Signals #15 - Virtual Offices

Hi there,

2020 pushed us out of our offices. For better and for worse.

Remote work exploded and even the most rigid companies realized that work and location can actually be uncoupled.

Nevertheless, there are qualities of the physical office that are not easily replicated in Zoom. Enter virtual offices.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Signals #15 - Virtual Offices

❌ Challenge

  • Remote work made the positive parts of office life more difficult: bumping into a co-worker randomly, quick chats, spontaneous brainstorming and knowing who's truly available.

✅ Opportunity

  • Virtual offices bring back the advantages of a physical office by simulating the real-world spatial and audial experience.

⚙️ Actions

  • Select the right tool for your purposes.

    • The virtual office app landscape sits on a spectrum: in one end is the gamified visual approach (Gather). The other end is productivity-based (Tandem) with less visual interaction.
  • Use the virtual office to your advantage.

    • First, lay a proper foundation for hybrid work and productivity. Dedicate time also for deep focus. Schedule co-working times in advance with the team. Create dedicated spaces for projects inside the virtual office.

🔨 Tools

🚀 Pros

  • Collaboration and communication happen organically in virtual offices. The feeling of isolation is lower. Breaks tend to be more social.

  • Virtual office apps can act as a meta-coordination layer for other apps and events. As Teamflow puts it, the point is to eliminate the "Cmd + Tab fatigue".

🚧 Cons

  • If people hated offices in the first place, why would recreating one virtually solve anything? Synchronous work does not work for all people. In the worst case, there could also be a temptation to control employees. Virtual offices are definitely not a panacea.

  • Many argue that remote work succeeds best with async methods. Especially so when teams are spread across different time zones.

📊 Cases

  • Multiple virtual office platforms have secured significant funding roundsTeamflow has raised a total of $14.9 million. Gather got $26 million in March 2021. Teemyco received $1 million in September 2020.

  • Teamflow is reportedly making hundreds of thousands of monthly revenue only after 2 months of operation.

  • Gather is making a revenue of $400,000/month.

🕘 Forecast

  • 2D is just the start. Infinite OfficeSpatial and Arthur let you create immersive 3D meeting rooms and handle virtual objects that the whole team can interact with. Actual location will dictate less and less where and how we can work.

  • How a future day in office could look like with Spatial's "virtual reality Zoom". Facebook's vision here.

📚 Resources

🏆 Takeaways

  • Most office equipment has already been replaced with software. Now the same is happening with the actual office spaces.

  • 2D visual approaches to office layouts are just the start. Next years will see even more immersive office experiences as VR and AR kick in.

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🤝 Thanks for reading. See you next week!

  1. 2

    https://hol.is will be available in the next months too. Currently in closed beta, created by me.

    1. 1

      Nice addition, I missed this. Curious, how are you implementing the project management part?

      1. 1

        Sorry for the late response, we firmly believe that project management and remote communication should be managed from one place to improve the performance of remote teams.

  2. 2

    Before Covid I wanted to build one of those on the side, glad I never got past the prototype stage I wouldn't have wanted to compete with hundreds offering the exact same thing 😁

    1. 1

      It's definitely a crowded space right now. Yet there's not a single really widespread application taking over the market yet. I think there are still possibilities for differentiation and novel approaches. Most apps mentioned above try to do very similar things.

      I think whoever can make remote work feel less tiresome/more natural and lower the friction for remote collaboration is in a good place for the next five-ten years.

      1. 2

        My big problem with those above is kind of the always on mentality that's coming from slack.

        So it's gonna be interesting for sure how they will deal with this. 🤔

        1. 2

          I agree. I did see features that enable deep focus by indicating to others that you should not be disturbed now.

          Also, the other dogma is that async working is the way to go. It's interesting to see how it pans out between these two methods. Probably most organizations will adopt a hybrid approach.

          1. 1

            Yeah true. Even tho having to rely on dnd is most likely a symptom of a broken culture imo but that probably ties into your second point :)

  3. 2

    Thank you for sharing, @timosarkka! This was a great read. Never seriously thought about something like this but some people really love it.

    1. 1

      Great that you liked it Bob! Personally I think these will become a lot more common towards the next few years.

  4. 1

    Hey, Josh from Friday.app here. (Thanks for linking to one our articles!)

    As noted, does the virtual office really need to be re-created with people working at the exact same times?

    This actually eliminates one of the benefits of remote work--flexible work. People working asynchronously, but still communicating every once in awhile thru synchronous meetings & meetups. Not always on.

    We're building out the remote operating system for companies, you can read more about the vision here https://friday.app/p/friday-asynchronous-operating-system-for-remote

    1. 2

      Async philosophy definitely gets my personal vote :) I think you have a great approach and a vision. When I'm next time working in a team setting definitely will be trying this one out!

      1. 1

        thanks, we're excited about it! (p.s. you can try out our planner as an individual if you want to give it a spin: https://friday.app/software/daily-planner)

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