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.