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Gusto Group, of Collingham, launches virtual office platform Collab

With people across the country having to work from home if they can, tech startup Collab has launched a virtual office platform to help.

Launching the first pilot this week, Collab ‘opened its doors’ to businesses that have signed up to experience how a virtual office works.

Behind the project is the tech team at Collingham-based Gusto Group, who, since the beginning of lockdown in March this year, have been working with different video conferencing platforms to create a more realistic experience for users.

Collab virtual office (43214709)
Collab virtual office (43214709)

Initially based on software designed to host virtual events, Collab has extended it to include virtual offices with coffee bars, fitness suites, board rooms and, of course, a desk for people to work at.

Steff Wright, chairman of Gusto Group and Collab, said: “Businesses that have been used to working from fixed premises with teams of staff all based in physical offices have had a very short time to adapt to a complete change in working habits.

“Teams that normally could look over their desk and speak to each other are now dozens of miles apart and communication is nowhere near as straightforward. That quick question is now an email, a scheduled call or sitting and waiting for a future Zoom meeting.

Collab virtual office (43214707)
Collab virtual office (43214707)

“Collab is designed to help businesses maintain more constant communication which we think will significantly improve efficiency of remote working.”

In Collab’s virtual office, colleagues can have one-to-one or group video conversations and can make use of additional features including screen-sharing, a communal whiteboard and chat functions.

The venue will have an initial capacity of 500 desks for businesses to try out the platform during the free pilot scheme in return for providing feedback.

Ellis Mather Group, Future Prospect Group, and Bluebird Care will be some of the first companies to trial the co-working space from this week, and they will be later joined by other businesses over the next two weeks.

Gusto Construction office manager Emma James said: “The Collab virtual office has been a great asset to the Gusto Group during the current pandemic.

“The virtual office gives you quick and convenient access to colleagues, whether they are in the office, working at home or on site.

“Having the Collab page open and seeing everyone sitting at their tables, knowing that they are just a click away, lessens the feeling of working alone. Being able to have a face-to-face conversation is hugely important and keeps you in touch and working together as part of a team, not to mention what it does for your wellbeing.”

Kerri McGarrigle will operate at the reception desk in her new role as virtual office manager for Nottinghamshire.

She said: “Businesses are having to adapt at lightning speed and are having to compromise to survive. We are hoping that Collab can both improve the efficiency of remote working while also increasing the wellbeing of remote workers by removing the feeling of isolation.”

The Collab team has already hosted local, national and global conferences, business clubs, and a glitzy awards dinner alongside community events and even a virtual wake.

The virtual offices are only a starting point for Collab, which is hoping to build other virtual venues such as conference halls, entertainment venues, student campuses and even sports stadiums.

Businesses can set up Collab virtual offices in their own regions at www.collab.org.uk

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