Remote as default, office as an option. Our remote work approach

Remote vs Office is one of those never-ending discussions. One in which there are few right or wrong answers. Context matters, so the best approach for “you” always depends on it. This post solely intends to share our “story” and approach to this topic. In a few years, we’ll see if it’s the right call or not.

The phase we’re now living in is changing the way every company in the world works. Not all of them will embrace remote work, but many will at least look at it with different eyes due to this unsolicited exposure.

Over the past 6 years and a half, since inception, Pixelmatters has been working from Portugal with clients worldwide. 🌍 As such, we’ve always dealt with remote work on a daily basis as part of our normal working process.

Internally, our remote policies have evolved over time. Back in 2013, we’ve started with no option to work remotely unless you had a reason to do so, then one day per week, and, over the last ~two years or so, two days per week. This policy was always a regular subject of discussion and feedback.

Earlier this year, by Jan/Feb, we had announced the move to a new office, four times the size of the one we had by then. We were moving to a very desired, well-located place in Porto city center, one that we’ve been chasing for years now. An amazing milestone! Architecture project started and was completed, a builder was found, work was about to begin, and then…COVID-19.

All of a sudden, by March 2020, the entire world was forced to work fully remotely due to the need for social distancing. We’ve been fully remote ever since. Due to our existing policies, we had the mindset, the tools, and processes in place that allowed a smooth transition.

Fast forward to June and, considering the context, important decisions had to be made: should we keep paying the current office rent, when it is…closed? Should we still move forward with the new office? If yes, in what terms? Should we even have an office at all?

Conversations took place and, eventually, we’ve decided to make a couple of surveys to get the team's opinion. The feedback was extremely helpful and, somehow, almost unanimous. From all the questions asked, these are the highlights:

This feedback made our decisions easier. It’s also aligned with my personal beliefs. To me, there’s nothing like working side-by-side with someone. It’s like a relationship, you can have it at a distance, but nothing replaces a hug. 🧡

So, we decided to still move forward with our new office but ended up changing our agreement with the landlord, to have less space. As we also decided that our remote policy will have no limits in terms of X amount of remote days per week, it will create a dynamic that means rarely we’ll have the whole team working at the office simultaneously. As a result, we don’t need much space.

Our new office is becoming a Hub. Instead of office by default, remote as optional, we will transition to office as optional, remote by default. That’s our vision and definition of “hub”.

Looking forward, this decision is still fresh and we have so much work ahead at so many levels, departments, and functional areas, to adapt the company to these changes. We’re nowhere there nor near having all the answers yet, but we will work towards it and are confident this is the right direction.

For now, one of the most immediate and noticeable impacts is that we’re hiring people from anywhere in Portugal (due to legal / time zone considerations), which is resulting in more candidates than ever before, as we’re expanding our recruiting “area”.

I’m excited about the future and hope this post is helpful to other companies out there passing through similar challenges and decisions.

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André Oliveira
Founder & CEO