The way Flatfile sees it, investing in the well-being of the company’s remote workforce yields big returns.
That’s why the Denver, Colorado-based data onboarding software company — which has been fully remote since its founding in 2018 — pays $10,000 toward the cost of having an interior designer create a home-office space that is curated for each remote worker’s taste to kindle inspiration and productivity.
Flatfile CEO David Boskovic discusses with Remote Report the idea behind the unique perk and his perspective on the future of remote work.
Remote Report: What is your outlook on remote work/in-office work, even after the pandemic subsides?
David Boskovic: The pandemic has shined a much-needed spotlight on the potential of remote work. This past year or so has encouraged people across the world to seek out more flexible job opportunities and understand the benefits that come with working outside of a traditional office environment.
Businesses have been taking baby steps in the right direction, but Covid-19 mandated a change and, what most of us have learned, is we can support remote work and that it doesn’t negatively impact productivity.
So we’re seeing a sea change as it relates to the workforce. It has also provided a great learning opportunity to understand how other companies — from tech startups to massive enterprises — have adopted different policies and perks that make sense for their size, industry and workforce demographic.
As we emerge from the pandemic, Flatfile has committed to remaining fully remote, and our mission remains to become the best remote company in the world.
RR: What inspired your decision to provide home-office remodels for employees, and when did you start this program?
DB: Flatfile has been fully remote since the company was founded in 2018 and, prior to the pandemic, our employees had the option to work from their homes or from coworking spaces. When Covid-19 hit, we all spent nearly all of our personal and work hours in the same spaces. We realized this could be problematic for our employees because those spaces weren’t properly set up for long-term remote work.
To offer a pandemic-friendly equivalent of coworking spaces and ensure our employees felt as comfortable as possible while working, we decided to reinvest our money into the extreme home-office makeover — a perk that allows Flatfile employees to renovate, refurnish and redecorate their remote workspaces.
RR: How does this initiative help the company?
DB: When Eric Crane and I founded Flatfile, we purposely set out to create an all-remote workforce so we could hire the best possible talent to help establish the data onboarding category, without geographical limitations. To attract and retain that talent, our goal was to become the best remote workplace in the world. The competition for that title skyrocketed as Covid-19 drove most of the world to work from home, but we’ve continued building a unique culture that focuses on individual ownership and rewards our employees with meaningful work perks, such as the extreme home-office makeovers.
The office renovations, specifically, contribute to the best remote workplace initiative by allowing our employees to feel comfortable, focused and inspired while working outside of a typical office space. The designers we hire expressly work with each employee to combine our company culture with their own identity and tastes.
When we recruit and search for talent at Flatfile, we specifically look for a few qualities, like ‘excited independence.’
RR: On what basis are renovation requests approved?
DB: For our remote employees who own a home or have a 12-month lease from the date of hire, Flatfile will match them with an interior designer to help craft a new, unique home office. The designer will collaborate with our employees on the design concept and execution of renovation of their workspace.
We will invest up to $10,000 per employee on this benefit, however we recognize that the renovations will be different for those who rent compared to those who own. Employees who rent will receive a stipend equivalent to the average cost of 150 square feet of real estate in their area, with the caveat that they must dedicate a room to a home office. Renters can use the budget to upgrade decor and furnishings, while homeowners can go beyond cosmetic upgrades and make structural changes too. For example, one of our employees reconstructed their ceilings to remove outdated dropdown tiles, while another remodeled a garage into an office.
RR: What impact have the home-office makeovers had on employee productivity?
DB: Since Flatfile is dedicated to creating an exceptional remote work experience, employees deserve a space they’re excited about. Working with a designer to create an office that reflects their interests and style means that the office makeovers are personal to each employee.
At the end of the day, employees feel more inspired in their offices. The goal of the makeovers never had productivity specifically in mind but rather comfort and overall happiness and satisfaction. We want employees to love the space they work in!
RR: Are there other work perks that you provide?
DB: Of course! We offer 12 weeks of paid family leave, four weeks of mandated annual vacation and a monthly allowance for perks such as Netflix subscriptions, Starbucks and Lyft rides. We also give our employees the most current technology to support their hard work like monitors, laptops, iPads, speakers and headphones.
One of the initiatives Eric and I are most excited about is our “million-dollar role” initiative. The goal is to approach every new hire as a million-dollar investment to the business. This means we plan to invest time, energy and resources into every employee to ensure their success. Employees should have personalized career paths, for example, so that they feel challenged and excited about their career progression.
At the end of the day, employees feel more inspired in their offices. We want employees to love the space they work in!
RR: Your company was founded before the pandemic and the global shift to remote work, so the company has had time to hone best practices. What advice do you have for other organizations?
DB: Early on, Eric and I determined the key to running a successful remote workforce is effective, consistent communication. That communication ranges from tactical efforts, like equipping employees with appropriate audio devices and organizing regular check-in meetings, to tuning in to the team’s opinions and perceptions about what works and what doesn’t, especially regarding remote culture and work/life balance.
Since that moment and throughout the pandemic, we’ve learned many other lessons about remote work that I hope others can benefit from:
Remote work is not one size fits all. The pandemic may have forced nearly every person to work from home temporarily, but this model is not perfect for every person or every business. Managers and leaders must keep this in mind as they continue overseeing a workforce that might sincerely miss the office.
When we recruit and search for talent at Flatfile, we specifically look for a few qualities in our candidates that relate back to enjoying remote work, one of which is “excited independence.” Meaning, a candidate that is not only OK with working independently, but one that is excited about it.
Meeting in person still matters. Socializing in person and building strong relationships with colleagues matters and will improve how work gets done, especially after a year of isolation. At Flatfile, we [generally] have several in-person meetups each year to ensure we’re building solid relationships with team members. As people begin getting vaccinated and the nice weather returns, outdoor gatherings could be an option for those looking to resocialize their workforce.
RR: What other advice might you offer?
DB: Don’t force it. When it comes to remote workplace culture, some things will work well and some simply won’t. Take Zoom happy hours for example. The feedback from Flatfile employees (and across memes) after this trend began was clear: People don’t want to remain online after the workday, and a happy hour should be out at a restaurant with other humans.
Forcing traditional office activities into remote culture can be detrimental. We’ve found alternative ways to interact with each other that have been successful in a remote environment. AMA (ask me anything), for example, is a fun way for us to get to know new employees that encourages conversation amongst the team. Demo sessions are a way for various team members to highlight work they’re proud of and want to share.
We’ve also experimented with trivia and other games that are geared toward a remote environment.
RR: What has been the biggest challenge in having a permanent all-remote workforce?
DB: The biggest challenge for remote companies will likely be scaling. From an employment perspective, finding talent that embodies the right qualities for and dedication to working independently can be difficult.
When it comes to scaling the business, organizing remote pitches was once an issue that, perhaps, has been dispelled now that video meetings are more commonplace. And for in-person stakeholder meetings, coordination amongst the remote team can also be challenging.