Google Workspace updates take aim at hybrid working

The overhaul prepares workers for the 'new normal' with a focus on managing workflows for a distributed workforce

Google Workspace calendar with 'shift blocks'

Google has unloaded a raft of new updates for Google Workspace that regear it towards hybrid working strategies. 

The updates include greater support for frontline workers, time management capabilities and tools for strengthening collaboration. 

"We're excited to announce new innovations in Google Workspace that will further empower all the ways work happens - and deepen its impact - in an ever-changing world," the VP and GM of Google Workspace, Javier Soltero, wrote in a blog post

For frontline workers, the update takes into account the use of personal devices, such as the use of smartphones and tablets by hospital workers or retail staff. Google Workspace Frontline comes with all the necessary apps - Gmail, Chat, Docs, Drive and so on - but it also includes business-level support and security features like advanced endpoint management to keep sensitive company data secure.

There are also features within Google Workspace to build custom apps directly from Google Sheets and Drive, so frontline workers can collect data in the field, report safety risks, manage customer requests and streamline their work.

This bleeds into other feature updates for managing schedules and workflows as they evolve in hybrid strategies. In the coming months, Google will be releasing new calendar-based features that will help users specify working 'blocks' - indications in the calendar that allow teammates to see when they're online and available for meetings.

This includes 'recurring out-of-office events' which will automatically decline invites, and there will also be a setting to let co-workers know where a user will be during work hours, whether at home or in-office. 

For engagement and productivity, Google is also adding features to minimise distractions, which will include basic limitations on notifications and 'Time Insights' that will provide information to employees - but not managers - about project schedules and completion times. Google Assistant will also be available to provide calendar details and also be used to join meetings.

Time and attention management gif

Meetings themselves will be getting some new features, including a 'second screen' function for Google Meet where users can host a meeting across a mix of devices - hosting on one and presenting data or documents with another. This will also include a split-screen update for the mobile version on Meet, Q&A features, pools and live captions in English, German, Spanish, Portuguese and French. 

Split-screen and tile views in Google Meets
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