Flagging bad behavior at work is about to get a lot easier inside Google’s Workspace software.
As part of a major update to Workspace—the business productivity tools formerly known as G Suite—Google is adding a “Report” function for chatroom conversations between coworkers. Clicking this option brings up a menu of reporting options, such as violations of workplace guidelines, non-disclosure agreement violations, and spam. When users flag a conversation, Google says it will deliver the complaint to a workplace administrator for further review.
While Google’s Chat service already offers a “Block and Report” function, the new version is more granular. It lets coworkers report messages without blocking the sender, and it supports reporting issues that aren’t strictly related to abuse, such as NDA violations.
Drew Rowny, a product manager on Workspace’s communication tools, says Google built the feature in response to requests from major customers, want to be able to step in if necessary if employees’ conversations violate workplace rules in both a remote and hybrid environment.
“Especially in this hybrid environment, the conversation could be coming up in a place without any sort of administrative oversight that is proactive,” he says. “Having just the simple ability for the end user to say, ‘Hey, this is something that someone should investigate it, flag it for moderation’ … it’s something that might solve some of our customer needs.”
Still, the streamlining of workplace complaints is new ground for business chat software. Slack doesn’t offer anything similar, and Microsoft only supports reporting abuse in the personal version of Teams. Zoom added a way for hosts to report meeting participants last year, but those reports went directly to Zoom for the purpose of blocking offenders from the platform, not policing workplace issues.
By contrast, Google will give administrators a large list of potential workplace issues that they can choose to enable or disable. While coworkers won’t see when a comment gets flagged, administrators will be able to see who reported an issue so they can choose how to follow up. Google says it will make this clear to workers before they submit their report.
“It is clear that new norms are being set really rapidly as people engage in these new platforms, so having these features will help it land in a way that’s just healthier for the entire organization,” Rowny says.
Other Workspace updates
The new reporting function is just one part of a broader Workspace update, one that’s aimed at keeping businesses inside Google’s ecosystem for more of their communications.
The biggest change is to the interface itself, which refashions Gmail as more of an all-purpose communication hub. A new sidebar gives Google Chat messages, and Google Meet video calls the same prominence as email, and it replaces an old feature called “Rooms” with an updated version called “Spaces.” The latter is supposed to serve as a central place to manage projects by combining conversation threads, documents, and task lists.
Google is also trying to make its tools more accommodating to hybrid work. In Google Calendar, users can indicate whether they’re working remotely or in person, and in Google Meet, a feature called “Companion Mode” will let users join meetings with their laptops while they’re in a shared conference room. This lets them use interactive features and talk to remote coworkers while cancelling out room echo.
The tech giant is launching new hardware to facilitate those meetings as well. The Series One Desk 27 is a 27-inch touchscreen with built-in cameras and mics, able to handle Google Meet calls and double as an external computer monitor. (It also runs Chrome OS, though the ability to use it as a regular computer will require some technical tweaking.) The Series One Board 65 is a 65-inch 4K display that’s intended more as an internet-connected conference whiteboard. Those devices will also support Cisco Webex meetings as part of an interoperability initiative between the two companies; Cisco’s own meeting hardware will in turn support Google Meet as well.
Those features may not be as contentious as the chat reporting feature, but they have a similar air of experimentation about them as everyone tries to figure out how to make sense of hybrid work.
“All of the things that we’re sharing today, frankly, we’ve been living and trying to experience ourselves and hone that way. And it is a journey,” Rowny says.