I didn’t like my life.
I felt like something was wrong with me. For about 18 months I battled with that feeling, trying to escape it or find an explanation for why I felt that way.
This was what I had been led to believe a good life should be. School, university, good job, house, family. I’d ticked most of those boxes yet everything felt hollow.
What joy I felt came in fleeting moments I never had time to experience.
I left for work before my daughter woke up, increasingly arriving home after she went to bed, exhausted from a lengthy daily commute. But from the outside looking in everything was perfect.
My progress professionally had been fast. Promotion, headhunted, promotion. I was managing large multi-national million $ construction projects before I was 25 in some of the most remote locations on the planet. As my responsibility grew, my relationship deteriorated. I spent more time away from home, time at the office, time at home working to keep up.
That all came to a head one Saturday afternoon. Sitting in my living room, trying to catch up on another night of fresh emails. Millie had other ideas.
She pulled out her drum set and started playing.
I tried to ignore it but she just played louder.
Finally, looking up in annoyance, about to protest, and all she did was smile.
I captured it. Her competition for my attention obvious.
I’d spent a lot of time out of the country that year. By this point, she was 2 ½ years old and I was struck by this overwhelming sense of dread.
How much had I already missed, what I hadn’t seen?
I could answer that immediately. I never saw her first steps, only her 2nd, and 3rd. I never heard her first laughter, only her 3rd, and 4th. I felt destined to experience all progress fifth hand. That crushed me.
My initial response was to suppress. Throw my self more deeply into work masking my feeling of inadequacy and drown them in distraction.
Things got worse personally.
Having realized the oil and gas space wasn’t the most intellectually stimulating and that it was contributing to the feelings I was experiencing, I started to do a lot of other things out with the 9–5.
I wrote a blog that grew pretty quickly. That led me to connect with founders in the UK tech scene as well as investors in London and the US. I began talking to large tech companies for roles within them and the business school in the US about their MBA programs.
In all of those conversations, I realized something. The environment each advocated — the office — was broken. I began to recognize its role in my general malaise. Its effect on my lack of happiness. My lowering wellbeing and health.
I needed to change something.
Rather than pursuing the opportunities above, I wanted more control.
I wanted to build something where I had it. I founded a FinTech startup in March 2018. We started out with the desire to be remote immediately. I never wanted to commute anymore and I needed to spend less time away from my family. This was my answer. The biggest quality of life increase I could design.
At the same time, we also knew we’d be more talented, cost-efficient, diverse, and inclusive. Everything I felt about office work was true for almost everyone else that worked in the office. But that wasn’t enough.
We didn’t just want to build another place that the demographic that looked like us could work at. We wanted to attract the most talented people globally irrespective of whether they were single parents, carers, suffering from health conditions, or impairments that made office working difficult.
As we got our small team setup for the first-time we faced huge problems.
We wanted to provide a great remote experience to our team and knew that began with the foundation on which we did our work. As we got our first team members set up we realized how expensive that was, how time-consuming it was, and when stuff never turned up on time it led to a terrible experience.
Because we’d done this previously — put this stuff on the most remote oil and gas platform globally and my CTO had done cybersecurity for the US airforce around the world — we had the skill set to solve it pretty easily.
So we built firstbase as an internal product. It took us 11 months to realize this was something every other remote team was struggling with as much as we did.
We launched Firstbase as a standalone product in September 2019. By March we had 600 companies on our waitlist. This morning we went through 8,200.
Our mission is to empower any company to give their team the same quality of life upgrade we experienced ourselves.
I have no desire to extend the adult kids club culture that has emerged. Table tennis tables, restaurants, laundry, and every other unnecessary gimmick companies employ to lengthen the amount of time spent at the office.
Who wants to work for that?
Stuck in a high cost of living city, wasting our lives commuting, with no time left for ourselves or to spend time with the people we care about most.
Employees don’t need ping pong tables or beer fridges at work.
Employees need the flexibility to do their best work and live.
Employees want more time, trust, freedom, and autonomy.
The best places to work give you the most time back. They empower you to produce incredible work by removing obstacles, bottlenecks, and unnecessary red tape.
That is where the most talented people in the world produce their best work.
At a time when hustle porn and the lunacy of never-ending workdays influence every channel online, the companies that dominate this decade will find new ways to work.
This will empower them to attract & retain the most talented people globally.
As a young CEO, I am intimately aware of the experiences & perspectives I lack. Those blindspots mean I have to be more purposeful about the workplace and culture we design at Firstbase. This is something I can’t do alone and won’t happen if the company becomes homogeneous with people who share the same or similar life experiences & perspectives as me.
Swap worklife balance for lifework balance
Expecting people to be productive for the entirety of a 9–5 day is insane. Nobody can be productive all day, every day, but companies arbitrarily impose those limitations on their teams. We’re still living life by the standard and expectations of the industrial revolution.
Instead of empowering our teams to do their best work and operate when they are able to do that, we employ a one size fits all model that fits nobody.
Design each role for the individual rather than the collective.
Give people freedom and flexibility.
Let them schedule their days to maximize their happiness.
Your team are professionals. They know how much work needs to be done. Measure that. Unshackle them to live their lives rather than sacrificing them for work. Do this and they will produce the best work they’ve ever done.
Why is this so important to me?
I needed to go remote because I saw the waste of my life between the points I spent time with my partner and children. They were growing up while I was growing away. I had to make a change before I lost the moments I knew I would never get back.
Remote work was my bridge to that.
Now I get to work out, read, and spend time with them each morning in less time than my previous commute. My daughters know their Dad. I can drop them at school, attend any appointment I need to, travel whenever I want, without permission.
I get to have dinner with my partner each evening and share in moments that have become fleeting for so many. The future of work is really about the future of living.
Remote lets me live my best life & produce the best work I’ve done in my life.