Google is adding a number of new features to Google Workspace today, including new tools for categorising your focus time in Google Calendar and Chat, better ways to participate in Google Meet video conferences with multiple devices, and a version of its office suite for frontline workers. It is also taking Google Assistant for Workspace out of beta and making it generally available.
The company is trying to categorise these features as part of a new push for what it calls “collaboration equality”. For Google, that’s a highfalutin way of explaining the tools it’s trying to develop to avoid disadvantaging home workers compared to people who work from offices (if people are allowed back into offices, that is).
Most importantly, the various tools in Workspace, such as Gmail and Chat, will know your current status and location and adjust your notifications accordingly. It’s still a long way from being the ideal universal status indicator, but it’s a step in the right direction – as long as you live primarily in Google Workspace and don’t interfere with other tools like Slack.
The new calendar statuses also allow Google to create a sort of work-oriented “time well spent” graph, only it shows how much time you waste on meetings each week. Google says this “Time Insights” breakdown will only be available to employees, not their bosses.
On phones, Google Meet will have a mobile tile view for video calls, support for picture-in-picture and split screen. It’s not clear if these tools will work on both Android and iOS.
Google is also building its cheaper Google Workspace Essentials offering with support for Chat, Jamboard and Calendar – all strange omissions at launch.
Finally, Google says it is launching “Google Workspace Frontline”, which it calls a “custom solution” for frontline workers. It appears to be a simplified way for administrators to configure a Google Workspace setup for retail or field workers. It will also make it possible to create AppSheet apps (simple, form-based apps) within Google Sheets.
All in all, the updates Google is announcing today seem designed primarily to make meetings less painful (because you can multitask more easily) or easier to avoid (because you can set Focus Time and also see how much time you’ve given away in the Time Insights sidebar).
Google Workspace gets new remote work features