Why it matters:
- 55% of employees who can work remotely are expected to do so this year, according to Gallup, up from 32% before the pandemic.
- Employers are still trying to figure out the best strategies and tools to support remote workers.
- Against that backdrop, businesses are providing solutions that help remote workers meet with each other and interact, from coworking spaces that facilitate collaboration among members to tech that enhances videoconference meetings with real-time content sharing tools.
Office workers who have traded their cubicles and long commutes for new work environments, either at home or in other locations close to home, still need to remain connected to their coworkers and others.
Some companies have created solutions to meet that demand, including Groundfloor, which is building out coworking spaces that encourage collaboration and social interactions among members; Webex by Cisco, which is providing technology that enhances virtual meetings; and Letsmeet, a tech platform that allows users to schedule meetings with a single email.
“Teams do not want to go back to the office, and remote work is here to last,” said Giles Raymond, Founder and CEO of Letsmeet, which itself is structured with a remote-work environment for all of its employees.
Research from Gallup
found that hybrid work structures have become increasingly popular in the wake of the pandemic. As of June 2022, 49% of employees who have the ability to work remotely report doing so in a hybrid arrangement, up from 32% before the pandemic and 42% in the first quarter of 2022. Only 22% of workers who can work remotely said they were working in the office full-time.
Gallup predicted that the percentage of employees doing hybrid work would increase to 55% by the end of 2022 and beyond.
Companies have recognized that offering a flexible work environment can be helpful in retaining employees, especially in a tight labor market, although they are still working out how to best implement these new models.
“Employers are embracing the hybrid workplace, but there is still no playbook for how to implement this massive structural change,” according to a recent report
from office technology provider Kastle.
Groundfloor offers more than a desk — from an assigned ‘buddy’ to cooking clubs
For workers, corporate offices have long provided more than just physical locations. They are often places where people form enduring friendships and business relationships, and they also provide opportunities for everyday social interactions.
As the work-from-anywhere trend has shown staying power in the wake of the pandemic, the opportunities for forming friendships and other relationships in the workplace have been diminished. Groundfloor, a coworking space with one location in San Francisco and more in development, is seeking to fill that void by creating workspaces that offer opportunities for people to interact with each other.
“What we’re trying to do is harness some of what made the office a collegiate-type environment so good for building friendships,” said Jamie Snedden, Co-founder and CEO of Groundfloor.
That involves designing spaces that are meant to facilitate conversation, offering meaningful programming and events that bring people together, and providing members with “buddies” and other ways to connect.
The first Groundfloor location opened in San Francisco in March 2022, and the company is hoping to build a network of spaces in suburban neighborhoods in other markets. It has a second location planned for a February opening in Oakland, California, and additional locations planned in Marin, California, and in the Los Angeles area.
“Folks are so used to working from home that there’s got to be a real reason to leave the house,” said Snedden. “You have to be giving people access to facilities, or opportunities, or experiences that are materially hard to achieve at home.”
Folks are so used to working from home that there’s got to be a real reason to leave the house. You have to be giving people access to facilities, or opportunities, or experiences that are materially hard to achieve at home.
Jamie Snedden, Co-founder and CEO, Groundfloor
The Groundfloor location in San Francisco offers health and fitness activities such as yoga and Pilates classes, for example, in addition to workspace. The company also matches each member with a buddy, selected by Groundfloor based on profile information members provide when they join, and schedules a coffee meeting between them.
Groundfloor also introduces each new member to its inventory of “sub clubs,” which are communities reflecting various areas of interest to members, such as a sailing club, a cooking club, and others.
The company hopes to occupy the middle ground between a workspace and a social activities center, a goal Snedden describes as “rebuilding the infrastructure for friendship in a remote-first world.”
Membership costs $200 per month, which will also allow access to additional Groundfloor locations as they open, he said.
Groundfloor aims to keep its costs to a minimum by seeking out underutilized retail spaces measuring 3,000 to 4,000 square feet. In some cases, these locations have been vacant for years, which allows the company to rent at low rates. Groundfloor also operates with minimal staffing at each location.
The company has raised more than $2 million in venture capital and is hoping to scale up to eventually have hundreds of locations around the world.
Webex by Cisco seeks to elevate videoconferences as companies embrace hybrid work
Research from Webex by Cisco indicates that 98% of meetings will include at least one virtual attendee, said Aruna Ravichandran, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of the company.
“With videoconferencing now a part of daily work life for most, it’s critical that you have a stellar, seamless video meeting experience,” she said.
As companies embrace hybrid work, they need to adopt new approaches to the ways they manage teams that are moving between working from home, the office, or the road.
“In this new world of work, the needs of your people have to come first, or you will risk losing them to other companies that are savvier and more adaptable to the changing needs of their employees,” Ravichandran said.
Webex by Cisco is seeking to help companies tackle this challenge by enhancing the videoconferencing experience. The company has released more than 1,200 innovations during the last two years, she said, including solutions geared toward remote workers.
Among them are audio intelligence, which leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning to provide live translation and transcription for 13 spoken languages that can be captioned into over 100 different languages, for example. In addition, the automatic noise cancellation feature helps reduce video meeting fatigue, Ravichandran said.
Similarly, smart cropping helps optimize the use of screen space during video meetings by removing excess floor and ceiling space and focusing on people.
Another feature, Mobile Camera Share, allows iPhone and iPad users to share content from either the rear- or front-facing camera via the Webex Meetings mobile app and annotate what they’re seeing. Users can write, draw, and add shapes in real time and simultaneously with other meeting participants, Ravichandran explained.
“This industry-first innovation enables [workers] to collaborate more effectively by leveraging the high-quality video-capture capabilities of Apple devices,” she said.
Ravichandran said the company has spent more than $1.5 billion on acquisitions, which are yielding returns on investment in the form of ongoing growth with its customer base, which includes 95% of Fortune 100 companies.
Letsmeet tackles meeting scheduling
Gilles Raymond, Founder and CEO of Letsmeet, said his platform allows users to schedule meetings with a single email, whether or not they work within a user’s own company, and whether or not they are registered users of Letsmeet.
Users simply craft a single email to everyone they wish to invite to a meeting, and Letsmeet determines if those individuals are available, or registered on Letsmeet, before the email is sent. If the chosen invitees are not registered on Letsmeet, the sender can select two or more alternative meeting times, and the recipients can choose their preferred time.
Meetings automatically populate in the recipients’ Google or Apple calendars.
Raymond said the company’s customer acquisition has been largely organic, as new users are constantly signing up through meeting invitations.
“Letsmeet has a viral effect as part of the DNA of the product,” he said. “Hosts set up meetings with several guests that are not registered on Letsmeet, and they can be inside or outside the company. Each guest is organically exposed to our brand and service through the invitation they receive.”
Between 5% and 10% of users register organically in this manner each month, Raymond said.
Letsmeet launched around the concept that has remained central to its mission: “One email equals one meeting scheduled.”
Customers embrace the concept of being able to schedule meetings with a single email, Raymond said.
For companies that allow employees to work from home, having a one-email meeting scheduling service can facilitate scheduling.
“Remote work is part of the DNA of Letsmeet as a product as well as for our company,” said Raymond.
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Published February 06, 2023