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Why Shutting Down Tessian Was The Best Decision We Ever Made

  • By Sabrina Castiglione
  • 24 December 2020

Tessian’s mission is to secure the human layer by empowering people to do their best work, without security getting in their way.

When we set out to define our values, we asked our people what being a Tessian meant to them. The value that was born out of this – now our first and foremost value – is Human First. 

Human First is the value we’d always had but never captured in words. As soon as it crystallized, it was everywhere. Within weeks you would hear it in every other meeting, it would be the first question in every decision that touched our people, and it merged completely into how we think about our mission; even more than being a cutting-edge technology company, we’re a cutting-edge human company, building for human beings as they are, not how security standards want them to be.

So what does it mean to be a Human First company in the age of coronavirus?

Like many companies a lifetime ago (March 2020) we went remote overnight. A formerly office-first company, we’d naively expected lower productivity & that everyone would be more relaxed not having to travel to and from the office every day.

We were so wrong.

“We’re a cutting-edge human company, building for human beings as they are, not how security standards want them to be.”
Sabrina Castiglione Chief Financial Officer, Tessian

A couple of weeks in, once the novelty of an extra hour in bed had worn off and we had realized that being remote wasn’t stopping work getting done, we started to pick up on themes – people working later and later, more and more questions in our employee engagement platform about mental health, self care, and dealing with stress. 

We talked a lot more about our Employee Assistance Program and we told people they should still try & take their paid leave. But compounded by being confined at home, those who managed to take leave found that they couldn’t help but gravitate back to their phone & laptop, with email & messaging pinging throughout the day (and night, since we’re an international team). Our Tessians couldn’t switch off with no-where to go and the spectre of their inboxes piling up and up.

We knew we needed to stop saying things, and needed to do something big, fast.

So we shut down the Company.

(For a day.)

Why? Let’s roll back a moment. We asked people why they were struggling to switch off, and we listened to their fears of letting their teammates down with so much work going on, and the creep in hours to find overlap time with their international colleagues. 

We realized that unless all our Tessians – from the CEO, to our newest graduates – were all offline, it was hard for anyone to be offline.

Enter Refreshian Day.

Refreshian Day is not a vacation or holiday day. It’s a paid day we give to our Tessians, to do what they need to do to take care of themselves, when all Tessians are offline, together. When we know our people have been, or will be, working even harder than usual to bring our vision to life, it’s important to give something back. Our first Refreshian was in July; our second, October. And today we’ve announced our third in February 2021. 

We ask only two things of our people on Refreshian day:

  1. Don’t work
  2. Take time to take care of you

Being human means one size never fits all, and our Tessians have variously taken long walks, spa days, watched sunsets, crafted pottery and baked a lot (lot, lot) of bread. Being a human first company means giving our people the space and time to revel in what makes them unique – even if it means shutting everything down from time to time.

How would you spend your Refreshian day? Join us and find out.

Sabrina Castiglione
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