Google has lifted the lid on a series of updates for its Workspace suite of productivity and collaboration software designed to cater to the needs of the hybrid working era.
Some of the upgrades are small, like the ability to react with emojis during video meetings, but others could have a major impact on the way in which workers collaborate on shared documents, presentations and spreadsheets.
Most significantly, Google says it will integrate Meet directly into Docs, Sheets and Slides in the coming weeks, which will allow Google Workspace users to quickly spin up a meeting when collaborating on a project. Unlike traditional screen-sharing, video feeds will be housed within a dedicated sidebar, positioned alongside the content the team is working on.
Google Workspace for hybrid working
Since the birth of G Suite in 2006, Google has competed directly with Microsoft in the office software space, going up against the famous Microsoft 365 suite, which houses the likes of Word, PowerPoint, Excel etc.
One of the defining features of Microsoft’s offering is tight integration between apps and services, extending all the way out to the Windows operating system on which most business computers run. And although Google stole the march on Microsoft when it came to the cloud-based model, individual G Suite apps have historically felt much more isolated.
When Google rebranded its productivity suite as Workspace in 2020, however, the company announced it would make a concerted effort to create a more “deeply integrated user experience”, by improving the level of interoperability between its various productivity apps.
The latest round of Google Workspace updates take strides towards achieving this goal, capitalizing on the full breadth of the suite to create functionality that should help workers improve their productivity in a hybrid working setting.
In addition to new synergies with Workspace office software, Google Meet will also receive a new picture-in-picture mode next month, which will allow Chrome users to bring up a floating meeting window that sits on top of other browser tabs.
And from a security perspective, Google is set to launch client-side encryption for Meet calls in May, with optional end-to-end encryption to follow by the end of the year, bringing the service on-par with Teams and Zoom.
To support asynchronous collaboration, meanwhile, Google is preparing a number of updates for its Spaces messaging platform. Most notably, the company is improving the search functionality to help users surface the most relevant conversations and rolling out Slack-like inline message threading, which is apparently a highly requested upgrade.
“One of the hopeful signs of a return to normalcy is seeing many of our customers make plans to come back into their offices. And they’re asking for strategies that will make hybrid work a more equitable and productive experience for everyone. We’re also beginning our own transition to hybrid work in early April,” said Google.
“As we gear up for that, it feels like a time of optimism for new ways of working together and the potential for hybrid models to become the sustainable norm. When designed well, a hybrid model gives employees the flexibility to deliver their best from anywhere, while bringing them together thoughtfully for the power of in-person collaboration.”