The organizational-chart platform Pingboard launched in 2014 its office management tool focusing on the modernization of people management and corporate governance as a whole. Since then, the tool has changed and gathered more features. Although the US-based startup was not first built for remote work, it turned out to offer users vital features during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the arrival of the pandemic, Pingboard underwent a rebranding exercise. It launched a new brand about two months ago. The shift was meant to mark its transition to an employee networking software, where it saw there was a market opportunity to grow, as Cameron Nouri, VP of Growth at Pingboard, told LABS. “We noticed many companies were becoming increasingly disconnected and that was in part because some of them were geographically dispersed and some were starting to adopt remote work policy.”
As remote work was affecting the ability of employees to develop deep connections within their organizations, Nouri said that it also turned out to be a challenge to workers’ efficiency.
“The pandemic hits and you see that escalate. Now, if we are going to talk to many of our prospective customers, almost all of them are mentioning this challenge where their employees are disconnected and they use phrases like ‘nobody knows who is who and who does what'”.
Will corporate handshakes survive COVID-19? How to recognize a colleague that has done a good job virtually? How to properly onboard newly hired people who have never met coworkers in person? Trying to figure out how to answer these questions, Pingboard rebranded itself.
Nouri says Pingboard helps to enhance traditional work relationships, “like how to get your work done”, and also more personal relationships, like meeting people who connect to a deeper relationship with the business and its culture. For him, there was already a great opportunity in this regard, but the need is now more pressing. And as the need increases, demand follows.
From Pingboard’s perspective, there has definitely been an increase in users. Even though it does not disclose historical usage data, the company has currently over 325,000 workers using its platform.
Answering the timely topic question, Pingboard believes that remote work brought a huge change that will remain after the pandemic ends. “I think that this was a catalyst that helped push change faster and probably would have happened on its own,” said Nouri.
The rush helped companies to make different decisions when it comes to working remotely and what that means for their businesses. In Pingboard itself there are no plans to bring employees back to offices in 2020. Many of the startup’s employees have chosen to use this time to travel and work remotely in certain areas of the United States where the pandemic is under control.
“That is a shift already. If we look back a year ago, we probably wouldn’t be open to that. We have embraced remote work across the company and it is actually very beneficial for productivity,” he added.
Google, Facebook, and also not-exclusively software tech companies like Siemens are embracing new workspace models, and there seems to be a domino effect of more and more organizations starting to do the same. Nouri recalled that many companies that embrace the home office in the U.S. are giving up on their leases for their office space, recognizing that a huge percentage of their employees will shift permanently.
In talks to Pingboard’s potential clients, Nouri says they are sharing similar beliefs that remote work will become a policy that they would embrace in bigger ways than they had in the past.
“Almost everyone we talked to has mentioned that because they don’t know how long this is going to go on. They are embracing the idea that this will be a change that will be permanent to some degree.”
Pingboard’s total funding amount is $6.8 million, according to a CrunchBase estimative. It does not disclose the amount of partnered companies it has, but there are some referenced enterprises like Peloton, Duolingo, The Linux Foundation, Meetup, Turo, and The Motley Fool. It mainly attends companies that speak English, thus mainly those headquartered in the U.S., but it also operates in emerging markets – Brazilian unicorn EBANX, which owns LABS, is a Pingboard’s customer.
Embracing the idea that the future of work may change, even though life goes back to normal
For those working from home, Pingboard is focusing on connections. The idea is to find information that helps employees connect and celebrate each other virtually. “An example of this: we have a tool we call ‘Applause’ which is a peer-to-peer recognition software for employees or managers to be able to recognize an employee in a public way for doing great work,” explained the VP.
Saying “well done” in today’s environment has to happen through an email, on chat platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, or some type of video conference. With that in mind, Pingboard developed a way to do that synchronized with other remote work platforms. This is a kind of tool that Pingboard wants to keep investing in. It just launched a new enhancement to it, which will be completely managed within Slack.
“That information will get stored in Pingboard. There’s data there that can be shown for managers to recognize their employees when they want to look back and say all the greater things they did in a simpler way, and other employees can see it as well”. This will be Pingboard’s focus on this year and the next.
Another recently released feature is simply called “Connections”. It shows coworkers that have similar connections, looking at the user’s profile depending on what type of data he or she shared on Pingboard. “In our office, for example, we have different custom views set up for things like the school, college, or university we went to, and we can see people that may have gone to similar schools or where our hometowns are. Or more fun things like what their favorite drink is. Every company is a little bit different in terms of what they want to focus on.”
The integration with other remote work tools, such as Slack and Microsoft‘s Teams is also part of Pingboard’s ongoing strategy.
Slack is a great example of a company that adopts a very open mindset to partnerships. It recently made a partnership with Atlassian’s Trello as well. “We did work with Slack but it wasn’t like it was cumbersome to do that because they have developed a process that almost any business can create something that builds on top of their platform.”
Amid a pandemic that has left millions of people out of work, the home office can be a new indicator of economic inequality worldwide. It separates Latin America from North America, and also different regions of the same country.
According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), almost half of remote workers are allocated in the Southeast of Brazil, a region that concentrates more qualified professionals and a greater share of the country’s GDP. On the other hand, only 252,000 remote workers are in the North, the poorest region in the country.
In the United States, where Pingboard is based, most workers enjoy working from home. In a survey of 1,123 remote workers by The New York Times and Morning Consult, 86% said they were satisfied with the current arrangements. In Brazil, this satisfaction rate is lower. A survey from Instituto Travessia ordered by the newspaper Valor Econômico shows that of the 45% Brazilians who work remotely, 67% defined the experience as “good”.
When it comes to how Pingboard can help reducing work conditions inequality, Nouri thinks that finding mobile-focused solutions for those who do not have a good fixed-internet connection it’s a possibility.