Webex & Google Meet: Inclusive experiences through embedded interop

Inclusive experiences through embedded interop

Over the past year, we’ve focused on our goal at Webex to empower inclusive collaboration. This is more important than ever in today’s hybrid world. Inclusivity means many things to many people, but at its core, it is to simply provide equal access to opportunities and resources. To me, this includes providing collaboration with an open platform – with open arms, if you will – to interoperate with multiple meeting platforms and productivity tools that our global village uses. Today, I’m excited to announce another step with inclusivity: Webex has partnered with Google Workspace to provide embedded video interoperability to enable user choice and drive boundless collaboration.

The reality is that people need workflows they can control; not ones that control them. This is more important than ever as we have extended our workplace well beyond the conference room and into our homes or hot-desks leading to less in-person interaction and an increase in remote meetings from different platforms any given day.

In a recent customer meeting, the CIO told us while 80% of meetings conducted happen on their preferred platform, 20% take place on other meeting platforms. And what about the customers that want or need to use a meeting provider that’s different from their video hardware provider? For example, in the past, there were extra steps involved to join your Webex Desk Pro to Google Meet. Our announcement today takes out those extra steps and makes it that much easier to focus on your work and not how you work.

Collaboration tools must enable productivity; not deter it with the friction of silos. This is precisely why today we’re unveiling interoperability between Google Workspace and Webex. Together we’re easing this burden for our joint customers. People can now natively join Google Meet video calls from Webex Devices and in reverse, Webex meetings from Google Meet video hardware.

Join Google Meet video calls from Webex Rooms devices

Picture a customer using the Google Workspace suite simply scheduling a meeting in Google Calendar or any supported calendar client. If using Google Meet, the meeting can be joined from a Webex Device with the click of a button. It’s that simple – maintaining the experience that customers of Webex Devices have come to expect. 

When the meeting is approaching, the Webex Device displays the green One Button To Push (OBTP) prompt together with the Google Meet logo. This bypasses the need to enter meeting details, like a password or meeting ID. Devices registered to Webex (directly or through Webex Edge) can connect to Google Meet with media and signaling going directly from Google’s cloud to the Webex device and leveraging WebRTC technology.

By Cisco

Join Webex Meeting from Google Meet devices

The same works with Webex meetings on Google Meet devices as well. Google’s commitment to advancing WebRTC is key in enabling this easy and rich experience with Webex from Google Meet devices, bringing customers greater choice and flexibility in video communications.

To join a scheduled Webex meeting from any Google Meet hardware device, a user would simply add the room or device to the meeting invite. When the meeting approaches, it will automatically appear on the device’s agenda with the words “via Webex by Cisco.” The user would simply tap that meeting on their device and immediately join the Webex call. To join an ad-hoc Webex call, the user would tap ‘Find a meeting’ on their device, select Webex, and enter the desired meeting code.

When joining a Webex meeting from a Google Meet hardware device — either scheduled or ad-hoc — users will enjoy the seamless join experience and familiar Google Meet UI and call controls. Embedded interoperability with Webex is supported on the Google Meet Series One Desk 27 and Board 65 as well as the rest of the Google Meet hardware portfolio.

At Webex we’re laser-focused on providing the best possible customer experience to our customers — regardless of device or meeting platform. Thanks Google Workspace, for the collaboration that offers customers yet another positive experience. Together, we’re committed to empowering an inclusive future for all.

Author: Snorre Kjesbu

Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Working From Home

A six-minute meeting drove Portia Twidt to quit her job.

She’d taken the position as a research compliance specialist in February, enticed by promises of remote work. Then came the prodding to go into the office. Meeting invites piled up.

The final straw came a few weeks ago: the request for an in-person gathering, scheduled for all of 360 seconds. Twidt got dressed, dropped her two kids at daycare, drove to the office, had the brief chat and decided she was done.

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With the coronavirus pandemic receding for every vaccine that reaches an arm, the push by some employers to get people back into offices is clashing with workers who’ve embraced remote work as the new normal.

While companies from Google to Ford Motor Co. and Citigroup Inc. have promised greater flexibility, many chief executives have publicly extolled the importance of being in offices. Some have lamented the perils of remote work, saying it diminishes collaboration and company culture. JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon said at a recent conference that it doesn’t work “for those who want to hustle.”

But legions of employees aren’t so sure. If anything, the past year has proved that lots of work can be done from anywhere, sans lengthy commutes on crowded trains or highways. Some people have moved. Others have lingering worries about the virus and vaccine-hesitant colleagues.

And for Twidt, there’s also the notion that some bosses, particularly those of a generation less familiar to remote work, are eager to regain tight control of their minions.

“They feel like we’re not working if they can’t see us,” she said. “It’s a boomer power-play.”

It’s still early to say how the post-pandemic work environment will look. Only about 28% of U.S. office workers are back at their buildings, according to an index of 10 metro areas compiled by security company Kastle Systems. Many employers are still being lenient with policies as the virus lingers, vaccinations continue to roll out and childcare situations remain erratic.

But as office returns accelerate, some employees may want different options. A May survey of 1,000 U.S. adults showed that 39% would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work. The generational difference is clear: Among millennials and Gen Z, that figure was 49%, according to the poll by Morning Consult on behalf of Bloomberg News.

“High-five to them,” said Sara Sutton, the CEO of FlexJobs, a job-service platform focused on flexible employment. “Remote work and hybrid are here to stay.”

The lack of commutes and cost savings are the top benefits of remote work, according to a FlexJobs survey of 2,100 people released in April. More than a third of the respondents said they save at least $5,000 per year by working remotely.


Perks of Flexibility

Not having to commute is the top benefit for remote workers.

Source: FlexJobs

Survey of 2,181 total respondents ran from March 17, 2021 through April 5, 2021.

Jimme Hendrix, a 30-year-old software developer in the Netherlands, quit his job in December as the web-application company he worked for was gearing up to bring employees back to the office in February.

“During Covid I really started to see how much I enjoyed working from home,” Hendrix said.

Now he does freelance work and helps his girlfriend grow her art business. He used to spend two hours each day commuting; now the couple is considering selling their car and instead relying on bikes.

One of the main benefits, he says, is more control over his own time: “I can just do whatever I want around the house, like a quick chore didn’t have to wait until like 8 p.m. anymore, or I can go for a quick walk.”

Of course, not everyone has the flexibility to choose. For the millions of frontline workers who stock the shelves of grocery stores, care for patients in hospitals and nursing homes, or drop off packages at people’s doors, there are scant alternative options to showing up in person.

But among those who can, many are weighing their alternatives, said Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, who’s researched why people quit jobs. Bosses taking a hard stance should beware, particularly given labor shortages in the economy, he said.

“If you’re a company that thinks everything’s going back to normal, you may be right but it’s pretty risky to hope that’s the case,” he said.

At least some atop the corporate ladder seem to be paying attention. In a Jan. 12 PwC survey of 133 executives, fewer than one in five said they want to go back to pre-pandemic routines. But only 13% were prepared to let go of the office for good.


Senior Management’s View

Days in the office that executives think is needed to maintain company culture.

Source: PwC

PwC surveyed 133 US executives between Nov. 24 and Dec, 5, 2020,from public and private companies in financial services, technology, media and telecommunications and retail products.

Alison Green, founder of workplace-advice website Ask a Manager, said she’s been contacted by many people with qualms about going back, citing concerns about unvaccinated colleagues and Covid precautions. Some have said they’re looking for jobs at companies they feel take the virus seriously, or will let them work from anywhere.

Some things are indeed lost with remote work, Green said, like opportunities for collaboration or learning for junior employees. But, she added: “I think we need to have a more nuanced discussion than: hustlers only do well in the office.”

For Sarah-Marie Martin, who lived in Manhattan and worked as a partner at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. when the pandemic struck, the months at home gave her time to redraw the blueprint of her life.

“When you have this existential experience, you have time to step back and think,” Martin said. “In my previous life, I didn’t have time to get super deep and philosophical.”

The mother of five moved her family to the New Jersey shore. And once the push to get back to offices picked up, the idea of commuting hardly seemed alluring. This spring, Martin accepted a fully remote position as chief financial officer of Yumi, a Los Angeles-based maker of baby food.

Gene Garland, 24, unknowingly opened the floodgates to people’s frustrations about office returns. After his employer, an IT company, in April told people they needed to start coming in, two of his close colleagues handed in their resignation letters. Garland, who lives in Hampton, Virginia, tapped out a tweet:

Hundreds of people responded, with many outlining plans, or at least hopes, to leave their own jobs. Garland says he himself has no plans to quit, but empathizes with those who do.

“Working inside of a building really does restrict time a lot more than you think,” he said. “A lot of people are afraid of the cycle where you work and work and work — and then you die.”

Twidt, the compliance specialist in Georgia, had already lined up a new job by the time she handed in her resignation letter: a role at a Washington-based company.

The recruiter that approached her, Twidt said, asked what it would take to get her on board. She replied that she would prefer something 100% remote.

“They said, ‘we can do that for you immediately.’”

— With assistance by Sridhar Natarajan

Author: Anders Melin
By Bloomberg

New hybrid work innovations in Microsoft Teams Rooms, Fluid, and Microsoft Viva

As workplaces open in many regions around the world, I hear from customers every day that they can’t wait to get back to in-person collaboration. I feel it myself—and look forward to seeing many of my coworkers in person one day soon. But even more than that, I look forward to finding new ways to help people connect and engage regardless of location and time zone. 

At Microsoft, we believe that hybrid work is the future of work and that to empower their people to succeed in hybrid work, business leaders will need to reimagine their organizations with a new operating model for people, places, and processes.

We’re also committed to building experiences that put everyone on equal footing—whether they’re together in a conference room in Atlanta, presenting remotely from a home office, or catching up with a meeting recording once the workday begins in Sydney.  

Microsoft Teams is mission-critical to this vision for a more flexible world of work. Teams is unique in that it brings together meetings, chat, calls, collaboration, and business process automation in a single app. Since COVID-19 spurred office workers around the world to work from home, we’ve been innovating in Teams to do things like create more natural and engaging meeting experiences—enable people to connect seamlessly with those inside and outside of their organizations and provide ways to make remote presentations richer and more impactful. 

And as we emerge into this new hybrid reality, we are focused on building experiences in Teams that are designed to ensure all voices are heard including the people not in the room—empowering everyone to connect and engage, from anywhere and at any time. And to make it easier to collaborate synchronously and asynchronously, we’re also announcing new Microsoft Fluid canvas innovations—in Teams and beyond. 

But COVID-19 also taught us that meeting fatigue and digital overload is real, and remote work has challenged our wellbeing. To help, Microsoft has built Microsoft Viva—our integrated employee experience platform—into Teams, so that employees can find ways to protect time and preserve their wellbeing right in the flow of their work.

Today we are announcing new innovations—in Microsoft Teams Rooms, Fluid, and Microsoft Viva—all designed to empower your people for hybrid work. Let’s have a look.  


Participate on equal footing—at home, onsite, or on the go

Unlocking better hybrid meeting experiences for everyone begins with designing for the people who aren’t in the room, so that everyone feels like they have a seat at the table, whether they’re joining in the room, at home, or on the go. Today, we’re announcing enhancements to Teams meetings and Microsoft Teams Rooms built to create engaging experiences for every participant.

Over the course of this year, we will roll out front row in Teams Rooms, an immersive room layout that makes interactions feel more natural and gives in-room participants a greater sense of connection to remote participants. 

We’ve moved the video gallery to the bottom of the screen so remote participants are face-to-face with those in the room. And to help everyone stay engaged, meeting content is surrounded by contextual meeting information like the agenda, tasks, and notes. Meeting chat will also be clearly visible to those in the room, so they can see and respond to comments shared through chat.

To help remote participants establish their presence in the room and maximize inclusion, Teams Rooms will expand screen real estate using new video layouts that disperse the video gallery across multiple displays when content isn’t shared. 

The increased space means remote participants show up larger and more true to life. We’re also bringing more features from desktop to Teams Rooms this summer, to help bring attention to the remote participants engaging in the meeting. 

These features include live reactionsspotlight, and the ability to pin multiple video streams (coming this fall) and chat bubbles when using the classic video grid layout.

Remote participants should also be able to see who is in the meeting room, and what’s happening. JabraLogitechPoly, and our newest Teams device partner Neat are using advanced AI-powered camera technologies to provide new video views optimized for hybrid meetings, allowing every person in the room to be seen more clearly.

We’re also making sure those who speak in meetings are clearly identified. The Teams intelligent speakers from EPOS and Yealink are now generally available and are built for Teams Rooms and use Microsoft’s voice recognition technology in Teams to attribute remarks to the meeting room speaker in the transcript. With speaker attributed—meeting transcription, people can focus on contributing to the conversation instead of taking notes, and those who missed the meeting can see a record of the conversation after the meeting.

And we’re thrilled to announce the new Teams Rooms on Surface Hub experience. Surface Hub is purpose-built for teams to meet and co-create, wherever they work, and the next generation of Teams on Surface Hub brings more of your favorite meetings features and controls from the desktop to the meeting room—including a modernized meeting stage, Together Mode scenes, and PowerPoint Live. Coming this fall, the new Microsoft Whiteboard experience will also be available on Surface Hub, so everyone can draw and ink on the same digital canvas.   

You can find more information on these Teams Rooms and partner announcements on our Teams Tech Community Blog.

To empower remote participants to initiate and facilitate whiteboard sessions, we’ve created a completely new, hybrid work-focused Whiteboard experience where all attendees can visually collaborate across the same digital canvas. 

Available in summer 2021, new features will enable anyone to bring existing content to Whiteboard to co-author; and new templates will help groups start ideating faster, improving their ability to follow along with contributors, and more.

Effective hybrid meetings require every participant to be able to present, and experience a presentation in a way that’s engaging and inclusive. New PowerPoint Live features help create a shared space for collaboration and contributions from everyone in the meeting. 

Slide translate allows attendees to see the presentation in their chosen language, for instance. 

And with our new inking experience, you can annotate your PowerPoint as you present—or use a laser pointer to call attention to key points. 

And look for these latest features in the Teams mobile app as well. You can now access PowerPoint Live and Dynamic view on your mobile devices. Custom background is also now on iOS and coming soon to Android.



Collaborate in the flow of work

To work effectively in hybrid and asynchronous models, people need a super-rich canvas that both creates and maintains context before, during, and after the meeting. Fluid components are atomic units of productivity that help you get your work done in the context of chat, emails, meetings, and more. 

Recently, we announced new Fluid components in chat to create live, collaborative experiences that can be edited in real-time and shared across Teams and Office apps. And today, we’re announcing the expansion of Fluid components for Teams meetings, OneNote, Outlook, and Whiteboard that make it easier to collaborate synchronously and asynchronously across Teams and Office apps. We’re also announcing new chat features that further support asynchronous collaboration, so you can keep the work moving forward in between meetings. 

Pin a message, providing your chat members with quick access to critical content anytime, and reply to a specific chat message maintaining context within the ongoing conversation.

Meetings have increased significantly over the past year, along with unstructured communications. Research from our Work Trend Index shows the average Teams user is sending 45 percent more chats per person per, week than they did one year ago. 

And ad-hoc, unstructured meetings are on the rise as well. To help manage this digital overload, new Fluid components in Teams meetings make it easy to co-create an agenda, take notes, and assign tasks, right within the Teams meeting, and access persistent recap content whenever you need it. And the note, agenda, and tasks from meetings will be automatically “placed” in the new meeting notes home of OneNote. 

While the meeting is underway, take the discussion a step further by ideating and brainstorming together by creating and editing live Fluid components in Whiteboard. Fluid components can also be leveraged across Outlook—in email or the calendar—making it easier to manage your time, agenda, notes, and tasks across apps.


Protect time and prioritize wellbeing



Weekly meeting time for Teams users has more than doubled since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Back-to-back meetings increase stress and make it harder to stay engaged and focused. 

In just a few minutes a day, meditation and mindfulness with Headspace can help you reduce stress and improve focus. Starting later this month, we’re bringing a curated set of guided meditations and mindfulness exercises from Headspace to the Viva Insights app in Teams to help you start your day grounded, relax your mind before a big presentation, or disconnect from work in the evening.

Building upon the Viva Insights ability to schedule daily focus time to work uninterrupted with Teams notifications silenced, we are introducing a new focus mode in the Viva Insights app later this year. This will feature Focus music from Headspace and implement timers to help you make progress on important tasks in regular intervals with breaks planned in between.

Remote work has eliminated physical boundaries between work and life leading to an increase in after-hours chats, and a feeling of being always-on. We want to help your people find balance and protect personal time. 

Later this year, Viva Insights will offer the ability to configure quiet time to silence mobile notifications from Outlook and Teams outside your working hours as well as provide personalized insights on how well you are disconnecting. 

Quiet time settings will also be available for users in Teams and Outlook mobile and accompanied by IT administrator controls in Microsoft Endpoint Manager to support the creation of organization-wide policies to mute after-hours notifications.

As we all navigate this new world of work together, we will discover new ways to help people work both flexibly and effectively. At Microsoft, we’re committed to bringing you experiences that empower people to work from anywhere, at any time. 

By studying the research and the usage patterns in our apps—and talking to customers every day—we are continuing to hone our understanding of what people need, to bring their best selves to work every day. This understanding guides our innovation as we work to bring you and your people experiences that help them achieve more.

Author: Jared Spataro
By Microsoft

Survey finds majority of parents want to continue remote work post-pandemic

(WHTM) — As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and employees return to in-person work, parents may be reluctant to get back to pre-pandemic normal. According to a survey by FlexJobs, 61% of parents surveyed want to continue working remotely full-time after the pandemic, while 37% would prefer a hybrid work environment, and just 2% want to go back to the office full-time.

“Even though the pandemic for a lot of parents was really difficult and probably some of the harder parenting times that they’ve had…there still was this sense of having more control over their days,” Brie Reynolds, career development manager at FlexJobs, said.

Control and flexibility seem to be two of the biggest benefits of working from home for parents. Katrina Blaydon works for the Penn State College of Medicine and has a 6-year-old daughter.

Blaydon writes, “If my daughter is sick and needs a day of rest on the couch, I can work there too. If I don’t have child care, I can work from home to supervise her and still get my work done.”

Blaydon works remotely four days a week and in-person one day a week, although that could change in the future. “I hope that schedule is allowed to continue for the long term,” Blaydon writes.

In conducting the survey, Reynolds heard from parents who appreciated the flexibility to shift their work hours around to accommodate family needs while working from home. Better work-life balance was a benefit of remote work mentioned by 62% of surveyed parents, and 70% of respondents said they appreciated having more time with their families.

Blaydon also cites the importance of work-life balance, writing, “I love working from home [because] it allows me a little more work/home life balance. I don’t always need to choose work or home.”

Parents also noted other benefits of working from home, including no commute, improved work efficiency, more time for self-care (eating healthier, exercising, etc.), fewer office distractions, easier pet care, and of course avoiding exposure to COVID-19.

Among the cost and time savings benefits of working from home, parents — and especially women, notes Reynolds — also indicated that they spent less time and effort getting ready to go to work.

According to the FlexJobs survey, 62% of parents say they would quit their current job if they cannot continue remote work. Their concerns about returning to the office include challenges with childcare as well as reduced flexibility and work-life balance.

While parents experienced several benefits of working from home, they also faced challenges caring for children while working.

“You’re really trying to manage two very important tasks at once: you’re trying to keep your kids active and engaged in whatever they need to be doing and also keep yourself active and engaged in what you’re doing,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds has two kids who are 8 and 2, and she says that she and her husband were able to work from home and have flexible schedules, which made taking care of their kids during the pandemic much easier. At the same time, though, “Physically it kind of felt like my brain was trying to split into two pieces and do two separate things,” she said.

COVID-19 reduced working parents’ options for childcare. Schools went remote and childcare facilities closed. On top of that, individuals were encouraged to limit their contact with people outside their households, so friends and family who might normally be able to help supervise children were often unable to help during the pandemic.

The end of the pandemic will mean the return of these childcare options and other daytime activities for kids, and Reynolds says that having some kind of childcare support is very important for working parents.

Other remote work challenges parents noted in the FlexJobs survey include difficulty “unplugging” outside of the workday, technology problems, video meeting fatigue, and struggling to collaborate and manage relationships with colleagues.

Many people lost or quit their jobs during the pandemic. According to FlexJobs, “the majority [of parents] were impacted in some way due to childcare responsibilities.”

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Now parents may be getting ready to head back to the office or rejoin the workforce, which can feel daunting.

“Parents can always think back to what they overcame in the last year and how big a challenge that was, and really understand that whatever happens, those challenges they can handle because they handled the most unexpected challenge,” Reynolds reminded them.

Reynolds says that in addition to remote work, flexible scheduling is another popular option for parents. Flexible scheduling means that employees may have the option to shift their hours to avoid rush hour traffic or to bank overtime hours and then work shorter days when needed.

“One of the biggest things that employers can do to help parents is think about flexible scheduling,” Reynolds said. “Having more control over your days in that way can be really helpful.”

For parents returning to the workforce or looking to land a permanently remote position, Reynolds encourages a resume update. First, they should add any skills they developed during the pandemic, such as time management or proficiency with communication and collaboration technology (Zoom, Google Drive, Microsoft Teams, etc.).

Additionally, individuals who were not working during COVID-19 should note the reason for their career gap on their resumes, Reynolds says. For example, they might write, “Due to the pandemic, I had to leave my position to do full-time caregiving,” she said. This lets employers know that there was a specific reason for any gap in work experience.

Reynolds encourages job seekers to be confident in their applications because employers went through the COVID-19 pandemic, too.

“Everybody experienced this in the last year…truly everyone has some experience going through the pandemic, and so if people are worried about coming back into the workforce, finding a job after having a gap on their resume, it’s kind of like the old rules don’t necessarily apply to this situation,” Reynolds said.

The FlexJobs survey had 1,184 respondents, all of whom have children 18 years old or younger living with them.

Author: Avery Van Etten
By ABC27