October 13, 2021- Update from our President & CEO on #ChooseOurOwnAdventure
I’ve been reading a lot from other companies about how they are managing their return to office, but most of the use cases are from big tech, large financial firms, etc.. I’m posting an update to our plans in case they are helpful for smaller/mid-size companies (we are a 500 person global, private company) and I’ll keep updating folks on how our journey goes. There is no work plan for the months and years ahead; collectively, we need all the help we can get, so let’s lean on each other for the answers. -Sam
My note to our company on September 23, 2021:
Hola, bonjour, hello folks,
Our thinking has continued to evolve in our #ChooseOurOwnAdventure framework and I’d like to outline the specifics. I thought I’d provide updates in bold to the original announcement (below) made back in October of 2020 as a way to see how much of the thinking is the same, though we have provided significantly more flexibility going forward.
Choose Our Own Adventure
We have a strategic plan in place, Our Plan Forward, and one of the five pillars of that plan is to make Pelmorex the #1 Place to Work. That’s an ambitious goal, but it’s worth striving for. Over the last 19 months, I’ve seen us get closer to this goal more than ever before. That sounds like a strange comment to make during a global pandemic when we’ve not actually been together in nearly two years, but I feel it’s true. I feel more connected to everyone now more than ever and I’m hearing the same from most employees I speak with. Why is that? I think it’s because we all have a similar goal — help Pelmorex survive and thrive (we did!) while ensuring our families and our own personal well being is safe, balanced and healthy. We have built deeper trust in one another to help the other get through this — that’s a silver lining.
We’ve proven, through a 19 month alpha test or proof of concept, that most roles/employees at Pelmorex can work from home (or remotely) and be as productive (if not more so) as before, while also being there more for their family/friends, etc. No commute, so 2 more hours of life back. More time with the kids to experience the day to day moments that we often miss while ‘at the office.’ More time for self care and other passion projects. It’s not perfect and for some of us time in the office may actually be preferred vs. home, but it’s clear that for a majority of you, this flexibility and two way trust is a massive new opportunity in the making.
So, how do we take this trust, this silver lining, and make it a more long lasting feature? How do we ensure each of you can optimize your lives, while working to optimize our company’s future?
We call it Choose Our Own Adventure.
Though it will take more collective thinking, trialing, new workflow/processes, here is what we envision for our future of work, post pandemic:
- A hybrid use of our offices and remote/home work to balance connectivity and social interaction with work/life balance and maximum individual employee life happiness and fulfillment.
- We self govern as teams and choose our own adventures. Collectively each team finds the right balance of in office connection time with remote work.
- And we also choose our own adventure individually and craft a hybrid plan that is optimal for each of us — perhaps, a few days in the office to stay connected and collaborate, the rest at home.
- For example, in my case — YMT may self govern and decide we’d like to do our weekly 90 minute team meeting in person together in the office on Tuesdays.
- I think I’d prefer a blend of office and remote, so I may choose to spend Tuesdays and Thursdays in the office and work remotely the balance of the week, while another member of my team may choose a different adventure. I’ve actually changed my tune on this and may spend a majority of my time working from home — we’ll see — I’ve found a rhythm and feel like I’m more productive and effective working from anywhere. As long as I continue to stay engaged and connected with all of you and we get results, I may test the boundaries on a work from anywhere approach.
- And I might like to suggest that once a month we strive to do an All Hands in person and create other office connection time for Oakville/Toronto employees on that one day a month. But we can figure it out together. I don’t think we’ll try to pull everyone into the office just for an All Hands, but I do think we’ll create a whole new set of ‘social’ norms and practices in this new world. For example, I know many teams who have been connecting in a park; I’m having my YMT team over to my house for a Friday afternoon and evening get together (the first time we’ll be together in 19 months); we are hosting an IDEAS get together offsite, etc. We need to stay connected, but this doesn’t always have to be in an office. And when it is — it can feel a lot different than just coming in to join a bunch of meetings. It will be fun to figure it out together!
- Of course, we’ll have a few jobs that require them to be in the office, or sales folks that need to be close to clients and constantly in their lobbies, etc. but we’ll identify those cases and create some rules and norms for those employees and teams. Our ‘office essential workers’ have been remarkable during the past 19 months. We don’t thank you enough, but in appreciation for your ongoing efforts for literally ‘keeping the lights on,’ we hope you can enjoy some extra personal time during an additional week of vacation for full timers (3 days for part time employees), effective immediately. We hope this provides some increased flexibility for your own adventures and we continue to thank you for all you do for Pelmorex!
- We’ll also re-imagine our current offices and retool them to better support our connection/innovation/collaboration/team-building/training needs. Our teams can identify these use cases and take advantage of our physical space more like a studio instead of a cube farm. Much of the investment in construction and re-configuration in the past few years in each of our offices will support this flexibility in how office life may change in the future. What we do in the office vs what we do remote can be defined and optimized in each team. This will take some time as we still have a lot of COVID-19 protocols and provincial requirements (full time mask wearing, daily screening, distancing guidelines, etc.), but over time I’m assuming this will end and we can normalize and optimize an in office experience; it will definitely be new and feel very different from before….but better hopefully! We are setting up a working group to recommend changes we should make to our three Canadian offices to provide these gathering spaces, brainstorm spaces, etc. as our offices will need to reflect this new way of working. This will evolve, but we are getting started soon to ensure we can continue to gather, innovate, train, etc. as we begin to get back to the office (if that is your adventure).
- But we’ve also discovered over these past 19months that we can be very productive remotely. We’ve created new norms and new processes to stay connected even from home. We can continue to optimize remote working and give our employees a lot of freedom and choice in their own work/life adventure.
- We are going to stretch this a bit to allow for even more flexibility for the individual employee. We are still very much a team based company, so if your team would like to get together once a week in the office, it might be nice to stay connected to them and do the same, but ultimately we’ll be giving you more flexibility to make your own call. Now, you may have to try a bit harder to stay connected to the team virtually and will always be held to certain teamwork standards, but we’ve proven we can do this remotely, so let’s not be afraid to stretch that. Here are a few more options for those that can elect to work remotely or from anywhere more often (or forever):
- If you are a Canadian employee and want to move to anywhere in Canada and set up your new life in say Vancouver (from Toronto) — do it. You’ll want to discuss with your manager and HRBP, but we will support it and can make it happen.
- Do you want to start a new life in another country somewhere in the world and still work here? That might work. But we’ll want to discuss with you on a case by case basis. You may have some visa limitations you will need to work through; we may need to review compensation and benefit market conditions in the region and make adjustments accordingly, etc. We are totally open to it, but different countries may pose different issues, so we’ll need to talk to figure out if we can support it. Of course, you may need to make some sacrifices in your new location if the time zones are a bit out of whack with the headquarters locations, but if you can make it work and stay connected during core business hours, so can we.
- Any employee can move temporarily to anywhere in the world for 4 months or less and work remotely. After 4+ months, things get a bit complicated from a ‘country of residence’ perspective for individual and corporate tax and legal purposes, so we need to set some guardrails on timing. But still, that’s a pretty cool option for 4ish months. Again, you’ll need to work this out with your manager and HRBP, but we will support you and can make it happen.
- From here on out, when we hire for most open roles, the world can be our target market. After we see if there are any internal candidates who can continue to advance and build their career here, we’ll next look to fill the role with the best external candidate located anywhere in the world. We’ll truly be a global organization, a mosaic of great talent and will stay competitive by quickly filling roles with great talent…anywhere.
- If we have folks who don’t feel setup as well as they’d like to be with their home office, we’ll dedicate our Technical Operations team to help optimize remote life. We can have folks come in and pick up desks/chairs and other equipment to ensure they feel good about their home setup; have a hotline for Tech support, etc. We won’t have an allowance or stipend, but we’ll help as much as we can. As we recently announced, we expanded the flexible spending account benefit, so you could choose to use those funds for home office items…and we’ll continue to monitor how we can help support you remotely.
- A few things that won’t change:
- Accountability — job performance still matters and the work still needs to get done; we’ll just have some more flexibility built into the system to get it done.
- Active weather and product/content quality — for many of our teams, when active weather hits, it’s all hands on deck. That won’t change and will drive how and where we work. Additionally, ensuring we have a top flight product/content, especially during active weather, will always guide our decisions, including where we work.
- Career development and progression — Do good work, help us grow and you can build a great career here, remotely or in the office. We generally need to do better in this area and be more transparent about how career progression works at Pelmorex, but it won’t matter ‘where’ you work.
- A few things we will need to test or still need to work out…and a few things I want us to watch out for:
- Laws and regulations are still being defined around this potential ‘new normal’ and may differ in each of our office locations around the world and may impact how we do things.
- Tax deductibility for home office work and expenses are still not defined by CRA and other bodies; we’ll summarize/document/train on this once it’s clear. This has been made clear and is outlined on our People Portal.
- Silos or different camps form — I’ve seen different cultures and ‘camps’ form in Oakville that aren’t necessarily healthy. A first floor culture; a second floor culture, etc. We need to guard against this in the new world as well. “Well, Sam comes to the office on Tuesday, so I’m going to be there then…or I feel the pressure to come in because my boss is in”. Or a meeting goes in the wrong direction because three people are there in person while one is on the Hangout on the TV screen and misses the side conversations. We will need to manage the chaos and manage these pockets as they crop up to ensure we ‘build back better’ and realize the opportunities and solve for the challenges. I still worry a bit about this, but honestly, I think a majority of our employees will be remote or working from anywhere a majority of the time, including myself and YMT, so I don’t think pressures will exist and in many ways the remote environment has levelled the playing field for some teams. We’ll see.
- We have a few more months (for those returning to the office as your adventure, as we announced months ago, we are targeting January ‘22 as the return date) to figure some of these things out, define new norms and workflow and set the table well for this shift. As we do with any new process or product, we’ll test, collect data and optimize based on facts, feedback, and make adjustments along the way. But this vision, our company values, business performance and our collective trust in one another will guide any modifications.
- In short, as an employee and as a team, get your work done well, from where that best allows you to build a more fulfilling life and maintain optimal work/life balance…and continue to help us make this the #1 place to work…and survive and thrive as a company.
Work as we know it will change forever and we want to lead this change and define it from out in front; we’ve always been out in front of big seismic shifts in the market and this is no different. Let’s do it. Let’s choose our own adventure.