Like many other companies worldwide, Mavenoid became a remote-first company when the pandemic hit in March 2020. During the next two years, we went from being a team of 10, all working from our office in Stockholm, to being a remote 74 person company located in 15 countries across the globe.
As travel opened up again, we decided it was time for us to come together and meet. In August 2021, we had our first company-wide meetup in Sweden, and in September 2022, we had our second in Portugal. In this blog post, we wanted to share a bit more about these recent IRL meetups and why we think they are important, especially for remote companies like Mavenoid.
The pandemic taught us that it is possible to do productive work remotely. Being remote has many advantages; superior work-life balance, cost savings, and the possibility to hire talent from all over the world. So why should companies spend money and time on meeting in real life? The answer is simple: relationship building.
Making sure our employees build close relationships is essential to the business as it builds trust. By letting our employees meet face-to-face, we create time and space for them to get to know each other outside of daily work tasks. Seeing someone's body language makes it easier to understand and get to know them more than just a floating head on a Zoom call. A recent study by Gallup indicated that having close relationships at work improves employees' productivity and innovation. The same study also shows that work relationships have only gotten more important during the pandemic. After Mavenoid's own IRL meetups, our anonymous employee feedback and surveys indicate increases in employee happiness and motivation, in line with Gallup's findings. This is why we see the importance of meeting in person, even though we are a remote company.
“Building personal relationships constitutes a huge source of motivation for my job. Getting to know everyone was the best part. It's so impactful to have in-depth conversations in person as it makes it easier to connect on a deeper, more emotional level which will aid comms, feedback, collaborations, etc.” Anonymous feedback from Mavens after our recent meetup.
Celebrating wins and excitement for what's to come
Our 2022 meetup was extra special as we had just closed our Series B funding which we, of course, wanted to celebrate together. The whole meetup could be seen as a celebration of this, but we wanted to have some specific moments that were planned for celebrating. We want to make sure that our Mavens know their hard work pays off. The meetup was Tuesday-Thursday, with the corresponding Monday and Friday being travel days. The first thing we had on the agenda for Tuesday was a presentation held by our two founders, CEO Shahan Lilja and CTO Gintautas Miliauskas. They talked about our journey to Series B, how hard we have all worked to make it happen and how excited they are for what’s to come. The presentation ended with everyone getting a glass of champagne (or orange juice) for us all to make a toast together. It was, as you can imagine, a very special moment for all of us.
To continue the celebrations we had a special dinner with a white-dress theme outside in the garden. The venue had prepared tables, traditional Portuguese food, and a bar outside for our team. We got to eat and drink together with the sunset in the background. Three Mavens “hosted” the dinner, preparing a list of songs from our different countries that we sang together, as well as a quiz that celebrated Mavens and our multi-cultural culture. The evening was all about celebrating, having fun, and getting to know each other on a more personal level. It was a truly magical evening.
During a normal workweek, people spend most of their time with their teammates. While some teams like Sales and Customer Success normally work more cross-functionally, we have many teams that naturally collaborate less often. Because of this, we want to make the most of the time we have on company-wide meetups and make sure that people get the opportunity to spend time together with people in other teams rather than those they meet most during a normal workweek.
At this year's meetup, we divided people into groups so that every group had at least one person from each company section. Their task was to pick between a few different cases where we want to make progress as a company and come up with a solution on how to address it. This could range from how to penetrate a new industry to how to expand at a specific client or what we could build to make our product more streamlined. By mixing people from different backgrounds and competencies, we allow them to build a cross-team relationship, but we also get innovative ideas that we wouldn't get otherwise.
"Being able to freely and spontaneously communicate work affairs with colleagues from other teams leads to quickly solving issues that have been on hold for some time. Also, being in touch with other teams expands my global understanding of the company, roles, and goals and enriches cross-team collaboration." Anonymous feedback from a Maven after our recent meetup.
Work vs. Free time
When asking what people were mostly looking forward to with our company meetup and afterward asking them what the highlights were, the majority gave examples of when they got to just hang out with their colleagues or do an organized non-work related activity together. This feedback, together with knowing the importance of building relationships at work and just seeing how people act during the meetups, made us realize that we should make time for activities and free time rather than just work.
“Getting to meet everyone in a casual/fun manner was ideal. If we had spent our time together in a strictly work-oriented manner I don't think we would have gotten to learn as much as we did about each other.“ Anonymous feedback from a Maven after our recent meetup.
One of the afternoons we spent doing organized activities together. These have varied depending on location, but we try to ensure that there is something for everyone. This year our mavens could pick from playing tennis, exploring the close area by bike, or taking a field trip to a village nearby. We also added the option to just rest and relax too so that people really could recharge if they needed to. It has been very interesting to see that these relaxed activities in different groups helped create some of the best connections of the trip.
“The highlight for me was honestly playing tennis with a small group of people (~4). It allowed us to have fun but also get to know each other while having fun.“ Anonymous feedback from a Maven after our recent meetup.
Plan for different personalities
A company meetup can be a very stressful environment, especially if you are an introvert who needs alone time to recharge to feel like your best self. Like most companies, Mavenoid is a mix of different personality types, which we always try to be mindful of, and planning meetups are no exception.
To accommodate these different personalities, we purposefully designed the schedule with flexibility in mind. This included varying start times and additional “free” time— which people could utilize as they saw fit. This could mean catching up on emails, grabbing a coworker for a chat, or simply taking time to recharge in your room. We even had a group that found a shared interest in doing early morning runs!
Feedback on this was overwhelmingly positive. One person said they had never been to a company event that made them feel as comfortable as this. They had previously landed to the conclusion that their personality wasn’t made for company events; however, this meetup made them feel like they could actually enjoy the time and connect with colleagues.
Giving your employees the opportunity to build stronger relationships at work is essential in a remote-first company. We have found the most success in combining our remote-first culture with company-wide meetups once a year and having the focus on those be to get to know each other.
You can have as many meetups as you possibly can, but if you don’t plan it with relationship building and different personalities in mind, then you won’t get these special connections that meetups can give you. By combining different types of activities with free time, we give everyone a good foundation to be themselves and thrive together. We really believe that people connect the most when they can relax in other people's presence. That's when the magic happens. The connections that we build during these few days will benefit the business for months and years to come. We are so excited about the things ahead for Mavenoid and our many company trips to come.
Ending with two quotes that we are very proud of.
“I got the feeling that we were all comfortable enough to be ourselves and make our voices heard.”
“An incredible week I will carry with me for the rest of my life.“
Curious about Mavenoid’s open roles? Learn more here