Gatineau’s Foko looks to work its way into new markets with office-booking app

Marc Gingras
Foko’s CEO Marc Gingras.

A Gatineau-based retail software firm that began life seven years ago as a photo-sharing app for businesses hopes a new product aimed at helping companies manage their office capacity as employees start to emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown can be a springboard to new markets.

Foko’s flagship product is a platform that’s designed to make it easier for retailers and other businesses to communicate instantly with their front-line staff on devices such as tablets. The company has about 60 customers, including the International Monetary Fund, Nike, Under Armour, Victoria’s Secret and Whole Foods.

The 35-employee firm launched a new app this week called Get Working, a combination desk-booking and COVID-19 screening platform that’s aimed at easing the transition to traditional office life for employees who had been working remotely during the pandemic.

The app allows employees to book which days and times they want to come into the office and reserve a workspace. It also includes a COVID-19 symptom self-assessment survey that's sent directly to their mobile devices before they arrive at work.

CEO Marc Gingras said that over the past few months, the company kept hearing from clients who were worried about making sure their employees could return safely to the office once the lockdown ended. He said “it just made natural sense” to build the new app, which is being offered as a separate service from the company’s communications platform.

Employees with the app will receive a notification the day before they’re slated to come into the office prompting them to fill out a survey for possible COVID-19 symptoms. If the results indicate they have no symptoms, they are given a “pass” to report to work ​– although the system isn’t foolproof since evidence suggests people can still pass on the virus to others even if they aren’t showing symptoms. 

The survey and app can be customized to meet evolving regional guidelines. Get Working also allows employers to set the capacity of every office location, including how many people each floor of a building can safely accommodate, and offers the option to assign a concierge to manage a specific building or floor and oversee who is coming in at what time.

Gingras said Foko sees the offering as a way to break through into new verticals beyond its traditional markets in the retail and essential services sectors. He said the company is already talking with potential customers in the insurance and banking industries.

The CEO said he hopes the app will help employers adapt to an increasingly common hybrid work model where workers split their time between home and the office.

“It is something that we’re heavily investing in,” he said.