Published: June 16, 2020
Because the shock has been so significant economically, a consensus has emerged fairly quickly that there will be no return to 'normal,' but more of a phased journey into a new environment. Over that journey, we expect more businesses will support a hybrid workforce model with more relaxed requirements to be physically in an office. These developments have caused a growing number of technology vendors to eye the opportunity to support this shift.
Many productivity tool vendors are (and were before the crisis) targeting the remote and distributed work trend that was slowly gaining acceptance. This report will profile a selection of newer vendors either entirely pitching themselves as remote work enablers, or with a particular skew for it.
We separate these vendors into five main buckets – those focusing on employee communications and collaboration, those looking to enable virtual meetings, vendors supporting new hiring and payroll dynamics, and those offering new co-working spaces for when employees look to work beyond their company office but in a shared space.
The 451 Take
The pandemic and ensuing quarantine of millions has been uniquely abrupt and profound in impacts. One of the things it's done is force on businesses an experiment in whether they can adequately support remote work for employees that previously had little experience or inclination to do so. We believe that having assessed the opportunity cost of bringing employees back into the office, some of the shift to remote work will stick. Productivity tool vendors have already responded, with many targeting what they think will be growing and sustained openness to more varied work practices including remote and distributed work. Our coverage here is in no way intended to be exhaustive, nor is it advocating for any of the vendors. It's designed to highlight where and how the supply side is responding to the potential for a shift long-term to more remote and distributed working.
Communication and Collaboration
Maintaining office culture and established conventions for collaboration can be difficult when done remotely over voice and video chat. These companies want to bridge this gap by supporting team communication, team building and effective meetings.
Around offers a video product that enables users to communicate and work on the same screen. The company is developing other functionalities such as AI-based face tracking and background noise suppression to remove unnecessary distractions during meetings.
Blink targets remote and frontline workers with an intranet offering combining news feeds, organizational directories, messages and search into a centralized hub. It also supports frontline workers by allowing its customers to create, publish and distribute important paperwork for activities such as onboarding.
deepTalk automatically transcribes and summarizes audio from meetings using AI and natural language processing. From these transcriptions, the platform extracts action items, decisions and key insights, which can be shared with team members to improve collaboration. Users can also apply the same technology to past recordings by uploading them onto the platform.
Fellow is designed to help managers and their teams run more effective meetings. Teams can collaborate on meeting agendas, action items and goals, and employees can send feedback to their managers. Other functionalities include meeting histories and notifications, so teams can avoid repeating information from meeting to meeting, and managers are always aware of upcoming appointments.
Fireflies allows users to record, save and transcribe audio files from meetings. These recordings can then be searched and edited, enabling users to identify and share the most important parts of their meetings. Along with these functionalities, Fireflies can also auto-populate CRM tools with this information, connecting conversations with data to support interactions with clients and customers.
Grain enables teams to record, edit, transcribe and share parts of Zoom calls as well as apply closed captions. Recordings can then be shared over different platforms including Twitter, Discord, Slack and iMessages.
InvolveSoft offers an intranet platform that centralizes communications across an enterprise through pinned announcements, newsletters and text notifications, which users can respond to through comments and surveys. It integrates with other communications platforms and, through AI and natural language processing, aims to identify trends and knowledge gaps within an organization.
Jam facilitates face-to-face meetings and collaboration by mapping an organization's communication network. The platform can connect employees with those who have the knowledge to answer their questions. After identifying the correct worker, it automatically schedules a meeting and provides talking points to jump-start the conversation. When the process is complete, Jam creates a report with specific metrics for managers so they can see how the platform is affecting the organization.
Knock offers a meeting application aimed at reducing friction within remote teams. Users can approach one another through a virtual office environment, which initiates an instant audio chat.
Krisp.ai offers AI-powered technology for background-noise suppression that is performed locally on a user's device. The company delivers it through a desktop application or Chrome extension, which integrates with different conferencing applications.
Loom allows users to record, edit and share a recording of their screen along with a video in order to speed up communication. The company asserts this method is faster than sending an email, and can help teams avoid unnecessary meetings.
Loop Team simulates an office environment through quick video meetings with screen sharing and recording. In addition, the technology generates discussion highlights from each meeting, and within those highlights are summaries, insights and action items. These can be saved, so if an employee misses a meeting, they can catch up afterward.
Meetric aims to streamline meetings by optimizing scheduling. Users can access previous agendas and attendees to help schedule future meetings, and invite individuals to attend for only portions of a gathering. The platform allows for collaborative note taking along with detailed time tracking to keep meetings from running over their scheduled times. Once the meeting is complete, a summary is automatically shared, and items that were not covered are sent to participants for a follow up at a later date.
Meetter aims to make meetings more efficient by consolidating them to specific times during the workday and to a single topic, creating more time for employees to be productive. The platform is able to automatically calculate optimal meeting times while enabling recordings, transcriptions and collaborative notetaking. Meetings can be shared over Slack, and past recordings are searchable within the platform.
Miro offers an online whiteboard where teams can collaborate in real time or asynchronously through premade or customizable templates. The product can be used for meetings, product development, workshops, agile workflows and brainstorming. Users are also able to share their screens and communicate though embedded video, messaging and commenting.
Mural offers a digital whiteboard that facilitates collaboration through planning, brainstorming and designing. Users can create virtual sticky notes, which they can organize in lists, flowcharts, diagrams, frameworks, methods and drawings. Teams can start from a blank canvas or preconfigured template, and work on the same projects simultaneously through a shared screen.
Paldesk consolidates live chat and helpdesk communications from multiple sources into a single window so teams can interact with customers without having to switch between tools. These can be saved and searched to review previous customer conversations. An automated chat bot can answer questions while employees are offline.
Pragli offers a virtual office for remote teams. Users can create avatars that tell them if members of their team are available; if so, a video call can be started by clicking on their avatar. Screen sharing is also a feature.
Remotion has created a video communication and screen-sharing application where teams are represented through pictures located in a small window on a user's screen. Users can set themselves as available or busy, and when a conversation is started, the video is played within the window so users can continue working without it blocking their screens.
Sike Insights analyzes Slack communications with the aim to create employee profiles that managers can use to adapt their style as they engage with their teams. It also provides recommendations to help motivate teams and improve collaboration.
Spike consolidates communications from emails, collaboration tools, chat messages and calendars into a single view so users can go to one application to respond to all of their messages. In addition, the company enables group chatting, voice and video calls, search functionality and file previews within the platform.
Standups helps workforces that are distributed and work across time zones communicate through short video and voice clips. Much like Snap and Instagram Stories, the platform allows employees to share information and comment on individual videos, since they can access messages at any point in time after they are created.
Tandem offers a collaboration tool that allows employees to view which applications their coworkers are using, and collaborate on the same screen using shared cursors. Along with this functionality, the company offers minimalistic voice and video chat for one-on-one or group calling, so teams can communicate without the UI blocking the projects on their screens.
Threads helps remote teams communicate across time zones through an interactive dashboard. Users can post announcements, comment on other posts and monitor which employees view the message, which the company claims can facilitate faster decision making and help new employees experience company culture.
Twist organizes team communications into a hierarchy of topic-focused channels, which the company believes reduces confusion by avoiding long email chains and group chats, where information is often lost as conversations move from topic to topic. The platform also has search features along with one-on-one and group messaging capabilities.
Whereby uses the WebRTC standard to enable video meetings within a user's internet browser. Users can also share their screens, record meetings and communicate through private messages within the platform.
Yac aims to support remote team collaboration through asynchronous audio messaging and screen recording. Users can also annotate their videos with markings, search audio transcriptions of past messages, send messages to those outside of the organization and create private teams.
Changing the Way People Meet
Many companies have cancelled their in-person events, a trend we think will remain after quarantines end and employees start traveling again. The vendors detailed here are eyeing the virtual conference market.
Airmeet facilitates networking through virtual events. Event organizers can publish event details, manage relationships and host their event. After an event is started, users can congregate at social lounges for networking, presenters can meet backstage for planning, and audiences can participate in presentations through Q&A. The company says it is able to host hundreds of attendees simultaneously.
HeySummit helps clients create, manage, run and analyze their online summits. The company produces custom landing pages, onboards and manages speakers, customizes registration, and collects data throughout the event. Along with these features, the company enables live or pre-recorded webinars and integrates with some video players.
Hopin facilitates large remote events by adapting their online platform to match real-world scenarios. After an event is created, attendees can visit receptions, event stages, networking rooms, special event sessions and booths. Within the platform, event organizers can add or subtract different experiences to customize the event to match their desired outcome. The company claims the product is scalable, and can handle thousands of attendees.
Livestorm offers services for live and pre-recorded webinars. Features include sign-up and hosting services, screen sharing, chat rooms, Q&A, polling and recording. The company also collects analytics related to engagement and attendee demographics, which can be exported in multiple formats or sent to CRM and marketing tools.
Remo is an online event platform built for networking. This is accomplished through a two-dimensional map where users, who are represented through their avatars, can 'sit' at tables and interact with each other through video chat. When users enter certain locations, they are automatically connected through voice to those within their proximity. The platform also allows for presentations and Q&A through a chat box on the screen.
vFairs helps clients host virtual career fairs, conferences and trade shows. When attendees join an event, they are sent to a custom landing page that describes the event, and displays multiple interactive booths. In these different areas, booth representatives can communicate one-on-one with attendees through text, audio and video. The platform also collects information on registration numbers, turnout and booth attendance to help companies understand what elements successfully engaged the audience.
Remote Work After Returning to Work
As life normalizes, some people will return to communal spaces for work. In this sense, as more employees have the option to work remotely, they will look to these spaces for a change of scenery, to be productive and to reduce their commute times.
Codi connects workers to open spaces within residential locations. The goal of the program is to allow homeowners to fill empty workspaces with those who want to reduce their commute by working remotely.
Switchyards offers locations within Atlanta, Georgia, neighborhoods for remote workers. Within these areas, which the company chose because they are easily accessible to locals, are different amenities including coffee and tea, focus areas and phone booths for calls.
WorkChew connects remote workers to full and quick-service restaurants. The company provides private areas in restaurants with amenities like high-speed internet to allow workers to eat, work and network in these spaces. The company recently started two new programs during the pandemic: JustChew, which connects restaurants to WorkChew members, and WorkChew Virtual, an online community that keeps members connected through cooking activities.
These vendors are aiming to help companies find and secure top talent from different geographies.
Bolton Remote helps companies scale their operations with remote talent from around the world. Bolton works with companies to understand the skills required for the position, and hand picks candidates based on these requirements. Organizations can then book interviews through the company's online portal, and Bolton facilitates the interviews and gathers feedback. The company can also help with onboarding and training, along with goal-setting for new employees.
CrewScale helps companies hire tech talent from around the world. The company manages the hiring process through a four-step filtering system. Once the job requirements are set, CrewScale taps into its pre-assessed candidate pool and finds developers who match the job description. The company interviews the candidate, and administers technical and project-based tests. The hiring company can sit in during the process to ensure the candidate is right for the role.
Distribute Consulting supports companies in their transition to working remote by advising them on financial and legal issues. Other services include change management, policy and workflow creation, leadership training and content creation. The company also can help organizations hire a 'head of remote' to lead the transition.
Distributed helps companies find, hire and manage remote developers. This allows companies to scale their employee count based on delivery dates and needs. Distributed vets the candidates and also provides a delivery lead (primary point of contact), technical lead (a team leader) and a quality-assurance lead who works with the hiring company to ensure projects are satisfactory and delivered on time.
Notch aims to help enterprises quickly find and hire developers who have experience working with major technology stacks. The company maintains a network of talent from around the world that are vetted through technical and behavioral tests. After hiring, Notch manages the payroll, administration and support for these workers, allowing companies to scale their operations based on business need.
Turing helps organizations quickly find skilled developers through an AI-based matching system. The company vets developers before they are entered into the candidate pool through rigorous tests covering major tech stacks, coding algorithms, systems design and more.
The benefits that stem from a global workforce are becoming more apparent, but the ability to serve employees working in multiple locations is a major organizational challenge. By simplifying global payroll and ensuring tax compliance and accuracy for their customers, these enterprises aim to remove a lot of the friction associated with supporting global teams.
Boundless helps SMBs manage payroll and HR compliance for a global workforce. The company ensures compliance with local employment laws, processes local payroll, files taxes, issues pay slips and facilitates salary payments.
Deel offers services that simplify hiring, onboarding and payroll for global workforces. Using a team of labor law experts, the company minimizes compliance risks and handles tax documentation for any geography. The platform also enables one-click payments for employees.
Neeyamo offers a multi-process human resources outsourcing service. The company provides benefits and compliance support for remote workforces, and specializes in global payroll management, global background checks and HR cloud transformation.
Oyster HR offers payroll and compliance products for a global workforce. The company aims to solve the complexities that revolve around hiring talent from different countries while reducing the cost of this activity. It also offers benefits support for global workforces.
Papaya Global streamlines the process of hiring, onboarding, managing and paying a global workforce. The company offers self-service onboarding along with automated payroll auditing and verification. Along with these functionalities, Papaya produces detailed reports of its findings that can be exported to Excel or pushed to BI tools for analysis.
Remote handles payroll, benefits, compliance and taxes for global teams. Along with these services, the company helps with onboarding and document management. Remote also provides access to a team of international employment experts and to a remote talent network.
Remote Team helps organizations manage a global team through automated payroll, time off and tax compliance. The company has partnered with TransferWise to facilitate global payments, and Remote Team handles tax compliance though digital tax form collection and validation. The company also provides a dashboard that tracks total employees and their locations.
The vendor profiles here are given as examples of other areas and use cases related specifically to remote work that vendors are addressing.
Beyondhq helps companies quickly find optimal locations for their operations based on talent in the area, business strategy and cost parameters. The platform allows companies to select criteria, and then compare different locations based on their preferences. The company also helps organizations source office equipment vendors.
Firstbase offers a platform that enables companies to purchase equipment for their remote workers. The company, through a monthly fee, delivers, upgrades, maintains, repairs and re-collects the equipment it provides. Firstbase believes it is providing a scalable offering for remote workforces that is cost- and time-efficient, while also promoting a safer work-from-home environment.
MetaCert aims to protect teams and remote workers from phishing and malware attacks by identifying malicious links and websites. If a user attempts to access a malicious link, MetaCert will display a warning and block them from accessing the site. The company is also able to protect users from shortened links that can be reasonably trusted and accidentally clicked.
Chris Marsh sets the vision for and manages 451 Research's Workforce Productivity and Collaboration practice. His own research focuses on workforce productivity software including the project, team, task, content and innovation management applications into which businesses are putting more of their data and workflows; general worker productivity suites; technologies such as on-device workspaces, containers, partitions and endpoint management tools giving access to and providing security around productivity software; and the middleware technologies and workflow engines influencing how application experiences are designed and consumed.
Matthew Utter is a Research Associate at 451 Research. Prior to joining 451 Research, he conducted quantitative and qualitative academic research ranging from financial analysis to Arabic cultural and language studies. Matthew graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Florida with degrees in Information Systems and Arabic.
As an Analyst in 451 Research’s Information Security Channel, Patrick Daly covers emerging technologies in