Work at home or office? Either way, there’s a start-up for that.


SAN FRANCISCO — Before the pandemic, Envoy, a start-up in San Francisco, sold visitor registration software for Office. Its system signed in guests and tracked who was coming into the building.

When COVID-19 Mara and forced people to work from home, the messenger adapted. It started tracking employees, rather than just visitors, with a screening system that asked workers about possible COVID symptoms and risks.

Now as companies begin to reopen offices and promote greater flexibility for employees, Envoy is changing its strategy again. Its latest product, Envoy Desks, allows employees to book desks to and from their company’s workplaces, provided that designated room in the office and five days a week are a thing of the past.

Envoy is part of a wave of start-ups trying to capitalize on America’s move towards hybrid work. Companies are selling tools for more flexible office layouts, new video-calling software and digital connectivity within teams — and are trying to make the case that their offering will bridge the gap between an individual and remote work force.

Start-ups are jockeying for the position as more companies announce plans for hybrid work, where employees are required to come for only part of the week and can work from home the rest of the time. In May, a Survey Of the 100 companies McKinsey operated, it was found that nine out of 10 organizations planned to work remotely and on-site even after it was safe to return to the office.

Providing tools for remote work is potentially lucrative. Last year, companies spent $317 billion on information technology for remote work, according to research firm Gartner. Gartner projected that spending would rise to $333 billion this year.

Kate Lister, president of consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics, said hybrid and remote work have the potential to benefit workers for whom the office environment was never suitable. This includes women, racial minorities, people with caregiving responsibilities and people with disabilities, as well as introverts and people who prefer to work only odd hours or in seclusion.

But she and others also warned that the move to hybrid work could make remote workers “second-class citizens.” Workers who miss the spontaneity of in-person meetings or hallway chats could be passed over for raises and promotions, he said.

That, argue start-up founders, is where their products come in.

Tandem’s chief executive and co-founder Rajeev Iyengar leads one of several software start-ups that have built desktop apps that help teams collaborate better with each other and that create the feeling of being in an office. re-create. He said Tandem’s product was trying to help with “presence” — the ability to know what teammates are doing in real time, even when the worker isn’t with their colleagues in the office.

Tandem’s desktop program, which costs $10 a month for each user, shows what teammates are working on so colleagues know if they’re available for a seamless video call within the app. The list of user statuses updates automatically to let people know if their co-workers are on call, writing in Google Docs, or doing any 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 make permanent audio or video calls that others can connect to. It’s free, although the company plans to offer a paid product. Tribe’s software uses busy and available conditions to facilitate in-platform video calls; It is currently only accessible with invitation.

Owl Labs, a start-up founded in 2017, is also trying to tackle “presence.” It creates 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 have quadrupled more than 75,000 organizations over the pandemic, said the $999 camera was a way for remote employees attending office meetings to see everyone who spoke. was capable of, not enabled by the limited view. Single laptop camera.

Other start-ups, such as Kumospace and Mmm, said they were working on improving video communication For hybrid work. Kumospace, a video-calling start-up, structures calls so users can enter virtual rooms. They then navigate the room using the arrow keys and can talk to people when they are close by.

The design is meant to replicate in-person socializing, where people can meet and have multiple conversations in the same room. This a. is opposite service like zoom, where everyone is in the same conversation by default when they enter a video call.

Mmhmm, which was created by Phil Libin, founder of note-taking and productivity app Evernote, offers a variety of interactive video backgrounds, tools for sharing slideshows, and other features for live conversations and asynchronous presentations. It has a free version and a premium version, which costs $8.33 per month per employee.

Some companies said their products can help businesses understand their use of space because fewer employees come to desks in need. Density, a start-up in San Francisco, makes a product that uses custom depth sensors to measure how many people are entering an area or using an open space. Companies can then analyze that data to understand how much of their office space they are actually using, and reduce as needed.

Density also plans to offer other tools for hybrid work. Last month, it acquired a software start-up that provides a system for desk and space reservations.

The envoy said its new desk product had attracted 400 companies, including clothing retailer Patagonia and film company Lionsgate.

“Companies that use us get more accurate data that is standardized globally across all of their offices,” said Envoy chief executive Larry Gadia. “And then it’s around using that data to inform space planning things. Do we need more floors? Do we need more meeting rooms? Do we need more desks? Do we need more desks for this one team? ?”

Lionsgate said it had used Envoy’s products from before the pandemic. When the coronavirus arrived, it turned to Envoy’s employee-screening software to provide health screenings to those entering the office.

Now, as more employees return to work in person, the company is using Envoy to manage where everyone sits, as well as to track who is coming. Lionsgate said the information could help determine how often teams will need to be in the office.

“We’ll know exactly how much space we need,” said Lionsgate’s chief administrative officer Heather Somani. “So I think it would be really useful.”



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