SAN FRANCISCO — Before the pandemic, Envoy, a San Francisco startup, sold visitor registration software to the office. Its system logged in guests and tracked who was entering 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 potential Covid symptoms and exposures.
Now, as companies begin to reopen offices and push for more flexibility for employees, Envoy is changing strategy once again. The company’s newest product, Envoy Desks, allows employees to book desks when they arrive at their company’s workplace, betting that assigning separate rooms and five days a week in the office has become a reality. past.
Envoy is part of a wave of startups trying to capitalize on America’s shift to hybrid work. Companies are selling more flexible office layouts, new video-calling software and tools to digitally connect in teams – and trying to make the case that their services will narrow the gap. distance between the in-person workforce and the remote workforce.
Startups are racing for positions as more and more companies announce combined work plans, in which employees are required to come in only part of the week and be able to work from home on Time remaining. In May, a survey of 100 companies by McKinsey found that nine out of ten organizations plan to combine remote and on-site work even when it’s safe to return to the office.
Provide tools for profitable remote working. According to research firm Gartner, companies spent $317 billion last year on information technology for remote work. Gartner estimates that spending will grow to $333 billion this year.
Combined work and telecommuting have the potential to benefit workers whose office environments may never be suitable, said Kate Lister, president of consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics. This includes women, racial minorities, people with caregiving responsibilities and people with disabilities, along with introverts and people who simply prefer to work odd hours or be alone.
But she and others also warn that switching to hybrid work could make remote workers “second-class citizens.” Workers who miss the camaraderie of face-to-face meetings or the spontaneity of hallway conversations may end up being turned to pay raises and promotions, they said.
Startup founders argue where their products appear.
Rajiv Ayyangar, CEO and co-founder of Tandem, leads one of a number of software startups that have created desktop applications that help teams better collaborate with each other and recreate feels like being in the office. Tandem’s product, he said, is trying to help deliver “presence” – the ability to know what your teammates are doing in real time, even when employees aren’t with their colleagues in the office.
Tandem’s desktop program, priced at $10 a month per user, shows what teammates are working on so colleagues know if they’re ready to join a spontaneous video call within the app or not. The user’s status list automatically updates to let people know if their co-workers are calling, writing a message in Google Docs, or doing some other task.
Pragli and Tribe, two software startups that have been around since 2019, also offer similar products. People can use Pragli’s products to create permanent audio or video calls that others can join. It’s free, although the company plans to introduce a paid product. Tribe’s software uses busy and available states to facilitate video calls within the platform; it is currently only accessible by invitation.
Owl Labs, a startup founded in 2017, is also trying to tackle “presence”. It creates a 360-degree video camera, microphone and speaker placed in the center of the conference table and automatically zooms in on who is speaking.
The company, which says its customers have quadrupled to more than 75,000 organizations because of the pandemic, says the $999 camera is a way for remote workers to participate in office meetings by being able to see See all who are speaking, instead of the limited view enabled by the single laptop camera.
Other startups, such as Kumospace and Mmhmm, say they are working to improve video communication for hybrid work. Kumospace, a video calling startup, structures calls for users to walk into a virtual room. They then navigate the room with the arrow keys and can talk to people when they are near them.
This design is intended to recreate face-to-face social activity, where people can socialize and have multiple conversations in the same room. That’s in contrast to a service like Zoom, where people are defaulted to joining the same conversation as soon as they join a video call.
Mmhmm, 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 live chats and transcripts. asynchronous presentation. It has a free version and a premium version, which costs $8.33 per employee a month.
Some companies say their products can help businesses understand the use of their space as fewer workers need desks. Density, a San Francisco startup, creates a product that uses a custom depth sensor to measure how many people are entering an area or using an open space. Companies can then analyze that data to understand how much office space they’re really using, and downsize as needed.
Density also plans to offer other tools for hybrid work. Last month, it acquired a software startup that offers a table and space reservation system.
Envoy says its new Desks product has attracted 400 companies, including clothing retailer Patagonia and film company Lionsgate.
Larry Gadea, CEO of Envoy, said: “Companies using us receive more accurate data standardized across all of their offices globally. “And then it was around using that data to inform things about spatial planning. Do we need more floors? Do we need more meeting rooms? Do we need more desks? Do we need more tables for this one team? “
Lionsgate says it has been using Envoy products since before the pandemic. When the coronavirus arrives, it turns to Envoy’s employee screening software to check the health of people entering the office.
Now, as more and more employees return to face-to-face work, the company is using Envoy to manage where people sit, as well as keep track of who’s coming. Lionsgate says this information can help determine how often teams will need to be in the office.
“We’ll be able to see how much space we actually need,” said Heather Somaini, Lionsgate’s chief administrative officer. “So I think it’s going to be really helpful.”