Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
PROVO — As the business world deals with the issues that come with the lingering prevalence of remote work, a new Utah-based tech company has launched a potential solution: a new platform that allows remote and hybrid companies to build a virtual office space for their employees.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the business world largely became virtual, which opened up some flexibility for some employees but also came with the challenges of figuring out how to maintain a corporate culture and environment, as well as fostering collaboration without in-office interaction, explained MyHive co-founder, serial entrepreneur, author and Apple and Adobe veteran Dano Ybarra.
MyHive's mission is to digitally empower companies to provide remote employees with a way to virtually work "in office" through a customizable platform that enables employees to meet, collaborate and work like they would in a traditional brick-and-mortar office space.
MyHive allows employers to create a digital layout of an office with spaces like desks, cubicles and conference rooms. The offices come in predefined layouts like those a typical corporate office, a classroom, a small law clinic and many others. Businesses can also create their own custom layout. For instance, iMpact Utah, a nonprofit training organization, virtually recreated their physical office on the MyHive platform.
On MyHive's own virtual office space, employees from Brazil, Egypt, the Philippines and many other countries are mingling in virtual conference rooms discussing work projects. Visitors wait in a virtual lobby until they are admitted.
Employees show up as avatars that can move around the office into different rooms to speak to different people through audio or video conferences, Zoom-style. The digital representation can show employers and other employees whether someone is online or away, on a call, speaking to others in a meeting, or working in or out of the office. There is also an in-house Slack-like chat option for employees to message each other quickly and directly.
"Why pay for multiple licenses if you don't need them?" Ybarra explained, noting that having all of these features integrated into one platform can also make it easier to manage instead of flipping back and forth between platforms. "Thank goodness Zoom and Slack were around during the pandemic, but now we have to sit back and think about long-term."
Users can pop into a room to quickly ask a question like they could in a real-world office. Workers who want to have a private meeting can lock down one of the virtual conference rooms so only invited people can join or hear the conversation. And audio, video and text is encrypted, so employers and employees alike can have their personal and work data stay secure.
"Our vision and the goal of what we're trying to do here is to humanize the digital workplace," Ybarra said. "Our company is comprised of an all-star cast of business leaders, technology visionaries, HR practitioners and some of the world's most experienced and accomplished entrepreneurs and industry veterans who are dedicated and excited to pave the path for companies supporting virtual teams."
Pew Research data from December 2020 showed that a majority of the American workforce is working remotely. Of these employees, 62% said they rarely or never worked remotely before the pandemic. Even after the vaccine was released and offices started having the option of returning to in-person work, some chose not to pay for the office space or created a hybrid digital/in-person workforce to allow employees more flexibility.
The Pew data shows that 54% of employees are planning to stay working remotely indefinitely, and the resurgence of COVID-19 with contagious new variants and potential vaccine and masking requirements add even more complexity to in-person work, and that's what drove the idea of creating a platform like MyHive.
"More people work from home and hybrid than ever before," Ybarra said. "We don't want to go back. We like this hybrid."
He has worked remotely for most of his career and has seen firsthand how it has allowed companies to employ people who might not be able to come into an office and bring in talent from all over the world.
But he has also seen firsthand the issues many global companies are now facing with remote work, like the isolation that comes with the pandemic and working from home, burnout from constant video calls, difficulty with scheduling, lack of strong relationships between co-workers that can lead to collaboration, the need for technology and training on how to use that technology and the difficulties managers face in knowing what is going on with their employees.
"What I'm most excited about is also one of the biggest challenges. Studies have verified that we have a lot of the creativity because we lost a lot of the spontaneity," Ybarra said. The ideas that can come through water-cooler talk or just sitting down together in a room to brainstorm have notably been more difficult to recreate, he explained.
Among their clients, they've noticed that even when people are in the physical office, they will turn to MyHive instead of gathering in rooms.
"Even within office communications have improved. We're bringing people back together and doing it virtually," Ybarra said.