YOU can work from a beach with a glass of wine in hand, travel when you want, take three-day weekends and relax if you’re feeling sluggish.
This is how Christian Mischler runs his company. The start-up founder encourages his 100-plus staff to get out of the office, explore the world and work from the island paradise of their choice.
It’s how the Swiss entrepreneur tailors his own life, after all, spending 250 nights of the year in hotels, with no permanent address.
“People have no fixed desk,” he tells news.com.au, “we have nine offices, they can work from one of those, their home, a beach, wherever they want, as long as they deliver results.”
Employees who work for his Asia-Pacific-based travel booking app, HotelQuickly, choose their own hours. They can work in the evening, on weekends, or even cut back to a four-day week — provided they complete their allotted tasks.
“If someone’s super-efficient on a Friday night between 12am and 4am, they should be allowed to work then,” he explains. “If someone’s super-productive, they might take just three days to reach their performance targets, and then have the next few days off to recover for the following week. It’s a very flexible, fluid work culture.”
When Christian realised many of his employees weren’t fully logged off when they were on holiday, he introduced the idea of a ‘workcation’. If they stay connected, staff can travel without using up their annual leave.
“I went to New Zealand recently and because of the time difference with Asia, I could spend the morning travelling and experiencing it and then work lunchtime to evening at the same time as Asia was at work.”
He has spent recent weeks managing the firm from Fiji and Kangaroo Island.
When in Sydney, he shares a co-working place with people in similar setups, who are like colleagues. His spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment attitude to life is reflected in his business philosophy, with the app allowing people to book accommodation for the same night up until 4am. And if an employee suddenly wants to leave the country, they can usually do so with minimal notice.
“My marketing manager in Hong Kong rents her apartment on Airbnb, and she now actually makes money from travelling. So if someone books, she goes. She travels more than once a month, it’s opportunistic.”
Staff have a base country that determines their public holidays, but they can choose to save those days off. Some spend most of their time outside their base location.
But despite embracing a nomadic working culture, Christian still prioritises face-to-face contact. “We try to have as natural communication as possible and as many physical meeting as possible. There’s constant interaction. If someone’s going from Vietnam to Indonesia, we encourage them to meet people there and have coffee.”
Otherwise, staff have a range of digital tools at their fingertips — Asana for task management, Slack for instant messaging, Skype and Line for one-to-ones, Dropbox for sharing files and Blue Jeans for team meetings. Oh, and email.
There are a few set rules — the customer service and IT desks have to be staffed 24 hours a day and the engineers have to work as a team, so they take a week’s workcation as a group every three months.
“Companies have changed,” says Christian, who used to work in a traditional banking environment where there was little opportunity to combine work and travel.
“At Credit Suisse, you really needed to have the holidays to relax, decompress and switch off. “We’re no longer at work, or at home, or on holidays, there’s always a mix. There are some days where you’re not productive, you can’t force people to be.
“We have high expectations, but highly skilled people, They’re educated, from different cultures and backgrounds, they’re used to travel. If we locked them in an office for three years, that’s just not attractive to the workforce coming into play. Flexibility is what a lot of graduates are looking for and the global availability of internet will enable that.”
While some insist that switching off is vital, employers like Christian are embracing a perhaps more realistic model. With 30 per cent of Australia’s workforce already freelancing, structuring our days as we want makes sense, as long as we complete our projects.
These days, anywhere with wi-fi is a workplace.