Virtual offices: The next Slack or just a fad?

As I shared in a previous video, this summer I was working on a deep dive about the future of work, and one of the categories where we saw several startups raising money was virtual offices.

These startups, such as Cosmos, Tandem, Tymco or Gather, help businesses set up their own virtual office where employees can hang out and communicate. Most of them are based on a video game based format where each employee has a virtual avatar that can stroll around the office and interact with others.

I’m making this video because I still have to scratch my head around this model, and as I said in the title, whether it’s just a fad or if it has the potential to become the next slack. So I’ll be super happy to hear your opinion about it.

Value propositions

At its core, the promises of virtual offices startups is to help businesses recreate office serendipity, lower zoom fatigue and foster a real company culture in a post covif world where an increasing number of employees are working remotely in hybrid types working environments.

Serendipity

A major challenge of working remotely is that you lose the serendipity that happens at the office where you can just go and ask a quick question to your colleague located a few tables away. Or during the conversations at the water cooler. To recreate that feeling, several of these startups offer what they call “proximity based video chat”. Basically, whenever you move your avatar close to the avatar of a colleague, it will automatically open a video chat between both of you. No link needed, it’s just like when you go and see a colleague nearby. On Cosmos you can even co-work with specific colleagues on virtual desks.

Application hub

The majority of these platforms offer integration to the most popular SaaS, and let you aggregate as well as collaborate on the various documents, calendar and tasks that your team uses.

Company culture

A big issue with remote working is the feeling of loneliness that an employee can experience as well as the lack of a tangible company culture. To answer that problems these companies come with creative features such as built-in multiplayer video games or shared spotify sessions on Cosmos, the ability to visually customize your virtual office and even your own desk with a myriad of objects on Gather, or meditation sessions on Teemyco.

Just a fad or the next Slack?

As I said in the intro, I yet have to wrap my head around this model. On one hand, I find it super interesting and with a lot of potential. Especially when it comes to the company culture elements that enable you to spend good time with your co-workers or to contribute to your company culture even if you are not onsite. On the other hand I have the impression that this model has a lot of friction when it comes to user adoption. There’s probably a difficult chicken and egg problem to solve: if not enough of my coworkers are active I probably won’t find an interest in it. I’m also wondering if it’s just a gimmick that people will find fun at the beginning but will quickly get bored with.

Anyway, I would be super interested in hearing your opinion and whether on your side you find it interesting or not.

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