Becoming fully distributed

Testlio has two critical components: a global freelance tester network, and a growing team of full-time people. This setup allows us to offer scalable services in various languages and locations, and we have recruited freelance testers from all over the world since the beginning of the company. 

However, it wasn’t always this way for our full-time TestLions. It was only a few years ago that we fully committed to having full-time people follow this same global, “distributed by design” model. Up to that point our main hubs were in the US and Estonia, with physical offices in San Francisco, Tallinn and Tartu. But, even before the pandemic, we realized that for Testlio to achieve its full potential — including scaling our commitment to building a truly diverse workforce — we had to think bigger. So, we let two of our offices wind down, and are now remodeling Tallinn into something entirely different (more on that later).

As people started working from their homes during the pandemic, we had the advantage of being set up for work-from-home success already. It didn’t matter if we were all in the same location or not; the virtual distance was the same for everyone. But, working from home isn’t enough, and we’ve continued to explore and push the boundaries of what remote work can be. That has resulted in us moving towards several new workplace concepts — and there are two we’d like to share today: Work From Region, and Office as Center.

Work From Region

In addition to working from home, which became a norm during the pandemic, many startup-type companies now advertise the possibility of working from anywhere. On our journey to become fully distributed, we decided to find the middle ground between working from anywhere and working from an office, and introduced the concept of working from region. 

We have divided the world into three different regions: Americas; Europe, Middle-East and Africa; and Asia-Pacific (AMER, EMEA and APAC in short), and each position at Testlio is primarily tied to one of the three regions. That way we are able to maintain a client-centric approach within a standard band of time and extend the workday to 24/7 without requiring frequent, off-hours work. There’s always daytime somewhere, and we take full advantage of it while also allowing our people the flexibility to travel within their region without any additional paperwork. 

We call this the “principle of verticality.” Stay within those longitudinal lines, and the work and team aren’t impacted. It’s also led from the top down; for example, the principle of verticality is great for those who prefer to spend their winters in a warmer climate. Testlio’s founders Marko and Kristel, have stayed in South Africa with their kids for the past two winters. 

When leaders do it, others follow. Product Designer Zaur recently took a road trip along coastal Spain, 

“Whenever I traveled in the past I would always meet digital nomads who would travel and work in the same time and I was always interested in trying that out. Recently, I packed my backpack, took my laptop, and went to Barcelona without an exact plan. My only goal was to visit as many cities along the coast as possible in a few weeks, stay in hostels, meet people, and work during the day. It was an amazing experience that was very different from what I was used to. It was a great mental refresher and changing my environment definitely helped a lot.”

Product Designer Zaur meeting Antonio, our Senior Product Manager, in Málaga.

The same goes for the Engagement Manager and long-time digital nomad Marielle who started in the EMEA team while she continued to roam around the world:

“My team fully supported my working from anywhere lifestyle as long as I respected the hours and work gets done. The majority of my clients were in the US region which naturally led me to transition into the AMER team as I was planning to travel in Latin America.”

Engagement Manager Marielle meeting up with her client Cassie from Backstage in Mexico City

Finally this setup of “verticality” comes in handy when smaller teams within Testlio gather in-person, as they are now starting to do every year. Traveling is easier when everyone is coming from the same region.

Tallinn office -> center

The fate of the final Testlio office was hinted at earlier. Time together, even infrequently, is important. Nobody is suggesting that it is not. But if the gathering is special — why do it in a space filled with the trappings of an open office plan, full of workstations and equipment that only rarely see use?

Even though many remote companies have no physical space at all, we decided to recognize the importance of gathering together, and to maintain one location in Tallinn that would symbolically mark the birthplace of Testlio, and be a central hub for our yearly, company-wide gathering: LionFest. 

It’s not really an office. It’s a center — and it’s going to be very different once the work is completed. It’s built around togetherness and gathering; not daily office work.

“Our Tallinn center will essentially serve as a co-working space for TestLions,” explained Evert, our Diversity and Reward Manager. “To enable that, our redesign will reduce the number of traditional office tables and replace them with flexible seating and standing solutions for different types of work and meetings. We’ll make our meeting rooms smaller and equip them with technology to have great Zoom calls — from acoustics to lighting. We’ll also introduce a ‘quiet zone’ where people can focus on their tasks in silence. The Tallinn center will be open for all TestLions, but never mandatory, so you will never know who you might see there on any given day.”

Best of both worlds

Some companies have decided to maintain their offices the way they are, and others are fully distributed with no physical place at all. At Testlio, we like our middle-ground of working by region, and creating a center and recognition of gathering together. If this sounds good to you, check out our current openings. We’re always looking to bring new people onboard — all over the world.

Are you looking for a remote job where you can feel connected to the team despite the distance? Check out Testlio’s current openings and join our TestLion Pride! 🦁