Terminal 3 co-founder Ioannis Papoutsis tells us how his distributed team uses their own best practices to create a turnkey solution for clients to seamlessly blend work and travel.
How many employees and contractors do you have?
Please tell us about the importance of location independence at your company.
We were “slaves to the system” and decided to break free from our careers—consulting for me, law for Mevish (Terminal 3’s co-founder). Since then we have traveled to multiple destinations and connected with locals. Having the autonomy to live, work, and play around the world makes us excited about introducing a new way of living at Terminal 3. We believe that being independent in terms of location helps free your mind from office politics and worries about getting to and from the workplace. It also builds an entrepreneurial mindset; you are managed based on your results, not just the time you put in. By trying to innovate, optimise workflows, reduce working hours, and increase effectiveness you take ownership of your input.
Did you start with the intention of having a distributed or nomadic team? If not, when did you decide to support people working remotely?
Terminal 3 started as a distributed team. The first time we worked together in person was on the ground in Morocco before the program started. The combination of working remotely and in person feeds into our creativity. We not only think outside the box, but also do some crazy stuff like organising a hackathon for over 100 people at the Global Peacebuilding and Social Development Summit in Morocco, which was represented by 49 nationalities.
What are some of the challenges you face as a team without a central location or office?
Not a challenge per se but we miss the comforts of having an office that we call ours. To fill this void we arrange our team meetings in a huge variety of locations. To date this has included a beach, a park, a coworking space, and even a flight from Casablanca to Berlin!
What’s the upside that comes with not having a central location or office?
No commitment to be stuck in one location, and avoiding the commute which for us used to average over 3 hours a week.
Are there important non-office workspaces in the history of building your company—a favorite coffee shop, bar or similar space?
What % of your company regularly works remotely?
Any advice or best practices for supporting the work styles of your teammates from a distance?
Let them live the life they want and reduce restrictions in terms of times. Set a common time frame to be able to exchange information quickly through phone/mail, e.g. 3-4 hours in the day where you are all available to interact with each other. Communication is deal breaker for distributed teams.
What types of places do your teammates choose to work from when remote?
At home, cafes and coworking spaces. Sometimes it’s possible to work from a park or a beach but only for short periods of time due to battery and WiFi signal restrictions.
What qualities do you look for when hiring for a distributed team?
Entrepreneurial, self-motivated, well organised, good communication skills, and able to understand both operational and strategic challenges.
You’ve created a program that facilitates location independence for remote professionals. Why did you choose to do that?
Terminal 3 supports the transition of not only living the life you dreamed of but also introduces a new way of living. The program opens up the opportunity to tap into our combined experience of travelling and remote work of over 12 years. We believe we are some of the lucky few who are able to work remotely instead of being obliged to stick to a 9-5 office job. There are many people who have the potential to live a remote work and travel lifestyle but are afraid to, or perhaps they don’t wish to do so alone and maybe it takes a push to take the leap. Taking the first step is always the toughest, but Terminal 3 is well equipped with not only our experience, but also the resources to offer a personalised soft landing upon request. We have already supported our current group with the ad hoc process of travelling and working remotely, negotiating a remote work agreement with employers, and creating a soft landing in each city as well as taking away the stress of going it alone.
What are your thoughts on Workfrom’s role in the way work is getting done—now and in the future?
Workfrom is an awesome curator and we expect this role to develop into being a facilitator of engaging social cross border communities. One of the main challenges for remote workers is where to go for good WiFi, power plugs, quiet space, and of course good coffee. Having such information in a central place is a lifesaver for many people.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Go for it, try it, make it work—the reward is definitely worth the effort. Leaders who are open to remote work pave the way for increased productivity.