VCs say 2021 will bring a new category of HR startups – Business Insider

  • There are some people who will rush back to the office as soon as it’s safe, but many others will opt for a flexible arrangement that lets them work from home some of the time.
  • The shift to “hybrid work” will lead new startups to create software solutions for businesses that help them manage people’s schedules and work preferences, even after their offices reopen.
  • That’s according to venture capital investors, who have spent the last year peering into their crystal balls to find financial opportunities in the fast-approaching future of work.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Google employees won’t be back in the office until September 2021, and even then they probably won’t be in every day.

Last month, Google told its 100,000 employees that once it’s safe, it expects them to report to the office at least three days a week, when it will pack in meetings and other face-time activities. They can work from home the other days.

It’s hard to imagine all office workers going back to their 9-to-5 routines in a post-pandemic world. What’s more likely, experts say, is many will opt for a flexible arrangement, like Google’s, that lets them customize their workweek.

Tech investors say the shift to “hybrid work” will create a new category of software to help companies keep track of people’s schedules and preferences, as well as figure out their real estate needs in cities where their workers live.

“If you’re someone who’s trying to plan real estate for Google, you do want to know how many employees are going to be coming into the office,” Sarah Cannon, a partner at Index Ventures, told Insider on a Zoom call.

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The typical work day will bend in other ways, with some choosing the days of the week and the hours they work, said Cannon, who’s invested in enterprise startups like Notion and Linear and was previously a Slack board observer.

For a company with more than a handful of employees, it could get complicated quickly. “There’s a freedom that comes with creating your own schedule,” Cannon said. “As an employer, you’re going to need to manage that.”

Software can also help businesses manage a workforce that is continuing to spread away from the headquarters. 

Microsoft plans to being reopening offices in January but will allow employees to work from anywhere on a case-by-case basis. Some companies, such as Coinbase and Twitter told their staffs they can work remotely forever. And Stripe will pay workers $20,000 to leave New York and San Francisco for a lower-cost city, but they have to take a pay cut.

“There will be a set of tools emerging that are a unique combination of global vision with a local touch,” said Shruti Gandhi, whose fund Array Ventures helps founders make early sales and develop their go-to-market strategies. She predicts these solutions will reduce the friction in managing a workforce from different countries and jurisdictions.

“Everything from onboarding, collaboration, performance measurement, and employee benefits will be areas where startups can look to build scalable, cost-effective solutions,” she said. “This phenomenon will allow for quality talent to be accessible from anywhere, allowing for more focus on building a company culture that fosters employee retention.”

To be sure, there are lots of companies already that develop software for human capital management, such as Workday, Zenefits, and Gusto. But Cannon said those solutions need updating for the modern workforce.

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There is no going back to the way things were, said JP Sanday, a partner at Menlo Ventures.

“It’s hard to believe that we are going back to five days of face-to-face in the office. But I also don’t think we are going to tolerate complete Zoom-only cultures, for the jobs that ‘could’ be done virtually,” Sanday told Insider in an email.

“The pendulum will swing back to the middle at some point and, like everything in life, we’ll realize everything is good in moderation,” he said.


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