Going digital first after Covid

Paddle was commended at the WM People Top Employer Awards for its flexible digital first model. Here we talk to Director of People Hanna Smith about what makes it so flexible.


Paddle is one of the employers that switched to digital first as a result of the COVID pandemic. Not only is the company – a payments infrastructure provider for certain software companies – fully flexible, but employees can work abroad for up to 45 days a year and, when the world opened up after Covid, they got an Airbnb voucher to incentivise them to do so.

Paddle was highly commended at this year’s WM People Top Employer Awards in the Best for Flexible Working category. It believes that flexible and supportive policies are vital for attracting the best talent in a competitive market. 

Hanna Smith, Director of People at Paddle, says the company made a considered decision to go digital first in summer 2021. They had always offered flexible working, but COVID taught them they could work well in a digital first way. The company was growing fast and needed to double its head count within a year. Being digital first means it can employ people globally and has a bigger talent pool to draw from, says Smith. “It works for us,” she states. The company has 330 staff globally with around 190 in the UK and 90 in the US. Others are based in Argentina, China and on the European continent. 

Smith says 100% of staff work flexibly, including the two people based in the company’s London office, the vast majority full time. The flexible policies it operates are backed up by a fully transparent work culture where people’s diaries are viewable by everyone. “Nothing is hidden. It’s really refreshing,” says Smith. “People put that they are going to the gym or have therapy.”

Paddle introduced its Navigate policy in September 2021 which allows employees to work abroad for up to 45 days a year.  Smith says it followed on from the digital first culture, which emphasises a personalised approach to when and where people work. That includes synchronous and asynchronous collaborations.  Paddle took legal advice before the policy was introduced to understand the tax implications. There are a small number of countries that the policy won’t work in because workers are taxed from day one in the country so would have to pay tax both in their home country and the country they were travelling to. Employees have to request to use the Navigate policy and outline what it is for and where they are going as well as keeping a record of this for tax purposes.  It has been a popular policy, says Smith, citing two employees who travelled in a P shape across Europe to highlight the freedom it gives people to travel and work. 

For the first year of the policy Paddle partnered with Airbnb and provided a one-off £250 Airbnb voucher to those using the Navigate policy.  

Other benefits

The company doesn’t anticipate any changes in its digital first policy – because it works. However, some members of staff have missed in-person contact so it  does hold some in-person meetings, but it emphasises the reason for these and the importance of connectivity. Overall, however, the aim of the policy is to give people more choice and more time for work and other pursuits. 

Other benefits offered to employees include a generous parental leave policy and unlimited holidays. Paddle does not have a lot of employees who are parents, most of those it does have are dads. It has had a 100% take-up of its equal parental leave policy by dads which provides for 17 weeks leave on full pay and came in around two years ago. When it comes to unlimited holidays, Smith acknowledges that this can result in people taking less holiday, but says Paddle actively encourages people to take leave and check that people are taking enough time to rest. The average holiday taken is around 30 days a year.

The company is also keen to attract more women to the business – particularly at a senior level – through partnering with external organisations, and has a women’s network group. Smith recognises that the effort has to be a continuous one in the tech industry.

She hopes Paddle’s open and supportive approach will encourage more to apply and adds that, business-wise, it works in such a fast-paced industry where expectations are high and competition for talent is fierce.

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