What’s the greatest thing an employer can do for its employees?
How about setting up a remote office for 4 weeks on a beach in Vietnam?
In the gaming industry in Finland, people go to work for more than just their paycheck.
Flexible hours; work-life balance. Perks like sports and culture vouchers, comprehensive health and dental cover, travel insurance, even an office masseuse: to a large part, these have come to be expected.
The possibility to work from home as and when you need to goes without saying. As does time afforded to you for you to focus on your own learning and personal development; an allowance to attend conferences, and so forth.
Of course, it’s a two-way relationship. An employer trusts their employees with the freedom and resources they need to do their work, and in return they get a motivated team member who strives to go above and beyond.
It’s something we believe in passionately here at Futureplay.
But where we can, we try to take it to the next level.
Around this time every year, in the depths of the Finnish winter (not that there’s been much of one this year, mind) we escape the cold and migrate to warmer climes, where we set up a remote office for around a month.
2020 is our fourth edition, and our first in Vietnam after three consecutive years in Thailand.
Personally speaking, it’s my second trip, and it’s been an even better experience than my first (something I thought I’d struggle to ever say).
Here’s why I think it’s one of the most valuable things our company could do for us, and why and how you can inspire yours to do the same.
It’s way more fun
Let’s start with the obvious: life on a beach in Vietnam is way more fun than life in a freezing urban sprawl somewhere in Northern Europe.
Right now, we’re in Hoi An, where the sun’s (mostly) shining and the temperature’s hovering around the mid-twenties.
Sunshine is one of those things that makes people happy — and some say people are much more productive when they’re happier.
So it’s a win for our people, and a win for our organisation.
Taking a break from the routine works wonders for your senses.
People often find inspiration in being somewhere new and different, where there are no bounds to your creativity.
Here, we shuffle the working day around to suit us best. We take longer lunches and dip in the sea after our Vietnamese rice pancakes and fresh spring rolls. We play beach volleyball and football. We’ve even been known to get involved in some mid-afternoon banana-boating.
That means we work later, but more energised, and equally importantly we have more time online towards the end of our day with our colleagues in Helsinki, who are five hours behind us.
Work with people you wouldn’t usually work with
And an experience such as this is the perfect complement to that.
Almost half of our company is out here. Though for me, just two of the five people on our marketing team have made the trip.
That means I’m sat with people I wouldn’t usually sit with, hearing conversations I wouldn’t usually hear, and learning about things I wouldn’t usually learn about.
Similarly to the fun part above, it’s way more conducive to productivity.
The only downside? That not all of us could make it. Folks in Helsinki, we miss you!
Really get to know your co-workers
There are 13 of us here, plus three better halves and a baby — and even more family to come out very soon.
We’re all together, pretty much every day — at breakfast, lunch; in the evenings; going out for dinner; hanging out in town; even going on day trips together. Many of us are staying in the same accommodation as one another.
It’s the polar opposite of just rocking up at the office, doing your work and then going home.
Getting to know each other properly (and our families) on this level is priceless, and it means that in the long-term, we’ll look out for one another even more. That can’t be a bad thing, can it?
Getting shit done
Maybe this is an unexpected one, but if we play hard out here, then we work even harder.
One of our plus-ones came by the office last week and, on arrival, proclaimed ‘this place is very zen.’
And she was right, because it is. We may well be on the other side of the world to our peers, but that doesn’t mean we take our commitments any less seriously.
In fact, I think the opposite is true. The benefits of greater collaboration and being closer to more and different people brings that start-up vibe rushing right back.
Sure, dodgy internet connections can sometimes cause the odd communication hiccup with our peers back home, and we have to plan our time differently due to time zone differences.
But that’s small fry. That we’re working hard on putting the finishing touches on an exciting new game we’re about to send into soft launch makes the whole thing even more exciting.
It’s actually pretty easy to organise
One of the boundaries to you doing something similar might be the perceived complication of actually getting the whole thing organised.
But bar agreeing on the where and when, it’s actually pretty straightforward.
As people come out for different periods of time (some for the whole four weeks, some for less) we’re responsible for sorting our own flights and accommodation.
In terms of the office space, in the past we’ve used coworker.com to find locations in Thailand (Pattaya, Chiang Mai and Phuket).
This year, we wanted to try something different, and booked a large wooden villa on AirBnb. (It’s actually called ‘Wooden Villa’.) There have been pros and cons — the chairs are less comfortable (you guessed it, they’re wooden), and the internet has cut out from time-to-time, but there’s beanbags-a-plenty, and it’s great to have a whole place to ourselves. Some of us are staying here, too. And did I mention it’s next to the beach?
A final word
Maybe taking the half the office abroad isn’t possible for every company, and even when it is, an individual’s capability to join depends on their own circumstances.
But would I recommend it? Absolutely.
Is it the greatest thing an employer can do for its employees? Probably.
It’s corny, but rarely do opportunities come around to make memories that last a lifetime with your co-workers.
And when they do (and where they can) they should be seized — because when a company affords its team that extra level of trust and freedom, they get it back in abundance.
But for now? It’s almost lunchtime. Time to head to the beach and get me a cao lầu. Futureplay will be thanking me for it in the long run!