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Protocol | Workplace
Your guide to the new world of work, every Wednesday.
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Why remote work is the new most important perk

Why remote work is the new most important perk

Hi there! Welcome to the inaugural issue of Protocol | Workplace, where we cover every aspect of the future of work. That includes everything, from diversity issues to Slack hacks, management theories to unionization plans and ERGs to KPIs. As we come out of a pandemic that blurred the lines between work and life further than ever before, questions about how work should, well, work feel more urgent than ever.

Every Wednesday in this newsletter and every day on protocol.com, we'll cover these and other work-related issues, always with a focus on helping you and your company adapt to the future. How is hybrid work going to pan out? What does it take to actually make companies more diverse? How can companies empower their employees and be even more successful? We'll tell you what others are trying, what's working, what isn't and what you might want to adopt.

We're also hosting a series of virtual events over the course of this summer, starting with one Tuesday that we're calling "Redesigning the 9-5." We'll be chatting with execs from Gusto, Google and Appify all about what a hybrid workday actually looks like. RSVP and come join us!

We also want to hear from you. Heard about some wild new perk at a friend's company? A DEI initiative that's really taking off? Got the secret to a great Zoom meeting? Email us at workplace@protocol.com, or just reply to this newsletter.

The future of work has never been more up in the air, or more important to get right. And we're here to navigate it right alongside you. Thanks so much for joining us, and welcome to Workplace!

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

The Workforce

Remote work wars

Facebook's head of recruiting, Miranda Kalinowski, has big hopes for the company's talent pool — and a secret weapon for filling it. The company has committed fully to remote work for anyone who wants it, and Kalinowski thinks that "companies that are not able to offer it will see themselves at a distinct disadvantage."

  • That's quite the dig at Facebook's rivals, most of whom aren't offering anything even close. Amazon and Apple require three days in the office; Google is only letting one-fifth of its workforce apply for remote jobs.
  • Other, smaller companies — from early-stage startups to Twitter, Reddit and Dropbox — are offering remote work benefits similar to Facebook's.

The new policy could help increase diversity, as it opens the door to recruiting people across the country (and world) who might otherwise be skeptical of relocating to Silicon Valley. That could be another potential victory over rivals.

  • "There's no secret to the fact that across the tech sector, we've got a huge opportunity to attract more [remote] candidates who have been from underrepresented groups that we may not have been able to attract in the past," Kalinowski said.

And remote work is a boon for recruitment, too. It has made it far easier for recruiters to get candidates to answer the phone. And without required face-to-face interviews, the process gets a whole lot faster. "Not having to get people on a plane, on a shuttle, to a building, in a room, taking time off, stripped it all back," Kalinowski told us.

Anna Kramer (email | twitter)

Office Politics

No more NDAs

Huge news for Silicon Valley workers: A ban on non-disclosure agreements' viability in cases of discrimination and abuse got one step closer to reality yesterday. After a late-night Tuesday hearing, the Silenced No More Act was voted out of committee in the California Assembly, meaning it needs just one more vote on the Assembly floor and Gov. Gavin Newsom's signature to become law (it has already passed the California Senate).

The Silenced No More Act targets NDAs, and would make it illegal to force workers to sign non-disclosure agreements that limit their ability to share information about abuse and harassment.

  • Proposed by California Sen. Connie Leyva, the bill was designed in partnership with ex-Pinterest employee Ifeoma Ozoma, who discovered after leaving the company that current California law didn't protect her rights to talk about her experience with racism at work.
  • California law does already protect workers who speak out about sexual harassment and discrimination. CCP 1001 was passed in the wake of the #MeToo movement and protects people who violate their NDAs in those specific cases.

"When you're forced to sign an NDA, most people consider that a blanket silencing mechanism," Aerica Shimizu Banks (another ex-Pinterest employee who left alongside Ozoma) told Protocol's Issie Lapowsky earlier this year. "Expanding that protection means you don't have to go through the lengths we did to take that calculated risk," she said.

AK

Get Stuff Done

Three steps to better hybrid meetings

Meetings are the hardest part of hybrid work. "When I talk with customers who are already headed back," Microsoft's Jared Spataro said, "I ask them how it's going, and without fail, they say 'The worst meetings I've ever had in my life have happened.'"

Microsoft has built new products and has big new ideas about how hybrid meetings should work. But Spataro said it doesn't have to be so dramatic. Here's his three-step process for rethinking your meetings.

  • First, get everyone on a laptop. Even the folks in a room together, with their webcams on (and audio off). Also, designate a moderator to make sure remote people get a chance to talk.
  • Then, make the easy in-room changes. Add a second screen to the conference room — one for faces, one for the slide deck. Add a motion- or speaker-tracking camera to make it less like remote participants are watching the meeting through a straw.
  • Lastly, go full HGTV on the space. Bring the screen and camera down to table height, so everyone is literally on the same level. Improve the camera, mic and speaker setup in the room.

Don't try to change everything at once, Spataro said. And if you need more budget for it? Spataro suggested taking some from your inevitably lower travel budget, and using it to create better meetings. Better for everyone, and less waiting in the TSA line.

— 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

Tech companies play woke for Juneteenth

Tech companies discovered Juneteenth last year, and President Biden made it a national holiday last week. It felt a bit last minute, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Here's how some of the biggest tech companies commemorated the anniversary of the end of slavery in the United States:

  • Google donated $50 million to historically Black colleges and universities as unrestricted $5 million grants. The donation marked Google's largest-ever financial commitment to HBCUs.
  • Amazon sponsored a lot of content: Juneteenth Week 2021 in Seattle, the first-ever Juneteenth Unityfest, and Blk Freedom's 2021 virtual museum experience. It also curated shows and movies on Prime Video in honor of the holiday, including must-watch "The Underground Railroad."
  • Facebook partnered with Beyoncé's mom, Tina Knowles-Lawson, who debuted a short film on Facebook detailing her family's roots in Texas. It also featured Black-owned small businesses, and curated a selection of fundraisers and educational content regarding Black freedom.

Tech companies' commemoration of Juneteenth is a welcome addition to their DEI strategies. But it's also the type of initiative that could fall flat if they fail to increase the number of Black employees at their respective companies, and don't create environments where Black people can thrive.

— Megan Rose Dickey (email | twitter)

Job Descriptions

A day in the asynchronous life

Amir Salihefendic, CEO of Doist, prides himself on having a nearly empty calendar. "Being in meetings all day long, resolving things via meetings, that's not really an effective way to scale and grow," he said. Instead, he's become a loud evangelist over the last year of the idea that remote and asynchronous work — or async — are the future.

  • Async boils down to this, Salihefendic said: "When you send a message, you don't expect a response right away."

So what does a truly async day look like? For Salihefendic:

  • A couple of hours with his kids in the morning before walking over to a co-working space.
  • He tries to do deep work all morning, take time in the middle of the day to recharge and then spends the afternoon catching up on messages and the rest.
  • If there's something hugely time-sensitive — which Salihefendic bets is true less often than you think — he turns to Telegram, or (gasp) a phone call.

The way this works at Doist is with the expectation of a response within 24 hours, even if that response is a thumbs-up emoji or an "I'll get to this Thursday."

  • Since nobody expects Salihefendic to be around every second, he said, nothing bad happens when he's not.
  • When he has something to say, Salihefendic will post something in Twist, the communications app Doist developed as an async-leaning alternative to Slack. "We have threads that are hundreds of comments long, discussing a specific thing," he said. Eventually, he'll identify a DRD — a Directly Responsible Doister, a play on Apple's Directly Responsible Individual — who is in charge of executing the task.

Doist does have some meetings, but Salihefendic said they're often for team-building. Team is synchronous, work is asynchronous. "We just calculate how much we'd spend on office space, and just use that on retreats instead," he said.

— DP

At The Office

The path to maskless

Most of California's stringent mask requirements are now gone. You'll need one on public transit and in hospitals, but if you're fully vaccinated you can safely be mask-less almost everywhere else.

What about masks at work? The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health decided last week that fully-vaccinated workers can take off their masks at work, too. (Unvaccinated employees still have to wear them indoors.) But businesses can make their own policies.

  • Businesses can legally ask for proof of vaccination, ask people to "self-attest" that they've been vaccinated or require everyone to wear a mask. They can't legally force people not to wear masks, though.

So what are companies doing? Some — but not all — are starting to let employees who say they're vaccinated go mask-free in their newly reopened California offices.

  • That's the case at Amazon, Uber and VMware, the companies told Protocol.
  • Facebook just lifted its own mask requirement on Wednesday, saying it will require proof of vaccination for those who want to go fully maskless. It's also letting all employees go mask-free outdoors or when alone in a conference room with the door closed, unless local government guidance says otherwise.
  • Intuit, meanwhile, said it's still requiring masks despite the state's decision.
  • Expect outdoor meetings and walk-and-talks to become a key part of office culture for a while. Google designed a bunch of new outdoor office spaces for this reason, and we've heard others are planning the same.

Most employees want to return to a mask-less office, based on what we're hearing. But some are nervous about what that means, and there's real potential for complicated office politics around who is and isn't vaccinated. So far, most companies are staying conservative, and letting people stay home who aren't ready to come back. But now's the time to figure out what it'll take to get fully mask-less.

— Allison Levitsky (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

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

Update 6/23: This newsletter has been updated to reflect Facebook's policy change regarding masks in the office.

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