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To state the obvious, the shift from in-office to remote and hybrid work hasn’t been easy for organizations. While the majority of workers say they prefer the emerging hybrid remote-office models, some managers complain of growing challenges with time management and productivity. The empirical evidence on this is mixed, but other problems cut across remote, hybrid, and in-person work. One study of U.K. office workers found that workers spend up to two hours per day browsing through their email inbox.

Growing awareness around workplace productivity has fueled a market for time management apps that could be worth $4.55 billion by 2026, according to Fortune Business Insights. Platforms like Woven, ReclaimAI, and Tempo tap AI and automation to optimize workers’ calendars and cut down on wasteful work. So does Clockwise, which today announced that it raised $45 million, bringing the company’s total capital raised to $76 million.

AI-powered calendar

Gary Lerhaupt, Matt Martin, and Mike Grinolds founded San Francisco, California-based Clockwise in 2016. Lerhaupt was a VP of engineering at RelateIQ, which Salesforce acquired in 2014. Martin and Grinolds were also software engineers at RelateIQ and stayed on after the Salesforce acquisition.

Clockwise aims to optimize team schedules to create more time in employees’ days, leveraging AI to reconcile peoples’ various calendars. The tool carves out “focus time” — a chunk of two or more uninterrupted hours — for individual work, automatically moving any meetings to the least-interrupted time for attendees.

“Clockwise is the solution to the modern workday. Clockwise optimizes your team’s schedules to create more time in everyone’s day — so we can feel present when we’re working together and focused when we’re working on our own,” CEO Martin told VentureBeat via email. “We enable a new way of working that genuinely respects people’s time and helps create a healthy, sustainable future of work.”

Clockwise

The concept of “focus time” originates from a study scientists conducted at the University of California, Irvine that found workers typically attend to a task for about three minutes before switching to something else. This task-switching kills productivity, research suggests, because there’s a lag in returning to pre-interruption levels of efficiency — a phenomenon known as attention residue. One study pegged the amount of time it takes to refocus at 25 minutes.

“Clockwise uses AI to schedule flexible meetings at the best possible times, optimizing for you and everyone you meet with. To date, we’ve used AI to move over 4 million flexible meetings and unlocked over 2 million hours for people to focus,” Martin said. “The magic of Clockwise is that we orchestrate companies’ workdays, running up to 1 million calendar permutations for any given team to create the best possible schedule for everyone.”

Beyond penciling in focus time, Clockwise — which integrates with Google Workspace and apps like Slack and Asana — can automatically reschedule conflicted meetings. Autopilot, Clockwise’s automation engine, optimizes meetings either on its own (once a day) or when prompted, accounting for things like time zones, lunch, work hours (e.g., full time or part time) and respecting individual meeting time preferences.

Clockwise offers an enterprise-oriented product, Clockwise for Teams, that includes a team availability calendar and an analytics feature that shows every member’s focus and meeting times. According to Martin, teams at 10,000 organizations including Netflix, Twitter, Coinbase, Atlassian, and Airtable are paying subscribers.

Future expansion

Remote employees are working longer than before. But even before the shift to remote and hybrid work, work-life balance fell by the wayside for most workers. An estimated close to 26% of work ends up being done outside of office hours, with executives working during around 80% of weekends.

Clockwise

Time will tell whether Clockwise’s solution wins out over rivals, including Microsoft’s MyAnalytics and Google Calendar’s built-in rescheduling tools. But Martin asserts that Clockwise is unique in that it “genuinely” respects workers’ time. “Scheduling is harder than ever with people working in new time zones with new working hours and different office locations. There’s been an explosion in additional coordination meetings. And hiring is more difficult because top candidates demand flexibility and a values fit,” he said.

Clockwise says it’ll use the latest investment — which was led by Coatue with participation from Atlassian Ventures, Accel, Greylock Partners, and Bain Capital Ventures — to “advance its AI technology” and grow its team. The startup plans to hire as many as 125 people by 2023; it currently has 61 employees.

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