26 August, 2020

Humanstate, the company behind online charity fundraising platform GivenGain and rental payment processing system PayProp, has given its employees carte blanche to choose where they want to work from in future.
Cartoon of people working in different locations around a map
From 1 July, all 134 employees across the Humanstate group in the United Kingdom, South Africa, United States, Canada and Switzerland made their choice as part of the company’s wider adoption of distributed working practices.

Work is not a place you go to

Staff can now work from home, while travelling, in Humanstate’s former full-time offices – newly converted into co-working spaces – or theoretically, the beach.

The company has already made its first fully ‘distributed’ (location-independent) appointment, hiring a new senior accountant after an interview and onboarding process conducted entirely remotely via videoconferencing. While her employer is registered in the UK, the new accountant happens to be working from South Africa.

Trust and responsibility

One can only truly begin to understand the impact of the decision when considering the surrender of management control that comes with it.

“There’s a lot of trust and responsibility implied in distributed working,” says Johannes Van Eeden, Executive Chairman of Humanstate. “But of course, the proper controls will show up any failures or loss of productivity.”

This points to another massive task the company has had to undertake – the total reengineering of its collaboration and communication systems and processes. “I’m proud to say our teams have done the heavy lifting while getting on with the normal workload as well as taking a whole new approach to our markets, thanks to COVID-19,” says Van Eeden. “Our people have really come through, and without physical oversight – taking ownership of their tasks from wherever they choose to work.”

Borderless benefits

Distributed working became a necessity in March in response to COVID-19, but Van Eeden says the company had been considering a distributed work model since long before the pandemic struck.

“As a global company, we were already used to working together at a distance and had all of the technology in place to do so effectively. Now, even against the backdrop of a global pandemic, we’re seeing how distributed work is making us more efficient and more productive than ever.”

Employees at Humanstate have been equally enthusiastic about the benefits, pointing to better savings, higher productivity and less commuting. A company survey found that 46% of employees planned to work almost exclusively outside the office even after the pandemic, while a similar proportion wanted to split their time between offices and other locations going forward.

Moving forward together

Despite the initial challenges and hard work, the distributed work model has already enabled some innovative new ways to build a positive, vibrant company culture in Humanstate.

This month, the company asked all employees to take part in a global inter-office online fundraising challenge, bringing everyone together virtually for some friendly competition while also making a difference for charities hit hard by recent events.

“It’s an ongoing process, but I am very excited about this new chapter and the opportunities it presents,” says Van Eeden. “Humanstate’s mission has always been to remove the barriers that divide us. Becoming a borderless distributed organisation is another step towards achieving that – in a way that benefits both ourselves and our clients.”