Google is updating its productivity software to better meet the needs of frontline and remote workers, in a bet that the pandemic has permanently changed how work gets done.
A version of the company’s Workspace offering will be tailored specifically for frontline workers, such as retail and health-care employees, the Alphabet Inc. unit said in a blog post Monday. The effort will let organizations better communicate and collaborate with employees through their mobile phones, and is similar to a service from rival Microsoft Corp.
Workspace, formerly known as G Suite, will also integrate with Google’s digital voice assistant and gain features to let employees set and enforce unique working hours.
The internet giant is trying to make its line of productivity tools, including Gmail, Meet videoconferencing and Docs word processing, essential to businesses that have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic. Employees have had to balance professional and family demands while doing their jobs from home for the last year, spurring a rise in unconventional work hours and other flexible arrangements.
Javier Soltero, vice president and general manager of Workspace, said Google was trying to embrace the “messiness” of work life during the pandemic. “It will never be the same again, but we should use that as an opportunity rather than try to recreate 2018 or 2019,” he added.
With the changes, Workspace will notify employees if they try to message a colleague who’s off the clock, and encourage them to time an email for when the co-worker is back online. It’s also possible to minimize distractions for periods of time, share employee locations with colleagues, and set up recurring out-of-office messages. Google Assistant will now work with corporate Workspace accounts, letting people send messages and check calendars with their voice.
While Workspace has 2.6 billion users, the suite is free for individuals. Google makes money from the software by signing up business customers and other organizations to paid accounts.