It’s not hard to see the appeal of hybrid work: longer lie-ins combined with more purposeful interactions in the office–and according to this March 2021 Accenture report, 83% of workers surveyed agree. Among other factors, employees report higher productivity from being able to choose where they work from, and from being entrusted by their employers to manage their own work-life balance. With the likes of PwC and Unilever setting the tone for a new age of hybrid working, it’s not surprising that over 60% of high-growth companies now use “productivity anywhere” workforce models.
Whilst hybrid work is probably the closest we’ll come to making the best of both worlds post COVID, it doesn’t come without its challenges. As the world adjusts to a more flexible working environment, a new faction of the software sector is emerging to deal with the pitfalls of hybrid working.
Using the Beauhurst platform, we’ve identified seven high-growth companies that provide innovative solutions to multiple work environment challenges. We’ve also added in some fun facts about each company’s growth journey (spoiler alert: they’re all right on the money).
Challenge 1: Keeping track of where people are
It’s quickly becoming apparent that navigating hybrid working is a logistical nightmare for Operations teams. It was hard enough to ensure day-to-day smooth sailing in the office when you knew exactly how many employees would show up on any given day, let alone in a system where employees are leaning more towards an ad-hoc, flexible approach. Luckily, a few companies are rising to the challenge by delivering tech-driven solutions to this problem.
GoSpace combines architectural insights with computer science to create return to work scenarios. Its proprietary artificial intelligence platform allows businesses to instantly visualise real estate rationalisation plans. This is particularly useful to big teams with work spaces spanning across different floors and buildings.
Using virtual models, users can also run tests to see if social distancing measures can be respected in proposed scenarios. As we’re all aware, the implications of an inefficient social distancing strategy can be harmful to both individuals and businesses as a whole, so you really want to get it right the first time: GoSpace allows you to reach the best hybrid work model through trial and error without putting employees at risk.
The artificial intelligence system also takes into account social connections and prioritises physical proximity for teams that want to work together when in the office. Its booking system, GoSpaceLive also helps employees manage their own location and coordinate with others.
GoSpace has raised £2.97m across six funding rounds since its launch, four of which took place after COVID-19. And with many companies setting their sights on a hybrid work model, this startup could be on to a winner.
Office space is one of the highest costs to companies. Inefficient space planning can cost businesses a fortune, either through unused office space or associated costs from not providing enough working space for social distancing. Flexible coworking spaces address this problem by introducing shorter, pay-as-you-go style subscription packages.
There are more and more flexible work spaces created everyday, and Hubble helps businesses find those that best suit teams’ office-remote balance preferences. Among other subscription types, the app allows individual team members to book working spaces, on-demand. This decentralised approach means less planning needed from operations teams to coordinate booking activities, as well as greater choice and flexibility for workers wishing to return to the office full-time or at least part-time.
Hubble attended the Entrepreneur First accelerator in 2013 and has gone on to secure £8.87m in equity funding since. Its latest funding round of €2.3m (£1.97m) is intended for developing new products to support hybrid work.
Having greater visibility over people’s hybrid workplace decisions often comes at the expense of employee convenience. It is useful for any management team to be able to track its employees’ locations, especially when there is limited capacity available, but being asked to report on these choices can make workers more reluctant to adopt a hybrid work style. To preempt this issue, Common Surface makes it easy to book office space and report on location.
The booking happens in real time and automatically updates office capacity, so that no one has to manually approve and coordinate requests. This also means no time is wasted by employees having to fill in lengthy forms, keep track of their days in the office and wait for their spots to be confirmed. The platform’s user-friendly interface also helps individuals better visualise their weeks and coming months from a location perspective.
Common Surface is a young startup, having only been incorporated in July 2020 as a response to the pandemic. In February 2021 it raised £190k of equity finance at a pre-money valuation of £2.29m.
*Disclaimer: Common Surface shares significant shareholders with Beauhurst.
Challenge 2: Maintaining camaraderie and casual feedback
Another challenge associated with hybrid working is the difficulty in maintaining social connections with coworkers. It is especially difficult to navigate this issue when part of the team is remote and part of the team is in the office, often leading to divisions within the workforce. Whilst this is still very new territory, some companies have already designed methods to maintain social cohesion within teams whilst respecting everyone’s working preference.
Kosy Office sets out to bring back office spontaneity to remote work. We never thought we’d be deprived of water cooler conversations, but as it turns out, regular small talk between employees is hugely beneficial to team cohesion.
To emulate face-to-face office camaraderie, Kosy offers a range of serendipitous remote encounters: from a “virtual hallway”, to a Game Room designed to add variety to remote employees’ days. The platform even allows you to design your own virtual office for a more personalised remote working experience. Kosy’s vision is to help teams maintain their company culture without the costs associated with office work such as commuting and navigating childcare.
Kosy completed a seed financing round in March 2021, where it secured £515k from German venture capital firm Picus.
Social distancing also means that sometimes employees are more reluctant to offer feedback to managers, and for managers to ask for it. Wotter has developed a range of technology that addresses this disconnect, among which is Wotter.me, an app that allows employers to quickly and regularly check in with their staff.
The Pulse feature automatically sends questions to gauge employee satisfaction at a chosen time (e.g. when they enter the office), bypassing the need for long surveys. Employers can also access a prebuilt library of feedback prompts, designed to engage employees. Insights are available on the app immediately, saving time from gathering responses and building analysis.
Wotter is another business that launched pre-pandemic but has been thriving ever since. In December 2020, it raised £15k and rebranded in September 2021, formerly trading as Mycentivise.
Challenge 3: Detachment from the workplace
Not being in physical proximity can make it tricky for teams to feel connected. With logistics often getting in the middle, it is indeed difficult to give each other direct feedback on work as we did in the pre-covid days; this often leads to unnecessary follow-up meetings and lacklustre brainstorming. Many companies aim to find solutions to this, including Laduma, one of the pioneers in this field.
Laduma describes itself as “the digital workspace for the hybrid workforce”. With employees now being able to choose between a wide range of working spaces, it is important to ensure seamless connections whether working together onsite or remotely.
Laduma has built an innovative solution to this, based on the idea of immersive digital spaces. By projecting content on walls for a panoramic view of their shared work, teams can have shared experiences that feel more personal than looking at a laptop screen. Employees can also directly collaborate in these digital spaces, allowing them to share, edit and critique each other’s work in real time. This helps remote workers get into a cooperative mindset without needing physical presence.
Laduma raised £767k equity funding in February 2017–back then, the business was creating virtual reality content, specialising in sports and entertainment brands.
Challenge 4: Growing your team in a hybrid setting
Whereas the beginning of the pandemic saw an abrupt halt to hiring efforts, ambitious companies that want to grow and expand have had to adjust to remote hiring since last year. Hybrid work can make this process even more challenging, as potential candidates are interviewed by hybrid teams.
Hinterview is a solution built for recruiters to manage hiring remotely, all on one platform. Its cloud-based Client Portal allows everyone involved in the interviewing process to comment on the candidate’s performance in one place, to ensure that everyone’s opinions are heard.
The platform’s video conferencing feature, Meet, is built to carry out panel interviews, so that teams don’t need to worry about their tech letting them down at the last minute (we’ve all been there).
Hinterview was a finalist for the 2021 Talent Tech Star Awards for customer service, having previously won the supplier award for best customer engagement in 2019. The software provider has raised £4.02m in equity funding across six funding rounds.
There is no doubt that there are many things still to be worked out about the future of work. It’s likely there will be as many working models as there are companies, and perhaps just as many innovative tech solutions to bridge the gap between remote and office environments.
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