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What your post-coronavirus office looks like

What your post-coronavirus office looks like

Good morning! This Friday, a look at how the workplace will change when we can all go back, the logic behind Verizon's BlueJeans acquisition, and a coronavirus vocabulary lesson.

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People Are Talking

The way we work has changed forever, Larry Ellison said, and Zoom's part of it:

  • "The way we work will never be the same … we'll meet sometimes face-to-face, and sometimes digitally via Zoom. Zoom has become an essential service for Oracle, for companies in the United States, for companies around the world. It's allowed the economy to continue to function even though we're facing a COVID-19 pandemic."

How bad is the ad market going to get this year? Barry Diller put a dollar number on it:

  • "At Expedia, for instance, we spend $5 billion a year on advertising. We won't spend $1 billion on advertising probably this year. You just rip that across everything."

In his annual shareholder letter, Jeff Bezos said Amazon is working on a mass-testing program:

  • "We have begun assembling the equipment we need to build our first lab and hope to start testing small numbers of our frontline employees soon. We are not sure how far we will get in the relevant timeframe, but we think it's worth trying, and we stand ready to share anything we learn."

Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook's not going back to the office until at least June:

  • "We're slowing our plans to return to the office in order to prioritize helping the rest of our community and local economy to get back up and running first. We know that most people can't work from home as easily as many of our employees can."

The Big Story

The office of the future: fewer food stations, more testing stations

Like Zuckerberg said, when we'll go back to work is an open and hard-to-answer question. What "going back to work" will even look like might be even more complicated. As Protocol's Lauren Hepler, Matt Drange and Levi Sumagaysay found, there's change coming to an office near you.

The big, immediate question for companies to answer: How do you test employees for coronavirus?

  • Some companies are building on-premise systems, others are working with nearby pharmacies and startups.
  • It's almost as much a social problem as a medical one. If an employee tests positive, do you broadcast it to their team? Put their face on a Sick People Wall? What does the process look like for sending people home (again)? And bringing them back? The office politics of coronavirus are going to be intense.

As for the office itself, the days of cramming everyone onto a long workbench may be over. At least for now.

  • Tech execs are thinking about staggering work shifts, and looking at ways to spread people more effectively around an office. Ford is even experimenting with wearables that buzz if you get too close to a colleague.
  • Many things tech workers take for granted are now under scrutiny. Does a free-for-all lunch buffet make sense anymore? What about all-staff meetings?
  • "Social distance thinking may be part of our DNA moving forward," Janet Pogue-McLaurin, a principal at Gensler (the company that designed practically every iconic tech office) told Recode.

One concept to look out for: the 6 Feet Office, an idea from real-estate giant Cushman & Wakefield that's taking off in China as employees head back to the office.

  • The idea is to change the way people move in an office, and give constant signals and feedback to help people follow distancing rules. Even the size and shape of rugs can show how to safely stay separated.
  • It all sounds a bit like designing a really boring airport, with signs and arrows everywhere, but it's a useful model — and is already in place around China.

As for when all this will matter? Nobody knows. Slack's one of the only tech companies that has even floated a date for reopening offices, of June 1.

  • But while the tech world moved quickly to send people home, it's clearly going to be cautious about bringing them back.

Video calling

Verizon buys itself some BlueJeans

So you're a wireless carrier. A big one. Very successful. What's in it for you spending hundreds of millions on a video-conferencing tool, like Verizon did with BlueJeans?

The carrier reportedly paid "less than $500 million" for the company, which looks like a steal in this moment of crazy growth and valuations for practically every video platform. BlueJeans co-founder Krish Ramakrishnan said the service saw 300% growth in three months.

Maybe Verizon wanted to buy its way into the future of communication, like Facebook did when it noticed WhatsApp was so popular? But I don't think this is quite that.

  • BlueJeans gives Verizon another business unit to sell to enterprises, especially as it tries to extol the virtues of switching to all-wireless 5G. "We'll make your video chat amazing!" is as good a 5G sales pitch as I've heard.
  • BlueJeans is also explicitly not a consumer tool, which likely appeals to Verizon. Verizon has ... let's say, a rocky history with consumer acquisitions? RIP Tumblr.

Gartner analyst Mike Fasciani told me he's unusually optimistic about the acquisition.

  • "I feel like BlueJeans has been acting like a small carrier even now, in the sense of how they sort of operate," he said.
  • BlueJeans always leaned into video-as-infrastructure, more interested in integrating with other services than building its own massively popular app. "Their operational model and culture as a business will blend well with Verizon," Fasciani said, "as opposed to having the clash of some upstart mobile company coming in."

A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

Facebook

We know it's a challenging time for small businesses.
To help, Facebook created a $100 million Small Business Grants Program to provide businesses with the resources they need.

Learn more about the Facebook Small Business Grants Program.

Words

Zumped while doomscrolling? Have a quarantini

"I hope you're holding up okay" has become my go-to email opener. I write it probably 100 times a day — it's my contribution to the First Line of Emails I've Received While Quarantining poem that's making the rounds on Twitter.

And it turns out coronavirus has changed more than just the way we email. Protocol's Sofie Kodner found a whole new world of words created in these trying times. Here's your COVID-19 glossary:

  • Zumping: How do people get dumped in the time of coronavirus? On Zoom, of course! Because, why risk getting the virus from someone you're breaking up with anyway? The phenomenon came alive just last week with this tweet, and thus Zoom + dumping is now zumping.
  • Doomscrolling: The act of mindlessly scrolling through news about the depressing state of the world for hours on end. You know, that thing you do every night at 3 a.m.
  • Maskie: A selfie with your mask. It's all about smiling with your eyes.
  • Quarantini: What else are you doing with all that alcohol you're binge buying? The through line of quarantinis is simply that they must be easy to make. Here's ten to try this weekend — even if the WHO doesn't recommend it.
  • Zoombombing: We've talked about this one a lot. The FBI has also talked about this one a lot! But since Zoom made some updates to its default settings, the trend of trolls invading meetings uninvited is hopefully past its peak.
  • Coronnial: A lot of people are locked in their house with their partner. In nine months, we will welcome a new generation: coronnials, the children of the lockdown.
  • Covidiot: The flat earthers of coronavirus. People who still aren't washing their hands, and get offended when asked to scoot back in the grocery line.

I'm guessing Zoombombing ends up in the dictionary first, but quarantini is my favorite of the list. Regardless, your challenge this weekend is to use each of these in a sentence. With a straight face. And no explanation afterward. Tell me how you get on: david@protocol.com.

Making Moves

Megan Quinn is Niantic's new COO. She was previously at Spark Capital, but was actually part of the original Niantic team in 2010. "I believe the opportunity for Niantic is much bigger now than we imagined then," Quinn said in a blog post.

From Protocol: Airbnb laid off contractors and postponed summer internships. CEO Brian Chesky announced the news during his weekly Q&A over Zoom on Thursday, according to a worker who was in the meeting.

GoPro laid off 200 employees — about 20% of the company — and plans to reduce office space and other expenses in an attempt to cut operating expenses by $100 million this year. The company also appointed Aimée Lapic as its chief digital officer, bringing her over from Pandora.

In Other News

  • Today in coronavirus: Google is giving up to 14 weeks of paid leave for parents balancing family and work. Facebook will alert users who engage with coronavirus-related misinformation. Facebook also canceled "all large physical events" it had planned involving 50 or more people through June 2021. Somebody Zoombombed a House Oversight Committee meeting. Google's seeing 18 million coronavirus-related malware and phishing emails every day. And 5.2 million people filed for unemployment last week.
  • From Protocol: EPIC president Marc Rotenberg was told to get tested for coronavirus, got tested — and didn't tell his staff. The test came back positive, and EPIC employees say Rotenberg put their health at risk.
  • Ajit Pai encouraged the FCC to approve Ligado's application for a nationwide 5G network, even though the DoD says it might cause trouble with GPS.
  • Microsoft and the NBA signed a deal that makes Microsoft the league's new Official Technology partner, including Azure and AI tech. No mention of Surfaces on sidelines, though — maybe Microsoft's looking to avoid a repeat of certain very gif-able moments?
  • Libra has a new plan, and it's significantly less ambitious. Libra's goal is now to create a new payment network tied to existing currency — it's more like Venmo or PayPal, and less like a brand new cryptocurrency.
  • Now that eBay hired Jamie Iannone as its CEO, Starboard is pulling back on its proxy fight with the company — though eBay's still planning to name a new independent board director in the next few months.

One More Thing

Rover offers its own kind of stimulus package

Protocol's Emily Dreyfuss got a surprising email this week. "Hi Emily. We know that the coronavirus crisis is financially impacting many in the Rover community, so we want to make sure you're aware of the money currently in your Rover account," the email read, followed by a prompt to claim her cash. Emily explains: "I used to pet sit for Rover, back when I worked from home full time and Rover was an almost-too-good-to-be-true way to get paid to HANG OUT WITH DOGS while I was writing." She stopped four years ago when her first kid was born — and forgot all about the $416 still in her account. It's not just Emily, either: Rover said it's paid out about $300,000 to sitters in the network in recent weeks, and more funds are sitting unclaimed. Pets: truly the gift that keeps on giving.

A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

Facebook

We know it's a challenging time for small businesses.

Learn more about Facebook's $100 million Small Business Grants Program.

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to me, david@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your weekend, see you Monday.

Correction: An earlier version of this article mischaracterized EPIC president Marc Rotenberg's coronavirus experience. He says that he has never experienced symptoms of COVID-19. The article was updated April 17.

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