Protocol | Workplace
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The reopening is here — but only if you’re vaccinated

The reopening is here — but only if you’re vaccinated

Hello! We hope you had an excellent long weekend filled with no work whatsoever, and we're glad to be back with you to talk about all things future-of-work.

In this week's Protocol | Workplace: More than 100 employees said they've experienced racist treatment at Tesla's Fremont factory; Google's latest diversity report leaves a lot to be desired; and how Y Combinator built what you could almost call Tinder for Co-Founders.

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At The Office

Vaccine mandates

Facebook, Google, Amazon and other big tech companies have said they would allow unvaccinated employees at the office. But in the last few weeks, four software makers — Adobe, Asana, Twilio and VMware — have said they would impose vaccine mandates at their reopened offices.

It's a trend that Fenwick & West partner Sheeva Ghassemi-Vanni started noticing last month, when the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) said that vaccinated employees could remove their masks at work.

"Before that, I had a lot of clients still calling and asking, 'Can we require vaccines?'" Ghassemi-Vanni said. "With Cal/OSHA's mandate, it has become clearer to employers, like, 'Oh, this is something that we could do, and it's perhaps becoming more socially acceptable to require.'"

Still, most big companies that got back to us are going with the "encourage, but not require" policy when it comes to vaccines. In addition to Facebook, Google and Amazon, this includes Microsoft, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intel, ServiceNow and Uber.

— Allison Levitsky (twitter | email)

Office Politics

Racism at Tesla

Tesla has for years faced allegations of allowing a racially-hostile and discriminatory workplace to fester in its Fremont factory. Several 2017 lawsuits alleged at the time that people regularly used the N-word, slurs were graffitied on bathroom walls and Black men and women were forced to do menial tasks and denied job promotions.

Protocol reviewed legal documents and public records from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and found that the 2017 allegations are not isolated, and hundreds of other workers have had similar experiences.

  • While two individual lawsuits have concluded and a third is set for trial later this year, the one class-action suit filed against the company recently won a small victory. In March of this year, 105 ex-Tesla workers signed sworn statements describing their own experiences of these same allegations, which helped persuade a judge to deny Tesla's motion to have the potential for class status revoked. The statements detail how workers found swastikas and "KKK" on bathroom walls, and how others heard Tesla called a "plantation" and its employees "cotton workers."
  • The public records show that in addition to those 105 statements, more than 100 ex-employees have filed complaints asking for the right to sue the company in California for discriminatory reasons related to race, national ancestry, skin color, gender, age, disability or other factors related to family and medical leave.

"My personal view is that Tesla does not focus on investigating and preventing these claims. They are really focused on making cars and less focused about their employees' conduct in the workplace, based on the discovery that we've done in five different cases," Larry Organ, the attorney in the class-action lawsuit, told me.

— Anna Kramer (twitter | email)

DEI

Google's leaky pipeline

Google is no expert in the field of diversity and inclusion, and it shows in the company's latest report. While Google increased the hiring of Black and Latinx employees, the company struggled to retain Black and Native American employees. In fact, Black and Native American employees left Google at higher rates than any other group.

But that's not surprising because Google has struggled with retaining employees of color for years. In 2018, Google's attrition index showed Black and Latinx employees were leaving Google at rates faster than the national average. So it's no wonder why the presence of Black and Latinx employees has barely increased over the years.

Below is a quick snapshot at racial diversity "progress" at Google over the years.

— Megan Rose Dickey (twitter | email)

A MESSAGE FROM ZOOM

Zoom is for you. From meetings, chat, phone, and webinars to conference rooms and events, Zoom powers all your communication needs. Zoom for Government, our separate, U.S.-based platform, offers the same Zoom experience but with the specialized security controls and certifications required by the U.S. government.

Learn more

The Workforce

Founder dating

There's a new dating app for startup co-founders. Sort of. Y Combinator has launched a co-founder matching service through the YC Startup School, intended to help founders find people with the right attributes and skills to pair up to launch a company. YC is famous for encouraging startup founders to work with a partner, and only four companies that have gone through YC accelerators have done so with a single leader.

  • The new service can match founders by geography, interest in remote work, or technical or non-technical founders. Once pairs are formed, they fill out interest surveys, work on projects together and can even fill out a template to help avoid and resolve disputes.
  • 9,000 matches have been made through the testing phase in Startup School, and 4,500 people are already using the service. The program opened for sign-ups to anyone yesterday.

YC built the free service in part because it's hoping some of the new matches will then choose to go through its accelerator programs, Startup School Director Kyle Corbitt told Protocol's Biz Carson. And to keep the program community meaningful, the program directors manually vet every applicant to keep spam and other unrelated pitches out.

— Anna Kramer (twitter | email)

Get Stuff Done

Connect your stuff to Notion

This one's for all the Notion devotees out there. The popular note-taking app's API is still in beta but getting better fast, and thanks to a new integration with IFTTT it's now much easier to get information in and out. (Anyone who uses Notion a lot knows the app is super powerful ... but not super fast.)

Here are a couple of IFTTT triggers worth turning on:

  • Send all your tasks to Notion. Like most companies, you probably use a hodgepodge of task-management systems. You can rig IFTTT so that when you, say, get assigned a new Asana task, it automatically pops up in your to-do list.
  • Add stuff faster. Notion stinks for taking quick notes. But IFTTT connects Notion to Alexa or Google Assistant and captures stuff that way too.
  • Make a filing cabinet. Want to archive all your fire tweets, blog posts or Hacker News comments? Anything with an RSS feed can automatically go into a Notion database.

Notion also works with Zapier, Tray.io and Integromat, which are more complicated but also much more powerful systems. A big part of Notion's appeal is its Swiss Army knife functionality; it just does more things than most apps. Spending a few minutes setting up an integration or four makes it even more useful for more things.

— David Pierce (twitter | email)

Job Descriptions

Designing the hybrid office

As VP of design, Alastair Simpson wasn't necessarily the most obvious choice to help Dropbox figure out its own future of work. But he thinks it makes perfect sense. "We're turning human-centered design inwards on ourselves," he said.

  • For months, Simpson and his team did surveys of Dropbox employees, but also ran small-group pilots and did qualitative research. "We followed 70 people," he said, "getting diary studies from those people along the way, every single day."
  • That research has shown that people love the flexibility of Dropbox's workplace approach, in which everyone is expected to be online for a few "collaboration hours" every day, and can otherwise design their workday as they please. But employees also wanted a physical space to go to: to get stuff done, sure, but mostly to just be together.

Dropbox is designing its workplace like it builds products. Dropbox has offices around the world, and Simpson's been working on redesigning practically all of them. "What we're thinking about," he said, "is having really deliberate purposes for what teams do there."

  • Some spaces, like Dropbox's new Dublin office, are being built from the ground up for the kind of open, flexible collaboration Simpson wants to create — think cafes and conference rooms, not rows of desks and corner offices — while others are being retrofitted. TVs everywhere are being brought down to eye level to make video chats more natural, and furniture is getting equipped with wheels to be easier to move around.

There's more to it than the buildings. Simpson and his team are designing tools for booking spaces, helping employees plan ahead to make sure everyone can be together, designing safety protocols and more. "We're mapping out user journeys for employees," he said. Dropbox is all about helping people work better through good design, Simpson figured, so why not build Dropbox the company the same way?

— DP

A MESSAGE FROM ZOOM

Zoom is for you. From meetings, chat, phone, and webinars to conference rooms and events, Zoom powers all your communication needs. Zoom for Government, our separate, U.S.-based platform, offers the same Zoom experience but with the specialized security controls and certifications required by the U.S. government.

Learn more

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

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