Swapdesk Wants to Help You Find the Right Home to WFH

The home-exchange startup Swapdesk is targeting remote workers who can temporarily trade places.The company is focused on growing in big cities like London, New York, and Paris.Users have to give their work email so swappers have a sense of who they’re changing homes with.

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For Allen Boening, getting laid off in the wave of tech job cuts earlier this year wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was the push he needed to start a business that helps remote workers find comfortable, quiet places to set up shop.Boening and a friend from college had been talking for months about developing a home-swapping tool for their tech-industry colleagues who can work remotely.So, Swapdesk was born. For those workers who still have the opportunity to log on from anywhere, it’s not always easy or inexpensive to find the right place to plug in, Boening told Insider. Properties on larger home-exchange platforms can vary widely in terms of locations. Some of what they offer might not be in demand. “The bag is a little bit too mixed,” he added.The company is focused on growing in marquee — and pricey — cities like London, New York, and Paris.The benefit of Swapdesk, Boening said, is that trading a home is far less expensive than staying in a hotel or a short-term rental in a major city. The company’s users exchange homes with people who had to share their work email to sign up. “They have transparency into the person,” he said. Because of that, he added, swappers are less likely to do things while in your house — like party or break things — that might tarnish a professional reputation.Swapdesk, which is based in Toronto, is among the companies focusing on remote workers, particularly in areas like tech. Boening said the properties the company’s users list are already set up for someone with a similar type of remote job. That means there’s solid WiFi, and often things like multiple monitors, standing desks — and maybe even a Herman Miller chair — so people can show up with a laptop, plug in, and do their jobs.Swapdesk’s focus on serving remote workers comes as more CEOs have called employees back to the office, at least part of the time. Yet many workers who grew accustomed to using the time once spent commuting on other pursuits aren’t happy about trudging back to their cubicles. That’s why demand for remote jobs is so high. Some workers say they’d even take a pay cut to avoid going back to the office — and seeing Ken from accounting IRL.Boening, who like Swapdesk’s other cofounder, Rory Fairweather, is 33, said while a good number of tech companies allow employees to work from anywhere at least part of the time — think Salesforce, HubSpot, Yelp, and Atlassian — doing so can get costly for people. “They can’t justify, especially if they’re not on a full holiday, to go and spend, you know, thousands of dollars on an Airbnb just to hang out and do that same work in New York City,” he said.Swapdesk users pay $30 a day for things like a protection plan for property and to have a person to call if there are any issues. Users also pay a cleaning fee at the end of their stay; that cost can vary.So far Swapdesk has about 2,000 users from about 250 companies. They’re some of the biggest names in tech, including Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, Boening said.Boening, who’s been living in Copenhagen, and Fairweather, who lives in Toronto, plan to meet up in London this month. They did the math and figured that by trading homes with another Swapdesk user, they’ll save about $2,800 on lodging. And that person heading from London to Fairweather’s lakeshore apartment in Toronto will save nearly $6,000, Boening said.And they also know a little bit about the person because to lock in the home swap, Swapesk encourages users to finalize the details of their trade through a video call. Boening said having had that interaction beats renting out his place to a total stranger as he’s done in the past.”You have no idea who’s coming there and when they get there. And you’re like ‘Is this like some sweaty person who’s gonna just like be all over my sheets?'” he said. “It’s just a different experience.”


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