Roughly 30% of Envato’s workforce is based overseas, with team members working all over the globe from home, co-working spaces, or wherever makes sense for them.
With almost a third already working from anywhere, there didn’t seem much difference in enabling the 200 strong team based in Melbourne to do the same.
The Melbourne-based team has long enjoyed flexible working practices, such as the ability to work from home and flexible working times. In 2015 we took this one step further, introducing the ability to work from anywhere in the world for up to three months of the year.
To Envato’s HR Director James Law, the concept was a no-brainer. “There’s no such thing as work/life balance anymore, there’s just life,” he says. “We know our team have other interests and pursuits outside of their work, including travel, and we don’t want them to leave us to follow their dreams if there’s a way we can accommodate them that works for everyone.”
Since the work from anywhere guideline was announced, around 15 employees have taken up the offer. Locations vary from Europe to Asia, with more trips scheduled in the coming months.
For some, this is the perfect opportunity to escape a southern hemisphere winter and spend quality time with family and friends living abroad. For others it provides the means to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip, to spend long enough to fully immerse in another culture.
For Senior Developer Steve Hodgkiss, being able to ‘work from anywhere’ allowed him to spend two and a half months in Germany, taking guided tours and learning about the history of the country. “Christmas in Berlin was a unique experience and very festive,” he says. “The Christmas markets there were a lot of fun with ice skating rinks and other festivities.”
The view from Steve's rented apartment in Prenzlauer Berg, Germany
Ronny Haryanto, Senior Developer, fulfilled a lifelong dream to travel to Japan, spending almost three months there with his family. “Growing up I was exposed to many Japanese influences - toys, anime, manga, food,” he says. Had he not had the option to work while travelling he still would have taken the trip, but it probably wouldn’t have been so long, with so many cities covered. As it was, Ronny and his family were able to visit Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Hakone, Kyoto, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Kobe, Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go and Osaka. “The shinkansen (bullet train) is awesome, they go 300km/h and it's way more convenient to travel between cities by train than by plane,” he says. “On one occasion it took less than five minutes from buying the tickets to sitting down in our seats.”
Shirakawa-go village, visited by Ronny in Japan
For Lindsay Andrew, Digital Marketing Specialist and English expat who’s lived away from home for five years, the opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family over a European summer was too good to refuse. “Trying to see everyone you know in a two week trip just isn’t the same,” she says. Other than the proper catch ups she can now have “with all my favourite people”, for Lindsay one of the best parts of her three month long stay in London has been rediscovering the city she grew up in. “I’ve been finding cool cafes and co-working spaces to work from for the day, exploring the streets and neighbourhoods as I hop from cafe to cafe and project to project.”
Revisiting old haunts and finding new ones in London has been a highlight for Lindsay
Predictably, the most common challenge for travellers working overseas is time zone difference, with many starting their day at dawn in order to have a few hours overlap. The flipside, however, is distraction free working with many noting they’re more productive working on their own while their Melbourne colleagues sleep. Lindsay remains hopeful the experience might help her become more of a ‘morning person’, with regular conference calls starting as early as 6.00am.
Universally, the biggest benefit for team members who have spent their time overseas is being able to fully immerse into a different city, culture and sometimes language.
Ben Fornarino, Product Manager, had always hoped to spend long enough in Italy to feel like he was apart of the culture rather than simply touring. His three months staying in an Airbnb allowed him time to build his Italian conversation skills with the locals he and his family would encounter daily. Each morning after a few hours work while his family slept, Ben could take his then 18 month old daughter out to get coffee and brioche and stop at the local playground. “It gave our whole family an experience,” he says.
Many of the people who have taken the opportunity to work from anywhere hope they would have taken their trip regardless of Envato’s flexible working practices. However the introduction of the policy was a major enabler, eliminating barriers that would make travel difficult, or a long trip impossible.
Early mornings and solo working aside, universally the team are enjoying the freedom of being able to work and travel. And most of the people who have experienced a three month sojourn of travelling and working are already planning their next trip.
Except of course for those who are already taking it.
The 'work from anywhere' policy is just one of the reasons Envato is a great workplace. See other benefits offered at careers.envato.com
Header image Kinkaku-ji in Kyōto, photo by Ronny Haryanto