Facebook’s Workplace embraces video, touts new users amid pandemic

Facebook Workplace Rooms
Facebook Workplace Rooms

Social network strengthens collaboration features amid growing demand

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25 May 2020 | 0

Workplace, Facebook’s enterprise collaboration offering, has gotten a variety of new features designed to strengthen the platform and help users better collaborate during the ongoing pandemic.

As for Workplace, Facebook said the app now has more than 5 million paid users – with 2 million added since October 2019. That pace of growth is in line with reports from other collaboration and videoconferencing companies, which have rapidly gained new users this year during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Launched in late 2016, Workplace offers companies a collaboration platform that mirrors many of the features offered by Facebook, including groups, a news feed and live video capabilities – repurposed to fit the needs of business users. The announcements focused on improving how users can collaborate via video through integrations with Facebook’s Portal and Oculus features.

 

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Julien Codorniou, vice president of Workplace, said that while the Covid-19 pandemic heated up demand for collaborative work platforms, he was still surprised by the number of companies that were caught off guard. Like Ashenden, he said enterprises have now recognized the importance of keping their employees “connected, informed, engaged and productive”.

Reflecting that stance internally, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social media company will permanently embrace remote working, even after current lockdowns lift. He told Facebook employees that the company would be “aggressively opening up remote hiring” and he expects about half the workforce to work remotely over the next five to 10 years.

Facebook workers have until 1 January 2021 to decide on their new work location.

The importance of videoconferencing

To help bolster a crowded market that includes the likes of Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, Google Meet and other, Workplace is pushing toward easier-to-use, and more efficient videoconferencing.

Users can now set up Workplace Rooms – essentially an enterprise version of Facebook’s Messenger Rooms launched last month. In these new rooms, teams can host planned and spontaneous video calls via the desktop, mobile or the Workplace app on Portal. Users can invite individuals without Workplace accounts to join these calls; use Portal TV for Workplace video calls; set up a Workplace Room on Portal; and use Workplace Live on Portal.

The company also bolstered its Workplace Live offering, providing users with an improved production values, controls and interactivity. One notable feature: the ability to turn on live captioning and transcription, a service that operates in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.

With many companies having employees in different countries – and speaking different languages – the new feature should allow employees who work together but don’t speak the same language to better connect, Codorniou said, leading to more productivity.

Users who broadcast live via Workplace will also be able to host live Q&As and crowd-source questions from the audience.

VR capabilities

The Workplace changes include new virtual reality (VR) capabilities built around Facebook’s virtual reality division, Oculus. Though it began largely as a consumer product, VR is increasingly being used by companies for training and education; Workplace claims more than 400 Oculus business apps now exist and can be integrated with the platform.

Microsoft has had some success with its HoloLens, making it logical for Workplace to give users the opportunity to more easily use Oculus. Workplace has also seen demand for the service from its customers.

IDG News Service

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