Portrait: Thomas Vellacott, Manager of WWF Switzerland
What’s it like, when you’re the only person at the company who still has their own office? Thomas Vellacott, Manager of WWF Switzerland, knows the answer.
Claudia Bardola, February
“Since we converted our offices in the heritage-protected warehouse in Zurich’s Hohlstrasse to an open-plan office landscape, I am the only person left at our company who still has a separate office. However, as I travel a lot, the room is primarily used as a meeting room that is open to all employees. Accordingly, there are very few personal items in my office. Other than a small Kubus, a bookcase and pandas in every possible variation – which you unavoidably receive as the boss of WWF – the room is comparatively bare. I don’t need trinkets any more than a wall full of family photos – I don’t want to be the kind of father who only knows what his children look like thanks to photos.
However, if employees, who by the way also have a fixed desk in the office landscape, want to personalise their space with photos, knick-knacks or smiling lucky cats, that doesn’t bother me. The main thing is that they feel comfortable and can concentrate on their work.
I myself don’t have a real desk any more – as the room is used primarily for meetings, a meeting table is more practical. I have largely virtualised my work processes. I no longer need a desktop PC or laptop. The devices I use consist of a smartphone, iPad and smartpen, with which notes are instantly digitised. I like to use paper for notes, but otherwise I have little use for it. For one thing, it is much easier to search for a digital document than to rifle through a stack of paper and, for another, I can process information just as well without any dead trees. My employees are occasionally annoyed when I request all documents in electronic form.
But in this way I am mobile and have everything I need with me. This is important because I spend a large amount of the day on the go; in discussions, at meetings with companies, media representatives, other environmental organisations or with politicians. As a counterbalance to all the meetings, I regularly go jogging, preferably in the woods, so that I don’t get cabin fever.
I also try to integrate as many experiences of nature as possible into my everyday life – for example, I visit WWF projects or occasionally spend my lunch break diving in the Limmat river with work colleagues.
Thomas Vellacott joined WWF Switzerland in 2001 and has been CEO of the largest Swiss environmental organization for around two and a half years. Before that, he was employed in private banking at Citibank and was a consultant at McKinsey in Zurich. The 43-year-old is a passionate diver, has two children and lives in Zurich Altstetten.
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“I no longer need a desktop PC or laptop. The devices I use consist of a smartphone, iPad and smartpen, with which notes are instantly digitised.”
An ecological lifestyle is also important to me in my free time. I don’t own a car, but I use public transport and cycle to work. I try to avoid flying whenever possible, for instance by means of Web conferences. I am a vegetarian and at home we heat using solar power and wood. But I could still improve a few things about my lifestyle. The thing that ruins my environmental record the most remains flying. It is often simply impossible to avoid it when it comes to international meetings and project visits. In addition, I travel to England several times a year to visit family and friends. I try to make this journey by train whenever I can. Admittedly this takes longer, but I can concentrate much better on my work and, during the stop in Paris, enjoy some good food.”
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