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Unlock Productivity: 7 Clever Ways to Use Microsoft Office 365 Often overlooked tips for making the most of this popular software for your company.


At many workplaces, Microsoft Office apps are such an integral part of the operational fabric that it feels as if they've been around forever. In reality, the Microsoft Office 365 of today is different than the version many people are familiar with. Instead of downloading the suite of apps onto your computer, it's now cloud-based—which means you can collaborate, share files, and get work done from anywhere.

Even in the cloud, Microsoft Office is like you remember it, replete with all the key features and services. Such familiarity doesn't mean you know or are taking advantage of every shortcut, capability, or time-saving hack the software has to offer, however.

With that in mind, consider these seven productivity-boosting (but often overlooked) ways of using Microsoft Office 365.

1. To cut down on inbox distractions.

We've all been there: An email is sent out to the entire company, and people start Replying All. The responses, while occasionally amusing, are also a giant distraction. These endless email threads "are the bane of my existence," jokes Bobby Michael, an Office 365 specialist at Sprint.

Thankfully, there's a quick, if often overlooked, fix: Ignore Conversation. The feature, which is accessible under the message list in Outlook, automatically places all messages related to a particular conversation in Deleted Items. "When you get into a Reply All nightmare you can simply hit "Ignore' on that message, and you won't be bothered by all the replies," Michael says.

2. To conduct better meetings.

When in-person meetings aren't possible—or are simply too much of a time suck—Skype Meetings are a good alternative. The online meetings tool includes real-time audio and video conferencing, IM chat, screen sharing, and whiteboard features. If you're the meeting organizer, it also makes it easy for you to manage the discussion: you can bestow (and revoke) meeting privileges to participants, such as the ability to share screens or initiate an IM conversation.

You can also mute people on the call, which Michael appreciates: "I was on a call the other day, and a gentleman was breathing really heavily into his microphone. I politely muted him while I was speaking, and then unmuted him when he needed to say something."

3. To coordinate schedules.

Meetings are a necessary evil. Wasting time organizing them is not. The Free/Busy feature in Outlook eliminates the need for drawn-out, scheduling back-and-forths by allowing employees to easily check when co-workers are available, busy, or out of office.

The feature is a particular favorite of Michael, who manages a large sales team. "I use it every day," he says.

4. To maintain a professional image on video calls even when working from home.

One new feature that Michael is particularly excited about is the ability to blur the background on video calls. For those who have pets or kids will recognize the innate value in this, but for those who don't: Remember Robert E. Kelly? The academic rose to viral fame when a live BBC teleconference was interrupted by his two adorable children. Now, Kelly stars in Microsoft's video introducing the feature.

5. To collaborate on documents while protecting against data loss.

OneDrive allows you to sync all your documents to the cloud, which makes them accessible via any device with or without WiFi. It also enables teams to simultaneously edit projects, without ever losing track of the most up-to-date version.

OneDrive works similarly to Google Docs, but comes with enhanced security features. Data loss prevention will say, "Hey, Laura is downloading a whole bunch of documents, is it possible she is getting ready to leave us?" Michael says. "There are checks and balances," including the ability for managers to receive alerts in order to prevent IP theft when certain leading keywords, such as the mention of a competitor, are used.

6. To prevent hack attacks.

Phishing and spoofing attacks are on the rise, a trend Michael has noticed working with clients at Sprint. Companies can add Office 365 Threat Protection to their plans, which protects against hacks by scanning all attachments, web addresses, and files included in incoming emails.

7. To get stuff done more quickly.

There's a lot you can do in Office 365. So much that remembering how to do all these things gets challenging quickly. That's where "Tell Me" comes in. Represented by a light bulb icon and located at the right corner of the applications window, the feature serves as a virtual help desk.

Say you want to remove the BCC field from an email, but aren't sure how. Using "Tell Me," you can search "delete the BCC field," and you'll be directed to the appropriate command button as well as relevant online help articles. Same goes for if you're about to leave on vacation and need to set up an out-of-office message, or would like to insert a table into your Word document, or want to accomplish hundreds of other actions in Office 365.

Even though he's an expert on the software, Michael admits he still uses the feature from time to time. "There are a lot of command buttons that I don't use every day," he says. "You forget where they are!"

For more information, visit sprint.com/whysprint or call 844-344-6556.