Work from home or office? Anyway, there is a start-up for that.
SAN FRANCISCO – Before the pandemic, Envoy, a start-up in San Francisco, sold visitor registration software for the office. His system would sign guests in and track who entered the building.
When Covid-19 hit and forced people to work from home, Envoy adapted. It started tracking employees instead of just visitors, with a screening system that asked workers about symptoms and potential Covid exposures.
Now that companies are starting to reopen their offices and promote more flexibility for employees, Envoy is once again changing its strategy. Its latest product, Envoy Desks, allows employees to reserve desks when they visit their company’s workplace, betting that assigned cubicles and five days a week at the office are a thing of the past.
Envoy is part of a wave of start-ups trying to capitalize on America’s evolution towards hybrid work. Companies are selling more flexible office layouts, new video calling software and tools for digital connectivity across teams – and trying to make the case that their offerings will bridge the gap between an in-person and remote workforce. .
Start-ups are vying for the job as more companies announce hybrid work plans, where employees are only required to come part of the week and can work from home the rest of the time. In May, a McKinsey survey of 100 companies found that nine out of 10 organizations planned to combine remote and on-site work even after they could safely return to the office.
Providing tools for remote working is potentially lucrative. Companies spent $ 317 billion last year on information technology for remote work, according to research firm Gartner. Gartner estimated that spending will increase to $ 333 billion this year.
Hybrid and remote work has the potential to benefit workers for whom office environments have never been suitable, said Kate Lister, president of consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics. This includes women, racial minorities, people with caregiving responsibilities and people with disabilities, as well as introverts and people who simply prefer to work irregular hours or in solitude.
But she and others also warned that the shift to hybrid work could turn remote workers into “second-class citizens.” Workers who lack the camaraderie of in-person meetings or the spontaneity of hallway discussions may end up being ignored for raises and promotions, they said.
This is where, according to start-up founders, their products come into play.
Rajiv Ayyangar, CEO and Co-Founder of Tandem, runs one of the many software start-ups that have created desktop apps that help teams collaborate better with each other and recreate the feeling of being in one. office. He said Tandem’s product tries to help with “presence” – the ability to know what teammates are doing in real time, even when the worker is not with co-workers in the office.
Tandem’s desktop program, which costs $ 10 per month for each user, shows what teammates are working on so coworkers know if they’re available for an spontaneous video call in the app. The list of user statuses automatically updates to let users know if their coworkers are on a call, writing in Google Docs, or doing some other task.
Pragli and Tribe, two software start-ups that have been around since 2019, also offer similar products. People can use Pragli’s product to create permanent audio or video calls that others can join. It’s free, although the company is considering introducing a paid product. Tribe’s software uses busy and available statuses to facilitate video calls on the platform; it is currently only accessible with an invitation.
Owl Labs, a start-up founded in 2017, is also trying to fight against “presence”. It makes a 360 degree video camera, microphone and speaker that sits in the middle of a conference table and automatically zooms in on the person speaking.
The company, which said its customers quadrupled to more than 75,000 organizations during the pandemic, said the $ 999 camera was a way for remote workers to participate in office meetings while being able to see all who talk, rather than the limited view afforded by a single laptop camera.
Other startups, such as Kumospace and Mmhmm, said they were working on improving video communications for hybrid work. Kumospace, a video call start-up, structures calls so that users enter a virtual room. They then navigate the room using the arrow keys and can talk to people when they are near them.
The design is meant to replicate in-person socialization, where people can move around and have multiple conversations in the same room. This contrasts with a service like Zoom, where everyone is by default in the same conversation as soon as they enter the video call.
Mmhmm, which was created by the founder of the note-taking and productivity app Evernote, Phil Libin, offers a variety of interactive video backgrounds, slideshow sharing tools, and other features for conversations. live and asynchronous presentations. It has a free version and a premium version, which costs $ 8.33 per employee per month.
Some companies have said their products can help businesses understand their use of space because fewer workers need offices. Density, a San Francisco-based startup, makes a product that uses custom depth sensors to measure the number of people entering an area or using an open space. Businesses can then analyze this data to understand how much office space they actually use and reduce the size if necessary.
Density also plans to offer other tools for hybrid work. Last month, he acquired a software start-up that provides an office and space reservation system.
Envoy said its new Desks product has attracted 400 companies, including clothing retailer Patagonia and film company Lionsgate.
“The companies that use us get much more accurate data that is standardized across all of their offices around the world,” said Larry Gadea, CEO of Envoy. “And then it’s about using that data to shed some light on spatial planning. Do we need more floors? Do we need more meeting rooms? Do we need more offices? Do we need more offices for this one team? “
Lionsgate said it had been using Envoy’s products since before the pandemic. When the coronavirus arrived, he turned to Envoy’s employee screening software to provide health checks for those entering the office.
Now, as more employees return to work in person, the company uses Envoy to manage where everyone is, as well as keep track of who comes in. Lionsgate said the information can help determine how often teams need to be in the office. .
“We will really be able to figure out how much space we need,” said Heather Somaini, executive director of Lionsgate. “So I think it will be really helpful. “