#6 Focus in Teams

By Neil Hobson on

Yes, you read that right: focus in Teams, not focus on Teams. So what does that mean?

Added to the Microsoft 365 roadmap a few days ago was a new entry titled Microsoft Teams – Focus Mode. It sounded intriguing and I didn’t recall hearing about it before, so I had to take a look. Here’s what was shown in the roadmap:

Image: Microsoft roadmap Teams focus mode

If you want to see the roadmap item for yourself, you can check out feature ID 53190 on the roadmap here. There’s also a corresponding entry in the tenancy Message Center.

Presence is available in Teams as well as in other parts of Office 365. Presence is nothing new really, since it has also been around in forerunners to Teams such as Skype for Business and Lync. Oh, and Office Communications Server before that. And Live Communications Server before that even! Now that I come to think of it, there was even a version of instant messaging in Exchange 2000 that I think had presence. Wow, it goes back a long way!

A user can set different presence states manually within Teams, such as AvailableBusy and Do Not Disturb:

Image: Status options in Teams

Presence is obviously great functionality to have when you want to understand whether someone is contactable or not. However, a user cannot set all possible presence states manually, since other automatically-generated states can be reflected in a user’s presence. Examples include In a callPresentingOut of Office, or In a meeting. These additional states sometimes involve hooks into other applications such as the calendar in Outlook.

The roadmap entry above alludes to the fact that there will be a new presence type, Focusing, set when a user has scheduled something known as ‘focus time’ using MyAnalytics. If you’ve not seen MyAnalytics before, you can find the Microsoft documentation here. However, the essence of MyAnalytics is around giving you insights into your personal productivity with one of the areas being your focus time. Focus time is the time you have available to focus on individual work and tasks. It is typically time that you have blocked out in your calendar during your working hours that is not a meeting involving other attendees – and before you ask, no, ‘Out of Office’ entries do not count!

Focus time can be added to your calendar via the MyAnalytics Outlook add-in. An example of this is shown here:

Image: Stay focused setting in calendar

Based on my interpretation of the roadmap description, it would seem that the intention of the feature is for:

  • The teams presence hook in to the Outlook calendar to automatically set a presence state of Focusing for these focus time calendar entries
  • Teams notifications to be silenced during these focus period but with consideration for Teams priority access settings

One thing I have noticed is the popup message below when booking focus time slots in the calendar. This message indicates that the Teams presence status will be set to Do Not Disturb during focus time, rather than a status of Focusing that is mentioned in the roadmap feature. Is this an error? Time will no doubt tell.

Image: Stay focused settings in Teams

I quite like the idea of the Teams presence showing Focusing as a status, offering further guidance on whether it’s an appropriate time to contact someone or not. It may even prevent the need for someone to set an internal Out of Office email status advising they are focusing on a task and may be slow to respond!

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