Startup founders offer predictions on the future of the workplace

The beginning of this new yr marks an opportune time to mirror. Whereas we’ve all fortunately waved goodbye to 2020, enterprise leaders nonetheless face an incredible deal of uncertainty as we flip the nook.

In my function as the head of Slack Fund, Slack’s enterprise capital arm, I’ve the pleasure of talking with and supporting entrepreneurs and startup founders, as half of our mission to to put money into and collaborate with the subsequent nice wave of enterprise software program firms. Since beginning up the fund in 2015, we’ve made greater than 85 investments throughout North America and Europe, together with firms like efficiency administration software program Lattice, digital occasion platform Hopin, and digital whiteboard Mural.

In latest weeks, I’ve spent extra time with many of our founders in the Slack Fund portfolio, digging in on the points which might be high of thoughts as 2021 begins to take form. As we think about what the future of work appears to be like like—whether or not completely distant, in-person, a hybrid format, or one thing else fully—these conversations took form as extremely vibrant, together with many distinctive views on the “subsequent regular.”
Furthermore, the survey acted as a barometer of recommendation and insights for all the founders. These outcomes revealed the greatest classes every founder discovered in 2020, in addition to the alternatives that lie forward.


Listed below are what founders thought-about at the high of their checklist of priorities this yr.

Create equitable worker experiences

There’s little question that nurturing superb work environments turned way more difficult final yr. Gone are the days of the on-site health club, free lunches, or in-person pleased hours. Fostering equitable worker experiences remotely is high of thoughts for our founders. About 83% of the founders surveyed agree that preserving workers engaged and related to their work has been a serious problem.

As founders embrace a hybrid or absolutely distributed future for his or her firms, they’re rethinking the environments they create for his or her workforce. One focus has been giving workers extra management of their expertise, with advantages like versatile working hours and residential workplace stipends.

Amy Spurling, CEO of Compt, an organization that empowers companies to offer extra versatile advantages, shares, “Beforehand when you have been fortunate, 10% of the workforce used the perks you introduced in. [Now,] I feel we’re swinging over to a way more wholesome dynamic between firms and workers, which I’m fairly excited to see.”

As workers take extra possession over their expertise, we’re additionally seeing extra flexibility in work schedules and insurance policies. My colleagues at Slack’s Future Discussion board, which a brand new consortium devoted to serving to leaders and companies thrive in the new financial system, discovered that breaking free of the 9-to-5 schedule and dealing a versatile schedule is one of the biggest indicators of happiness in distant employees. On high of that, workers with a versatile schedule reported a greater work-life stability, and scored almost twice as excessive on our productiveness index.

Cultivating company-wide well being

Constructing an organization is a problem in itself, by no means thoughts doing it throughout a worldwide pandemic. Our founders are well-aware of the significance of bodily and psychological wellness—for themselves and for his or her workers. Extra founders are embracing coaches and therapists than ever earlier than, and plenty of lean on a peer group of fellow founders for assist in powerful occasions.


They usually’re adapting worker advantages to match. Akshay Kothari, chief working officer of the digital workspace firm, Notion, shipped every of the firm’s workers a work-from-home set-up, full with standing desks and ergonomic chairs. Notion additionally bulked up the firm’s medical insurance plan so workers may just about see therapists and coaches.

“It was very well acquired,” Kothari says. “Personally, my work-life stability turned extra of a work-life concord. I ensure that to dam off time throughout the day to be a great husband and pa.”

Be bullish on hiring broadly

Our founders stay targeted on constructing their enterprise, with greater than eight in ten figuring out progress as their key focus for 2021. Two-thirds of Slack Fund-backed firms plan on rising their workforce by greater than 25% this yr.

Rising headcount whereas distant has been difficult, but it surely’s not been with out new alternative for a lot of founders, together with Dan Manian, CEO of Donut, a software program firm constructing workforce connections. He tells us, “We’ve been thrown into absolutely distant, which has been actually arduous. However on some degree, it’s fairly equitable; we’re all caught on this display collectively. By embracing distant work, we’ve flattened the earth just a little bit. We will rent somebody in Dublin and guarantee they really feel simply as a lot an element of the workforce as somebody that’s sitting in San Francisco.”

Use know-how deliberately

Leaders are more and more turning to, together with constructing new instruments to automate handbook work and refocus their groups on high-leverage duties. At the similar time amongst founders, there’s a rising acceptance there are too many instruments on the market and a few consolidation is inevitable. Clearly, new instruments must be centered round the current working programs of groups.

Iba Masood, CEO of Tara.AI, a piece administration software program, has constructed her firm round enhancing workflows for builders. “After we take into consideration the future of work, we’d like to consider the way to make the particular person customers’ lives simpler,” she says. “It’s about assembly individuals the place they already are. The most effective platforms will operate like layers on high of issues that exist already.”

Notion’s Kothari agrees: “I see a future the place software program will get extra consolidated, and that makes individuals much more productive. Persons are on the lookout for fewer instruments to do their work.”

Plan the workplace of the future

The bulk of our founders imagine the modifications of the previous yr can have a long-lasting impact. Whereas there will probably be a mini-renaissance of in-person work when the world is secure, distant work—and all the challenges and alternatives it brings—is right here to remain. Current analysis from the Future Discussion board discovered that 72.2% of data employees desire a hybrid remote-office mannequin in the future. And for founders, nurturing that atmosphere calls for considerate management.

Donut’s Manian sums up: “I feel hybrid goes to be messier. It’s going to current new challenges [and] alternatives for the way we construct relationships equitably, foster inclusion, and work productively collectively.”

After setting apart some additional time with our founders to deeply discover their priorities for 2021 and past, the future of work sounds extra thrilling than ever. After all, there will probably be challenges alongside the manner and new issues to resolve. However with considerate, empathetic, management and modern know-how, we’re transferring in direction of a extra inclusive, equitable future that may profit a bigger quantity of individuals

Jason Spinelli is an angel investor, an advisor, and the director of the Slack Fund, which invests in and collaborates with the subsequent nice software program firms constructing the future of work. Beforehand, Jason was the ventures director at Undercurrent, and the cofounder at Precog.