BEN PERREIRA took a big trip when he was in his early 20s, backpacking his way through South America. Among the lessons he took away from the experience was that the lodging industry was changing—quickly. So, when he returned home to Whitehorse, he decided to take everything he had learned and start his own accommodations business.
Neighbourly North was born in May of 2020 and today serves as a local accommoda- tions alternative to Airbnb in Whitehorse and Yellowknife. It serves hundreds of customers and conducts most interactions online. That’s also how Perreira manages his staff—they are welcome to work remotely, as well, a choice that helps them create a better work-life balance. Employers everywhere face increasing demand from staff who would like to continue with work-from-home arrangements that were first introduced at the outset of the CO- VID-19 pandemic. Many also struggle with how to develop policies and protocols. Perreira says the secret isn’t all that hard: At the end of the day, focus on the result rather than the process of getting there. And pay attention to the digital tools that will help.
How does your work-from-home model function?
We don’t really have a formal work- from-home policy in our employee handbook. It’s essentially a lack of a policy because people are measured by the quality of the work they do and their output. I don’t really care where they get that work done. But we do work together to make sure that the employee has everything they need at home to be successful, like a second monitor [for their computer] or a proper chair. You know, so their work environ- ment is not like them hunched over a tiny cof- fee table in an environment where they’re not really going to be able to collaborate effectively.
You mentioned collaboration. How do you facilitate that with remote workers?
I couldn’t imagine it would be possible without [digital platforms] Trello, Waybook, and Slack. Those are obviously really important remote collaboration tools. Slack has got to be one of the most popular business apps in the world to manage your internal communication in a way that’s highly searchable and easy to organize. It’s much more effective than relying on email communication for teamwork.
Trello is a project management software, which is the one that we selected to organize, delegate and review... We have a management system and a collaboration system for the begin- ning of the day, week, month, or the quarter where strategic projects are decided. People can be assigned work; everyone can upload their comments as the work progresses, and manag- ers have a system for reviewing everybody’s work and ultimately signing off on it in Trello.
How do you think your working-remote policy will change as the business grows?
You can’t just create a policy overnight. You really need to bake it into everybody’s train- ing and the DNA of the company to be using these remote collaboration tools effectively. We recognize the benefit not only for the employee experience, but also for being able to find new talent. We’re continuing to make investments in and move in that direction, albeit carefully. While there is some unstructured remote work happening today, we’re still exploring the ex- tent to which we can leverage that in a way that’s good for business.
You utilize other digital apps when it comes to customer service as well, right?
Everything is done digitally. We also use Virtu- al Gurus—they’re basically a marketplace for virtual assistants... They will match you with a virtual assistant that you know has a certain level of education that you might be searching for. Or that person has a certain background or skill set that you might need. Most of the as- sistants are located in North America... It also matches you up with individuals who typically might have a harder time finding work.
You mentioned most of your staff still come into the office. How do you create an environment that makes people want to show up?
There’s free snacks and we’ve got a big drink fridge. There’s lots of free food, fresh fruits and candy for whatever people are feeling. We also go out to lunch as a team most days. So, it’s not a company policy, but for the last two and-a-half years, for everyone who’s been in the company, we have lunch together almost every day. That’s just something that’s developed from our own friendship. And so, I’d say the energy in the office is pretty electric some days.