Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Google Workspace rolls out updates to simplify hybrid work

This week Google announced updates to Google Workspace to make the switch from remote work to hybrid work simpler for users.

In a blog post dated September 8, Google described a number of updates, including changes to Google Chat and Google Meet, expansions to its collaboration hardware portfolio, and third-party integrations. The tech giant has also released a manual for navigating hybrid work that can be downloaded for free.

Google Workspace changes:

Google Chat

Google announced that Spaces in its Google chat service are now available for all users. Spaces (formerly known as Rooms) are separate chat rooms within Google Chat. According to Google’s blog post, “Spaces can be a central hub for collaboration, both in real-time and asynchronously,” allowing users to collaborate in a chat rather than a video meeting or email. Spaces also integrates with Workspace services such as Google Docs, Calendar, Drive, Sheets, Slides, and Google Meet.

Users can view the full history of the chat within Spaces so they do not miss important messages after switching from in-person to remote work.

Google plans to add more features to Spaces in the coming months, such as improved search capabilities that will allow users to search for anything in Space history.

In addition, users will soon also have access to in-line threading, which allows users to respond to any specific message in the space. Streamlined navigation will also be added to Chat, allowing users to access their inboxes, chat rooms and meetings from one location.

Google Calendar

As well as being able to indicate whether users will be in-person or online for meetings, Google Calendar users can now schedule their working location on a regular basis. This feature allows users to show their colleagues when they will be in the office and when they will be online ahead of time. This feature makes it easier to schedule meetings and decide whether it is best to meet in-person or online, depending on employee schedules.

Google Meet

There are several new features coming to Google Meet that will enhance the remote or hybrid work experience for many. Google Meet will soon have live-translated captions during meetings, available in English, French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. More languages will be added slowly.

Google Meet will also add Google Meet Calling, which will allow users to make audio-only, one on one calls, enabling what Google calls more “spontaneous connections.” 

In November, Google will launch Companion Mode for Google Meet. It will allow users to easily participate in meetings on their laptops from within a conference room, for example, while leveraging the in-room audio and video. This feature allows users to share their screen, access chats, conduct surveys and ask questions during a Q&A.

Expanding hardware and third-party integrations

Google is also expanding its Google Meet hardware portfolio. The company has announced new all-in-one video conferencing devices that work with its Series One Room Kits.

The Series One Desk 27 is a 27-inch device designed for small shared spaces or desktops in the office or at home. The Series One Board 65 is a 65-inch 4K device that can be paired with an optional stand for ultimate configuration flexibility and turn any room into a hub for video collaboration.

Google also announced a few new third-party devices, such as the Logitech Rally Bar Mini and Rally Bar, all-in-one video conferencing systems that attach to the walls of smaller rooms or offices. Another third-party device to be introduced is the Rayz Rally Pro, a mobile speaker dock from Appcessori. It can automatically launch Google Meet for video calls and improve audio quality on mobile devices.

On September 8, Google announced interoperability between devices from Webex by Cisco and Google Meet hardware. Users will soon be able to start a Google Meet meeting on Webex hardware and vice versa. Calling interoperability between Meet and Webex are supported on Series One Board 65, Series One Desk 27, the rest of the Google Meet hardware portfolio, as well as on Webex’s Room Series, Room Kit Series, Desk Series and Board Series.

Source: Webex YouTube channel

Hybrid Handbook

Google has also introduced some additional resources to help with hybrid work. It has created a manual called “Navigating hybrid work: A Google Workspace Handbook.” The handbook offers tips on hybrid work, but focuses mainly on which Workspace tools best serve users based on the task at hand.

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