Protocol | Workplace

How to keep remote workers from falling behind in their careers

We're all disembodied faces on Zoom, and we write on whiteboards with invisible hands.

Rendering of LinkedIn's new headquarters in Sunnyvale

LinkedIn's new headquarters in Sunnyvale will be outfitted with design solutions for hybrid work when it opens in January.

Image: LinkedIn

For all the lofty predictions on the future of work, the future will probably just look like this: some people working in an office all of the time, some people completely remote, everyone else somewhere in the middle.

Companies around the world have either been preparing for this scenario or are already living it, and one question's been nagging them. How do you avoid creating two classes of workers: those who are in the office, getting face time with executives, and those who are just Zoom boxes on a screen, locked away from all the excitement?

This question isn't purely theoretical. New research from Citrix revealed that 38% of a thousand U.S. office workers surveyed believe remote employees will be at a career disadvantage for not working out of a central office, and 47% think they'll be less likely to be considered for a promotion.

The solutions run the gamut. On one end, there's simple norm-setting: Here's how to set up a meeting, here's how to communicate before and after a meeting. On the other end, there's redesigning entire office features, from whiteboards to furniture.

Set some ground rules for norms and behaviors.

The first ground rule: Everyone joins a meeting as an individual box on Zoom. No more conference room cameras pointing down at a group of people giggling around a desk with one remote, disembodied face watching from afar. In the hybrid world, we're all disembodied faces.

Evernote, whose largest office is in Redwood City, used to broadcast its all-hands meetings from that office's cafeteria, with CEO Ian Small standing at a podium in front of rows of bleachers. According to Susan Stick, the company's SVP of people and general counsel, that format was a terrible audiovisual experience for remote employees.

Today, Evernote's policy is that every medium and large meeting takes place virtually, with Small's face on a screen side by side with every other employee's. "We want everyone to have a common and equal experience," said Stick.

When a virtual meeting takes place, a few steps can go far in leveling the playing field, things as simple as calling on people who are remote first, said Traci Palmer, VP of people and organizational development at Citrix.

Another ground rule according to hybrid work experts: If you are in the office together and engage in side banter, perhaps coming up with another plan of action in the hallway after everyone else has hopped off Zoom, it's your responsibility to update remote colleagues on what was decided in the hallway.

Rendering of LinkedIn's new headquarters in Sunnyvale A rendering of LinkedIn's new headquarters in SunnyvaleImage: LinkedIn

Some companies are trying to mimic that "running into someone in a hallway" feeling through Slack integrations like Donut, which pairs random people from across a company and sets up short Zoom meetings for spontaneous, casual chats. "People love them," said Brit Malinauskas, VP of people & workplace at Hover, a 3D data and tech company that has been using Donut. That being said, not everyone likes forced socialization.

Even language can play a part in eliminating the class divide between in-office and remote workers. PagerDuty has eliminated the word "headquarters" from its company lexicon, as well as the word "international," instead opting for "global," according to Chief People Officer Joe Militello. (International denotes there's one country that's "national," with the others merely orbiting around it.)

Redesign your office.

All this Zooming in physical offices brings with it a design challenge. Modern open-plan offices weren't designed for everyone to be taking video calls within earshot of each other. Conference rooms weren't designed for everyone to be in the same meeting from individual laptops either.

A range of solutions has cropped up to address these new problems. But workplace design experts agree: Nothing has risen above the pack yet, and companies are testing out a range of solutions at a small scale to see what sticks. "The desire for this kind of technology is somewhat outpacing the actual availability of gear or software," said Stick.

Brett Hautop heads up the workplace design team at LinkedIn, which is buying and testing out hybrid work gear across its 33 global offices. He called the traditional conference room setup — the long rectangular table — "an artifact of medieval times," hierarchical and awkward to sit around, as well as not inclusive of remote meeting participants.

One thing that LinkedIn is trying: partnering with a Steelcase designer to create something that looks like a campfire, four seats around a center square. Within the square there would be four monitors and a 360-degree camera capturing the faces of those seated. Everyone who's in the meeting physically can talk to each other naturally and see their remote colleagues on their individual monitors, while the camera captures their faces so that virtual participants see them as individual boxes on a screen as well.

Whiteboards are another key area of testing and potential innovation. LinkedIn has invested in one that allows users to use a regular whiteboard alongside camera capture technology that picks up what's being written, but which is able to — get ready for this — make the writer's hand disappear and instead capture the text behind it. The new company headquarters in Sunnyvale will have five rooms outfitted with these whiteboards alongside other new design solutions when it opens in January, according to Hautop.

"What we want to avoid is the experience of haves and have-nots," said Stick in regards to Evernote's investments in furniture and tech to bridge the in-office and remote work divide. Although they haven't pinned down the solution quite yet, she believes the key lies in simply being intentional about it.

Protocol | Workplace

CTO to CEO: The case for putting the tech expert in charge

Parag Agrawal is one of the few tech industry CTOs to nab the top job. But the tides may be shifting.

Parag Agrawal’s appointment to Twitter's CEO seat is already alerting a new generation of CTOs that the top job may not be so out of reach.

Photo: Twitter

Parag Agrawal’s ascension to CEO of Twitter is notable for a few reasons. For one, at 37, he’s now the youngest CEO of an S&P 500 company, beating out Zuckerberg. For another, his path to the top as a CTO-turned-CEO is still relatively rare in the corporate world.

His leap suggests that CEO succession trends may be shifting, as technology increasingly takes the center stage in business and strategy decisions not just for tech companies, but for the business world more broadly.

Keep Reading Show less
Michelle Ma

Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol, where she writes about management, leadership and workplace issues in tech. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at

The fintech developers who made mobile banking as routine as texting or online shopping aren't done. The next frontier for innovation is open banking – fintech builders are enabling consumers to be at the center of where and how their data is used to provide the services they want and need.

Most people don't even realize they're using open banking services today. If they connected their investment and banking accounts in a personal financial management solution or app, they're using open banking. Perhaps they've seen ads about how they can improve their credit score by uploading pay stubs or utility records to that same app – this is also powered by open banking.

Keep Reading Show less
Bob Schukai
Bob Schukai is Executive Vice President of Technology Development, New Digital Infrastructure & Fintech at Mastercard, where he leads the technical design, execution and support of innovative open banking and fintech solutions, as well as next generation technologies to support global payment and data capabilities. Prior to Mastercard, Schukai’s work focused on cognitive computing, financial technology, blockchain, user experience and digital identity. He is also a member of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Protocol | Workplace

Google contractor says she was fired for 'ungoogley' behavior

According to a charge filed with the National Labor Relations Board, "ungoogley" is Google's term for having a bad attitude.

A contractor at Google staffing firm Modis claims she was fired from her job after asking about pay.

Photo: Future Publishing/Getty Images

A contractor at Google staffing firm Modis claims she was fired from her job for "ungoogley" behavior after asking about holiday pay at a meeting with management, according to a charge filed with the National Labor Relations Board by a lawyer for the Alphabet Workers Union.

Tuesday Carne said in an interview with Protocol that she was fired after just nine days of working in the data contracting facility in South Carolina. Carne's termination letter (which Protocol reviewed) called her behavior at the meeting "unacceptable and 'ungoogley'" and claimed that her behavior was the reason for her firing.

Keep Reading Show less
Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email:, where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

Protocol | Policy

Biden FCC nominee Sohn is walking a tightrope with Republicans

Gigi Sohn faces plenty of GOP opposition, but the longtime net-neutrality advocate is hoping to pick up a little Republican support as she deals with Democrats’ narrow margins.

Gigi Sohn’s work for net neutrality has become an issue in her confirmation hearings for the FCC.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Gigi Sohn wouldn’t mind getting support from a Republican or two, and it’d certainly make her path back to the Federal Communications Commission easier.

During her Senate Commerce Committee confirmation on Wednesday, Sohn, a progressive favorite and longtime net-neutrality advocate, touted her commitment to ensuring a diversity of voices on the airwaves, her past fights for small conservative networks she personally disagrees with and her habit of socializing with those she battles on policy.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Protocol | Workplace

Microsoft Teams is going after small businesses

Microsoft Teams Essentials offers longer, bigger meetings for a relatively small price tag.

Companies can now buy a standalone version of Teams.

Photo: Mika Baumeister/Unsplash

Microsoft announced Wednesday that companies can now buy a standalone version of Teams — one of its most important products and a major player in work messaging and video chat, alongside Slack and Zoom. The product, called Microsoft Teams Essentials, aims to give small or medium-sized businesses a communication hub that costs less than its competitors'.

Microsoft will charge small businesses $4 per user per month for Microsoft Teams Essentials, while Zoom’s cheapest paid plan is $14.99 per user per month and Slack’s is $6.67 per user each month, when billed annually. The free version of Microsoft Teams still exists, as do the various other Microsoft 365 plans that include Teams. Teams Essentials offers longer meeting times, larger group meetings and more cloud storage.

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at

Latest Stories