With remote work, virtual workspaces grow in importance

As companies explore remote working, virtual workspaces grow in importance (Photo: HyperloopTT)

The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to some trends while accelerating many others within the transport industry. One such trend is virtual workspaces, which have taken hold as people under quarantine have been forced to work from home.

The startup culture within transportation has led to the prolific use of virtual workspaces like Workplace and Slack, as millennial employees are more inclined to work from home and remote locations. FreightWaves spoke with Andrea La Mendola, the COO of hyperloop technology company HyperloopTT, to understand how virtual workspaces can be leveraged to run an efficient organization. 

La Mendola initiated the discussion by pointing out the significance of the idea of “a community” was for HyperloopTT. The company started out as a community project in 2013, where roughly 100 people from across the world joined hands to work on the hyperloop project. The company grew over the years to employ over 800 people today, with more than 50 strategic partners that work with HyperloopTT to realize hyperloop commercialization.

With employees spread across different continents, HyperloopTT required a virtual working platform that allowed coordination among all the complexity. “We had to understand how best to work with our community being a distributed workforce. And the challenge was not just the coordination initiative itself, but also to get people to participate in a unified effort to create one culture and one mission with clearly defined goals and objectives,” said La Mendola. 

HyperloopTT tried different virtual workspaces, finally zeroing in on Workplace. Workplace is a Facebook-owned online collaboration platform that connects people virtually. HyperloopTT has credited its completion of the world’s first passenger Hyperloop Capsule and its full-scale track in Toulouse, France, to the team’s ability to connect and work off Workplace seamlessly. 

“For us, the virtual workspace was about two things – one, the opportunity not just to have direct communication, but also to share images, post articles, and collate information within one platform. The second aspect was the ease of use of the platform,” said La Mendola. 

Because Workplace is part of Facebook, its user interface is built to mimic Facebook, making it easy for people to get used to the experience. La Mendola contended that with nearly everyone being exposed to Facebook, it would be easy for organizations to adopt Workplace because it is familiar and easy to learn. 

“As a company, we involve so many different types of individuals from all around the world, and we needed a platform that was quick to use, without too much of a strain on the people using it,” said La Mendola. “Though email can be used as a medium of communication as it has been over the years, we think it lacks the social experience that comes with using something like Workplace.”

La Mendola explained that groups created within Workplace acted like real-life physical offices, as groups are meant to handle not just formal conversations but also informal banter. 

“The platform gives high flexibility compared to other platforms. It is also a comprehensive data platform that provides different ways to communicate and livestream while giving options to store and organize documents, images and videos,” said La Mendola. “Such platforms help an organization to really understand its community. As companies look to increasingly decentralize its workforce, virtual platforms like Workplace will find more meaning.”