One of the hopeful signs of a return to normalcy is seeing many of Google’s customers make plans to come back into their offices. And they’re asking for strategies that will make hybrid work a more equitable and productive experience for everyone. At Google, they’re also beginning their own transition to hybrid work in early April. As they gear up for that, it feels like a time of optimism for new ways of working together and the potential for hybrid models to become the sustainable norm. When designed well, a hybrid model gives employees the flexibility to deliver their best from anywhere, while bringing them together thoughtfully for the power of in-person collaboration.

Today, Google Workspace is announcing new features that can help teams of all sizes stay better connected and engaged, whether they’re working from home, the office, or anywhere in between. 

More inclusive and secure hybrid meetings

For most companies working in a hybrid model, meetings typically include in-person and remote attendees, and it’s essential that each hybrid meeting experience is unified and productive for all. In light of this, Google continue to make enhancements to Google Meet to help ensure that all video meetings are secure and inclusive no matter the location or device preference.

Coming up soon, in-meeting reactions will let attendees visually express themselves with 👍 ❤️ 😆 and more, bringing energy into the meeting and giving immediate feedback to speakers and other attendees. These reactions will appear in a participant’s video tile, or overflow alongside their name if their video tile isn’t visible.

Express yourself with in-meeting reactions

Being able to see and hear each other during hybrid collaboration is essential. To address this, Google are bringing Meet directly to DocsSheets, and Slides in the coming weeks. Users will be able to quickly start a meeting and bring it to a document, spreadsheet, or presentation, and they can present this content to all the meeting attendees. This enables everyone in the meeting to collaborate in real-time while having a conversation—all from the same tab.

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Collaborate on content while having a conversation

Additionally, to help presenters and multitaskers see their audience while navigating different tabs and windows, Google are bringing picture-in-picture to Meet running on Chrome browsers. Next month, you’ll be able to see up to four video tiles of meeting attendees in a floating window on top of other applications as you share content or send a message in Gmail. Clicking on picture-in-picture quickly takes you back to the full Meet session.

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Picture-in-picture goes with you across tabs and windows

With Google’s recent rollout of Companion mode for Meet, they gave in-room meeting attendees a way to stay engaged using their personal devices while leveraging in-room audio and video. To improve the in-room experience, they’ve started rolling out automatic noise cancellation on all Google Meet hardware, including Logitech, Acer and Asus hardware.* This will help remove background noises—from loud typing in a conference room to the neighbor’s lawn mower. In the coming months, people in conference rooms will also be able to add their own personal video tile from Companion mode and their laptop camera, making it easier for other attendees to see their expressions and gestures.

Your own personal video tile with Companion mode

Google are also improving the livestream experience, strengthening an organization’s ability to broadcast a message and deepening its engagement with audiences. Today, Google Meet users can host meetings of up to 500 active attendees with the ability to livestream to audiences of up to 100,000 across trusted Google Workspace domains. Coming later this year, livestream attendees will be able to participate in Q&A and polls, matching the experience that Meet attendees enjoy today. Customers have also requested the ability to reach a broader audience by livestreaming through other platforms. Later this year Google will enable meeting hosts to do just that by streaming meetings directly to YouTube from the Meet activities tab. Our integration with YouTube means a Google account can be used for authentication, simplifying the livestreaming process.

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Reach a larger audience by livestreaming meetings to YouTube

Lastly, to help keep your most sensitive communications protected and private, in May Google are rolling out optional client-side encryption in Google Meet (currently in beta). This feature gives their customers direct control of the encryption keys and identity provider used to access those keys. And later this year they’ll introduce optional end-to-end encryption for all meetings. 

Together, these enhancements strengthen the foundation of security that help make secure, hybrid collaboration happen at scale.

Anytime collaboration for teams large and small

While live meetings can be a great way to collaborate and make decisions in real time as a team, most communication and information sharing doesn’t need to happen in real time. How do high performing teams stay connected with the right information, at the right time, without the need for the back-to-back meetings that were a hallmark for many during the pandemic?

Spaces in Google Workspace offers an integrated, effective solution for anytime collaboration, where teams can share ideas and knowledge, discuss topics, collaborate on documents, and manage tasks within a single, persistent location.

Google are improving how conversations are displayed in Spaces with inline threading, a top request from enterprise customers. With inline threading, members of a space will be able to respond to specific comments and create side conversations, while keeping the dialogue organized and contextual. Every teammate can easily browse a space and catch up on topics that are important to them, at a time that works for their schedule.

New inline threading in Spaces keep your messages organized

To further support collaboration and transparency, last week Google enabled users to invite others to join a Space via a shared link, and later this year they will enable users to search and join Spaces across an organization. They’re also improving search within Chat and Spaces to surface the most relevant files and conversations, and bringing filter chips to chat search results later this year. 

And to bring the power of Spaces to organizations of all sizes, they are increasing team size limits to 8,000, and they’ll increase this to 25,000 by the end of this year to support communities as they grow. This will improve knowledge sharing and collaboration in larger organizations and unlock key scenarios, including team, department and organizational announcements

Strong team cultures are built on trust and psychological safety. That’s why they’re adding features that improve content moderation, the ability to designate managers and guidelines for specific Spaces, and new admin capabilities to delete Spaces. 

Bringing Google Voice to more customers

With the move to a hybrid workplace, we’ve seen renewed interest in cloud-based phone systems that untether people from legacy deskphones. Google Voice keeps colleagues and customers connected with an intuitive calling experience across devices (web, mobile, and certified deskphones) while leveraging Google’s AI to help save time by blocking spam, transcribing voicemails, and guiding callers. Google Voice has over a decade of cloud telephony experience and seamlessly integrates with Google Workspace. 

To help Google’s European customers adopt Google Voice, they recently announced that calls from European Google Voice numbers to mobile and landline numbers in many European countries will be included in their Google Voice license. Later this year, they’ll introduce SIP link, which will allow customers to connect SIP trunks from their chosen telecommunications carrier via certified session border controllers from Audiocodes, Cisco, Oracle, and Ribbon. This will enable customers with operations outside our current coverage areas to move holistically to Google Voice. Admins will be able to easily manage these carrier-provided numbers alongside Google-provisioned numbers directly in the Google Admin Console.

They’ll also begin rolling out on-demand call recording to Google Voice Standard and Premier subscribers next month. Premier subscribers will have the additional benefit of automated call recordings, which is a top request from customers in regulated industries. Google encourage you to learn more about Google Voice and talk with your Google account rep about trying it today.

Benefits of a modern hybrid work strategy

As work continues to evolve, Google Workspace will continuously look for ways to help your teams better connect, create, and collaborate, no matter where and how they work together. By bringing together Google Workspace innovations in voice, video meetings, and the collaboration spaces that support hybrid work, your organization can benefit from a strategy that removes friction, streamlines costs, and reduces the security risks associated with maintaining multiple platforms. With a unified approach to communications and collaboration, you can build a sustainable hybrid work model that gives employees the ability to deliver their best from anywhere.

Learn best practices from Google in our hybrid work handbook.