Why We’re Sending a First-Year Attorney to Portugal
By Kevin Vela
So we’re sending a first year to Portugal.
And not in the same vein that Garfield used to send Nermal to Abu Dhabi. We’re actually doing this with a great deal of care and aspiration (and on an airplane!).
You see, Rad (my law partner) and I agree on most things. He’s a little more of a bleeding heart than I am (I’m not so concerned with the decline of the Sri Lankan Elephant population), and I’m a little more capitalistic in nature (when I was 6 I had a genuine devotion to Ronald Reagan), but we share a real passion for travel. Not just as frequent experience, but as a principle of life.
We believe that travel, especially international travel, builds character, grants perspective, and facilitates understanding.
Here at VW we’re sharing this belief with our employees by offering them the ability to work remotely, from another country, for a month at a time. For professionals, work is the biggest obstruction to travel. We don’t see why that should be the case. It’s not actually the work that keeps people chained to their desk; it’s this notion that the work can only be done at the desk.
We disagree. The internet has fundamentally changed how we work. It’s now beginning to change where we work, too. We feel strongly that employees can be productive remotely (contrast that with “remotely productive”), and that travel will actually motivate and develop them, and make them better employees. Rad and I are calling this Desk Independence™, and we believe it’s the next big thing. The workspace stopped being just a physical space years ago. It is now a virtual space, connected by the internet with our data stored in the cloud. Next generation employees (read Millennials), of which we employ many, already understand this paradigm and as a result have shifted their own values to correspond with this reality.
Nic O’ Brien (Millennial), whose bar card still has wet ink on it, is leaving today for Lisbon, Portugal. He’ll be there for a month. And we’re paying for it. Nic is going to work full-time while he’s there. Working remotely won’t be without its challenges, but we already leverage virtual technology to facilitate Desk Independence (we use cloud-based storage & software, a VOIP phone app, and Slack & Dapulse for communications and project management). Nic is going to have to do some work to fit the remote-professional lifestyle – he’ll slide back his work schedule to overlap more with ours, and he’ll have to work a bit harder to keep up with the missed interoffice communications, but we’re confident that he will make it work. Indeed, his excitement and anticipation about this trip has already led to an increase in his productivity – my internal capitalist’s silver lining.
Now, I want to qualify this. In our profession, employees need to be at the office much more than they aren’t. We have too many scheduled and impromptu face-to-face meetings, and our work is largely collaborative. But we do believe that any costs associated with Nic working from a co-working space in Lisbon for the next month will be greatly outweighed by the reward of his personal development, happiness, and job satisfaction.
At Vela Wood we’re committed to allowing employees to work remotely from time to time, including in month-long blocks. Who knows, we may increase the travel period in the future. But for now, we’re excited to be leading the way in Desk Independence among law firms. Next up, Nic will keep us posted on his experience.
And oh yeah, our marketing coordinator leaves for Croatia in May. Also on an airplane.