For your family?
To recharge your batteries?
To spark your creativity?
Why might you want to spend a month out of the office, working from a scenic holiday island?
In May and June, LINE Plus conducted a pilot program "Working in ______ for a month," where a few employees were selected to live and work anywhere they wanted for a month. One of the most popular locations among those selected was Jeju Island, just off the south coast of Korea. We talked to three of the participants — a developer, a service planner, and a designer — to learn why they wanted to take part in the program and how it helped them.
For the Family
"I always said I wanted to experience being a family of digital nomads, together with my wife and children," laughed SungHo Park, an engineer on the Messaging Client Engineering team, from this temporary home/office near Hyeopjae Beach.
SungHo says that he wasn't too concerned about adapting to this new program as he was so used to working remotely between Korea and Japan, something that has been a core part of LINE's work culture since the company's earliest days.
"My team switched to nearly 100% work-from-home mode around February or March 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and even then I saw no big difference," he says. "But after working at home for a year, together with my two kids, I think we all needed a bit of a change."
Just a 10-minute walk to the beach, the location was ideal for his wife and two young children. With one child in elementary school and the other in middle school, their days were still full with online classes and homework. But that still left them plenty of time together, walking along the beach and having fun during breaks and on weekends.
"Being in a new environment definitely gave us more time to enjoy each other’s company even more," he says. "And my kids have something to brag about to their friends since this is such a unique experience."
Recharging and Refreshing
Jinwoo Hwang, a service planner on the LINE Billing Planning team, laughs when he remembers the day he learned he had won a chance to participate in the pilot program.
"My lead knew the news before I did, so that day he was mysterious and only said that something good was going to happen to me," Jinwoo says. "And when I actually learned what he meant, I was so happy that I was speechless."
Jinwoo had been working at LINE for nearly six years, and had begun to feel a bit run down after working so hard for so long. Then being cooped up at home because of Covid-19 only made it worse. He needed some kind of break.
"I wondered if getting away to a new place could really make a difference," he says. Then, gesturing out the veranda to the ocean and scenery: "And now that I'm actually here — it really did help me recharge. Quickly!"
"Now, when I need to get a breather, I can just look at this view and feel much better," he says.
In fact, in many ways Jinwoo finds working from Jeju even better than taking a long vacation.
"Going on a vacation is great, but as returning to work gets nearer, I'd get more stressed out from thinking of all the piled-up tasks and email," he says. "But this program keeps the balance between work and getting refreshed. It doesn't cut off the flow of work, but still helps you feel good."
One of the most high-profile features of the LINE app is "Timeline," where users can post text, pictures, and videos for their friends. For Seungyeon Choi, a designer on the Social Product Design team, the difficulties and social distancing required in response to Covid-19 have really interfered with her creativity.
"I usually get my inspiration for designs from going outside," she says. "I need time as a creator to think things over, and actually check out possible sources for ideas. Plus, I was beginning to feel isolated from the users and wasn't able to try out new ideas."
On the day of this interview, however, Seungyeon was talking from her accommodation near Aewol Coastal Road, one of the most picturesque areas on all of Jeju, where the lush green forest meets with an oceanic wall of jet-black basalt.
"I really highlighted this when I applied for the program," she says. "I promised that if I was chosen, I would turn every moment here into the most inspired content — everything from the tiny holes in the basalt rock formations to the energy of the oreum volcanic cones, to all the sounds here."
Indeed, with the sounds of birds chirping nearby and the waves crashing in the distance, Seungyeon truly was making the most of her "one-month" home, turning all that inspiration into inspired ideas and designs.
The new environment made some positive changes for her daily life besides her work as well. "I took up jogging as a new habit, since I found I woke up a lot earlier here. That helps me start the day's work with a fresh mind. And when I come back, I try to set up my work space similar to the actual office environment — I even dress up a bit."
Creating a New Work Paradigm, Based on Trust
All told, 26 LINERs participated in the pilot program. Each had their own reasons for wanting to participate, but one thing they all mentioned was "trust" — trust among their colleagues, and trust from LINE.
"I once told a group of students that they would never be able to find a company in Korea like LINE, a place where remote-working culture is so deeply ingrained," says SungHo. "I think this is possible because the company has faith in its employees — this very fundamental kind of trust was the engine that propelled the pilot program forward."
"Definitely trust is the most important thing," says Jinwoo. "The company believes in its employees will fully live up to their responsibilities. In addition, the other thing that matter is infrastructure, but through the LINE Messenger and features like LINE Meeting, LINERs can work anywhere, regardless of location."
"I learned I could rely on my exceptional colleagues, and that together we'd maintain the productive environment no matter how far apart we were," Seungyeon says.
From the pilot program, LINE Plus kicked off a new work system called "LINE Hybrid Work 1.0," designed to give LINERs the flexibility to create whatever work environment is right for them.
"Now that I’ve been working like this for a month, I really believe it's possible to work anywhere," Seungyeon says. "Employees can adjust their work schedule based on their trust in their colleagues and what's best for their style. People should be able to choose where they want to be, regardless of where their offices are located."