A new Google function now lets users automatically decline meeting invitations. This is no strategy to shirk work or a way to forget commitments. It is a red light for all ancillary, non-priority activities, so that users can concentrate on their main tasks. It’s called Focus Time and it’s the Mountain View company’s new feature for premium subscribers of the Google Workspace productivity suite.
Big Tech is responding: “Present!’ to the new demands of the world of work. Rather, they shape it proactively, with new proposals, new ideas and fresh initiatives.
Google has sought to intercept a need of many workers and offer them a solution: With the rise of smartworking and days no longer punctuated by clocking in and out of the office, it can happen that the commitments on the calendar –the priority ones and the less important ones– crowd together in no particular order, so the company has tried to create a time slot in which it is easier to concentrate. Focus Time, indeed.
While technology has been the ’cause’ of the encroachment of work on private life, the same technology is now trying to provide solutions to better organise working time and space. Especially since, with the pandemic, smartworking is increasingly central to the world of work, requiring more up-to-date and functional tools than in the past.
Big Tech is responding: “Present!’ to the new demands of the world of work. Rather, they shape it proactively, with new proposals, new ideas and fresh initiatives. There are not only innovations that intercept a new way of working: it’s all about rethinking working life, adapting it to new requirements, to a daily routine that has changed shape, pace and space, and redrawing the contours of present and future work. A job that is inevitably moving towards hybrid modes, where presence in the office is no longer a categorical imperative.
Large digital companies are investing in innovation to make smartworking more accessible and easier. There are software packages that offer a range of functionalities to simplify remote activities. The most common example are those tools that allow teamwork despite physical distance, through videoconferencing, content sharing, perhaps allowing several people to work on a single work file at the same time. Most of them are well known: Skype, Microsoft Teams, TeamViewer, but also Go ToMeeting and Cisco Webex Meetings.
In the last year and a half, however, with the boom in distance working, other applications have been developed, or new ad hoc functions such as the one by Google. Facebook did the same, before the recent introduction of Meta, which aims to create just such a new dimension of remote work in the metaverse.
At a press conference last summer, CEO Mark Zuckerberg presented Horizon Workrooms, a new service available for free download on Oculus Quest 2 (the virtual reality visor).
Workrooms is the first real application of the Facebook metaverse. Designed for remote work and online meetings, it also lets users engage office life through a visor. Users will thus be able to meet their colleagues in virtual conferences (in a visible conference room), obviously as avatars, to work in teams or simply to have expressive conversations that, at least in intention, should make users feel as if they were really at the office, all in the same room.
For years, Big Tech has been growing in different ways, certainly not only with the brilliant insights of its developers and the release of new functions. Many large companies are literally buying up skills and ideas by acquiring the most innovative and significant startups to incorporate know-how and innovative projects.
Microsoft recently acquired Ally.io, a startup that produces software designed to increase the productivity of businesses and companies. With this new application, employers can keep track of progress against goals set at the beginning of a journey and thus coordinate the work of different teams around the world.
The need to measure productivity through new variables and requirements is becoming increasingly central with remote working. And to which tech companies, not surprisingly, are responding quite strongly. Offering all kinds of apps, services and algorithms.
Tech companies are increasingly offering software services to measure the productivity of teams operating remotely.
A similar deal to Microsoft’s was also done by Apple, acquiring Fleetsmith, a startup that helps companies get employees to configure and manage devices remotely.
Startup Fleetsmith has created a technology that leverages Apple’s Device Enrollment Program, allowing IT departments to bring devices online as soon as an employee takes them out of the box and turns them on. This acquisition gives Apple a remote management option at a time when many employees are now working almost exclusively in smartworking.
In short, the pandemic has not only changed the economy and the world of work, but also the industrial strategies of the world’s largest IT companies.