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ROOM CEO on why offices are here to stay

Brian Chen, CEO of ROOM, joined Yahoo Finance to discuss the company's latest Series A funding round where it raised $12.5M and the future of offices.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: Well, companies are looking to recreate their office space in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, because the employers are not focusing on the safety and health of their employees. For more on how offices are changing, we have Brian Chen. He's the CEO of ROOM. And ROOM is a firm that helps companies reimagine and rework their office space. Still, Brian, I would think that there's a high demand for your service right now for what you're offering. So how do you envision-- let's just talk big picture first-- just how do you envision what the workplace is going to look like when people eventually do start returning to their offices.

BRIAN CHEN: Yeah. Thanks for asking. I mean, it's a very exciting time when it comes to workplace innovation. This global pandemic is really forcing all of us to view the office with fresh eyes. It's forcing us to throw away old assumptions that we might have had about working in the office. And so it's a really exciting time for a company like ROOM, where we are really introducing and pioneering a new way of designing and building offices.

So our approach is to provide modular, prefabricated products that are easily configurable so that you can de-densify, something that's very much needed in today's workforce-- workplace, but also do it in a way that is affordable and also easily configurable. Because what we know for sure is that attitudes towards the safety of being in an office, attitude towards working from home, they're very sure to change. And so this new paradigm that we're introducing is really adaptive architecture-- space types that will be optimized to how you and your employees really want to be operating in the office.

ANDY SERWER: Hey, Brian, is there any way to generalize what percent occupancy the typical office will be going forward? If you had 100 people, will you have 50? Will you have 75? Will you have 30? Or is that too hard to sort of do at this point?

BRIAN CHEN: Every culture is different. You know, there are some companies that will be fully remote. And there are some companies whose culture was very much embedded in in-person interactions. So every culture and every kind of geography will be different based on the local pandemic response as well. But certainly what we are going to see is a massive uptick in flexibility, even when there is a vaccine, even when people feel completely safe returning to the office. The idea of being able to work from anywhere, that is a reality that is here to stay.

AKIKO FUJITA: So, Brian, where are you seeing the biggest demands in terms of the sectors? Because we've heard a lot about tech companies moving to a completely distributed workforce. What are some sectors that are still opting to keep their offices? And what are you hearing from them?

BRIAN CHEN: Honestly, this is a moment where all industries are being forced to question the way that they operated their offices. It's-- so we're seeing demand from everywhere-- from all sectors, and also not just offices. We're seeing demand from very different real estate asset classes, because people do want to deploy work environments-- really great, optimized, purpose-built work environments to places that are close to where employees live.

So we're entering this phase where working is much more a network model versus a single-location model. You want to be able to access great work environments close to where you live without having to jump onto public transit or struggle to find parking. So our products are really meant to be flexible to any environment. And so we see people bringing them, really, to all corners-- all types of different real estate.