- Christian Mairoll is the CEO of Emsisoft – a company with no offices, where every single employee works remotely.
- Mairoll now lives in New Zealand, where he manages employees in the U.S. and Europe in the early morning, and employees in Asia in the late afternoon.
- During midday, his work quiets down, so he’ll take time to check on his sheep and chickens, do some gardening with his wife, or even go to the beach.
- For people looking to start a remote company, Mairoll advises them to hire employees they can trust who have strong self-management skills.
Christian Mairoll, founder and CEO of anti-malware company Emsisoft, spends most of his day in meetings and brainstorming sessions – but always makes time to feed his sheep and chickens in between.
He’s able to do that because his company has no offices at all – every single one of Emsisoft’s 40 or so employees, including the CEO, works completely remotely from their homes, their RVs, and in Mairoll’s case, their farms.
Originally from Austria, Mairoll bought his land in rural New Zealand in search of a more relaxed lifestyle and warmer winters. Because of Emsisoft’s setup, barely anyone at his company noticed when he moved.
At first Mairoll had intense jet lag, but he found that running a company from remote New Zealand worked out for him because the time zones gave his waking hours more overlap with his teammates from Europe, the U.S. and Asia. And he has plenty of time to tend to his animals and fruit trees, too.
“Things are just much simpler in New Zealand,” Mairoll told Business Insider. “We wake up with the sun, never get stuck in a traffic jam, enjoy that our nearest neighbour is more than 100 yards away, grow our own fruits and vegetables around the house, live in tranquility. You get the picture.”
Emsisoft hit on the all-remote concept for a very practical reason, he told Business Insider: A lack of capital.
Mairoll didn’t want to take venture capital funding to get the company off the ground. But without it, he couldn’t afford to compete with Silicon Valley giants like Google or Facebook for talent. So rather than try, he decided to instead hire developers in places like Russia and Siberia, and offered competitive rates for those areas. Soon, Emsisoft was off the ground and hiring even more employees.
Ultimately, Mairoll says despite the challenges of running and scaling a global company without ever seeing his employees in the flesh, he never plans on opening an office. Rather, he believes the remote working culture has become a core aspect of Emsisoft.
This is what Mairoll’s workday looks like.
Mairoll starts his workday around 5 or 6 a.m., where he’ll work in a small, 110-square foot home office that he built himself, right next to his house. He calls this “the box.”
Living in New Zealand, starting early helps his waking hours overlap with those employees in other time zones. When he logs on, he faces a flood of emails and Slack messages that he needs to go through one by one.
Team meetings often take place in the morning as well, because that’s when New Zealand has some overlapping daytime hours with eastern Europe, where a huge chunk of Emsisoft’s developers are from.
Once noon rolls around, things start to get less hectic for Mairoll. His European teammates are already fast asleep as it’s late at night there, while his American colleagues are starting to log off for the day.
As his inbox and Slack notifications quiet down around this time, Mairoll takes a break. Sometimes he’ll work on project planning. Other times, he’ll check on his sheep and chickens, go to the supermarket, or help his wife with gardening and housework.
“I generally try to avoid calendars and regular schedules as much as possible to preserve the personal freedom I was looking for when I decided to become self-employed 15 years ago,” Mairoll said. “That’s the moments when I feel free and kind of privileged, running a remote only business.”
Occasionally, he’ll go to the beach and take some photos, just because he can. He doesn’t work from the beach, though, although theoretically he could. Instead, he uses this quiet time to take a break.
“People often use the catchy phrase ‘work in the park or at the beach’ when they promote remote work, but the truth is, working outside is mostly a terrible idea,” Mairoll said. “Especially with direct sunlight, contrast levels of laptop displays get very bad, so it’s impossible to do any creative work that requires true colours.”
Later in the afternoon, his teammates in Asia will start waking up and logging on, so he will answer messages from them.
He tries to be off his computer no later than 7 or 8 in the evening. Once he’s done with his workday, he’ll spend time with his family by cooking, watching movies or relaxing.
Advice to Remote Founders
Mairoll says he can’t imagine working any other way now.
“When I started doing all-remote, it was a special thing,” Mairoll said. “I don’t see it as an unusual thing anymore. By now, it’s a well-known concept of businesses.”
When it comes to following in Emsisoft’s footsteps, Mairoll’s advice is to go big or go home. If you can’t commit to having your whole entire company work remotely, don’t do it at all. A team can’t be successful if a company is only partially remote, because the office workers will end up making the remote workers feel isolated.
Mairoll also says to trust the employees you work with and to hire people have strong self-management skills. Being careful with the hiring process can weed out people who get easily distracted or can’t work on their own.
“Find people who are dedicated to work from home and are self-motivated to keep up the workload,” Mairoll said. “I would say when I’m doing a job interview with someone, I can easily tell within a couple of minutes if someone can do the job properly or not, and also, if they fit in our team culture and business culture.”
The biggest challenge is that it can be difficult to connect with people on a personal level when you’re only talking through a computer screen. Last year, Mairoll tried to remedy the lack of social interaction by renting a desk at a shared coworking office, but he stopped after half a year. Although he enjoyed meeting other people at the office, he felt like the environment was too scheduled for him.
Emsisoft itself has special chat rooms for talking about non-work related topics, and some teammates will play online games together after work. But otherwise, Mairoll doesn’t see his colleagues on a day-to-day basis, and he’s only met four of them in person.
That’s why when it comes to remote working culture, it’s especially important to remember that your colleagues are human, not just words popping up on a screen, Mairoll says.
“The social component gets cut a bit short at times,” Mairoll said. “Everyone’s focused on working efficiently and there’s not much time for unnecessary fluff, so things can get a bit impersonal if people don’t pay attention to the fact that their colleagues are real humans as well. I think it takes slightly more effort in team building to establish strong team bonds over the internet, but I don’t see it as a major blocker at all.”
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