Nine Four Insights

Remote Work: Technology Solutions to Transition

With the current state of worldwide health concerns due to COVID-19, many companies are leaning (or will eventually be forced) towards changing their day-to-day communication strategy by asking employees to work from home. With so many uncertainties, how will people adjust, and what companies will take charge to help with the transition from our everyday norm?  

We already see a widespread adjustment; Google advised all North American employees to work from home and in highly affected cities, Microsoft, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook have done the same.  While these technology companies are better positioned to take on the unforeseen adjustment, many others aren’t as fortunate – scrambling to understand what solutions are needed to keep their companies operational.

Technology platforms, such as Slack, Google, Microsoft, and Zoom are all providing companies a hand in their current transitions, some of which are offering their software for free and are working diligently to ensure they can accommodate the growing demand. For example, Zoom has lifted time limits on its video calls for the free versions in China, schools in Japan, Italy, and the US (by request). Additionally, Zoom has seen a stock increase of over 47% in the past month – with this; there is no doubt thoughtful founders will take note, leading to a surge in future-of-work-related startups that will support a more distributed workforce without sacrificing productivity. That said, there is no substitute for recreating the culture and energy of working hand in hand with teammates in the same office. As a result, when the concerns of COVID-19 begin to wane, or even if we’re living in the new normal, employees will eventually return to the office and these new tools will give executives the confidence to continue flexibility working schedules and perhaps open new offices out of state.

Nine Four portfolio company BeyondHQ is an excellent example of a startup leading this charge – the platform enables growing companies to simplify their new office expansion plans with the help of their technology and expertise. A recent Wall Street Journal article highlighted how the company is working to attract funding and employees to cities outside of the traditional tech hubs on the coasts. With this, there is also the valued (new or not) ability to build out collated remote teams, potentially lowering a variety of considerable overhead.  According to the article, Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and San Jose, Calif.—accounted for 90% of all US high-tech job growth between 2005 and 2017. A platform such as BeyondHQ opens up the possibility for centralized companies to tap into cities that are less dense yet still have impressive education systems and talent pools.  If more companies become comfortable with the idea of collated remote work, given myriad formable future-of-work tools, it could potentially promote a much more distributed work network, especially within the tech sector, across the United States, and the rest of the world. 

Only time will tell how employers will modify the future-of-work, but it will be interesting to see if there is a productivity shift or perhaps a value-add to allowing employees to work from home.  The new reality that comes along with COVID-19 may inadvertently showcase the benefits of remote work, and with this, I anticipate that we will see an influx of tech companies rise to the occasion.

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