Ilma from MailerLite

Ilma5 min readBehind the ScenesMay 3, 2017

I’ve planned 5 workations. Here’s what I’ve learned.

I’ve planned 5 workations. Here’s what I’ve learned.

MailerLite team just came back from 5th workation. We spent 10 colorful days traveling & working in Morocco.

Workation is a very important part of our culture. This is how we meet the remote team and make memories together. Each workation was a little different, as the company grows and our culture advances.

Here’s a quick history of workation locations and size over time:

Here are some lessons that I’ve learned in the process.

It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey together

It was super cool to visit Bali and Morocco with the team. Most of the guys have visited Asia and Africa for the first time. Some had the first flight. I’m sure they will always remember the trips forever.

Nevertheless, part of the team says that exploring Lithuania together was even better. We always had consistent Internet and no issues with food poisoning. At the same time we experienced a bunch of things for the first time. Preparing dinner together, SUPing, balancing on slack-line etc.

Bottom line is that experiences bond more than just an exotic destination. It means that you don’t have to rob a bank to have a great time. In 2015 our team building was 25 km walk in the sand dunes. It wasn’t easy, but now it’s a great memory and a funny story. We forgot about sunburn and blisters, but remember how fun it was to walk together.

We can entertain ourselves (and so can you)

Presentations are the most awaited part of our workation. Last time all team members made presentations on the topic “How to Improve MailerLite”. Guys came up with lots of amazing ideas and most of them were implemented. That’s why we decided to make a pitch system, i.e. everyone anytime can come up with an idea and make a pitch with arguments why a change is needed.

This time we made Pecha Kucha style presentations on the topic “Things I Want to Share with You”. You could never guess what guys would talk about. Personal changes, a design of lounge chairs, contemporary art, history of an eye, love languages, the theory of probability, drifting, Plato’s Cave etc. etc. This helped us to get to know the team on a deeper level and lead to meaningful relationships.

Workshops is another activity that we will continue to do. Everyone has skills that could be shared. During Moroccan workation all team learned HTML. For the next workation we plan to have API, chess, and Photoshop workshops.

In Morocco, we had a couple of days without Internet (that wasn’t planned). Someone proposed to do a guided meditation, others organized a Crossfit session, some guys hiked to the mountains and had a walk to the old Jewish town. Everyone agreed that it was the best time during the trip.

Plan plan plan

Everything should be planed. As detailed as possible. Even unstructured free time should be planned in advance. It’s better if everyone knows what to expect. When they should focus on work, when they can read a book or offer some activity for the team. Be as clear as possible.

Customer support is another issue that should be planned in advance. We inform our customers that the support is limited during workations. Nonetheless, it’s hard to relax when you know that your inbox is flooded with customers’ questions.

One way to address support is to plan Customer Support Hours when the whole team closes tickets. But it means that you will dedicate half of your workation time to support.

We came up with a different strategy for the Moroccan workation. A month before the trip we hired 4 temporary team members. They had enough time to learn about MailerLite and were ready to cover our support during the workation. This way we could focus on workation and relax even when the Internet was not working. The temporary support team did an amazing job and… we decided to hire them all :)

A picture is worth a thousand words

Wanna recruit top talents? Get engagement on social media? Tell a story to your customers? Document happy moments when all the team is having fun together. We’re a visual culture, so pictures play a large role in the way we communicate.

This year we did a contest for a photographer to join us at Morocco. More than 100 photographers from around the world applied. They had to create a newsletter to apply (just like everybody does if he/she wants to apply for a job at MailerLite). It was a smart way to promote MailerLite among photographers and we had lots of choices to select the best of the best.

So we traveled with Ronya Galka, an urban photographer from London. In 2016 Streethunters shortlisted her for the title of Most Inspiring Street Photographers of 2016. In 2015 the Interactive Design Institute included her in their list of 15 Best UK Street Photographers.

Hiring a photographer was a super good decision. Now we have loads of cool photos that will be used to illustrate blog posts, spice up “About us” page and social media.

Moreover, professional photos were like a gift to the team members. Most of the guys already changed their Facebook profile pics with amazing photos from the workation with #lovemyjob #mailerLife. And that’s the best promotion for MailerLite, isn’t it?

Have you ever considered doing a workation? How do you motivate your team? Share in the comments what works best for you.