Microsoft Teams communication is underpinned with user presence statuses. Presence indicators allow people and programs to decide if it is appropriate to contact the user.
Your presence is automatically managed based on your activity and schedule, but you can override it at any time manually.
There are six main presence states within Microsoft Teams. Each state gives an indicator to the person attempting to communicate with you on your likelihood to respond and also to aid them choosing the most appropriate contact method, chat or call.
You can access your presence states by clicking on your avatar at the top right of the Teams app and clicking on the name of the presence
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Available is the default “ready” state and without any in-progress meetings or appointments this is your automatic presence indicator. It is depicted in Teams using a Green circle on the bottom right of your thumbnail avatar
In this state, no mode of communication is prevented and people may choose to contact you by chat or calling
The Busy state is automatically set when you are in either a call, meeting or you have an appointment set in your Outlook calendar. This is shown as a red solid circle on the presence indicator
In this busy state, no contact feature is restricted, but people can use this information to judge that perhaps a chat message is more appropriate vs a call at this time
Do Not Disturb
Do Not Disturb is the most restrictive state for your presence. This will divert any incoming calls to your voicemail whilst in this state. Chats can still be received during this time but disables chat notification cards from popping up on your screen. This presence is indicated with a red circle with a white line through the middle.
This presence state is automatically assigned when you share your screen. Otherwise, it is set manually.
Be Right Back
Be Right Back is an “Away” presence state. It indicates to the contact that you are not in front of your computer. This presence is set automatically if Teams does not detect activity on your PC for a period of 5-minutes and is indicated with an amber circle with a clock face icon
When you return to your desk or Teams picks up activity on your PC, your presence is automatically changed back to the previous setting.
If you set this presence state manually, it will remain set until changed manually again.
Appear Away is the same as Be Right Back, except you are active on your PC and you are choosing to show that you are not present to your contacts. Unlike Be Right Back, your Teams available presence will not automatically reset on Teams activity
There are some cases where you might want to appear completely offline and simulate that your are signed out. This might be useful if you are checking chats or Teams whilst on holiday or otherwise do not want to appear active within the business. This is shown as a white circle with an X in the middle
During this state, chats can still be received, but any inbound calls will go to your voicemail.
Enriched Presence States
Where possible, Microsoft Teams will enrich your presence using information it knows about your activity. This is to allow people to make more intelligent decisions on their contact method.
For instance, if you are in a call, your presence will change to Busy – In a Call. If you are presenting your screen in a meeting, it will change to Do Not Disturb – Presenting
In addition, Teams will also use your Outlook Out of Office information to enrich further by posting a note above the chat box showing your out of office message.
Custom Presence States in Microsoft Teams
To date, there is no ability to create your own custom presence states in Teams. However, you can set a Status Message to complement one of the standard presence states.
Setting a Custom Status Message
By clicking on the “Set Status Message” next to your presence, you can add a note to show on your contact card
and optionally above the chat bar in Teams.
When the “Show When People Message Me” checkbox is checked, the note is placed above the chat bar on the sender side so they are aware of your status. You can choose to automatically clear the message after the appropriate time, or set to never.
This can help set the expectation of the contact and can influence their method of contact allowing you to concentrate more effectively on the tasks at hand.
Time Based Presence
One of the most common oversights of users when they set a manual presence state is that they forget to reset it back when needed.
In Microsoft Teams you can now set a duration on when your presence should revert back to automatic, by choosing the duration setting under the presence menu
Here you can choose your desired presence and duration and Teams will revert back to automatic presence detection at the end.
Windows 10 / 11 Focus Time
In Windows 10 and 11 there is a setting to enabled Focus Assist. When set this will disable all app notifications on the PC. In addition, Teams will sense this time and set your presence to Focus. Focus mode is an enriched presence state of Do Not Disturb and will function in exactly the same way. When Windows exits Focus time, your presence will reset.
The concept of presence within Unified Communication apps was born out of the Contact Centre culture and so has transferred some of the misconceptions around the usage of presence information by superiors. In the contact centre world, managers would assess an operator based on their performance and availability. However, this does not translate into standard business communication.
You should not feel apprehensive or monitored by your presence. It is OK to be away and it is OK to choose when you respond to chats and calls.
Presence information is not an accurate representation of a person’s work or output, so do not feel under pressure to jump on every chat request or phone call because you feel you have to.
Remember when communicating with coworkers, they too are probably working with lots of information and whilst showing available in Teams, could actually be busy doing other tasks outside of it. It is always good etiquette to first send someone a chat message asking if they are available for a call before calling them blindly.