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We’re spending too much time searching for answers at work

Protocol Workplace

Good morning! Welcome back to our weekly Workplace newsletter where we share the latest tips, tools and insights to help you stay informed about the modern workplace. Starting this week you will receive the Workplace newsletter in your inbox twice a week — on Tuesdays and Fridays. Today: the solution for workplace search, performance review technology, and how workers are communicating in the hybrid work world.

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The Big Picture

Is workplace search the next frontier?

As more people work in hybrid arrangements, the ability to turn and ask a colleague a question or inquire about the location of a document has become cumbersome. Employees dig through Google Docs, Word, Notion, Dropbox Paper, email and their Slack history before finding basic documents like the annual holiday calendar. The stakes are even higher for others who struggle to pull up important documents during a client meeting. While some see this as an access issue, others consider it to be a major productivity blocker and challenge to spreading knowledge within a company.

The amount of time we spend looking for documents and answers to historical questions within an organization has grown as more information is scattered across applications and in the cloud.

  • According to a study by Elastic, an open-source search company, 85% of people said they spent time searching for documents throughout the workday, and 60% said they waste more time searching for information than on answering email.
  • People are spending 30% of their timeduplicating work within a company, according to a report by Asana.

A new startup called Glean made news last week after it came out of stealth mode with $55 million in funding and a number of companies already using its workplace search assistant. The transition to a remote-first world has highlighted the need for more symbiotic tools to keep workers plugged into a company, Chris O'Neill, chief business officer of Glean, told Protocol. Also, as more companies have embraced the cloud, the number of applications a company uses has risen, making information across a company even more disparate and specific documents harder to find.

  • "We're being overloaded with data, we have all these communication channels, and then there's this cognitive overload — and that was like three, four or five years ago. If you fast forward to today, the problem that really exists for workers is acute."

How we use technology as workers has fundamentally changed, and the adoption of more apps has made it possible for workplace search companies to help with internal discovery, said Glean CEO Arvind Jain.

  • "[The] SaaS transformation is fragmenting your information more than ever before, making it hard for you to find things, but it's also good in a way. These SaaS-based applications have really good APIs. It's become much easier to actually connect with these applications and actually pull the data from those applications for the purposes of, like, for example, building a search index."

Elastic has taken on solving the same challenge via its open-sourced search technology. Matt Riley, the VP of product and enterprise search at Elastic, told Protocol the company's goal is to make search a more natural part of a company's workflow and help with everything from onboarding to gathering information to create a better product. Elastic's search product is meant to be embedded across applications ranging from Slack to Salesforce so that employees can have what they need at a moment's notice. The challenge for engineers working in enterprise search is making a customized search experience for each company and making sure the results pulled are relevant to each given employee.

  • Does searchable documentation mean the end of reaching out to coworkers and asking a question? Riley says no. Instead, "it elevates the person who owns that content or has been working on that content who I might not have known inside the organization otherwise."

Work Spot

Solving the performance review problem

Here's a riddle: What's highly regarded, but despised all over? If you guessed performance reviews, you guessed right. While many employees claim they want annual reviews, the review process often leaves something to be desired. One major pain point is that performance reviews are often thought to be biased because they are performed by people. What's needed instead is a consistent set of metrics to evaluate employees equally.

A number of tech startups are stepping in to solve this problem via chat app integrations, keywords and AI, and raising a lot of money while doing so. My colleague Michelle Ma reported the latest HR technologies entering the space and what experts say they're keeping in mind as they develop the new performance review. One of the main focuses among those she spoke to is making sure the people optimize alongside the review technology. While integrations like AI are great, they're only as objective as the humans who created the tools.

Read the full story here.


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

Get Stuff Done

Today's tip is all about productivity and the best apps for blocking that urge to scroll through your phone. We've all been there: Someone texts you a funny tweet in the middle of the workday and next thing you know you've doom scrolled away an hour of your day on Twitter. Or maybe you were sleuthing through rants from engineers on Blind. Either way, our phones can be major distractions during the day. Here are a few apps that can help with basic phone distractions. But then again, no pressure. You've made it this far.

  • Forest — Forest is one of the better-known productivity apps with the goal of keeping you away from your cell phone. When you set the productivity timer in the app it plants a tree avatar that grows bigger the longer you stay focused. Interacting with your phone to leave the app causes the tree to die. This app is perhaps best for the visually motivated who are delighted by the idea of their focus being turned into a whimsical forest.
  • Be Focused Pro — Though this focus-timer app only works on iOS, what's notable is that it syncs across devices so you can't cheat your way out of productivity. The app allows you to set a timer for a particular task. It tracks progress on tasks as well as allowing for you to set up time for short breaks.
  • Freedom — If the cartoon trees and timers don't work for you, you might need to try a more direct approach. Freedom, which works on both iOS and Android (you're welcome), simply blocks apps and notifications you deem distracting. Create a list of the specific sites and apps you want to block during your chosen amount of focus time. You can also sync across devices.

Office Politics

What the vaccine mandate means for your workplace

President Biden's mandate that companies with over 100 employees require COVID-19 vaccination or weekly testing has some wondering just how this rule will be enforced. Join Protocol on September 30 for a conversation with employment and HR experts about what the vaccine mandate means for your company. Panelists will discuss best practices, how to prepare and the most effective ways to handle vaccination exemptions and testing.


By The Numbers

Workplace communication used to stay… well, at work. But our new hybrid work world has made chatting with co-workers a bit more personal. SMS and email software company Klaviyo found in a recent study that people are using their personal cell phone to text their colleagues and bosses more than before the pandemic. Texting about work has become both a symptom of and remedy for workplace anxiety:

  • Of the respondents who said they were texting more, 36% said they were texting their managers and colleagues more. 48% said that their coworkers are more responsive via text.
  • But 23% said they feel more anxious when they get a text from their boss.
  • Some people prefer texting colleagues over using a workplace chat app in order to stay off the radar. 41% of people said they feel texting is a more private way to communicate.

Making Moves

  • Udemy appointed Melissa Daimler as its new chief learning officer. Part of her role will be to support employees with learning and development while also helping to shape the company's culture. Prior to joining the company, Daimler was founder and CEO of Daimler Partners.
  • Ecommerce company Fabric hired Val Rupp as its first chief people officer. Prior to joining the company she was the head of human resources for Hewlett Packard Enterprise's GreenLake cloud services.


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

Around The Internet

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

  • How many people are actually still working from home? Those of us who remain remote tend to overestimate.
  • For so long people have coupled their work with their identity. For many, that relationship to work is being broken.
  • LinkedIn's chief economist is keeping an eye on the "Great Reshuffle."
  • Here's a new phrase for the day: "vocal masculinity." Researchers found male CEOs with deeper voices are paid even more money.

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to Have a great weekend, see you next week.

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