Protocol | Workplace
Your guide to the new world of work, every Wednesday.
Photo: Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

What new CDC guidance means for remote workers

Two workers video chat with colleagues

This week, more tech offices are signaling that they'll delay their reopenings based on the quickly spreading delta variant and the rising number of breakthrough cases among the vaccinated. Meanwhile, gig workers are striking for the right to unionize, "time-blocking" is the latest productivity hack, and we share the story of one Black founder who's been fighting racism in Silicon Valley for over a decade.

(Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up here to get Workplace every Wednesday.)

Back to Work?

You might want to put that mask back on

Thanks to the fast-spreading delta variant and the tens of millions of Americans who remain unvaccinated, it's been a doozy of a week on the pandemic front. That has big implications for tech companies planning their returns to the office.

  • On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommended that vaccinated people who are living near COVID-19 hotspots resume wearing masks in schools and other indoor, public spaces.
  • Google, Apple, ServiceNow, Asana and Pure Storage are all postponing their returns to the office, citing new concerns about the virus's spread. Google CEO Sundar Pichai also sent an email to all employees requiring vaccinations for anyone coming to work in the office.
  • And Apple is reportedly requiring masks at the office now, but stopping short of requiring the vaccine.

Everything about Big Tech's office reopening seems to be up in the air at this point. We'd love to hear about how your company's plans are changing in response to the current surge in cases.

Allison Levitsky (twitter | email)

The Workforce

Gig workers strike, urge passage of PRO Act

Hundreds of gig workers went on strike and rallied in support of the PRO Act last week. The action, organized by Rideshare Drivers United, called upon workers in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston and other cities throughout the country to strike and protest poor treatment at the hands of companies such as Uber and Lyft.

  • The PRO Act, which is currently in Congress, would make it far easier for gig workers to form unions.
  • "I came here to fight to be able to unionize," Ibrahim Diallo, a rideshare driver in the San Francisco Bay Area, told Protocol at the San Francisco rally. "It's unbelievable that we are not allowed to form a union."
  • "We think the PRO Act is the only way to sort of chip away at the injustice that's being propagated by Proposition 22," Erica Mighetto, a driver-organizer with RDU, told Protocol.
  • Gig workers are not the only people interested in unionizing. About 50% of tech workers are interested in forming unions, according to a recent Protocol survey.

Megan Rose Dickey (twitter | email)

Get Stuff Done

To do: Kill your to-do list

There are two kinds of people in the world: people who don't keep to-do lists, and people who hate their to-do list. And as Wired pointed out this week, there's really no third option.

But there is a better way. The idea known as "time-blocking," which uses your calendar as the basis for your to-do list, has caught on in a big way in tech circles recently. The idea is pretty simple: anything you want to do, whether it's meetings or email or deep work or a midday nap — schedule it. Everything else, forget it.

  • Cal Newport is one of the best thinkers on time-blocking, and his post on the subject from 2013 is still often cited in productivity circles. If you're the pen-and-paper type, Newport also created a notebook just for time blockers.
  • Jack Dorsey and Elon Musk are both longtime proponents of the method. Dorsey has said in the past that he blocks his days by theme — one day for management, one for product and so on — while Musk apparently schedules his entire day in five-minute increments.
  • Most proponents of the process say you should manage your schedule manually, but apps like Reclaim.ai are using machine learning to help you block more effectively. Or you can use apps like Sunsama and TickTick (or try to score an invite for Motion), which are more middle-ground, to-do list/calendar combinations.

A recommendation: If you're taking any time off this summer, use the day or two before you leave and after you get back to reset the way you get stuff done. It's the cleanest and clearest your schedule and to-do list will ever be, and a perfect chance to pick a better way. Ideally one that doesn't leave you frustrated and switching apps every three months.

— David Pierce (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM ZOOM

A survey of 12,000 employees by Boston Consulting Group found 60% of respondents want flexibility as far as where and when they work. As the world plans to safely reopen businesses, educational institutions, health care facilities and government entities, we are focused on innovating across our platform to support their needs.

Learn more

DEI

Black AF in a white AF industry

Few people in the tech industry have worked on diversity and inclusion as long as Wayne Sutton, the founder and CEO of The Icon Project. We caught up with Sutton to learn more about his 10-year journey in Silicon Valley trying to combat racism and bias in the industry. Here are some highlights:

  • The NewMe accelerator, co-founded by Sutton and others, launched in 2011 to support Black entrepreneurs in tech. "We wanted to make an impact. We wanted to change the numbers and help Black, underrepresented founders have the opportunity to create tech companies, to pursue their dreams, to create platforms or build apps that could impact lives, and to create generational wealth opportunities," Sutton said.
  • When trying to raise a venture fund to support Black founders in 2014, potential investors would often ask, "Where are you going to find those entrepreneurs?"
  • Now, in 2021, Sutton is the founder of The Icon Project, which is working to raise awareness around mental health, as well as support the mental health and professional development needs of Black and brown men.
  • "From my own experience and coaching Black founders, we have to take care of our wellness, deal with our historical trauma and potential oppression we have to live with to help us be in the best mental state we can be in to pursue our life goals," Sutton said. "And that could be a founder, an employee at a tech company. It could be a venture capitalist or a journalist. And all of that is OK. But if you are not in a position to take care of your mental health, your emotional intelligence, your wellness and your well-being, it is very difficult to pursue your life dreams."

MRD

Job Descriptions

The purpose of a purpose officer

Francine Katsoudas was Cisco's EVP and chief people officer, but in March 2021 the company expanded her role and changed her title to chief people, policy and purpose officer. Here at Protocol, we're always interested in new and creative job titles, so we talked to Katsoudas to find out a chief purpose officer actually does.

  • What does the title mean? "So I think the amazing thing is when you have [purpose] in your title, when you have someone who has the responsibility for 'purpose,' it means that as a company you are thinking about how you build the systems and the accountability to ensure your impact on this bigger purpose."
  • How it reflects a changing world. "In the past I think companies looked at: 'What donations do I need to make to be a corporate citizen?' It's a totally different conversation now. I think now the question is, 'In my day-to-day business dealings, how can I show up for the community? How can I ensure that I play a role in reducing the digital divide?'"
  • Why we could see more purpose officers in the future. "I do think the pandemic deepened many companies' commitment to doing better by all people. I think early in the pandemic, even before the social justice issues really were front and center over the summer, we could see the disparity in health equity and equality from a support perspective... And so I think these things were just painfully front and center for us."

— Amber Burton (twitter | email)

At The Office

The perks that work

Workers aren't running back to the office for just any perks; they want food and drinks on tap. In Protocol's recent survey of tech workers, in partnership with Morning Consult, the top two perks people said they want to see when they return to the office are free food and complimentary drinks. Here's what they're saying:

  • The perks listed in the survey ranged from in-office massages to yoga and exercise classes. Of the tech workers that participated in the survey, 60% said they want free food and snacks.
  • 53% of surveyed tech workers said they want drinks like coffee and beer on tap.
  • Only 15% of those surveyed said they would like yoga or other workout classes in the office.
  • The option to work from home anecdotally remains as the top perk for many tech workers. "I think our biggest perk is that employees can keep working from home through the end of the year," said a spokesperson at SAP. The software company's employees are not required to return to the office at this time, and its leaders are not specifying a certain number of days workers must come into the office in 2022.

— AB

A MESSAGE FROM ZOOM

A survey of 12,000 employees by Boston Consulting Group found 60% of respondents want flexibility as far as where and when they work. As the world plans to safely reopen businesses, educational institutions, health care facilities and government entities, we are focused on innovating across our platform to support their needs.

Learn more

Thanks for reading! Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to workplace@protocol.com. Enjoy your day; see you next week.

Recent Issues