Startups sprint to bridge gap between in-person, remote work

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As more businesses adopt a hybrid model, tech startups are looking to cash in on the tools to support remote work, according to a July 6 report by The New York Times.

Companies dished out $317 billion last year on IT for remote work, and that spending could increase to $333 billion this year. This opens the floor to startups looking to cash in on the transformation process.

In May, 100 companies were surveyed by consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which found that 90 percent of organizations plan to utilize a hybrid-work model in the post-pandemic era.

Remote work models can be lucrative to employees who are introverts, who have disabilities, who prefer to work odd hours and who have caregiving responsibilities. Yet, it potentially can make remote workers "second-class" citizens who miss out on the camaraderie of working in person. Because of this, remote workers risk missing out on raises or promotions, Kate Lister, president of consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics, said.

Startups can combat this by replicating the office environment using digital tools. In one example, Kumospace, a video-calling startup, allows employees to enter a virtual room. Using arrow keys, they can navigate through the room and talk to people when they are near. The program tries to replicate the multiple conversations that happen in a room or office space simultaneously when in person.

Another startup, Owl Labs, makes a 360-degree video camera that is placed in the center of a conference table. The $999 camera automatically zooms in on the person who is speaking. This technology allows remote employees to always have a view of the speaker, compared to seeing whatever is in the line of sight of a company laptop.

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