thumbtel, the team behind another number and hullomail, has been around since 2008 and we have been working remotely and flexibly since 2011.
Until 2011 we were based in shared office space near to ‘Silicon Roundabout’ in East London and everybody came to the office each day, until changes in members of the team’s circumstances inspired us to look at how we work.
Andy, Founder and CEO
I was pretty much a workaholic, guilty of not switching off and wanted to spend more time with my kids after school. I realised that to run our business it wasn’t necessary for us to see each other every day and be tied to our desks in the office from 9 until 6 or even later, as many people in London are.
The other guys in the business were keen to try out working at home and we haven’t looked back since. It helps that I have a team that I trust 100% and know that everyone is committed and very accountable for their area of the business…it would not have been possible if that wasn’t the case.
We now meet in person once a week and have a daily status call each morning, so we’re up to date on what everyone is working on. We’re all in touch throughout the day on Slack, so it’s as easy to talk to each other as it was when we were in the same place and there are no unnecessary interruptions.
I think it’s far more important for my team to spend proper time with their kids, partners, family and friends and have hobbies and things that make them happier people, rather than wasting two hours of each day commuting.
Ally Munarriz, Head of Marketing
I’m Andy’s wife and I joined the business at the start of this year. People sometimes think it’s nuts that we work together but the ability to work from home or the office means that we can can often be in different places, so aren’t together all day, every day. It’s nice to have that option.
The fact that we’re not clocking in and out at strict times means we can handle school drop offs and pick ups, walk the dog or go to an exercise class in the middle of the day if we need a break, help the kids with their homework, cook dinner, all eat together at a reasonable time and also fit in tedious tasks like the washing! We can then finish off work later in the evening if we need to so it’s not that we work less, we just make it work for us.
It makes life a lot easier and far less stressful than when I was working in central London and leaving the house before 8 and often not arriving back home until around 7.30 (on a good day), feeling irritable after a tiring commute on the tube.
Chris Davis, Head of R & D
Around the time that Andy was considering the team working from home, my wife and I were looking to start a family and had decided to move out of London to the village where she grew up in Hampshire. I couldn’t have done that if we’d continued to work all week in the office. It works perfectly as I now travel into London once a week which takes 2 hours door to door. I don’t begrudge the commute as I don’t have to do it every day like some of the miserable looking people on the train. Another benefit of working remotely is that this summer, for the first time I joined my wife and daughter on a month-long stay with my in-laws in Portugal. From the team’s point of view this was no different to me working from home but for me it was great as I could go in the pool with my daughter at lunchtime and join my family on the beach once I’d finished work!
Hung Phan, Head of QA
I am responsible for testing our apps which requires a lot of concentration and I like doing this at home so I have peace and quiet, no distractions or interruptions. I live pretty close to the office so I often work there a couple of days each week and hop on my bike and I’m there in 15 minutes and know that Andy, Ally or maybe another member of the team will be in…it’s nice having the choice and variation. I can also walk my dog at lunch time if I want to get out of the house.
Our new Head of Technical Operations
We have just hired a new Head of Operations who lives in Exeter and will fly to London once a week to catch up with the team. He had been working for a French company which required him to travel for work for most of each week and was missing out on spending time with his wife and daughter. As well as him being excited about his new role, we’re really proud of the fact that he was partly attracted to thumbtel due to the flexibility we offer, which will give him the chance to establish a work-life balance. If we hadn’t been offering flexibility we’d have lost out on hiring the best person for the job, whose skills perfectly matched what we were looking for.
Our very remote team
We also have team members located in Thailand who moved there for a project that we worked on several years ago and decided to stay once the work had been completed. This works extremely well as we’ll often brief them on work on our daily call and they’ll work on it whilst we’re sleeping and it’s ready for us to review when we all catch up the following day. It also means that we can offer extended support hours to our customers without anyone having to work silly hours.
Although it was a risk moving to this way of working after years of seeing each other daily, it makes complete sense. It’s often assumed that if people are working from home they’ll be doing less and putting their feet up. In fact, what we’ve found is that we’re all happier, more productive, and have managed to strike a healthy balance between work and home life. We could all potentially move to more highly paid jobs in central London in much larger companies but none of us would now forfeit working as we do for a larger salary.
To illustrate my point, I wrote this blog last night after leaving the office at 4pm, doing a quick shop on the way home, walked the dog in the park and worked for a couple of hours in the evening on my sofa!
Get in touch if you have any questions about how we work or would like to share your own experiences. If you’re an iPhone user why not try Another Number, which helps you to keep your work and personal life separate.