Virtual Coffee with SEG: Considerations for Returning to the Office

Coffee with Shamim Sahba and Ashkon Sabet, Co-Founders of OfficeSpace Software

How does a software company prepare to return to the office? Software Equity Group’s (SEG) managing partner, Allen Cinzori, had an opportunity to have coffee with Shamim Sahba and Ashkon Sabet, Co-Founders of OfficeSpace, to discuss this very topic.

OfficeSpace is a leading SaaS-based platform for managing the workplace that gives forward-thinking companies the tools they need to engage employees, manage moves, maximize space, and keep real-estate costs low.

Here are some highlights from the discussion. View the video below for the full discussion:

There are many offices that have a bullpen-type environment. Should employers segment their workplaces to be partly virtual and partly in office? Creating a shift-based strategy, where certain employees come in on different days? Can reconfiguration of the layout of a business resolve the social distancing issue?
  • We’re finding a whole combination of outcomes. One part of it is really looking at your layout and seeing how much reconfiguration is necessary and determining what are the areas you are going to change. There are different types of strategies one can employ, just like the shift-based strategy you mentioned. People are looking at shifts in different regards as well. There are some who are looking at Monday/Wednesday teams and Tuesday/Thursday teams. Some are considering shifts by week, where one team comes in one week and the other team comes in the next week. Another thing we are seeing is a large movement and interest towards flexible desk arrangements in the workplace.
  • Fundamentally, I think everybody’s thinking of returning to the office in phases. For large companies, phase one would be essential people who need to be back. What’s interesting is that many of the companies we’ve spoken with consider essential employees to be those who have terrible working from home conditions. It’s not so much what’s critical to the company, but what is critical to the employees. They need a place where they can work efficiently.
  • One danger we are all exposed to is the spike in productivity in this working from home COVID environment. My feeling, and that of a lot of my clients, is that it’s an artificial spike that is not sustainable; that the spike in productivity is due to COVID and not normal working from home conditions. The key is to have the employees at the center of the decision-making process, so they feel comfortable coming back and they understand the risks associated with it. 
Any guesses on what we are going to see 3-5 years from now that’s a direct result of COVID-19?
  • Right now, we are too close to the situation to be able to extrapolate that far ahead. If there is a vaccine, there could be a return to whatever the “new normal” will look like. Remote work will continue post-COVID, but there is hard to replace the value that people get from being on premise. There is a lot up in the air right now, and a lot of companies are asking themselves how they can take an employee first approach towards making sure their employees are safe and have the tools they need. If anything is clear, it’s that the new workspace is going to have to be extremely well wed to technology, with tooling to allow a tight integration between the physical and digital workplaces.
If I’m a CEO of a SaaS company today, what are one or two key things that I should know about planning to head back into the workplace?
  • The optics of a safe environment are critical at this time. Be mindful of how you project to your employees what you’re doing, and make sure these things are communicated extremely well. Don’t promise them a safe environment but promise that you’ve mitigated the risks in certain ways. If they’re comfortable with these mitigations, they should feel safe coming back to the office. So much of this will come down to people’s appetite to return. The best we can do is create an environment where they feel safe and be highly productive.

“Virtual Coffee with SEG” are conversations with industry experts, providing real-time insights into the current market and self-help advice to SaaS CEOs and operators. 

Please  reach out if you’d like to discuss how current events may impact your software company’s near and long-term plans. View our last Virtual Coffee With SEG: A SaaS Operator’s Roadmap to Better Retention and Revenue Growth.