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Navigating hybrid work with a single, connected experience in Google Workspace

June 14, 2021
Javier Soltero

Vice President and General Manager, Google Workspace

New additions to Google Workspace help businesses navigate the challenges of hybrid work, including with Companion Mode for Google Meet calls.

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Our collective understanding of work—where it takes place and how it gets done—has been transformed over the last year. As companies and organizations across the globe reimagine work, new challenges and opportunities are emerging. How do people working “somewhere else” stay connected and part of the same conversations as those in the office? And if hybrid work is the sum of all the places and ways that work happens, how do employees create a shared experience, better manage their time and attention, and build stronger connections along the way?

For well over a decade, we’ve been building the future of work with products and experiences that transform how teams of all sizes connect, create, and collaborate together—on any device, from any location. Last October, we launched Google Workspace as an integrated solution with a singular promise: everything you need to get anything done, now in one place. In March, we introduced a series of innovations to help people better manage their time and build deeper connections with each other as the future of work continues to evolve. And at Google I/O last month, we took our next big step in transforming collaboration with smart canvas, a new product experience in Google Workspace. And today, we’re delivering additional innovations that address the specific challenges and opportunities of the hybrid work world.

A dedicated space for teamwork and collaboration

Chat and video meetings have been an essential part of work during the last year, serving as a bridge for separated colleagues to collaborate in real time. As we reflect on the lessons of a year where many people were working remotely, we know that distributed teams need a new type of dedicated, shared space. A place in Google Workspace to bring projects to life by connecting the right content, people, and conversations in new and powerful ways. 

With the introduction of Spaces, we’re evolving the Rooms experience in Google Chat into a dedicated place for organizing people, topics, and projects in Google Workspace. Over the summer, we’ll evolve Rooms to become Spaces and launch a streamlined and flexible user interface that helps teams and individuals stay on top of everything that’s important. Powered by new features like in-line topic threading, presence indicators, custom statuses, expressive reactions, and a collapsible view, Spaces will seamlessly integrate with files and tasks, becoming a new home in Google Workspace for getting more done—together.

Streamlined navigation and new powerful collaboration capabilities in Spaces

Spaces can provide a place to fuel knowledge sharing and community building for teams of all sizes, where all the relevant information, conversations, and files for a project can be organized, and where topics—even at the organization level—can be intelligently moderated. With the ability to pin messages where everyone can see them, Spaces will play a crucial role in helping people stay connected and informed as hybrid work evolves.

As we transition from Rooms to Spaces in Google Chat this summer we’ll be delivering new features on a rolling basis. Customers can have their admins turn on Google Chat in Gmail so their organizations can start using Rooms today, ensuring a seamless path to Spaces when it becomes available.

Keeping everyone in the conversation during hybrid meetings

Collaboration equity—the ability to contribute equally, regardless of location, role, experience level, language, and device preference—is a cornerstone of Google Workspace. When teammates were fully remote during the last year, everyone experienced meetings in much the same way and had access to the same communication features. But what happens when some colleagues are in a conference room together while others are joining from living rooms, home offices, or a remote co-working space? How do they all participate equally in the same conversation?

At Google I/O, we previewed Companion Mode in Google Meet as a way of fostering collaboration equity in a hybrid work world. Companion Mode is designed to seamlessly connect those in the room with their remote teammates, giving everyone advanced features to participate, while leveraging the best of in-room audio and video conferencing capabilities.

Companion Mode keeps everyone connected during hybrid work meetings

Companion Mode gives every meeting participant, no matter where they are, access to interactive features and controls like screen sharing, polls, in-meeting chat, hand raise, Q&A, live captions, and more. Colleagues who are in the same meeting room together will enable Companion Mode on their personal devices, giving them their own video tile in Meet and helping them to stay connected with their remote teammates. Companion Mode will be available on the web and our upcoming progressive web app in September, and it will be coming soon to mobile.

To allow meeting organizers to better plan for hybrid meetings, invitees will soon be able to RSVP with their join location, indicating whether they’ll be joining in a meeting room or remotely.

RSVP to meetings with your join location specified

Updates to improve the in-room experience are also coming to Google Meet hardware in September, including the ability to see and use the hand-raise feature and receive notifications from polls and Q&As. The modular design of Meet’s Series One room kits can easily accommodate a variety of space layouts and be paired with an AV cart for optimum flexibility. 

We’re also continually launching new controls to make meetings more safe and secure, including the ability for admins to set policies for who can join meetings, and how participants can engage within meetings. To help everyone stay focused in meetings without interruption, in the next few months we’ll introduce moderation controls for hosts, giving them the ability to prevent the use of in-meeting chat and prohibit presenting during meetings, as well as allowing them full control to mute and prevent participants from unmuting.

Together, these changes will make meetings a safer, more connected, and inclusive experience across all hybrid environments. Register today for our free webinar on how Google Workspace is enabling hybrid work and helping foster collaboration equity. 

Trusted hybrid collaboration in Google Workspace

Security, data privacy, and trust continue to be the foundation that make anywhere, anytime collaboration possible. As organizations explore new ways for their teams to collaborate securely in a hybrid work world, we’re introducing several ways that we’re strengthening this foundation in Google Workspace. 

Today, we're announcing new security and privacy capabilities to help Google Workspace customers realize the full power of trusted, cloud-native collaboration. Google Workspace Client-side encryption will help customers strengthen the confidentiality of their data while addressing a range of data sovereignty and compliance needs. Additionally, we’re rolling out a number of security enhancements for Google Drive, including trust rules for Drive that help control how files can be shared within and outside your organization; Drive labels that classify files and apply controls based on their sensitivity levels; and enhanced phishing and malware protections to help safeguard against insider threats and user error. For full details, please visit our security blog post.

A single, connected experience

As businesses move to a hybrid work environment, the importance of creating secure collaboration spaces and fostering human connection has never been more important. Because Google Workspace was designed to fuel anywhere, anytime collaboration, we’re now helping millions of organizations navigate the challenges and opportunities of the newly emerging work model. Our customers are using Google Workspace to rethink virtual meetings, provide people with modern tools to stay connected and manage their time and attention, and double down on security and privacy. In countless ways, Google Workspace was built for this moment.

See how we’re bringing Google Workspace to everyone. With this change, all of our 3 billion existing users across consumer, enterprise, and education now have access to the full Google Workspace experience, including Gmail, Chat, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Meet and more.

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