as “highly distracting” and say that the lack of any way to disable notifications during meetings as “highly painful.”

If you’re a busy Teams user involved in multiple chats and channel conversations, there’s no doubt that many notifications can arrive during a meeting. Individuals differ in their ability to ignore frequent pinging, but there’s no doubt that it’s good to be able to suppress notifications while a meeting is in progress. In this case, two controls are available. A general setting for meetings (Figure 1) turns notifications on or off for all meetings. The default is to allow notifications during meetings, which reflects current behavior.

Option in Teams settings to mute notifications during all meetings
Figure 1: Option in Teams settings to mute notifications during all meetings

If you leave notifications during meetings on and need to turn them off during a specific meeting, a new Mute notifications option (Figure 2) is available in the […] menu (sometimes called the utility menu or meeting tray). The option disables notifications for the duration of the current meeting and doesn’t apply to other meetings.

Option to mute notifications during an active meeting
Figure 2: Option to mute notifications during an active meeting

I’ve chosen to disable notifications for all meetings. If I need to enable notifications for a call, the Allow notifications option is available. You can also use this option to reenable notifications if you block them during a meeting. Muting of meeting notifications is now available in the preview version of Teams.

A “block notifications when in meetings” setting is also available in the Teams mobile client.

Hide Your Video

MC310349 (updated January 11, Microsoft 365 roadmap item 86370) describes the second change, which introduces the ability for a user to hide their video feed on the “stage” used by Teams to display the feeds of meeting participants. In other words, a user sees the video feeds from other participants but doesn’t see their own feed.

According to Microsoft, not being able to suppress their video feed leads to “meeting fatigue” because people are “constantly processing our own image during calls.” This means that users are constantly drawn to check out their video (possibly to check that they’re not committing a social gaffe like wearing unmatched clothes, having unbrushed hair, etc., which is the kind of thing I do).

To be truthful, I’ve never thought much about the need to hide my video from myself, but a bunch of people support the idea in the Microsoft Feedback portal saying things like “It’s so annoying to have your own picture in your face all the time at meetings” and “It’s exhausting and distracting seeing yourself on the video all the time.” More importantly, a contributor notes that, “Hiding self-view is critical for individuals with special needs (and all persons for that matter) to reduce/eliminate distractions and improve therapeutic focus.” This is obviously an issue that matters to a great number of people who want to share their video with other meeting participants without seeing themselves (which rules out simply disabling your video).

Given the size of the Microsoft Teams installed base, it’s important that the developers listen to the community and action suggestions with heavy support, so it’s good to see Microsoft responding. When deployed later this month for completion in standard tenants in February, users of the Windows and Mac desktop client (but not the Linux, mobile, or browser clients) can select the Hide for Me option in their feed’s […] menu (Figure 3) to suppress display of their feed. Other meeting participants will view the feed as normal. The Unhide for Me option reverses the process.

The Hide for me option to suppress display of a user's video feed in a Teams meeting
Figure 3: The Hide for me option to suppress display of a user’s video feed in a Teams meeting

You can also select your name in the participant list and hide or unhide your feed from that […] menu.

When a user hides their video feed, the card for the feed collapses in the gallery (shown vertically or horizontally according to your choice). Teams displays a chevron to allow the user to expose the card again and access the […] menu should they want to unhide their feed. Unlike change for meeting notifications, no global control is available to hide your video feed by default for all meetings.

Constant Tweaking

At this point in the development of core Teams subsystems like meetings, I think we’re likely to see a succession of small but important changes to tweak how meetings run and make them more people-friendly. Looking back at where we’ve come from, it’s a mystery how early online meetings worked. We must have all been in a constant state of anxiety! The increased importance of remote meetings and lots of software engineering has got us to where we are today. Expect more tweaking for meetings in the future.

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