Remote Work At Melewi
* As of February 2020
Melewi Remote Company Q&A
Melissa Ng, Founder - Interview with Remote.co
What does your remote-friendly company do?
Melewi is a Product, UX & UI design studio working with awesome businesses of all sizes from around the world – from innovative startups globally to international brands like McDonald’s and Samsung.
Did you switch to remote or start out that way?
Yes, it did.
How important is remote work to your business model?
Incredibly so! Our entire team is spread out across the globe and all our clients are in different locations too.
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
The first is that it gives you a much better work-life integration. You’re no longer limited by a 9 to 5 schedule, or being stuck in traffic on the way to a boring old office. You no longer have to be awake at an ungodly hour and still unable to properly function at noon. Or on the other hand, if you like getting up before the sun does and you feel the most energetic and productive, then you have the freedom to work before anyone else is up. You take back control of your own time and instead manage your own energy.
Another thing is the mode of which we work. Since everything that we do is online, all the information and work that we do sits in the cloud. This means that the information will always be backed up, is always real-time, and is accessible at any time of the day by anyone.
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
The beauty of the digital age is that a lot of good work can be done entirely online, and this means that you have access to some of the most talented and amazing people to work with regardless of geographic limitations.
Another thing we really believe in is work-life integration. How this is different to the traditional “work-life balance” is that you’re no longer confined to a set time schedule and fixed workplace based off somebody else’s preferences or rules.
So if you’re more of a night person than morning person, or you might need some time off in the middle of the day to go pick up the kids, or you might decide that you want to work in front of the Eiffel Tower or on the beaches of Bali, you absolutely have the freedom to because your location no longer is pertinent to the quality of the work that you can produce.
The autonomy to decide how, where and when you work is now entirely up to you. And if you’re good at what you do, then you’d be able to make the right decisions for yourself that would be undoubtedly better for you than somebody else’s decisions.
How do you convey your remote culture in the recruiting process?
Our remote culture is highly visible in our job descriptions. A lot of people who send in their applications – for whatever position – are interested in us being remote. While remote working isn’t the main reason we do what we do, it’s undoubtedly is a benefit.
Our work is priority and the remote culture is something we enjoy on top of it. Our work allows this work-life arrangement, and this brings about accountability. People in the team do not say “sorry, I’ve not finished the draft because I went to the beach”, they would say “I’m going to finish this ahead of time because I’m planning to go to the beach”. There’s the difference in someone we say “no” to and someone we excitedly say “yes” to.
What is your hiring process for remote workers?
We have a relatively extensive hiring process for such a small team.
Alongside their resumes and portfolios, we ask applicants to send us a video of themselves or a brief story about their favorite travel experience. That way, we get a little bit of sense into what he or she is like in terms of personality.
From there, they go through 2 rounds of interviews, and if they make it through, they have a 1-week paid trial with the entire team before they can receive a job offer (which includes a 6-month probation).
This process has evolved over time and has proven the most effective!
How do you conduct onboarding for remote workers?
The onboarding process is an important one – especially for a remote company!
We go through our values, some ground rules (although we only have simple ones) and we make sure we give them the opportunity to chat one on one with the rest of the team. We also cover projects, workflow, priorities and expectations.
From that first week on, our goal is to make newcomers feel welcome, as well as understand how important communication is to the whole team and clients. Making sure they feel comfortable to ask about anything they don’t have the answer to or are curious to know.
Do you have remote communication protocols for your remote workers?
We have a strict 4-hour working overlap with the whole team where all our interactions, meetings and catch-ups happen. We have a daily standup with the entire team everyday and we make sure to spend some time chatting (with our videos on!).
If we need to communicate with someone outside that 4-hour overlap and they happen to be offline, we simply leave them a message on Slack.
Everyone in the team understands how important it is to get back to their teammates so people respond as quickly as they can.
Do your remote team members meet in person?
We try to set a regular team meet up once or twice a year. So far, in 2016, the entire team has met up four times. Once in Bali, another in Singapore, and last year it was Japan (Hokkaido, Kyoto) and Manila, Philippines where we held our own workshop event for the very first time.
What elements are key to successful working relationships with remote teams?
Open communication, honest & constructive feedback and open mindedness + accountability
What is the hardest part about managing a remote workforce?
Timezones can be tricky. As the team grows, timezones are getting harder to manage.
How do you keep remote employees engaged and feeling part of the bigger picture?
Talk to them – constantly, consistently, openly. Always make sure they know that they’re part of the team because they each bring tremendous and unique value to the table. They should never feel like they were only hired to earn the company money.
What is your time off policy for remote workers?
Melewi has an unlimited leave policy. As long as it’s within reason, of course. Surprisingly though, since we’re remote and it’s quite easy to bring work, most of us travel around while working.
Our only requirement for filing blocked leaves is enough notice so we can plan around it and make sure all parts are covered by someone else if needed.
Personally though, with the flexibility our setup provides, I think the team enjoys working together so much that it’s rare that anyone takes blocked leave longer than a couple of days.
How did you implement a remote work policy?
The remote working policy that Melewi has has been there from our very first days. Our founder, Melissa, had already been a digital nomad for a few years and when the team was put together, the same freedom and autonomy was extended to everyone too.
Can a remote-friendly company have a healthy culture?
Yes, absolutely! We put the team at the very center of the business, and by making an every day conscious effort to ensure everyone believes and lives by our values.
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
The best piece of advice that I can give you is to examine everything that you know about a traditional working set up. What rules you’re used to abiding by don’t necessarily stand for remote working.
For example, a team does not need to spend 8 hours online at the same time nor should they have no overlap at all. You should set a daily period of time where everyone is required to be online so they don’t spend extra time chasing down people waiting for a response.
And make sure that your workflow and document structures are all set up and that everyone abides by the rules. If you don’t have some form of organisation with your files, tools and programs, you will find that things start to get lost and messy very quickly.
What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?
Finding the right addition to the team.
We strongly believe in hiring for values and attitude fit, and if needed, training for skills.
One of the best things about being a remote team is that we’re not geographically limited in finding the right talents. We’re open to anyone on the planet that makes the right fit for us.
What are the most effective tools for remote team communication?
We believe that the key to making sure there is effective communication for a remote team is consistency. We have daily stand ups where everyone is present and can chat about daily life before we dive into project statuses.
We also have a random channel in Slack where we can talk just about anything with the team. We also have regular catch ups for different areas we are working on. By keeping our communication channels open to every team member, we are able to efficiently work and make decisions together.
What has changed about how your remote team operates?
Since we’ve scaled to double our size in a year, some of our processes have needed adjustment.
Because there are more people in the team now, there are many minds that think towards how we can improve so our processes have become more solid and consistent.
How do you personally manage work-life balance?
By creating a time-based routine. Once that’s set, it’s easy to make sure that all work that has to be done is done at the right time. If adjustments are needed, it’s easy to adapt as there is still a structure that can be followed.
For example, our founder Melissa works from 11:30am to 6:30pm, then takes a break and starts up again from 11pm to 1am. Most of her days are in team meetings or sales calls, and her nights are for dedicated and uninterrupted time to finish up tasks and important work.
What tips do you have to disconnect when working remotely?
Go to a remote location once in awhile – a place where there is no Internet so that you can at least spend a couple of hours or days being offline to reconnect with nature or yourself.
Do you have a favorite quote or bit of business wisdom?
We’re all in this together – this is our team mentality.
There’s no best, only better – this is how we always improve.
If it doesn’t work for the business, it doesn’t work – this is our personal philosophy with every project and client.
Where is the best or worst place you’ve worked remotely?
Worst – Anywhere where Internet is not stable.
Best – This is so tough to decide! A few of the best:
- The Infinity Pool at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore
- A coffee shop beside a remote beach in the Philippines
- Right beside my playing toddler. 🙂
- Next to a ski slope in a small Japanese town
- Next to the Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in sight
- From a boat in rural Vietnam!