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Protocol | Workplace
Your guide to the new world of work, every Wednesday.
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What's the point of an office?

An empty office

Welcome back to this week's Workplace newsletter where we explore the most important questions about the future of work, including, what even is the point of the office and who does it benefit? Also, some companies want you to don a pair of VR goggles for your next diversity and inclusion training, but the verdict is still out on whether virtual reality will make any of us more empathetic. And check out our guide to which tech offices are opening and what's required of workers. Now with emoji. 💉🌎😃😷 🏢💻

But what if workers don't want to follow those policies? A year of working at home has democratized the tech industry in some important ways and we're now entering what we're calling the era of the empowered employee. Join us for a free virtual event to discuss how companies are navigating this new path toward company and worker success. The discussion will feature Ifeoma Ozoma, Jack Poulson and David Barrett and will be moderated by Protocol's Megan Rose Dickey and Issie Lapowsky.

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At The Office

Bringing your full carbon footprint to work

Working from home might not be as good for the environment as we thought. Over the course of the pandemic, energy consumption shifted from commercial and industrial buildings to residential buildings as more people worked from home.

Now some companies are taking the added environmental impact into account as they make plans to return to the office.

  • Autodesk has chosen to go with a flexible workplace program following the pandemic that will allow employees to choose between working primarily in the office, a hybrid setup or working completely remote. Autodesk told Protocol that it will continue to balance its employees' at-home energy consumption by purchasing additional renewable energy and carbon offsets to account for the greenhouse gas emissions associated with its employees' home office energy consumption.
  • Apple will enforce a hybrid back-to-work model, only allowing employees to work from home a couple of days a week. But the company said in its 2021 Environmental Progress Report it will continue to encourage commute options like mass transit to cut down on emissions.
  • Square Inc. said in its latest corporate social responsibility report that by allowing employees the option of permanently working from home it's helping to reduce commute emissions and the amount of energy used for workplace construction.

Amber Burton (email | twitter)

DEI

VR as the ultimate empathy machine?

The tech industry has a bad track record for cultivating inclusion in the workplace. Virtual reality has emerged as a tool to increase worker empathy without burdening folks from marginalized communities.

  • Workplace startup ServiceNow has already used VR to help managers navigate bias in performance reviews and other scenarios.
  • Praxis Labs provides the content to ServiceNow, as well as other tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Uber. Its CEO, Elise Smith, told Protocol that "it's not just building empathy, it's not just identifying barriers to equity but taking action to produce more just, equitable and inclusive workplaces."
  • But VR in DEI training is not a silver bullet. Jeremy Bailenson, the founding director of Stanford's virtual human interaction lab, told Protocol "no single media experience will perfectly erase decades of how we become who we are."

Megan Rose Dickey (email | twitter)

Office Politics

Managers vs. everybody else

All the kerfuffle around who gets to stay home and who goes back to the office has started to mask the existential question brewing about workplace culture: What even is the point of the office, and who does it benefit?

Does the office create a more productive and creative workforce, or does it incentivize the performance of "busyness" and increase opportunities for workplace surveillance? There's been some incisive reporting digging into this over the last few weeks that has us asking these questions, so we rounded up some of the most thought-provoking.

  • The biggest idea floating around is that "spontaneous collision" in the workplace allows for creativity that can't occur remotely (Apple seems to be the most hardcore believer). Plenty of reports are now debunking this argument; in essence, there's little evidence to prove that kind of random, company-altering moment happens all that often.
  • That's not to say that everyone can't get something out of an office, it's just that many of the main arguments (like the spontaneity one) in favor of office culture mask the realities for the average worker, diverting the discussion away from the power structures and monocultures reinforced by a physical office (see Charlie Warzel's essay on how we work and also Jessica Powell's fictional look at various imagined post-pandemic work plans).
  • Finally, there's a fascinating argument that most middle-management positions don't actually do much for workplace productivity; instead, they just enable a system that gives power, control and money to people who get to claim credit for others' results. Without the physical office, it becomes a lot easier for everyone to see that those positions don't have much practical purpose or contribute significantly to measurable outcomes.

But remote work can't automatically solve all of the problems with the office (at times, it can actually exacerbate them); instead, it's more of a tool that, when applied with caution and planning, can help transform the office itself into a better place for workers and managers who want it.

Anna Kramer (email | twitter)

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

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Join Protocol's Issie Lapowsky and Megan Rose Dickey for a conversation with Earthseed's Ifeoma Ozoma, Hodgestar Scientific Computing's Jack Poulson and Expensify's David Barrett for a discussion on the Empowered Employee Era and what that means for companies going forward.
July 19 at 9 a.m. PT / 12 p.m. ET Learn More

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Get Stuff Done

The one-click meeting machine

You probably spend your day bouncing between Zooms, Meets, Teams meetings, BlueJeans chats and occasionally (gasp!) a regular old phone call. It's all very complicated. And there are some new products aiming to help.

  • A few Protocol staffers have started using Fantastical, which integrates with most meeting systems and puts a "Join" button on all your calendar events. Click it and it'll open the right app and start the meeting.
  • The Button for Google Calendar Chrome extension does the same thing, and will pop up a notification when the meeting's starting for you to click to join.
  • Superpowered does the same from your Mac's menu bar.

The relief these apps bring is small but real. No more hunting for your calendar tab or switching apps, because your meetings just come to you. It's the digital equivalent of always knowing which conference room you're supposed to be in and when. And it's a whole lot easier than digging through the endless fine print of a calendar invite to figure out where you're supposed to be.

It's been a banner year for calendar apps in general, now that everyone's realized exactly how tricky time management is in a remote and hybrid world. (If you're really feeling like a supercalendarer, check out Vimcal.) Luckily, calendars are going from finicky tools that need constant maintenance to systems that actually make your life easier.

— David Pierce (email | twitter)

The Workforce

Protocol's tech office reopening tracker!

The Great Return is officially upon us.

  • On Monday, Google's employee shuttles came out of hibernation and began ferrying techies to the company's Bay Area offices once again.
  • Twitter employees tweeted maskless, first-day-back elevator selfies. And TikTok reportedly announced it would allow some employees to work remotely one or two days a week after its offices reopen.
  • Adobe and Twilio are holding their own soft reopenings today and Hewlett Packard Enterprise is set to follow on Monday.

We figured it was high time to set up a summer tech office reopening tracker to quickly show how companies are handling reopening. How often are employees required to go to the office? Are masks or vaccines required? — we're using 💉🌎😃😷 🏢💻 emoji for an easy guide.

It's a living calendar, so please get in touch about your company's plans and we'll keep things updated.


— Allison Levitsky (email | twitter)

Job Descriptions

Tired: paper resumes. Wired: TikTok resumes

It sounds sort of silly — TikTok Does LinkedIn — but it's happening, and it kind of makes perfect sense.

  • TikTok is running a pilot with about three dozen companies, from the NBA to Target to Abercrombie & Fitch to Chipotle, through which those companies can advertise jobs and specifically request #tiktokresumes. Many of the companies in the pilot programs are also posting their own videos soliciting resumes in response.
  • #careertok has been a popular TikTok topic for a long time: Creators post resume ideas, interview tips and behind-the-scenes looks at practically any job you can think of. It's one way a whole generation is learning about the workforce, and the skills required to make a great TikTok are increasingly in demand at every company everywhere, so why not close the loop in the app?

The #tiktokresumes page is kind of a mess so far. (Like any trending hashtag, it was immediately overrun with unrelated stuff.) But look hard enough and you'll find a kid named Ben, in his bedroom, explaining how he saw Big Sean's TikTok looking for interns and really wants the job. Or folks like Jade Carson, a recent Howard grad, with a breezy tour of her qualifications and what she's looking for in a gig.

Video resumes have been a controversial topic over the years. (Even putting a photo at the top of your resume is controversial.) But we live in a video-first world, and maybe it was only a matter of time until resumes caught up.

The process does still ask for applicants' LinkedIns, though. So not everything has changed.

— 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

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to workplace@protocol.com. Have a great week, see you next Wednesday.

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