When I started working from home, mostly thanks to the pandemic, Google announced an addition to its Assistant Routines feature that would let users be periodically reminded of things throughout their workday – cleverly named Workday Reminders. Being someone fully on board with assessing new Google services and features, in part due to the nature of my work, and in part due to my own excitement, I set these up immediately.
At first, things were great – Google would let me know in the morning what I had scheduled on my calendar for the day, ping me to take breaks for lunch, an afternoon stretch, and even to drink water. I actually went all out with this and set it up to give me custom verbal cues for things I’d like to be urged to recall – daily wisdom, and so on. I wanted the full experience, but I got more than I bargained for.
Having set these Workday Reminders up on my Nest Hub in the living room, I quickly realized how much of a mistake it was to engage with them whatsoever. The new Workday routine is a perfect example of something that looks great on paper, but when executed, simply falls on its face. Truly, these constant nudges from Google became so insanely annoying and disruptive that I had to unplug my devices and (gently) chuck them in the closet out of frustration. Let me explain.
As I said, I welcomed Google’s friendly advice for a few days, but after a while, I would be caught entirely off guard by it. When focusing deeply on a task in complete silence, my Hub would abruptly shout at me and scare the crap out of me, causing my heart to skip a beat. Not only did it break my peace, but it caused me to lose my train of thought as well. When this happens several times a day and every single day for weeks, you realize that it’s more of a nuisance than a help, I promise.
The worst part is that since the feature is called ‘Workday Reminders’, and since Google Assistant has about a gazillion settings packed into one wall of text, I kept searching for the settings to disable them in various places other than Routines. I checked Reminders (because duh), I checked my Nest Hub settings, and so on all to no avail. After a few weeks of torture, and having only attained peace by unplugging my Assistant devices, I finally located the Workday ‘routine’ blandly mixed in with the other routines. No longer did it feature the colorful icon it had when I set them up – instead, it was a simple blue outlined icon mixed in with the rest. It was completely indistinguishable. I really am beginning to see what people are saying about Google’s design becoming less attention-grabbing and more ‘same-y’.
This is normally the part where I offer some practical advice to Google for making the feature in question more useful and suggesting ways in which the company could reduce its friction with the user, but honestly, I don’t have much. Perhaps they could add a chime for when it’s about to speak so it doesn’t cause me to jump out of my seat, and maybe they could rename it ‘Workday Routine’ so it’s easier to find. They could even allow users to disable the feature entirely by voice (add this for all Assistant features!) – that would be great!
Ultimately though, I chalk this up to me just realizing it’s not for me. This feature is clearly something that’s meant for some folks and not for others, but that’s okay. After a few reminders, I found that the things I asked it to nudge me about were already core aspects of my daily life and habits I had already built. However, I can’t imagine a single person who would be able to hear these Workday Reminders so frequently and not absolutely lose their sanity. Either way, enabling them was a decision I’ve sorely regret for a while now, and I thought you should all be wary of them as well, for your own sake.