WeTransfer switching to partial remote working

“We are not working from home. We are at home trying to make it work.”

For most companies around the world trying to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, this quote probably feels pretty relatable as everyone adjusts to the sudden shift to working from home.

Shared by Gwen Burbidge, the Head of HR at WeTransfer, these words coincide with a blog post written as a guideline for their staff during these challenging times.

Many companies have been switching to remote work. Either closing their physical offices for good, or allowing their employees to work from home indefinitely. Five months into the pandemic it’s still uncertain where this will lead us. At Surf Office, we’re eager to know how companies and their staff are adjusting to the situation.

You probably have your own ideas by now but we’ve continued to carefully investigate these questions ourselves through interviews with some of the globe’s leading organizations.

In today’s interview, we get to know the story of WeTransfer and learn more about their journey into remote work.

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About WeTransfer

WeTransfer was founded in 2009 and started as a tool to send big(ger) files via the internet.

Nowadays, they do a lot more than that! WeTransfer has designed different applications to integrate a creative flow into people’s work. Because that’s their main focus: creativity and culture.

They offer a stage to artists, big and small, to showcase and highlight their work through their creative platform - WEPRESENT!

WeTransfer puts a lot of effort into their employees, providing a daily, vegan-friendly catered lunch, personal development opportunities and a diverse range of company outings.

Moreover, WeTransfer is a certified B Corporation, which means they use their business to commit to a better planet for everyone.

They currently have around 200 employees globally, with around 150 located in the Netherlands.

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How did the staff react to this decision?

It’s very hard to differentiate what working remotely means when you’re dealing with a global pandemic over the future of working without government restrictions. For our staff, this makes it hard to measure if they enjoy it or not.

For example, if you have kids and they cannot go to daycare or the fact that you cannot go to a flex working space or a cafe may have varying impacts on staff. Because of this, it’s not easy to understand what the future will hold and exactly what it means to work remotely when you are not forced to.

In general, our employee satisfaction has gone up for most teams and people feel positively towards the change, but we need to continue to measure this constantly as regulations are lifted.

Can you give us a sketch of the working method that 'remote WeTransfer’ has or, will have?

We want everyone to feel empowered to work from wherever they can do their best work. Right now that's not necessarily feasible, but our future will be distributed as long as it does not impact work.

This puts a lot of weight on how we communicate, the tools we use, and what we need to put in place to support our employees. Those details we’re still trying to figure out, as there are certain elements that we’ll also lose in the process.

What will be the challenges of this new structure for WeTransfer and its staff?

There are certain things that will be compromised in the shift to remote work by choice. We’ll lose a level of sociability, our culture will need to be reimagined, we need to think about management styles, what it means to be productive as well as how we measure that. Most change comes with challenges but we need to be aware of what we will gain and what we will sacrifice.

What are the positive effects that you expect?

We will be able to reduce our carbon footprint, we will give people the flexibility to be in the places they need to be, flexible working hours, and a bigger talent pool. For many people, we hope that they will feel more productive.

How will you keep the team spirit lifted?

We need to put focus on how we maintain sociability and a sense of culture. Changing some meetings to a sociable check-in but also having a base where we can bring people together in a meaningful way.

COVID-19 has a huge impact on the global economy. How do you foresee the future of WeTransfer with this pandemic?

We are grateful to be able to contribute to making work from home easier with our creative set of tools.

We’re seeing this reflected in our user numbers. However, it’s way too early to draw any conclusions about the impact on the global economy and how we foresee the future of WeTransfer.

The pandemic is not over yet and we are constantly monitoring how it will impact our users and business overall.

What hopes do you have for this change in both working remotely as well as the effects of the pandemic on WeTransfer?

Like Gwen said in the blog post: If there’s one thing I’m certain about during these uncertain times it’s that I don’t want to go back to that always-in-a-rush feeling when this is over.

How will I be able to avoid that, you wonder? By making that conscious choice now.

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