How much is too much to pay for productivity?
Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

How much is too much to pay for productivity?

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. This week, the entire Protocol team has descended upon Washington, D.C, to see each other’s faces and interact in real life again. It’s exhausting, but absolutely worth it. (I’m lying. I have no idea what it’s like to be with all of my co-workers in one place again because I’m writing this ahead of time, because my boss said I could.) Please enjoy this newsletter as much as you’re enjoying Protocol Subscriptions Week, and as much as you enjoy those sitcom flashback-clips episodes that they run when the actors go on vacation.

— Meg Morrone, senior editor (email | twitter)

How the productivity-obsessed manage their budgets

According to (formerly App Annie), productivity apps make up only 9% of consumer spending. Entertainment apps make up more than half of consumer spend, and that’s not even counting gaming.

Still, the productivity-obsessed consumers are out there. Protocol talked with several productivity aficionados about how they manage and prioritize their app subscriptions, diving into how much they’re willing to pay for productivity.

  • Chris Klein, a creative and a real estate agent, is a self-proclaimed productivity nerd. He spends about $199 on productivity each month.
  • Klein is focused on automations and integrations, ensuring that all the apps in his setup work together. His goal is what’s called a second brain: productivity expert Tiago Forte’s term for taking all the thoughts and experiences in your brain and organizing them in a coherent system using digital tools.
  • To get a handle on his productivity subscriptions, Klein tracks his habits when introducing a new tool to his stack. Using Rize, he will note how much time he’s spending in the new app, and how much work he’s getting done. “It’s very rough data, but it’s mostly like: Is this working against my brain, or worth it?” he said.
  • Rahul Chowdhury, productivity expert, also recommends looking at your subscription usage to manage subscription fatigue.

Some productivity aficionados prefer subscriptions over one-time purchases or free tools. They know what it’s like to depend on an app and then lose it because the developers couldn’t afford to keep it running without regular payment.

  • “I've gone through the pain of really liking something and then having it disappear because the developer wasn't making money,” said Michael McWatters, director of Product Design at HBO Max. “If I'm using it and I'm relying upon it heavily, it’s worth it.”
  • Because of that, McWatters will opt for the paid tier to ensure the product stays healthy, even if there’s a free version. McWatters spends around $20 on productivity each month.
  • Subscriptions also let people roam more freely from app to app and perfect their systems. “I appreciate subscriptions and the flexibility they provide,” Klein said. “If I only need a tool for three months, that's it. That's all the money that's out of my pocket.”

Others would rather have a one-and-done, single-tool productivity scenario. MIT Ph.D. student Fatimagül Husain likes using just one app: She bet her productivity on Notion. The fewer apps, the better. “To just have one to manage your workload and productivity is, frankly, relieving,” Husain said.

How much you spend on productivity is up to you. Klein acknowledged he devotes more resources to productivity than the average person. But for him, it’s a passion; the money is worth it. “It’s like a hobby, you know?” Klein said. “I don’t need all of them, but some people go spend $30 on a Friday night to get a few drinks. I have some subscriptions for productivity tools.”

Keep reading.

— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (email| twitter)

Tech regulation beyond Big Tech

Companies everywhere are bracing for new privacy legislation and antitrust action, but much of the focus thus far has been on how the biggest tech firms will fare. What about the rest of the sector? How should the thousands of small, medium-sized and enterprise-level tech companies prepare for this new regulatory landscape? Will changing policies bring about a more even playing field, or will growth be stunted for smaller businesses with fewer resources? How should the U.S. avoid one-size-fits-all regulation in such a diverse ecosystem while still checking unfair competition and data abuses? Join Protocol and a panel of experts as we dive into the biggest regulatory priorities of the not-quite-biggest tech companies.

RSVP here.


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Today's tips & tools

Like to listen to music while you work? Language-learning app Preply analyzed a swath of playlists, songs and artists on Spotify to find the most popular music for focusing. Here’s what it found:

  • Lo-fi, electronic and ambient are the most popular focus genres.
  • Ludovico Einaudi, Ólafur Arnalds and Bonobo are the most popular focus musicians.
  • The most popular focus albums are movie or television soundtracks: “Interstellar,” “Westworld: Season 1” and “First Man.”
— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (email| twitter)

Who’s for hybrid?

Love it or hate it, hybrid seems here to stay. Most tech employers want workers to come back to the office at least part of the time, whereas some employees are happy to work from home forever. McKinsey & Company released results of a survey that revealed that most workers (85%) would prefer a hybrid work model, but traditionally underrepresented groups of employees prefer it the most.

  • Non-binary workers are 14% more likely to prefer hybrid work than their male and female colleagues.
  • Workers with disabilities are 11% more likely to prefer hybrid work than those without disabilities.
  • LGBTQ+ workers are 24% more likely to quit than heterosexual workers if hybrid work is not an option.
  • Black workers are 14% percent more likely to quit than white workers if hybrid work is not an option.
According to McKinsey, hybrid work can relieve some of the strain related to being an underrepresented minority in the workplace. Read more.


At RingCentral, we’re focused on making hybrid work simpler for organizations so they can best set up, run and manage their business. We’re asking ourselves what's the benefit that we can derive, or that we can enable, that is better than the best-in-class in the industry?

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Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

Netflix employees are anything but chill right now.

Can your boss ask to be “looped in” on your medical care? TL;DR: Nope.

Chattanooga, Tennessee, and other places where tech companies are booming thanks to remote work.

You read about Ekow Sanni-Thomas in our story about corporate TikTok; now read his advice on creating a safe space for BIPOC talent.

One good tweet to bookmark for the next time someone schedules a Friday afternoon meeting.

CEO Minda Harts (author of “Right Within: How to Heal from Racial Trauma in the Workplace”) has a good vibes playlist for you.

Speaking of vibes, soon you’ll be able to set your vibe on Twitter.

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to Have a great day, see you Thursday.

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