This Google Calendar update gives your co-workers nowhere to hide

Tracking down your office team mates and other colleagues should soon be easier thanks to a new update to Google Calendar.

The calendar app for Google Workspace is now able to show a range of status options in Google Chat, giving you extra information on what you or your co-workers are up to.

Previously limited to just showing when someone was out of office, Google Chat is now able to show a number of different statuses, including “in a meeting” or “in focus time”.

Google Calendar statuses

“We hope by surfacing these additional statuses, this will make it easier for your colleagues to identify appropriate times to message you,” the company wrote in its Google Workspace update blog post announcing the change.

Google Chat calendar statuses

(Image credit: Google Workspace)

Admins will also be able to configure specific options for displaying the new status, with the ability to toggle on and off – or completely disable it.

The feature, which will be on by default, has started rolling out now across Android, iOS and web users. It will be available to all Google Workspace customers, as well as G Suite Basic and Business customers. However, it won't be an option for Google Workspace Individual users or those with personal Google accounts.

The news is the latest update to Google Calendar as the company looks to help employees embracing hybrid working that are splitting their time between the office and home.

Recently, it revealed a tool that means Gmail users will now be able to specify whether they will be attending a meeting either virtually or in-person in their email RSVP.

As mentioned above, Google Calendar also recently launched “Focus time”, where users can block out periods of time where they can avoid meetings and get their heads down for actual work.

Setting such a marker in your Google Calendar will also allow users to automatically decline meetings, meaning no last-minute rush to finish off work.

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Microsoft Teams update will help you see eye-to-eye with co-workers

Microsoft is readying an update for collaboration platform Teams that will supposedly help make video calls feel more natural in the world of hybrid working.

As per a new entry in the company’s product roadmap, Microsoft Teams users will soon benefit from an additional video call layout, called Front row.

“Front row is a new layout that enables better hybrid meetings,” explained Microsoft. “It brings remote participants to eye level with participants in [conference] rooms and adds additional data like chat to give in-room users better context of what’s happening in the meeting.”

The new layout is still under development, but should be available to all Teams users via the layout picker by the end of January.

Microsoft Teams calls

Since the start of the pandemic, vendors of video conferencing services like Teams, Zoom and Meet have fought to optimize call layout for maximum engagement and productivity.

Until now, the emphasis has been on creating new layouts that help remote workers present more effectively. In June, for example, Microsoft launched two new layouts for Teams, called Reporter and Side-by-Side. The former positions content above the presenter’s shoulder, as if they were a news anchor, and the latter displays content next to the presenter’s video feed.

On the side, there has also been a race to see who can support the largest number of video call participants on-screen at once. Currently, Teams and Zoom lead the way with massive 49-person gallery layouts.

Now, however, Microsoft appears to have turned its attention to augmenting its collaboration platform for hybrid working, whereby employees split their time between the home, office and any other location.

A major priority among businesses is to ensure meetings remain equitable when half the participants are in the room and the other half are dialling in remotely. According to Microsoft, a small change like the new Front row layout can help create “a more inclusive environment” and head off some of these potential issues.

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