Ilma from MailerLite

Ilma7 min read#lovemyjobOctober 2, 2019

What every company can learn from a remote workforce

What every company can learn from a remote workforce

MailerLite is a remote-first company, which means that every employee has the freedom to work from anywhere in the world. Our team of 60 people (and counting) is distributed across 16 countries.

Many companies offer flexible working hours or allow employees to work remotely for a few days per month. In our experience, just one colleague working out of the office or from a different time zone can change the entire company dynamic. 

A company needs to make several adjustments to create the right environment for remote team members. Recently, I realized that these adjustments are also critical to non-remote companies. Remote companies just feel the need earlier.

Here’s what changed since we became a remote-first company and how some of our new approaches might be useful for any organization.


#1. Transform your culture

mailerlite team

When you’re a remote team, you think much more about company culture. You want everyone to be on the same page, to be heard and to be able to contribute to the company. 

At MailerLite, we wrote down our core beliefs after we started working remotely. Now every new team member agrees to follow our values when they sign their work contract. 

These values help each of us make independent decisions. For example, a marketing team member doesn't need to double-check when deciding between investing in a viral video or a tutorial video. Our values guide the decision. In this case, value #1 and #3: 

  • Value #1 Focus on our current customers
  • Value #3 Care about long-term goals 

The choice becomes clear – invest in customer tutorials to help them succeed with the product.

Gallup's research showed that 50% of employees don't know what's expected of them: 

“To free employees to take initiative and inspire high performance, managers need to set clear expectations, hold employees accountable for meeting them and respond quickly when employees need support.”

We were recently inspired by GitLab’s handbook that contains over 3000 pages, covering every possible situation that can occur in a company. You don’t have to read the whole thing, but if you have any questions, the answer is most likely there. We started working on creating a similar book for current and future MailerLite team members.

Main takeaway

Setting clear expectations gives people more freedom and guidance, enabling them to take the initiative and work autonomously.


#2. Transform your communications

mailerlite team 1

With remote work, you can’t have a spontaneous brainstorm session. You do way fewer meetings because it’s much harder to find a suitable time for everyone living in different time zones. 

That’s why you must learn how to communicate asynchronously in mostly written formats.

Written communication has many advantages:

  • Written communication allows both introverts and extroverts to express themselves. No one can speak more or louder here. 
  • All arguments are very rational in written format. It’s harder to express anger or other emotions (although you can always use a GIF).  
  • People are more sincere and go deeper while writing. We use 15Five to get to know how our team members are feeling, if they struggle with anything, what they're proud of and what goals they have for the month. I was very surprised to see how open people are and how much we hear from them. I definitely know more about my remote colleagues than I did meeting them every day with office small talk.
  • People tend to think more before they write than before they speak. When you write down your ideas/issues, you see a wider picture and more possible solutions. 
Main takeaway

Meetings are not the only way to make progress and big decisions. Try different ways of communication to see what works best for your team.

#3. Transform your team building

mailerlite team 2

Team building activities change a lot when you have remote colleagues. More traditional companies create small traditions like donuts on Fridays, foosball matches and big Christmas parties to motivate the team. It’s fun, but do these activities connect people? 

Over the years, we’ve learned that “fun” does not necessarily equate to team bonding. Ironically, we grow stronger when we feel uncomfortable, challenge ourselves or have a common experience. Last month during our “workation” we sang Lithuanian multipart songs together. Some of us were very skeptical about the activity. Most of us would never sing in public. I am very proud that everyone agreed to give it a try. And it was a magical feeling to hear us being a team. 

Experiences like singing together, hiking blindfolded, flying in hot air balloons and then reflecting on our feelings help us grow as a team. Not to mention, we build lasting memories together until we see each other again.

Main takeaway

Memories connect people. Invest in team experiences, not things.


#4. Transform your hiring

mailerlite team 3

A remote team offers a perk that traditional office can’t provide — freedom. It’s an incredible perk that's valued by talented and responsible people. 68% of millennial job seekers said an option to work remotely would significantly increase their interest in specific employers

We get around 100 applicants for a position. 

These are several criteria that matter to us when hiring a new member:

  • Be passionate about their job
  • Provide clear reasons why MailerLite is the right place for them 
  • Have experience in working remotely
  • We can envision them traveling together with our team for a week and having fun 
  • Desire to grow 

Resumes (CVs) don’t say much about people, especially if they apply from all over the world. You don’t know the universities, their former employers and so on. That's why we ask people to create a newsletter using MailerLite to apply for a job here and answer our questions, including:

  • Links to your profiles for  Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook or personal website
  • Companies where you worked and your role
  • Why you want to join MailerLite
  • Describe a project or product that you loved working on and why
  • Expected salary

Do you wonder if developers create a newsletter? They do. People often apply because of our unique hiring process.

cv message
cv message 1
Main takeaway

Be yourself. Show what your company stands for when hiring new people. You’ll attract the best fit for you.


Why not try remote approaches with your team?

Whether you are a traditional company, a remote company, or somewhere in between, these different approaches might benefit your team.

It’s all about focusing on your people and figuring out how to help them stay creative and work smarter. When you are continuously nurturing your culture through communications, hiring, and team-building, each team member will better understand their role, what to expect and how to work independently.

These remote benefits can apply to your company as well. Find what makes sense for your culture and give it a try!