What are Chat and Spaces?

Google Chat is used for quick 1-on-1 or group conversations. It is a fast way to follow up with coworkers or ask quick questions.

Google Spaces is used for longer-lasting conversations and group projects. It is an ideal way to keep a team in touch with each other and allow them to fully collaborate.

When do I use Chat or Spaces?

You generally want to use chat when you are having short conversations 1-on-1 or with groups of people. Chat is basically like a text conversation and is better utilized for short, informal, or side conversations - like if you’re planning a surprise party for a coworker or have a quick question about who to include in an email being sent out.

Spaces can be used for medium-length or high-collaboration projects, for teams to chat and collaborate about their various projects, and to give quick notifications to individuals, teams, or your whole department. You can even create and assign tasks and share files with Spaces.

You can start voice or video calls from both Chat conversations and Spaces.

For Google’s official breakdown of what each option has available and some examples of uses for each, you can check out Google Support’s page: About spaces and group conversations.

Is Spaces right for your department or team?

When choosing a way to keep departments and teams in touch with each other, there are a lot of things to consider:

  • Are you already using an app or system? And is that meeting all of your needs and wants?
  • What functionality is critical for the success and usability of your team or department? Not all chat and communication systems function the same way, and some come with extra options that you may need for getting the best collaboration.
  • How well does the system you are considering integrate with other systems you use? Does it even have to integrate with any other systems?

Spaces is a fairly simple system that is already integrated with our Google Workspace and can be used across Swarthmore. You can keep in touch with teams (even across departments!), share files, and create and assign tasks for projects. Carefully consider if you need more options or functionality. Here is some more information from Google Support about what Spaces could help you do.

Setting expectations for use

If you have decided to use Spaces for your department, you should first understand that Google generally operates on the principle that individuals can use it to organize and optimize things for themselves. That means you may need to, as a department, come up with a set of guidelines for how and when to use Spaces versus other communication methods like email or even Chat, and how individuals should be expected to set up and use things like notifications and @ mentions. Creating a document for your department to review is a great way to make sure you make those expectations clear and available to everyone.


Notifications are generally set based on an individual’s preferences, and you will not be able to override an individual user’s settings. Making sure everyone understands how they should be able to be reached/notified and how to set that up is very important.

Notification settings can even be different based on each device that is being used, so you may want to consider different notification expectations for different types of devices - for example, not requiring as many notifications on mobile devices versus computers.

Device operating systems also handle the setup of notifications a little differently. For more information on how notifications work across devices and what options are available, check out the links below from Google Support.

Setting up a Google Space

Once you have decided how you’re department will be using Spaces, you can get started on setting it up. The person that creates the Space will automatically be assigned as the Space Manager. As the Space Manager, you will be able to add and remove users and elevate other users to Space Manager. It is always recommended to set multiple managers to ensure someone is always available to manage the Space.

Here is a list of Google Support pages to help you set up and manage your new Spaces:

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