A new dawn for Cytora: remote control for all

How we’re embracing freedom and accountability by going remote-first

By Max Pepe, Chief Marketing Officer, Cytora

Today we’re announcing Cytora is becoming an entirely remote-first organisation. Our employees can choose to work from any location they desire, no longer restricted by the unnecessary demands of a physical office.

Covid-19 was undeniably the catalyst for our decision, but it’s definitely not the reason. The concept of the traditional workplace needed to change regardless of this; and our decision to go remote first has been designed with purpose and conviction. 

Here, we explain how we are injecting life into the company, creating a place where trust is at the heart, and where ambition and productivity can sky-rocket. 

The office and the circus elephant

One day, a man in the audience of a travelling circus looked down at the auditorium bewildered. He was stunned to see an enormous elephant, five tonnes at least, being held by only a single piece of flimsy rope. 

How alarming, he thought. The only thing stopping this wildly powerful animal from bursting into the crowd is a weak and fraying piece of string. 

He turned to the woman next to him and asked why these magnificent creatures made no attempt to escape. She explained:

When circus elephants are young, their keepers will tie them to a wooden stake in the ground with a small piece of rope to stop them from escaping. At that age, it works, because infantile elephants simply aren’t strong enough to break free. 

Over time, the elephants intrinsically associate the rope with being constrained. This becomes embedded in their psyche, and they give up trying to think differently.

So even as they mature and grow to have the brute strength of over 130 people, they’re still conditioned to believe that when tied, they’re powerless. 

Any modern technology business that thinks it still needs a traditional office set-up to be successful has either been conditioned like the circus elephant, or believes in tying people to desks with imaginary rope.

The traditional office is dead

There was a time when having a physical office made sense. It was necessary to access company equipment and files. It was the only effective way to collaborate or socialise with colleagues. And it acted as a symbol of credibility to clients. 

But this is old office thinking. It is defined by a material location placed at the centre of an organisation. It requires all employees, no matter their role or working style, to be present and productive during predefined working hours. Mass conformity is expected, and compliance is enforced. 

This is the way that organisations have been run for over a century. It is derived from a factory worker mentality; people are often viewed as machines, exchanging their time for money, tied to desks and bound by the restrictions of legacy technology. 

Astonishingly, this is still considered the norm. Despite being able to access a virtual office anywhere via the cloud, despite video chat, and despite further revolutionary advances in technology, humans are still captured and contained by old office thinking. 

Covid-19 has certainly changed some perceptions. Some organisations have acknowledged that being present doesn’t mean being productive; commuting everyday is inefficient; and money is wasted on unnecessary office space. 

Nonetheless, many tech companies can’t shake the circus elephant, or worse, don’t trust their people without the rope. They’re rushing back to an old office routine, desperately reverting to something that vaguely resembles the old way; whether for two days a week or five. 

Leaders justify this by claiming it’s the only way to keep people motivated, drive maximum results, or build a culture. And without an office, the social aspect is removed.

But this attitude will never inspire people to build companies and workplaces of the future. In fact it’s regressive, exposing a lack of leadership and lack of vision.

Old office thinking shamefully ignores the immense mental health benefits of a rewarding work-life integration. It overlooks the monumental output increases that location agnosticity can yield. And refuses to adapt to what company culture really looks like in tomorrow’s world, today. 

Socialising, human interaction and building close bonds with team mates is imperative, but doesn’t require an office, it just requires a new way of thinking – a different approach. That’s what Cytora is all about.

We don’t think like circus elephants, and we’re not waiting around for someone else to tell us what the future of work will look like. Instead, we’re going to create it.

So from now, Cytora will be an entirely remote first organisation. 

This means our people can choose to work from any location they desire. They are no longer restricted by the unnecessary demands of a physical office. They are free to work, live and thrive the new way, the Cytora way. 

From old office thinking to remote-first

Remote-first is defined by commonality of ideas and ideals, not geography. It is defined by a shared purpose and belief system, not a shared building; and a collective vision and mission, not an enforced office policy. 

Remote-first is not the same as pure ‘WFH’ either, where people are essentially tied to a room in a house in the same way you were tied to an office. 

Remote-first means you are location agnostic. As long as you can do your job effectively, you can work anywhere. Your home, an Airbnb in the mountains of Northern Italy, a ski lodge in Switzerland, or a beach house in the Mediterranean.

Covid-19 may have been the catalyst for our decision, but it’s definitely not the reason. 

The concept of the workplace needed to change regardless of this; and our decision to go remote first is designed to achieve the following goals: 

  1. Create an inspiring and autonomous working environment that gives Cytora and its people a durable competitive advantage, while attracting and retaining the best global talent.
  2. Achieve what others can’t, by accelerating iteration speed, removing the friction of old office thinking, and designing new and different ways of working that are efficient and effective.

That’s how we define membership at Cytora. That’s why we’re a remote-first company. We believe in the power of difference, and in the cumulative power of different perspectives, places and cultures. 

We’re setting out to solve one of the biggest problems in the world. This cannot be done by thinking like everyone else. So we’re prepared to think differently. We’re trailblazers and we are ready to challenge the status quo. 

To us, remote-first is about redrawing distinctions, cutting the rope and setting the circus elephant free, to make the world a better place. We choose to embrace freedom and accountability, and seek to solve meaningful problems in new ways. This is at the heart of originality, this is at the heart of Cytora.

To us, the word ‘office’ no longer refers to something that’s dictated, defined and owned by a company. Instead, something dynamic that’s defined by each individual, for each individual. A space to focus, think, create and make happen; alone or synergistically. 

A few of Cytora’s remote working spaces!

Remote-first is not about driving a wedge between work and human interaction. Quite the opposite. Certain people and certain teams will actively decide to spend more time in these hubs than working in their own offices remotely. That’s ok, because the difference is freedom and choice.

Cytora is a remote-first company

As we look around the world today, so many organisations are anticipating an eventual return to the drudgery of commuting and old office life. But not us. 

We are injecting life into the company, not zapping life from it. We are creating a place with trust is at its core, and where ambition and productivity sky-rocket. 

That’s why Cytora has made this decision. Remote-first is a choice, it’s a mentality. It’s at the heart of our vibrant culture, as we set off to create the future of commercial insurance. 

So what’s next?

There are indeed many challenges and unknowns that need to be faced and overcome as we go from old office thinking to a remote-first culture; psychologically and operationally. We will tackle these together, as a team.

We’ve already brought in some specific initiatives to help us navigate the change, to get inspired and build a company of the future. For example, we’re giving each employee a remote working travel budget of £2,000 a year to work from wherever they want in the world. And we’ll be booking monthly Airbnb accommodation for employees to meet, work and socialise – always dependent on Covid-restrictions. 

Needless to say, we’re incredibly excited. The concept of the traditional workplace has to change; and our decision to go remote-first has been designed with great conviction, setting us up for success on our quest to create the future of commercial insurance. 

Cytorians: let’s do this.