Thanks to the pandemic, groups are more widespread than ever before. For some companies, that has led to a disconnect between lower-level workers and management, the latter of whom are generally skeptical of remote work. According to a study from Goodyear, 75% of managers are looking for employees in the office, which can lead to a lack of focus and the loss of company culture. But in a separate poll by McKinsey, 87% of workers said they would welcome the opportunity to work remotely if given the choice.
Mika Remley, chief executive of Robin, argues that businesses can have their cake and eat it with the “hybrid” way of working – that is, having employees work in the office for part of the week and telecommute for the rest. Remley joined Robin after Brian Moses and twin brothers Sam and Zach Dunn founded a startup to help companies manage office space using backup software.
“We want C-suite leaders, utilities and IT teams to understand that proactive hybrid workplaces don’t involve complex technology or elaborate rollout plans,” Remley told TechCrunch in an email interview. “For every leader, our platform removes barriers to entry into the office and creates a choice-centered workplace. When employees have choice, returning to the office becomes more about order and communication.”
In the year Launched in 2014, Robin is a conference room scheduling app. But over the past 8 years, the platform has expanded to handle various table bookings, room reservations and guest management. Accessing Robin on the web or mobile, employees can request rooms, desks and equipment before arriving at the office. Clients who opt-in to Robin’s guest check-in features can use the platform to allow visitors to submit any paperwork required by office policy, such as releases and NDAs.
Remley describes PitchRobin as a way to track office usage over time. On the back end, managers can see how people use different spaces and tap a calculator to figure out the ideal number of seats, tables, and collaboration spaces per floor. A new capability, the “Global Hybrid Trends Dashboard,” displays usage statistics from other companies of similar size, sector and region, providing benchmarks.
“Robin takes the pain out by combining your favorites, your team, and the people you meet the most to make intelligent recommendations about when to come to the office and automatically suggest desks and slots near your colleagues,” he said. “Office utilization analysis gives managers visibility into who is using the office, when they are using it, and which areas are being used the most. As companies’ headcounts evolve over time, Robin helps clients understand how to optimize their space for changing times.”
Some employees may not be comfortable with that level of tracking. Robin anonymizes usage data, aggregating it across locations, floors, and buildings. However, it is not clear how much the platform will do. We’ve asked Remlin for clarification.
In addition to competing with office scheduling startups like Envoy, Officely and OfficeRnD, Robin’s main challenge is to ensure that hybrid work has staying power. According to TinyPulse research, more than 80% of HR leaders believe that hybrid settings are more stressful for employees than remote or fully in-office schedules. Some segments of the workforce aren’t as fussed about hybrids as others — Deloitte recently found that more than half of women who combine remote and in-office work “have experienced flexibility in their work style or will in the future” — but many of the logistical issues surrounding hybridity affect everyone. For example, balancing employees who come to the office with employees who stay at home.
As a piece in Computer World points out, hybrid work can be a “mine of inequity,” rewarding people who are more skilled and willing to work in an office. In a Gartner poll, 59% of female knowledge workers — who, the poll found, are more likely than men to express a preference for remote work — think office workers are more productive, while 78% believe office workers are. They are more likely to promote.
Remley pushes back against the idea that a hybrid business is doomed to fail. Software like Robin can give companies the information they need to come up with a work strategy that appeals to most — if not all — employees. Either way, the startup has had no trouble lining up customers. Remley says thousands of teams, including militaries and governments and brands like Toyota, Twitter, Melchimp and Peloton, use Robin to organize their work.
At Voice of Investor Confidence, Robin today participated in a $30 million Series C round led by Tola Capital, along with FirstMark, Accomplice, Bolstart and Allegion Ventures. Remley said the capital — which has brought Robin’s total revenue to more than $59 million — will go toward platform development, global expansion and growing Robin’s headcount of more than 190 people.
“Robin focuses on hybrid work experiences, knowing that workplaces will eventually shift in that direction. The pandemic has driven that shift faster than anyone could have predicted,” Remley said. Many of our clients have reduced their commercial real estate footprint over the past two years and we expect this to continue. We don’t expect a broad return to the office as we think of work.… Workers don’t want this, and even in a recessionary environment a general return to the office doesn’t make economic sense.