At PactSafe, we have always taken company culture very seriously. You may have seen articles recently talking about how a flexible work policy is overrated and that kegerators are a sham when it comes to really building a culture. Sure, they aren't magic (though I’d never say that about free beer), but PactSafe’s flexible work policy is good for building team morale and company culture.
I am the current Director of Engineering at PactSafe, and in the almost three years since I’ve worked here, I have moved my desk between three offices (note: cinder block standing desks are a nightmare to move). I’ve worked hard to create a great product and celebrated closing Series A funding with an amazing team. Working through frustration and long nights has been worth it because we all believe in what we are building and who we are building it with.
These victories are even sweeter because of PactSafe’s flexible work policy.
In addition to the kegerator and unlimited PTO since day one, PactSafe’s "Work from Someplace Awesome" stipend empowers team members to travel to some near or far locale and work remotely. The only caveat is: the place must be awesome. Since working here, I have been able to take full advantage of both of these policies to see beautiful lands in 10 countries over five continents.
In 2019, I decided to work remote from South America for the month of February. After hearing this, most people would stare blankly, tilt their heads and ask, “Paraguay? Why … there?” Well, the short answer is that I have some amazing friends who offered me a warm bed, good food, and most importantly, warm weather. The long answer is that this is something I've needed to do for a very long time.
And both answers are fine, because PactSafe encourages team members to take advantage of its flexible/remote work policy.
After somehow surviving a January of negative degrees, I was happy to avoid the same fate during an Indiana February. And while the blizzard in Indy cancelled my flight, forcing me to make my way to Chicago to catch another, the promise of 100+ ºF days kept me going. After a quick layover in Panama, I arrived with the sunrise in Asuncion.
To properly recuperate from the travel, I mostly spent the first weekend poolside with a few cervezas while my friends and I avoided the end-of-season mangoes falling on our heads.
The next week, however, was the real moment of truth, as this is when I had to balance relaxation with my job. At this point, I was primarily worried that I would have a poor internet connection (which, as a developer at a tech company, is kinda a work-remote no-go), and I really didn't want to make it more difficult for anyone else to take advantage of this stellar perk down the line.
Luckily, I was worried for nothing: my Internet connection was better in Paraguay than it was on some days in Indianapolis! I was able to screen share from the back yard, video chat with the cats, and still go heads down and get my work done. It was a beautiful thing.
The best part of being based out of Asuncion for a month was that I was in no hurry. My friends and I could take our time visiting all the places to eat as I checked off my list of Paraguayan foods to try.
Over the course of the three weekends, I attended a Paraguayan wedding, road-tripped to Encarnacion for Carnival, swam in some waterfalls at Parque Nacional, got a flat tire, stayed at an ostrich farm, and played plenty of Super Smash Brothers (priorities, right?). I tried delicious Lomito y Mbeju y Tedere y chipa y Milenesa.
The Jesuit Ruins, near Encarnacion (Image courtesy of Michael Welling)
I learned that bottom-tier rental cars are not well suited for 20km of rock/dirt road, and that you ALWAYS drive with your lights on. I shopped like a local, quickly learning that while 5kg of ribs is cheaper in Paraguay than what you'd pay at home, you really don't ever need 11 pounds of meat.
All of this while still calling in for sprint meetings, pushing code, and collaborating on system security updates.
All in a months work, right?!
Reflecting on a trip like this, I am grateful to have friends who are always up for an adventure, and I am grateful that I work for a company that lets my travel ambitions run wild. I had the time of my life down in Paraguay, but I was also able to go heads down and work without distractions.
Even more, this experience showed me that a change of scenery can be really good for one's mental health. Sure I missed my friends and coworkers, but I knew they would be right where I left them when I got home. I will always love my one week vacation-adventures, but this was something totally new and I encourage you to try it for yourself.
If you have these perks, use them! If not - there's no time like the present to start convincing your CEO to let you all in on the next big thing.