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The Remote Work Revolution with Ingrid Ødegaard of Whereby

Work is changing rapidly, thanks to advances in technology and communication. What possibilities in remote work are possible after Covid-19?

Evelyne

Buzziol

November 10, 2020

This interview was first published in the report "Remote Work in Europe, 2030". For more on how the landscape of work is changing, and will change Europe, download the full report.

It is difficult to find aspects of our lives that were not affected by the internet. But, while nearly all aspects of our lives have been touched, in some areas, it’s difficult to see why change hasn’t gone farther. 

Work is definitely a field in which new communication methods had a major impact in the last 20 years, pushing us to rethink our ideas of offices, work teams and business. But, while the benefits brought by these technologies are clear in the increased competences and competition they grant, many office workers remain confined by location and standard office hours.. 

This year could provide a catalyst into more remote roles, and with proper collaboration, these changes could benefit both workers and employees. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many workers abruptly shifted to remote work, using different platforms to connect with their teams. As we outlined in our report Remote Work in Europe, 2030, this global experiment has mostly had a positive outcome, perhaps, further accelerating the change taking place in the world of work. 

We spoke with Ingrid Ødegaard, Co-Founder & CPTO of Whereby (formerly appear.in), to understand what she thinks about remote working potential and how the work environment will change after the 2020 pandemic. As the Co-Founder of the #1 ranked easiest to use video meeting platform, she not only has expertise from supplying a product at the core of successful remote teams, but has extensive experience working in a remote and flexible work friendly environment.

Since 2013, Ingrid and her team have been building a product that makes flexible and remote work accessible to everyone. Moreover, Ingrid has been listed as one of Norway’s Top Women in Tech, and in 2018 was named "Future Thinker of the Year" in Norway. 

How have you seen remote work and better communication networks contribute to more flexible and productive working environments?

The Whereby team lives and breathes flexible working, and several team members have made a life-changing decision to relocate to a place that has increased their overall happiness and quality of life. We’re a global company, so Whereby employees can log on at the hours that work for them, and we do everything we can to provide the tools and software that let them thrive while working remotely. 

What steps has Whereby taken to protect user privacy? Why is this so important?

From day one, Whereby was built with privacy in mind, and this has become one of the aspects our customers value the most.

Our business model does not rely on widespread collection of data, and we never sell information about users to anyone.

We try to minimize the data we collect to only things we need for specific purposes, and try to be open and transparent about what we collect and have self-service features where users can export or delete their data. 

Covid-19 has obviously changed the way many people work. What part of these changes would you like to see continue?

In many countries, the majority of office workers are now working from home. We expect and hope this will lead to permanent changes, where employers will offer more flexibility to workers.

This can be transformative for people: whether it frees up more time for health, family, side interests or other. It also requires companies to rethink and adapt their processes, tools and communication practices, to build organisational resilience. 

We’ve embraced this as a great opportunity to hire talent from different countries. About half of our team is now based outside of Norway, including the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, South Africa, Indonesia, Spain and Thailand. I think many companies can benefit from a diverse talent pool out there with the right structures in place. At Whereby we believe that the concept of borderless talent is the greatest lever for diversity, equity and inclusion. 

What parts of remote work do you think need better management as we move away from an initial crisis response?

We see that many companies are not familiar with working remotely, so they struggle to collaborate and build a good culture. For us it starts with trust. When you are not sitting side by side, you need to give clear goals and define deliverables, and then empower people to work independently.

It takes continuous effort to build and maintain trust, but it’s vital for a strong team culture.

Establishing team-wide accountability and measurable goals builds on the trust that the work will get done, regardless of where it happens. It’s important to realise that this is a continuous process and managers should help team members understand how their individual contributions fit into the company-wide goals. 

At Whereby, we strive to focus on being intentional about building relationships across teams and timezones, continuously cultivating internal knowledge sources, over-communicating and running great meetings.

What impact might remote work opportunities have on free movement and population distribution within the EU?

We see that many people are leaving the big cities, as they realise it’s no longer necessary to be located near an office. One example is that the hours spent commuting to the office can be spent with family or hobbies. As a result, a lot of employees have been able to find a better work-life balance. 

One of the advantages of Europe vs. Silicon Valley is that there’s not one hub, but 15-20 hubs.

This means there is a massive talent pool of people from diverse backgrounds, that those recruiting remotely can tap into, All within 1-3 time zones, and easy to travel or relocate to within the EU/EEC. 

Could you tell us what's next for Whereby? And how do you plan to build on the Remote Work revolution in Europe?

Over the past few years, Whereby has been predicting and championing remote work as something that will change the way businesses operate, and ultimately improve the lives of employees around the world.

In 2020, we saw that prediction become a reality, and now our focus is on providing a tool that can help people have better meetings and collaborate as well or better than in an office.

We aim to work well or integrate with other widely used tools, such as Slack, Google Docs, Trello and Miro, to enable more collaborative use cases such as workshops and project meetings. We also put a lot of effort into making a more human-focused experience, with calm colors and a design that can give inspiration and energy instead of “meeting fatigue”. We’re only just getting started and have big plans for the product in 2021. 

Thank you so much for your time and insights. This interview was first published in our report, “Remote Work in Europe, 2030”. 

We look forward to further involvement with Whereby and seeing how remote working will shape our jobs and work environment over the next ten years.

Evelyne recently graduated in International Politics and Diplomacy at the University of Padua. She has a background in awareness campaigns and joined the dGen team as Marketing & Content Writer Intern.