By Haj Carr, President and CEO at Trueline, a full-service marketing firm in Portland, Maine.
This wasn’t something we took lightly.
But after months of discussion, including many conversations with employees and a company-wide survey, we’ve decided to close my company’s Portland, Maine, office and work in a completely remote environment.
As with many businesses, the Covid-19 pandemic forced us to close our office doors in March 2020. That was an especially hard moment considering we’d moved into our prime downtown location less than a year ago.
Not only was it nice, but we made it that way. We renovated the 10,000 square foot space to include a public art gallery, a mural and employee comforts that contributed to Trueline being named one of Maine’s best places to work for several years running. We invested more than a quarter-million dollars in new equipment, technology and rehabilitation of the space. We had a great kitchen, an inviting office lounge and enough square footage to really spread out and relax. We miss it already.
Numbers Never Lie
Yet the raw numbers are hard to ignore. Having a physical location was costing us $80,000 to $100,000 per year. As the pandemic has continued its grind, we started to view those dollars as a potential investment in our company culture, allowing us to connect in this new remote landscape. Simply put, we thought the money could be better spent.
Roughly 60% of our group lives in the Portland metro area, which means there are about 25 people working outside of Maine. According to our survey, three-quarters of Trueliners supported an all-remote workplace and the other 25% preferred a hybrid option.
As a business owner, I’ve always had an open-door policy and encouraged conversation between employees and leadership. It would go against those beliefs to disregard the findings in our employee survey. If a large majority of our team wanted an all-remote workplace, then we would’ve needed a really, really compelling reason to go against them, especially when the economics were also in favor of remote work.
In fact, not only does remote work save money through reduced rent, but it has also helped employees grow personally and professionally. We’ve set several monthly revenue records over the past 18 months — not something we expected at the beginning of the pandemic. We haven’t merely survived by going remote. We’ve thrived.
Additionally, working remotely has grown more than just our revenues. Hiring out of state has allowed us to become a more national organization and a more diverse group — Maine remains the whitest state in the nation, making it hard to have inclusive hiring practices. The newfound diversity in our business is leading to new ideas, new relationships and new possibilities that didn’t exist when we were tied to Portland. It’s exciting!
There Will Always Be A Space
Recently, and for the first time in more than 18 months, more than two dozen Trueline staffers, including a few who live out of state, were meeting many of their colleagues for the first time, gathered at a Portland bowling alley rooftop bar for good times, good conversations, good drinks and camaraderie.
After about 90 minutes, 12 of us headed to another local spot for a spirited game of trivia hosted by two Trueline staffers. Then, the same group had dinner and drinks and enjoyed each other’s company for several more hours. It was a magical evening and something we’ve been thinking about as a company for months.
Aside from reinforcing just how great our team at Trueline is, this recent social interaction and fun hammered home the point that no matter how remote our operations, there will always be a time — and a space and a place — for us to get together. It’s part of our company culture.
When we sent out the company-wide email announcing our decision to close our Congress Street office, I made sure to mention the desire and plan to have a smaller space somewhere in Portland where Trueliners can go and work, meet and socialize if necessary. In fact, I’ve spoken to many team members who, while excited for the possibilities of a fully remote workplace, would appreciate the opportunity to come into a Trueline office sometimes to escape the challenges of working from home.
With the hardpoint — the decision — behind us, it’s time to look to the future of Trueline. It’s time to take a lot of the money saved from vacating our Portland office and re-invest it in our people. We want to host all-staff retreats, increase our technology and equipment budgets and continue to make our company a destination for motivated people who want to see their careers grow alongside Trueline.
If your company’s values and culture align with its leadership team’s principles and employees’ mindsets, it doesn’t matter where you work. Our team has proved that, and we can’t wait to see what our future looks like.