It's no secret that new methods of work have rapidly gained ground in popularity - Benny Hertach, founder of the craftsman platform Ofri, for example, has been experimenting with remote work for four years. Ofri employees choose their own workplace and meet once a year for a company retreat. In the case of those working remotely, the focus is on the employee's work result and not on his presence time.
Looking to skip commuting, the bustle of an office, or have more time to take the kids to practice? What sounds like an unattainable dream to many is reality for the four-man team of Ofri. They determine their workplace and work organization freely.
Results are more important than presence
"The result of the work is important to me. When and from where my employees work does not matter to me," says Hertach. Since 2015, the Zurich-based company has been working completely independently of its location. Employees are currently in Greece, Poland, Spain and Switzerland, and the only stipulation is a maximum of two hours difference in time zones from Zurich.
"For the first four years I was the only employee of my company. During this time, I have come to appreciate the advantages of working independently. On particularly hot days, I took a break in the afternoon and worked longer in the evening." It was clear to him that he wanted to offer his employees the same freedom. Some team members are night owls, others work better early in the morning. Everyone knows when and where they are most productive, and Hertach doesn't want to intervene artificially.
Documentation and regular meetings via webcam
The decentralized and asynchronous working form naturally requires transparent documentation. Using communication and project management programs such as Slack, Trello, or Confluence, employees can view statuses, goals, and upcoming tasks. The team meets - at least virtually - with regularity. Through the video conferencing program Zoom, the Ofri team holds weekly team and project sessions, all meticulously documented.
Company Retreat as compensation
Remote work does present social challenges in the workforce, Hertach points out: "We can't run into each other in the break room and chat. So there is a risk that the employment relationship will become too sterile." To counteract this, the Ofri team installed a 15-minute culture section in the team meeting a year ago. "It's not about key figures optimization or customer care, but about weekend plans, what programs to watch, and favorite blogs."
For three years, the Ofri team has been conducting a company retreat every year. For five days, team members will meet in one city and work together on product development over the next twelve months. The cultural part isn't skimped on, either: over one and a half days, the team indulges in a recreational activity, be it hiking in Malta, paddle boarding in Lisbon, or a conference visit to Zurich.
It was also the first company retreat in Malta when, for the first time, Silvia Piangou, Customer Service Manager, met her supervisor in person.
"Of course I looked forward to the first real meeting. For the last two years, we have been in contact with Slack and Zoom every day, but have never met before," says Piangou. "The tension vanished with the first handshake," Piangou continues. She was amazed how well she already knew her superiors through digital collaboration. "The meeting further consolidated mutual trust," adds Piangou.
Looking for skilled workers across Europe
"In recruiting I was also able to consider candidates far from Zurich. With the applicant range increased, I was able to be more picky and to recruit those who really fit in with us, both professionally and personally."
For him, that would be the most significant advantage from an entrepreneur's point of view, explains Hertach. Experienced talent in particular are not likely to move for a new job - best to just bring it to them.