In a world of virtual work, it’s difficult to know when others are available.
In workplaces of yesteryear, you could walk down to your colleague’s office and see if they were around or easily find a time to chat and arrange a meeting.
It’s harder to do that if you work in one of those hip, open offices where everyone is chilling in a bean bag with their headphones on, tapping away on their laptop. It’s even more difficult if you’re a remote worker who has to rely on email, Skype or other digital tools to get in touch.
This problem is what drove Eric Karjaluoto and Eric Shelkie to create Officehours. The service is designed to connect individuals for 10-minutes of free, one-on-one advice over a range of topics. It's designed for times when you have a question, need some feedback or just want to bat around an idea.
When you set up a profile, you’re able to schedule “office hours” for when you’re free to connect with others and select a topic for which you are an expert. If you check out the list of advisors you’ll see a range of potential services, like entrepreneurial advice, counseling, and other business advice.
Instead of laser-focusing on one area, which is often the advice given to startups, Karjaluoto says he wants the company to be able to meet the needs of where people are. This is why the goal is to foster more discussion rather than force the userbase to buy into a specific series of topics.
“Being willing to lend a hand to someone else can often lead to something better because it happens organically. That’s what would be a positive outcome out of this,” he said.
Karjaluoto also says another ingredient in the recipe is starting small. He and co-founder Shelkie are both at work on other, full-time efforts while trying to build up the product on the side. This is a winning strategy for some, as it removes the pressure of keeping investors happy and raising gobs of cash to keep the operation going.
Can Officehours Hit a Chord?
As Karjaluoto indicated, others have come and gone in this space. The biggest among them being Google, which shuttered its Helpouts service last year.
The concept had some similarities to Officehours, as individuals were able to offer live help online over any topic in which they had some expertise. The scale was of course much larger, and there was more of a profit motive — as evidenced by the fact Google shut it down when that didn’t happen.
“I’ve seen that this idea has been tried many, many times and a lot of people have failed at it,” he said. “Are we just gluttons for punishment? Maybe, but we think there’s a way to make this work and there are other parts to this puzzle we are going to work on in order to make it an attractive option.”
You can give this a go at officehours.io. Then set aside some time to see if this type of connection is something that you’re after.