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In Conversation: Florian Jacques, Co-founder and CEO of Midstay

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By Aakash Gupta

Founder and Remote Work Advocate

Over the past few years, work has undergone a significant transformation. Advancements in technology, the impact of the pandemic, and the accessibility of affordable flight tickets have opened up endless possibilities. However, remote work still holds many unknowns for people. That's where Sorry I Was On Mute comes in. We aim to provide insights and knowledge about remote work through a series of interviews with remote work experts. Today we are in conversation with Florian Jacques, Co-founder and CEO of Midstay

Midstay is on a mission to combat the isolation often associated with remote work by prioritizing "community." Their app enables remote workers worldwide to connect with each other and recreate the collaborative environment of a traditional workplace. Additionally, Midstay organizes team retreats for companies seeking to enhance engagement without the confines of fluorescent lights and cubicles.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity)

  1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? We'd love to hear about your background and what led you to where you are today.

Ever since I was young, I have had a passion for travel and a desire to blend that into my professional life. Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, I took the plunge and started my first company when I was just 18. It was a way to support my digital design career while I was still studying, mainly by handling client invoicing.

This venture opened up amazing opportunities for me. I got the chance to collaborate with startups based in exciting locations like New York, San Francisco and Australia. Before the Covid pandemic, I used to travel to their offices and work closely with them on product strategy and development, with a particular focus on UX and UI design. My role was to act as a bridge between visionary founders and engineering teams, providing cohesive designs and visual experiences.

In addition to my design work, I also dedicated some of my time to an annual music festival in Belgium which was a passion project of mine. In 2019,  I had the incredible opportunity to take on the role of festival director and successfully drew 20,000 attendees. And all of this happened before I even turned 23.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints,, I had to discontinue the music festival early 2020. Nevertheless, this experience provided me with invaluable knowledge as I had to learnt to manage various aspects of the festival in-house, including marketing, HR, finance, and music production.

Back in February 2020, I sought to escape the Belgian winter and embraced a nomadic lifestyle by traveling to Bali, intending to stay for 1-2 months. Unfortunately, just a month later, the Covid pandemic struck, leaving me stranded. Despite the unforeseen circumstances, I chose to remain in Bali and continued serving my startup clients remotely.

2. We'd love to hear more about your business and how it's making a positive impact in the world of remote work. What inspired you to start this business, and how does it help remote workers and companies overcome the challenges of working in a distributed environment?

Midstay was founded after I met my co-founder Magnus while surfing in Bali. We both experienced the challenges of working remotely, such as loneliness and difficulty connecting with like-minded professionals. This inspired us to create Midstay, initially targeting individuals (B2C), with a vision of enabling remote work without sacrificing social and professional interactions. 

We've been getting inquiries from companies who are interested in taking our help to organize team retreats. These retreats go a long way in helping to improve communication, strengthen company culture, align the company’s goals and vision, and foster unity among team members. We firmly believe that in the remote workspace, social interactions are absolutely essential to create productive and meaningful experiences. 

After all, we humans are social beings by nature. Creating such unique social interactions are, to me, the most important thing that Midstay provides.

3. Can you tell us about your current work setup? Are you currently working remotely and/or managing a completely distributed team? And what led you to choose this setup?

As a remote-first company, we have a fully distributed global team across seven countries. We firmly believe that in order to provide the best for remote workers, we must personally experience and understand what we offer.

4. What has been your experience with remote work, and how has it differed from working in a traditional office environment?

Before Covid, as a product designer, I used to travel between different startup offices. This allowed me to avoid the monotony of a traditional 9-5 routine and rigid office environment. Thankfully, I did not have to deal much with the hassles of daily commuting and lack of flexibility that comes with it and I have no desire to return to that way of working at all. 

To the contrary, as a leader in my remote company what matters to me, is the performance of my team members and the quantity and quality of tasks completed each week. I believe in giving my employees the freedom to work from anywhere they choose, whether it's from their comfort of their beds or from the Eiffel Tower.

5. Communication is crucial for a remote team's success, especially when team members are in different locations and time zones. How do you keep everyone in sync and ensure everyone stays connected and engaged despite the distance?

Certainly, communication remains one of the primary challenges when working remotely. However, we now have a wide range of tools that enable asynchronous work, making it easier to overcome this challenge.

At Midstay, we utilize various tools to enhance communication. 

  • Slack serves as our primary communication platform. 
  • Notion is utilized for knowledge storage, while 
  • Drive is used for media storage. 
  • Loom enables us to quickly catch up on feedback without the need for a live call. 
  • Additionally, TLDV (Transcribe, Log, Distribute, Verify) assists with meeting transcriptions and recordings, allowing us to share them with stakeholders who were unable to attend the call.

6. Can you share what tools you have found most effective in promoting collaboration and boosting productivity among your remote team?

One of the most effective tools for us is Notion. It serves as a comprehensive platform for various purposes, including our to-do boards, product strategy roadmaps, OPS frameworks, and even HR-related tasks. 

Approximately 80% of each employee's work time is dedicated to working on this platform.

7. How do you keep team morale high, boost team spirit, and promote a positive team culture despite the distance?

We start each week with team meetings that align tasks among team members. Additionally, we have a special activity called "Social Midstay" where I take on the role of a game master and organize ice-breaking virtual games. 

This not only adds fun, laughter, and happiness within the team but also helps us better understand and connect with each other on a personal level. It's crucial for our employees to feel that they are part of something greater than just their daily work responsibilities.

Furthermore, as a team retreat provider, we also organize our own team retreats in dreamy locations. I highly recommend this approach to any hybrid or remote-first company looking to enhance workforce engagement and long-term productivity.

8. For someone who is new to remote work, what resources would you recommend for them to help them get started and be successful in their role? Are there any specific tools, books, websites, or communities that you found helpful and would recommend to others (apart from SIWOM of course ;))?

Apart from SIWOM, I would recommend Midstay ?, either for individuals remote workers or companies with a remote workforce.

I also suggest following influential voices on LinkedIn who discuss the "future of work" or "remote work" to gain inspiration and stay informed about the latest developments in this space.

I would also recommend the book “Remote: Office Not Required” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.

If you are a remote worker, simply sign up for free on Midstay as an individual, or request a free quote for a team retreat if you are a leader in a company! 

https://www.midstay.com/

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