By Gideon Lask, CEO & Founder of Buyapowa
Often we get asked why we decided to become a remote first company? Well, yes covid did have a big impact, but actually even pre-covid we were already a part remote company.
As the leading global rewards and referral business, we have clients all over the world, which means we have to have staff in the time zone of our clients and prospects who speak the same language, both to sell to and to take care of our clients day to day. So when Covid came along, we already had some experience of how to work with distant colleagues and make them feel part of the same team.
Of course covid turned our world upside down, as it did for everyone. Overnight we had to move to a fully remote operation, as did almost every other company. But our previous experience with remote colleagues definitely made the transition smoother.
But once we tried remote working, we realised that it worked and were able to work efficiently together, and it even improved the way we worked with our already remote colleagues. So we did a survey as to whether our colleagues would prefer to work remotely full time, or part time, or return to the office, and the overwhelming response was to become remote first. Radically so.
What’s it like to work for a remote-first company?
A remote-first company is one that, by default, operates with all its employees working remotely, (whether that is from home, while visiting family, or on “workations”, where people work from a holiday destination during the day and enjoy their new surroundings on evenings and weekends), but still has office locations for those staff who want a separate workspace or to host physical meetings.
As mentioned above, because we removed the need to be in a specific location, wenow have 60 brilliant employees peppered across 17 countries – including the United Kingdom, Columbia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain and France.
Yes we still do have an office. But we swapped a traditional and expensive central London office for a cool and trendy riverside hub which has breakout areas, sofas and a bar – it allows our team to meet in one place when they come to London, and allows those who want an office experience to have one. It’s useful as a space to socialise and brainstorm and, of course, arrange some beers or dinner after work. But there’s no obligation to attend, ever!
To understand why this has been such as success for us, it’s interesting to speak with the team, and hear their reasons for choosing to predominantly work remotely, which range from improved mental health and being able to spend more time with family, to relocating out of the city and avoiding the time, expense and germs of the commute.
Devin, General Manager North America,based in Vancouver, has said “Remote work has allowed me to live in a small community outside of the city without having to drive an hour each way every day to commute into an office – a drive that, in the wintertime, would often be described as ‘unnerving’”.
Olivia, Marketing Manager in Ireland, adds to this, saying, “Working remotely has allowed me to move from London to rural Ireland, which means I now get to be closer to family. I also get much less sick; I used to get sick constantly from taking the tube and allergens in the big city.
“I can also travel back home to Poland and work from there more often, making both me and my dog very happy – particularlybecause we now go on walks during my lunch breaks when I’m there”
Leanne, who is a Head of Content Management at Buyapowa, now based in Derbyshire, England, says she was “able to swap a financially and mentally crippling flat share in London for an idyllic house and garden in the Derbyshire countryside with my partner, in what was previously a long-distance relationship – shecouldn’t move away from her elderly mum and I couldn’t have been this far from the office.
“My mental health and general enjoyment of life have improved immeasurably with the ability to spend a lot more time on the things I love to do outside of work – painting, cooking, reading, gardening – and being able to keep on top of domestic and life admin during the week reduces the old stress of having to squeeze all the chores into your leisure time at the weekend!”
Quality time with family
On the subject of spending time with loved ones, Jean Carlo, Sales Director Iberia in Berlin, says remote working allows “meto spend a LOT of time with my daughter. All these little moments that you would usually miss because of not being there, I was able to enjoy them every day:playing with her in my breaks, seeing her crawling for the first time, settling her into kindergarten this past summer, and many more.”
Alex, a Content Manager in London, adds that “as a mum and night owl, working from home has allowed me most importantly to see my son for longer during the day, and sleep a bit longer which, for me, is super key to staying mentally healthy”.
Similarly, Lucian, a Renewals Specialist who spends her time between his home in Turin and her parents’ home in Sicily, says the “most important thing for me is that working from home allows me to go and visit my parents in Sicily whenever I want, because I can always bring my work with me.”
Tailored office setups
When at home, Lucian describes how she can have his home office exactly as she likes it: “The fact that I have the desk just beside my window is very nice. It helps me a lot because it allows me to get a bit of fresh air whenever I want to. The position of my desk also helps me get good natural light during my meetings.”
Leanne, who moved from London to Derbyshire, adds “when we first started working remotely I was in a cramped flat-share and had to work sitting on the living room sofa which wasn’t ideal for anybody.
“Now we’re working remotely permanent and I’ve been able to move out of the city, I have a dedicated home office with the full works: desk and office chair, external monitor, keyboard & mouse, proper webcam for zoom meetings etc.I swapped regular cheap lightbulbs with Philips Hue ones, they have settings so I can have cool, blue daylight rather than warm cosy light. Really helps to keep you awake/alert and focused and it’s made an absolute world of difference”
Commuting and time-saving
On commuting, or the lack thereof, Peter, Director of Marketing, who splits his time between the London office and Spain (where his wife was able to return to be nearer her family, thanks to remote work), says “working from home not only allowed me to avoid long commutes in cold weather next to sniffling and sneezing commuters, but it also lets me use the time more productively to work and exercise”.
He adds that “the Spanish weather is much nicer too!”
Roseanna, People Team Associate based in Loughborough, “working remotely has been great for me as it allows me to use the time I would otherwise spend commuting etc to dedicate 15-20hrs per week to my athletics training with the aim of competing internationally – whichis also made possible by the ability to work in different places/countries.”
Roseanna also adds that working remotely “makes such a difference being able to get little things done at lunch while at home e.g. chores, a walk, admin tasks which otherwise would build up and make for a very boring weekend!”