Because the meetings that matter happen in person.
The COVID-19 pandemic certainly taught us a lot. More than anything, it showed us our humanity. People came together in the darkest times to sing from balconies, show their support for healthcare workers, and reconnect with long-lost friends over virtual drinks. But out of all of that, one lesson really stands out. We are social beings, and we want to be with each other.
As we enter the new normal, companies and individuals have to start making choices. How much of their life and work do they want mediated through a screen? How much of it do they want face-to-face?
Last week, our CEO Avi Meir held an all-hands meeting that mattered and sent a follow-up email that you can read below.
Here’s why TravelPerk exists and why we decided to start bringing back teams to the office one day per week. It’s the philosophy we are going to live by going forward:
Avi’s email to the team
Let me tell you all a little story. About 10 years ago, my wife Judith and I settled in Barcelona. We had spent some time living in France, and decided to make a change.
One day, I received an email from two guys I knew. They proposed that we start a company together. At that time, they were both living in the southern tip of Argentina, and I was in Barcelona working for Booking.com.
The proposal was tempting, I’m not going to lie. But I saw a huge challenge—we were in very different locations. For me, the option to move to Latin America was not on the table—Judith and I wanted to start a family in Barcelona. My reply to his email was: “I’m in, but I have one condition. You need to move to Barcelona and we will start the company here”. They accepted.
As you may have guessed, the guys that sent the email were my two co-founders, Javi and Ron. That company is TravelPerk.
As I was reflecting on this, I realized something. If that story happened today, people would argue that there were other options on the table that we did not consider. “You could have started a remote company and worked from different locations and time zones!”, some may have said. “You could have moved to Latin America and kept your relationship with Judith via Zoom!”, others could have suggested. Luckily, none of those things were trends at that point and none of us even considered them.
I know that neither TravelPerk nor my family would exist today if we hadn’t gotten together in Barcelona. Behind that decision lay a core belief: the important things in life happen in person.
This belief comes from the magic and the energy that bursts when we get together in person. Bursts of understanding, when we can read beyond someone’s words and listen beyond someone’s voice. Bursts of trust when we support each other with honest gestures. Bursts of inspiration when we solve hard problems and create new things together. Bursts of laughter, when we generate the safe space to enjoy the little ironies of life. And bursts of awareness, when we realize that we are in the same boat.
If we have to thank COVID-19 for something, it’s for making it crystal clear to us what we’re here for. The meetings that matter happen in person. TravelPerk exists to make them possible.
We exist to get people together from all across the globe. We exist to help people build meaningful relationships. We exist to help individuals create business opportunities. We exist to enable thousands of team success stories. We exist to create the bursts of magic and energy that happen when people get together in person.
This belief is not only reflected in our mission as a company but also in our culture as a team. Face-to-face time is deeply rooted into who we are and how we got here. From the first decision we made to locate the 3 co-founders to Barcelona, to the latest BBQs or Christmas party, we are a culture of real-life meetings. As a teenage nerd, we had this expression “IRL”, In Real Life. We’re an IRL company.
What’s next for TravelPerk
We, as a team, will continue working towards getting together in person as things start to improve.
The Spanish state of alarm ended on the 9th of May. Vaccine rollout is ramping up. The amazing feedback from the team BBQs we organized (it was actually the #1 ranked event in our history by the team’s votes) proves how people crave meeting in person. More people than ever are coming to our offices, and we are already reaching capacity limits. This is great news. As things look better, our culture is bringing people back together.
That’s why we decided to further enable the safe return to the office and make the meetings that matter possible.
Starting on the 31st of May, each team will have one day a week where we will guarantee the team space. This will last through to September. TravelPerkers can, of course, come to the office on other days as well, but the assigned team will have preference. We’re already seeing lots of us enjoying meeting in person, so to support the increase in demand, we have doubled the capacity at our office by renting 3 more spaces in the same building.
Practically, the way it will work is that TravelPerkers will all be “reserved a seat” on the day that is assigned to their teams unless they opt-out. We understand that some people have valid concerns about coming back to the office, that’s why, for now, all requests to not come will be automatically accepted, no questions asked.
As said, we are already seeing that most teams want to meet their colleagues in the office. This transition phase will help us achieve this goal safely together. The next step of the journey will likely be in September whereby we will fully implement a new way of working that will require our teams to be in the office a few days a week.
See you in real life!