COVID-19 has brought about changes in the workplace that no one was expecting, from a nearly 100% shift to remote work to a barrage of Zoom employee social events. With the initial shock of work from home coming to an end, the next phase of navigating COVID-19 for many founders is the decision of whether and how to return their teams to the workplace. Founders are asking themselves a host of questions: When is it appropriate to have employees return to the office? What procedures, tools, etc do they need to put in place to monitor employee health and safety? What sorts of changes to facilities are needed?
Earlier this week we held a Portfolio2Portfolio working session for our founders on the topic of Returning to Work. Panelists from five of our portfolio companies that have solutions relevant to returning to work spoke to senior executives of other Next Coast Ventures portfolio companies. The panelists not only discussed their products’ value propositions to assist other firms returning to work, but also their own company’s adjustments to COVID-19, and future plans for returning to the office. We wanted to share some key takeaways from the founders and executives’ discussion on returning to work.
- Most companies on the panel are not planning on returning to their offices until August at the earliest.
- Employee sentiment is a key driver of most companies’ return to work plans. All founders felt it is critical to communicate with employees and understand their preferences and needs when designing a return-to-work plan.
- COVID-19 has created challenges for management teams, such as maintaining company culture and hiring new team members. At the same time some teams had found that committing to being fully remote opened up new opportunities such as complete geographic flexibility in hiring, and therefore potentially a pathway to recruiting a more diverse workforce.
- Software platforms can facilitate return-to-work planning and office utilization, including scheduling of utilization of particular work spaces and which employees can be present in an office on a particular day. Companies may benefit from this new generation of tools, including the ones offered by our portfolio company Swivel.
EverlyWell: Julia Cheek, Founder & CEO
After becoming the first digital health startup authorized by the FDA to offer an at-home COVID-19 test collection kit last month, EverlyWell has rolled out an enterprise COVID-19 testing solution to help businesses offer employees and family members safe and private at-home testing.
AlertMedia: Brian Cruver, Founder and CEO
AlertMedia enables companies to communicate across channels during crises and urgent situations, such as a pandemic, with employees. Their solution is a great tool for immediate communication related to COVID-19 such as threat monitoring, wellness checks, operational coordination, safety tips, and more.
Ceresa: Anna Robinson, Founder and CEO
Ceresa is meeting the virtual training needs of enterprise talent by providing a nine-month virtual leadership development program that includes executive coaching and external mentorships. Ceresa helps companies keep and grow the best talent by democratizing access to development training, 100% virtual and at scale.
Swivel: Scott Harmon, Co-Founder and CEO
Swivel is reimagining the office leasing experience. With the ability to represent properties virtually, Swivel can allow companies to tour office spaces online, toggle layout and furniture options and ask the leasing team questions. It continues to develop innovative technology powering agile property leasing, as well as flexible office layouts that are appropriate for the new normal of COVID 19.
Enboarder: Jacquelyn De Bonville, Customer Success Director
As an experience-driven onboarding platform, Enboarder helps companies onboard and offboard employees virtually, keep employees safe and informed, and prepares them for blended work, all while maintaining an important human connection.
During these unprecedented times, everyone is learning as they go. Having discussions and learning from others about navigating this pandemic is an important piece in developing a return to work plan for your company.
Thanks to all of our panelists for participating in this strategy session and sharing their insights.