Editor’s Note: A version of this story appeared in CNN’s Work Transformed newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
Google is known for some pretty flashy office perks.
Free food? Check. Game room? Check. Innovative workspaces? Check.
But none of that really matters if no one is actually going to the office.
As more companies expect employees to be in prolonged, if not permanent, work-from-home situations, they’re going to have to figure out how to continue to support their workers from afar.
Google, for example, has been offering some of its famous perks virtually. The company will give every employee a $1,000 allowance to help them set up their home office.
I chatted with Lauren Whitt, who runs Google’s well-being and resilience program, to find out what else the tech giant is doing. Here are some of the things she had to say:
(This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)
The shift from working in an expansive workspace with lots of perks to being at home all the time can be tough. How are you helping workers adapt to their new reality?
I have been so impressed with Googlers’ grassroots efforts to create a community and to create so much connection between what they were doing in the office to what they are doing at home.
When we are on-site, many offices have fitness centers and those coaches have taken those programs and those classes online and are doing them virtually so Googlers are still able to work out from home with people they used to work out with in the office using milk jugs and different crazy things that are around the house.
We all miss the fantastic food that we had in Google cafes and many of our cafe teams and chefs are beginning to offer virtual classes online – so How to Cook classes for us to be able to pick up some of those unique and fun skills.
We have groups of Googlers that are doing virtual meditation and mindfulness classes – programs called “gPause.” We have peer-to-peer mental health support through our Blue Dot community so a lot of the things that were happening in the offices, we are just bringing them virtually.
Tell me about Google’s decision to offer $1,000 to employees to equip their home offices. How important is the workspace?
For us to be able to provide resources for Googlers to set up the most productive workstation at home so that they have an opportunity to separate ‘When I am in this space I am focused on my work and I am focused on these things, and when I step away from this space I am able to detach from work, I am able to connect with my family, my friends, my pets, the people in my community outside of this work box’ is really important.
The routine and the habits that we used to have in the office are so important for us to translate those and set new routines and new habits into the workspace and work setup that we have at home.
That is really critical for us long term, as well as from a health perspective – making sure that we have the best opportunity for ergonomically correct chairs, eye-line for monitors and those sorts of opportunities as well.
You say building resilience is important in a time like this. How are you helping employees develop that?
We spent a couple years really focused on making sure we had the resources and tools for Googlers to be able to focus on their mental health and get the support they need in that space.
About two years ago, we started to shift and say: ‘OK, we have those tools and resources available, what is next? How do we now really focus on the ability to cope with stress, bounce back from adversity and understand that we can rebound to be able to recover from difficult challenges?’
We launched a check-in in the fall, we call it the T.E.A. [Thoughts, Energy, Attention] check-in. Our T.E.A. check is basically: where are your thoughts, where is your energy and where is your attention? And as we look at those three…is it time to take on a challenging project? Is [your energy] low? Do you need to jump up and down? Do you need to step away? Do you need to take a nap? And where is your attention? What is the one thing you can focus on today that you can control, that you can influence, that will give you purpose and meaning and optimism for today?
To read what else Whitt had to say, you can read the rest of my interview with her here.
Why this CEO thinks permanent WFH is a bad idea
Some companies have said workers can continue to work from home permanently if they want to. But this CEO doesn’t think that is a good idea.
JT McCormick, who is the president and CEO of publishing company Scribe Media, said he will never let his employees work from home permanently.
He argues that we’ve been focusing too much on the benefits of working from home, but not enough on the “inherent dangers.”
When everyone is working from home, in-person spontaneous social interactions, like catching up on the weekend or sorting through a problem, aren’t happening. And that can be bad for productivity and building trust, he argues.
It’s also difficult to establish a healthy, supportive culture when everyone is remote, says McCormick.
“When the human element of business is lost, people are reduced to mere inputs. Whether it’s intentional or not, we start judging each other based on what a person can produce. Mutual purpose, connection and trust are replaced with judgment, comparison and fear,” he writes.
Click here to read McCormick’s full piece in CNN Business Perspectives on why working from home isn’t a permanent solution for his company.
The Zoom boom is real
Zoom has become a part of daily life for many of us. We have Zoom business meetings, Zoom family reunions, Zoom birthday parties – and yes, even Zoom happy hours.
And the company’s latest earnings prove how popular the service has become.
Zoom’s revenue jumped an eye-popping 169% in the first quarter from the prior year to $328 million, reports CNN’s Rishi Iyengar.
The number of companies with more than 10 employees using the platform increased 354% from the year before. That’s huge.
But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the company.
It faced scrutiny earlier this year for security issues, including its level of encryption and the problem of “Zoombombing” where video calls would get hijacked by uninvited guests who would spew hateful language or share graphic images.
To address the problems, the company rolled out a security update known as Zoom 5.0.
Can Zoom sustain its growth? The company faces competition, including from tech giants Facebook and Google, which offer their own video tools. But there might be an even bigger threat to the company’s business: Zoom fatigue.
Click here to read more about what could be in store for Zoom.
We’re hoarding cash in the pandemic. Here’s where you should put it
All this economic uncertainty is causing our savings rate to skyrocket.
The personal savings rate, which is the amount people are saving as a percentage of their disposable income, soared to 33% in April, reports CNN’s Anna Bahney. The rate had been sitting around 8% for months prior to that.
So what should you consider when looking for a place to stash your emergency cash?
Interest rates are near historic lows so don’t expect much of a return on your savings. Still, one expert said online savings accounts are one of the best places for your money since they tend to have higher rates than traditional bank accounts.
If you are looking for options outside of a savings account, there are also certificates of deposit, money market accounts and high-yield checking accounts.
Head spinning? Don’t worry, here’s a breakdown of what you should know.
It’s time to start using your PTO
If you are fortunate enough to have paid time off through your employer, it’s time to start using it.
I can hear you asking: But where will I go?
Hear me out: You need to take breaks.
Taking time off helps manage stress and well-being. And you need to do it regularly. As one expert explained to CNN’s Marnie Hunter, you can’t stockpile the positive results of being away.
Plus, many companies don’t allow you to roll them over. We’re halfway through the year, so what are you waiting for?
Check out these ideas to get the most out of your time off for all levels of comfort.
If you aren’t ready to leave your home, a staycation will also do the trick – but it’s important to break out of your routine and really live it up on your day(s) off.
We’re talking al fresco naps, movie marathons, decadent dinners (and drinks!) and spending quality time outdoors (safely, of course).
Looking for a little inspiration? My colleagues at Underscored, a product reviews and recommendations guide owned by CNN, had a lot of fun finding everything you need to plan a truly relaxing staycation.
Check it out here.
Happy planning, and don’t forget to send us pics!