What is the future of the office? Suddenly a question worth thinking about.
The Great Pandemic has caused an unthinkably rapid and radical shift in working habits. This forced experiment of sending most office workers around the globe home for several months has shattered the Overton Window for workplace and talent strategies.
Previously, we had the inertia and sunk cost of the corporate office, competing with a gradual (and still somewhat fringe) increase in remote work. Now, every executive around the world can reason about video calls, and every knowledge worker has experienced the joy of skipping their commute. And yet despite this tectonic shift, businesses that rely mainly on knowledge work are largely still humming along, more adaptable than anticipated. Clearly knowledge workers can keep working — and now they’ve had a taste, many will prefer some kind of distributed/hybrid work forever. Some workers are reconsidering where they live. This trial by fire is causing everyone to inspect more carefully – why do we need (and want) physical offices?
No need to go back and get that binder anymore
If we put aside inertia and norms, half the traditional problem of distributed work – access to resources – is already in the process of being solved. Gone are the days of paper pushing, and rising is the era of SaaS. I don’t print anything. I access my files and our CRM, in the cloud, from anywhere. I build apps in Coda, track projects in Clubhouse, work on anything visual in Figma. I get irritated when someone sends me a document without e-sign and I’m surprised when someone uses static Word docs.
“Do you have five minutes?”
However, the other half of the “value prop of the office” is still very, very hard to replace: access to one another.
The founders I work with at Greylock are spread across not just the Bay Area, but across Dublin, Paris, Tel Aviv, Chicago and Brooklyn. We have been talking to them, and other friends and executives, about the problems of remote collaboration for a year.*
Some things we’ve repeatedly heard:
“The cycle time on decisions is too slow. I don’t know what’s going on with my team.”
“I can’t wait to get back to the office. I miss talking to everyone, the office vibe, running into people in the hallway.”
“We can get by, but I don’t think we can tackle the really hard stuff, be creative. We just need to be in the same room.
“I’m worried about hiring new people remotely, that they won’t gel with the team.”
“I don’t have time to actually work. We’re stuck in exhausting, scheduled video meetings all day where maybe 3 of 15 people are engaged. It’s sucking the soul out of my day.”
This shift of office work to distributed work, for all its advantages, is hard. Company cultures vary dramatically. Many organizations won’t be able or willing to turn themselves into copies of the text and documentation-driven “remote pioneer” companies. We soon developed conviction that most teams would need new tools, tools that make distributed (and soon, hybrid) work, work better – in a way that feels human and accessible.
Enter Remotion: the video workspace for remote teams
Remotion is delightful, even in its barely-a-year-old infancy. Delightfully simple, and really, really good. It combines two things we miss from the office: ambient team awareness and frictionless, live communication.
Remotion is an always-present but never distracting video workspace that puts your team visually on your desktop as a dock. With a glance, you can see who’s open to talk, busy, focused — and what your team is up to. You can even see when teammates are talking to one another. Jumping into a conversation takes a single click, and then – in the middle of your ad-hoc conversation – it’s easy to pull in others.
The best measure of any product is change in human behavior. Remotion is the first tool we’ve seen whose customers say it has changed how they work together while distributed. Remotion-native teams make faster decisions, have fewer scheduled meetings, and feel more connected, creative and focused. It reduces the cost of communication in a team, and increases the likelihood of that communication. It allows teams to avoid the sinister Law of Meeting Expansion — that meetings will magically fill whatever time they are scheduled for, regardless of what work actually needs to be done. Half of Remotion calls are ten minutes or less. People don’t tune out or idly doomscroll Twitter during a Remotion call. They engage.
We’re really excited that Remotion is already working not just for tech companies, but for a more diverse set of teams across geos and industries — from YCombinator startups, to schools, to government teams.
In any early company we back, we look for product resonance, and a vision of the future that we subscribe to — but we mainly look for special people. We were immediately eager to work with Alexander Embiricos and Charley Ho, who met at Stanford and went on respectively to product at Dropbox and engineering at Google (by-way-of-Bebop-acquisition). They have great product taste and discipline, an exceptionally high quality bar, massive team velocity and extraordinary ambition for how happy and productive their users can be while remote. They, and the entire small-but-mighty Remotion team, live the distributed mission themselves, collaborating from 8 cities and counting.
I’m excited to have led the series A and joined the Remotion board. We’re happy to be joining forces with friends at First Round and angels who also believe, including Charlie Cheever (founder Quora, Expo), Dom Hofmann (founder Vine, Byte), Nate Mitchell (founder Oculus), and Steve Chen (founder YouTube).
Because of the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, the Remotion team is building in public and releasing uncomfortably early and often. I hope you’ll try the beta, available to all MacOS users. If your team includes Windows/Linux, please sign up for early access – they’re working on getting to you soon. They’re also hiring!
Now more than ever, our tools define how we work together. We’re thrilled to be supporting the Remotion team in making remote work feel less remote.
*Listen to some of these conversations on the Greylock WorkFromAnywhere podcast