I’ve planned 5 workations. Here’s what I’ve learned.
The MailerLite team just came back from our 5th workation. We spent 10 colorful days traveling & working in Morocco.
The MailerLite team just came back from our 5th workation. We spent 10 colorful days traveling and 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 is a little different as the company grows and our culture advances.
Here’s a quick history of workation locations and size over time:
Cruise to Sweden (summer 2014) – 12 team members
Lithuania (summer 2015) – 14 team members
Morocco (spring 2017) – 26 team members
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 team were visiting Asia and Africa for the first time. For some, it was their first flight. I’m sure they will always remember these trips forever.
Nevertheless, part of the team said that exploring Lithuania together was even better. We always had consistent Internet and no issues with food poisoning. We also experienced a bunch of things for the first time: preparing dinner together, SUPing, balancing on a slack-line, etc.
The bottom line is that experiences bond us more than just an exotic destination. That said, you don’t have to rob a bank to have a great time. In 2015 our team building was a 25 km walk through sand dunes. It wasn’t easy, but now it’s a great memory and a funny story. We forgot about our sunburns and blisters, and instead 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. At our last one, team members made presentations on the topic “How to Improve MailerLite”. We came up with lots of amazing ideas and most of them were implemented.
As a result, we decided to make a pitch system, i.e. anyone at any time can come up with an idea and make a pitch with arguments for why a change is needed.
On the most recent workation, we made Pecha Kucha style presentations on the topic “Things I Want to Share with You”. People talked about personal changes, lounge chair design, contemporary art, the history of an eye, love languages, the theory of probability, drifting, Plato’s Cave, and so much more. This helped us to get to know the team on a deeper level and led to meaningful relationships.
Workshops is another activity that we will continue to do. Everyone has skills that can be shared. During our Moroccan workation the whole 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 team members 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 planned down to the finest details. Even unstructured free time should be planned in advance. It’s better if everyone knows what to expect, i.e. when they should focus on work, when they can read a book or when team activities will happen. Be as clear as possible.
Customer support is another issue that should be planned in advance. We inform our customers that 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 that 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 the 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 talent? Get engagement on social media? Tell a story to your customers? Document happy moments when 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 in 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 an excellent decision. Now we have loads of cool photos that will be used to illustrate blog posts, spice up our “About us” page and social media.
Moreover, professional photos were like a gift to the team members. Most of the team already replaced their Facebook profile pics with amazing photos from the workation adding #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.