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The 10 most innovative workplace companies of 2021

Has there ever been a time that demanded more workplace innovation? These best-in-class companies devised new and better ways to keep us working effectively throughout a tumultuous year.

The 10 most innovative workplace companies of 2021
[Icon: Assignment Studios]
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From providing a road map for an effective remote workforce to building stronger connections to offering tools that enhance productivity from home, these 10 Most Innovative Companies offered workplace solutions that helped businesses continue operations during the most disruptive year in modern times.

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[Illustration: Zara Magumya]

1. Asana

For helping teams meet their goals

The work-management platform is used by more than 89,000 organizations, along with 3.5 million individuals who rely on the free version. The company launched Asana Goals in July 2020, enabling teams to better track progress, and by the end of the year had released more than 130 features, including integrations with Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Zoom. While competitors focus workflow around a single area or “container,” Goals, says Asana founder and CEO Dustin Moskovitz, is cross-functional, allowing people to stay on task even while working on broader assignments. “Most projects are actually collaborative across departments,” he says. “The vision for the future is for individuals to have fewer distractions in their work lives so they can have greater focus and flow.”

2. Zoom

For providing socially distanced workers and students the tools to connect with one another

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The ubiquitous video conferencing platform reported $777.2 million in Q3 revenue, up 400% year over year, and it expects to quadruple its revenue year over year again in the fourth quarter. The company now has 433,700 subscribers with more than 10 employees, up from 370,200 last quarter, and it grew the number of customers delivering more than $100,000 in revenue over the prior year to nearly 1,300, from around 1,000. The communication company has met the increasing demand for its products with smart and timely products meant to secure Zoom as essential workplace infrastructure. That has meant security updates, including a user experience to fortify password protection and increase the security such as through two-step authentication, along with developing conference devices (Zoom for Home) and new hardware (Zoom Room and Zoom Phones).

3. Slack

For expanding lines of communication for a locked-down distributed workforce

At the beginning of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak in the spring, the messaging and communication platform added nearly 2.5 million simultaneous users over 15 days in March. The company also worked to make the platform easier and safer to use for heavily regulated industries, as well as updating its in-platform “channels” to function more like email threads. During the summer of the coronavirus pandemic, the company added additional features to make communication on the platform easier, including Slack Connect, a secure platform for communication, which operates similar to email but without the threat of phishing and spam messages. Other initiatives include building information walls between teams (such as putting up privacy barriers between traders and investment bankers at an investment firm), and international expansion for data storage, which comes in handy for teams operating outside of the U.S.

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4. GitLab

For showing us how to work remotely, providing extensive documentation and best practices

GitLab is a software company focusing on every step of the DevOps cycle. The largest company with a distributed workforce, it created a comprehensive guide to remote work, which has been downloaded tens of thousands of times since the beginning of the pandemic. The company has also begun consulting with businesses struggling to manage their suddenly distributed workforces. In October, GitLab’s “head of remote” transformed the company’s guide into a Coursera class aimed at high-level managers and executives, covering everything from onboarding a new employee remotely and communication best practices to how to shut down your offices and transition to a distributed workforce without too much disruption. So far, more than 11,000 people have taken the class. To add To that, in June 2020 the company’s complete remote-work content, including a weekly web show and a newsletter, netted 143.6 million impressions.

5. Atlassian

For improving collaboration with tools that streamline tracking, planning, and management

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Atlassian is a Sydney-based workforce software behind Jira, Trello, and Confluence. In conjunction and on their own, these tools help streamline team collaboration. Jira’s tracking and planning capabilities go hand-in-hand with Confluence’s project management use. Trello, acquired in 2017, focuses on large-scale visualization of projects. The suite of collaboration of tools is used by 180,000 companies; Jira alone is used by more than 65,000 companies, including the nonprofit Cancer Research UK and Cochlear, the maker of the hearing implant. In 2020, Atlassian generated nearly $1.6 billion in revenue (up 33% from the previous year).

6. Chief

For connecting female executives at all levels for coaching, mentorship, and support

A network for high-ranking professional women to develop connections with other VP and executive-level leaders, Chief prides itself on its “Core” groups, which organizes members into smaller groups of similar professional rank. These Core groups provide a space for community and learning, via leadership coaching. The company cheekily calls these smaller groups “personal board of directors.” Chief currently has 3,000 members who work across 1,000 different companies. In the last year, the company has expanded into four new cities and the company’s waitlist has grown to 8,000. This year, Chief launched a proprietary and private app to members in order to make connection-building easier during the pandemic’s shutdowns.

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7. Culture Amp

For building an HR platform that uses data analytics to increase employee engagement

Offering an HR platform that uses data analytics to improve employee engagement, the company aims to enhance manager’s understanding of what is good management, as well as develop leadership skills. During the pandemic, Culture Amp introduced a new set of tools for managers to connect more with employees and improve overall company culture. A new beta development of the platform smooths the manager process to provide feedback and coaching, through a series of skills-building micro-sessions that are just frequent and short enough not to overwhelm leaders. Through its library of content, Culture Amp gives managers the tools to deliver effective feedback and communicate more clearly with individual workers.

8. Turing

For placing remote developers at firms across the globe via an AI-powered vetting process

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Turing is an international hiring platform that brings together remote software developers to work on small and large companies. In today’s remote environment. The Palo Alto-based company is well-positioned to cater to a distributed workforce by vetting and hiring remote software developers, who can work from a small town or from a studio apartment in a crowded urban center. The founders distinguish their platform by using an AI-based vetting process that tests developers’ skills but also how they work in groups and teams. The developers remain contractors to Turing, who built a secure virtual environment for outside contractors to work within. And in a mutually beneficial move—when a Turing developer gets hired, the company receives a fee. Since its general launch about a year ago, Turing has gone from $17,000 to $10 million in annualized revenue. Today, the company has a body of contractors of 170,000 working from over 50 different countries. The company shares it has added about 10,000 new developers to the platform each month.

9. Bluescape

For organizing remote tech tools into a single centralized and integrated hub

By collecting disparate tech tools, from Zoom to the G-Suite, in one place Bluescape makes it easier for remote teams to visualize and share content. The company’s hub-like capabilities brings together disparate tools in one central location. Since March 2020, the collaborative software company has grown by 300%. And since 2019, 1 million users have created workspaces on Bluescape. Through Bluescape’s integrated format, companies can access a variety of video conferencing tools, like Zoom and Webex, so chatting and taking notes becomes less of a pain. The company’s exponential growth is reflected within its ranks: Bluescape has increased its number of employees by 60% since the beginning of the pandemic.

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10. Hugo

For enhancing documentation through an integrated note-taking tool

Launched in 2018, Hugo is a meetings note-taking tool that makes meetings more productive by helping employees prepare agendas, take and share notes (with people inside and outside of the company), assign follow-up tasks, and disseminate takeaways. The platform, which integrates with nearly two dozen major workplace tools, from Asana to Zoom, takes the knowledge sharing that happens in meetings and transports it seamlessly throughout a team, company, and beyond. In an era of remote work, where online meetings take on even more significance, the platform is growing quickly. In June, Hugo released a Chrome extension, allowing users to set meeting agendas and take notes while on a video call or navigating their calendar for the week. Between February and May 2020, Hugo blew past their past user number early in the pandemic by more than doubling daily active users.