"Decoupling location from work can fundamentally change the way we build our societies!"
Ingrid Ødegaard’s statement is firm, and comes naturally when she talks. Not like a futurist’s vision, but rather based on hands-on experience from the way the tech startup Whereby has worked since long before Covid-19.
“We give people the ability to take the job with them, a possibility that has enabled big life changes for some. When people move back to their small home towns, it also affects those communities and helps them maintain a sustainable base of taxpayers,” she says.
Whereby, the video collaboration company from Norway, has seen a 10 times increase on their services the last few months. Co-founder and Chief Product and Technology Officer Ødegaard reveals that it wasn’t a global pandemic or the fact that a video conferencing tool is the core of their business that made them become a “work from anywhere” team.
“No, we have been on a journey. In 2013, we were co-located, but we were forced to think differently when one of our colleagues wanted to move closer to his family, and we really wanted to keep him in our company. So he moved, and we adjusted.”
What does it take?
Whereby’s vision is “to give people freedom and flexibility to live and work where they thrive”. They are now 40 people in 17 locations across 6 time zones, delivering a simple solution for video meetings with paying customers in 150+ countries. They also have a passion to make meetings more fun, for example by letting participants react to the speaker with emojis.
“In the beginning it was a lot about making those few working remotely feel included, and one of the things we did was to put up a big monitor and have a video room open all day,” she laughs.
Ingrid has a warning, too, for those not prepared for a certain imbalance that can happen when companies go partly remote.
“Be aware of the asymmetry, which can arise if only a few work remotely and you don’t invest properly in tools and culture. Then you might get it wrong.” Instead her advice is to build a culture in which you always assume that someone will be remote.
Stressing out the door every morning is a blast from the past for Ingrid Oline Skeide Ødegaard, having set up her remote-working company Whereby to be super flexible in the way they cooperate. Photo: Stian Sande