Interview with Robert Hinsch, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Torq Partners
Future of work 30 Jan 2023 7 min Read
Future of work 30 Jan 2023 5 min Read
For the third instalment in our office series, “What Does the Office Space Mean to You?”, Setting sat down with Robert Hinsch, Managing Partner and founder of torq.partners. Founded in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, torq.partners offers active support and individual solutions to fast-growing organizations in the areas of Finance & People. On a wintry day, Setting sat down with Robert to discuss remote-first setups, the future of work, and the idea of the office as a tool to create meaning.
Q: Happy new year, Robert! Let’s get right into it. What does the office space mean to you?
Robert Hinsch (R.H.): The office space is a campfire—a bonfire. It’s a place for the company to tell stories. Sometimes, I get the feeling that bringing the company together via video calls allows us to communicate updates and important information about our company, but people are sometimes less present at the moment.
No matter how emotionally we share news or say something important over video calls, it won’t be as effective as doing it in person at the office. I think there’s a different spirit in the office—one where we can come together and tell those types of stories. I think the office is the best representation and place to tell stories that you need in order to create meaning in your work.
As you can tell, I think the office is important, but it’s also important that we now have the flexibility to choose between being at the office or working remotely.
Q: That’s a very unique way to look at it. You cut right into the heart of this series, too. One thing we find fascinating here at Setting is the idea that the idea of an office also evolves over time. Has that been the case for you?
R.H: Pre-COVID? Well, I cared way more about the office then. It was like, “I always need to go to the office.” Right now, though, I feel like there’s no need to go to the office 100% of the time. But I definitely think we still need some kind of space for people to talk, an outlet for people to meet on a regular basis. Not just a space to party or something like that—but really a place where we can bring people together and come “home”.
In that way, the idea of an office has personally changed for me. On the one hand, I care less about the office. But right now, since we had such crazy growth over the last year, I also think the office will become more important for us at some point.
Q: So what’s your current office set-up now, then?
R.H. So we have one office here in Berlin, which is our headquarters, our home base. It’s an office for around 20 people. But the whole team here in Germany and in the Netherlands totals around 80 people. So we also have local offices in Amsterdam, and on top of that, our team works in 3 more coworking spaces in Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Potsdam.
Most of the time, since we're a consulting firm, we work with clients very closely and our focus areas (Finance & HR) require that we’re sometimes at the client’s office. Since Corona, we do a lot more remote work—and not just for us internally. Before, we were always asked by our clients to come into the office. But then Corona, as you know, changed a lot. It’s far easier to do remote work now and avoid the hassle of commuting.
Q: That’s a very unique office arrangement. What do you think about when you look for an office space for the company?
R.H. It’s all about seeing what makes sense for us at a given time and has the right vibe. We always ask ourselves whether or not the team would feel comfortable going there. And then, of course, the classic questions: where is it located? Is it easily reachable, and accessible? And can you have a good party there? And, of course, whether or not we’ll be growing and then thinking about moving into a bigger space or so. We take these factors into consideration and make a decision.
Q: Let’s talk about the internal changes. It seems like torq has quite a progressive hybrid policy. Is that the case?
R.H. So we’re a remote-first company. We started torq half a year after COVID started, a time period when the shift to remote was already happening. In the beginning, we were all working from home—and a year after COVID started, we decided we wanted to be a remote-first company. Considering we wanted to grow internationally, we wanted to attract people that live in different countries and could be great team members, but who decide on a different lifestyle. It just fits our market requirements.
For us, forcing somebody into the office is senseless. Personally, I prefer to go to the office for longer meetings and other in-person things compared to doing them virtually. That’s why I do think offices are important. I also love to go to other offices to see the atmosphere and how they organize their spaces. But from our own personal growth perspective, it was quite beneficial to stay remote first.
Q: Wow! You’re the first remote-first company we’ve talked to. How does that affect onboarding and general office life?
R.H. What it requires is that we have a lot more written down and defined. You need to establish a lot more processes and documents early on, onboard people better constantly, and invest more into learning. All the stuff that usually happens in the office in the kitchen over coffee and stuff like that—and that’s not replaceable.
People that are onboarded remotely get a lot more input. They get technical updates, they get content updates when it comes to vision, and they get a lot of tools. It can be overwhelming in the first two weeks when they start with us, but it also depends on how fast they’re going to work with our clients. It’s a balancing act: how do we make the team feel comfortable while serving our clients and our business?
Q: What do you make of the future of work in this context? It seems like your remote-first policy is really based on progressive ideas of hybrid work as well as your business requirements.
R.H. Everybody’s different. It depends so much on the product or services you have, what kind of development cycles you have, and what financial means you have. Right now, I’m seeing tons of LinkedIn and blog articles about the future of work and the demands of employees. We talk about the wall of talent, minimum food basket requirements, and employee satisfaction. But a lot of these solutions don’t necessarily correspond to the legacy or the financial means of an individual company.
When I read all the articles about the future of work, it sometimes feels like you need to have all these Top 10 Things-List in place and then it's culture “easy”. Like, here's a checklist of XYZ for hybrid work. Or here’s the type of founder or employee you need to be. It also feels like people have ideas of a “perfect employee” or a “perfect founder”.
The future of work is not one size fits all. Every person is unique. So too is every company. I think the future of work is opening options, and negotiating them on an individual level, but also what works best for a group of people. Ultimately, it’s what’s best for your individual company, culture, and the people you work with.
Q: Where does the office space fit in here? It seems like it’s in constant evolution. That’s definitely a value here at Setting.
R.H. The future of work extends right down to the office space too. Each office space is unique. Finding the right set-up is a negotiation between all of these factors that only you experience—the local office, the founders, the team, and the clients and your product. And it’s in constant iteration. The question is, often, how fast you can/should iterate.
I think, for us, because we grew the company from 5 to 80 people without any funding, we iterated a lot. And we learned a lot about the things we’ve changed over time.
You definitely demand a lot of your people at the beginning. You give them an idea of the company, and you say “here are our current processes.” Then, half a year later, you realize you’re all of a sudden bigger, and things need to change. I think it’s sometimes hard to reflect these changes in the communication process, and, of course, in the idea of the office itself. But ultimately, if the business changes, you need to change along with it.
This is the third interview in our “What Does the Office Space Mean To You” series. Stay tuned for more exciting stories about the office space over the next couple of months!
We’d love to hear your office story. Drop us a line at [email protected] if you’re interested in sharing your office experience.
For more information on Robert’s business, torq.partners, click here. And don’t forget to Robert on LinkedIn!
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