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      Work wherever you want: Our method at Alan

      Work wherever you want: Our method at Alan
      With
      Jean-Charles Samuelian
      Jean-Charles SamuelianCEO d'Alan
      Updated on
      20 October 2023
      With
      Jean-Charles Samuelian
      Jean-Charles SamuelianCEO d'Alan
      Updated on
      20 October 2023
      Share this article

      At Alan, our organization is based on trust. This means that every Alaner is free to work flexibly, wherever he or she chooses. Here's how it works. 

      Introduction

      Our flexible office model

      At Alan, a fast-growing company means distributed responsibility, autonomy and freedom. We are all responsible and we trust each other: everyone is there to act in the best interests of the company.

      And we're all different too. Some of us are night owls, while others have children and need to adapt their schedules. Respecting these differences has led us to establish a culture of writing and asynchronous working, so that everyone can organize their working time as they see fit. We explain how we make decisions without meetings in this article

      Since flexible working hours and the obligation to come into the office are incompatible, telecommuting has always been a modality at Alan. As with many companies, the pandemic prompted us to question ourselves and presented an opportunity to affirm our choice to be a "work from wherever you want" company. 

      In practical terms, each Alaner is free to live and work wherever he or she chooses, albeit within certain rules. We have offices or coworking spaces in different cities. So there are three options for everyone:

      1. 100% remote: work entirely from a distance

      2. Hybrid: opt for a configuration that alternates between working remotely and staying in the office

      3. Presential:opt for the classic "every day at the office" approach

      Naturally, the needs of our "100% remote" employees differ from those of those who work in the office. So, to ensure that collaboration runs smoothly, we have established a number of basic rules and principles in line with our philosophy: to guarantee every Alaner maximum flexibility in a secure environment.

      Want to know how we do it? We'll tell you all about it.

      Choosing your teleworking policy 

      How do you choose the right frame for your business? 

      Depending on your organization and the type of work required, you have several options for defining your remote working policy:

      • 100% hybrid: All employees can work remotely whenever they want. 

      • Part-time telecommuting: Employees can work remotely on a fixed number of days a week (imposed or free days) and the rest of the time in the office.

      • A 'project mode' organization: team members are expected to come into the office during certain phases of the project where this is considered more efficient, and can work remotely the rest of the time. This is the organization chosen by Ubisoft, for example. 

      • Differentiated approach by job: Not all jobs can be done remotely, so you can choose to work remotely, but only for certain types of jobs or teams. This should be implemented with extreme caution, as it can seem unfair and lead to disengagement for those who don't qualify.

      The ABCs of a flexible office

      Most companies rent an office, hire employees to fill it and then move to a larger office as their business grows. At Alan, we've reversed the situation by focusing first on the needs of Alaners. Everyone is free to work and live where they want, because we assume that Alaners know each other and take into account what they need and what gives them energy. In return, we adapt to provide them with an appropriate workspace:

      • We've kept our Paris office because most of the team lives there.

      • We subsidize coworking spaces for all employees who want them and, when the team reaches a critical size in certain towns, we adapt the offer so that all Alaners can work together in a suitable space (which we equip ourselves).

      • Alaners who don't go to the office or a coworking space every day can benefit from a

        subsidy for office equipment at Fleex, which includes a desk, chair, lamp and computer equipment. 

      Can you really recruit from wherever you want?

      In 2020, we have decided to no longer limit the hiring of talent to the three countries in which we operate: France, Spain and Belgium.

      This decision was accompanied by complex challenges across a wide range of regulatory bodies: immigration, payroll and administration, tax residency, social security law, labor law and so on. 

      As a result, we have "tightened up" our policy to avoid having to deal with tedious international recruitment on a case-by-case basis.

      Alaners can currently be recruited in 8 countries: 

      1. France 🇫🇷

      2. Spain 🇪🇸

      3. Belgium 🇧🇪

      4. Netherlands 🇳🇱

      5. Sweden 🇸🇪

      6. Germany 🇩🇪

      7. Luxembourg 🇱🇺

      8. United Kingdom 🇬🇧

      That said, as a French-registered insurer, we have to apply the insurance regulations of the ACPR. As a result, some of our teams host functions and roles that cannot be operated from anywhere else. This applies in particular to sales, customer service and certain key corporate functions such as insurance management, for example.

       In short, employees can work from wherever they like within the country in which they have been recruited. For example, an Alaner hired in France can decide to work from Paris, Brest, Toulouse, Collonges-la-Rouge... In short, his only limit will be his creativity (and his appetite for the Limousin)!

      However, there's nothing to prevent Alaners from working outside these countries from time to time, up to a limit of 30 to 90 days a year (depending on whether the country belongs to the Schengen area). But, while working asynchronously is a productivity booster, juggling major time differences can slow down collaboration and push the team to work at odd hours to ensure "synchronous" moments (1:1s, recruitment), which is not very healthy. That's why we restrict our "Work from Anywhere" (WFA ) policy to territories offering at least 6 hours' CET time difference between 9am and 6pm. 

      🖇️ Checklist: Things to consider before hiring in a new country 

      Before starting the recruitment process or making a job offer, and after checking that your offer is competitive in the country in question, it is prudent to check how your status impacts each of these variables in the country in question:

      ☑️ Immigration obligations as an employer

      • Make sure the company is legally authorized to employ foreigners in the country.

      • Check the types of visas available for foreign employees and the associated requirements.

      • Check whether work permits are required, how to obtain them and how long it will take.

      ☑️ Compliance with labor laws :  

      • Check legal requirements regarding employment contracts, working hours, vacations, employee benefits, employee protection and dismissal.

      • Check legal requirements for health and safety at work, including training and protective equipment requirements.

      ☑️ Social security and health responsibilities

      • Check legal requirements for social security and health care for employees, including compulsory social security contributions.

      • Check health insurance requirements for employees.

      ☑️ Income tax :  

      • Check employee withholding and tax reporting requirements.

      • Check local tax rates and tax deduction rules for employees.

      ☑️ Compliance and payroll administration

      • Check local payroll requirements, including pay slip structure, payroll frequency, payment deadlines and payroll record requirements.

      • Ensure that the company has the necessary resources to manage payroll in accordance with local requirements.

      Ensuring the prerequisites for a flexible working environment

      Very early on in Alan's history, we built a culture of writing, transparency, asynchrony and distributed responsibility to offer our teams great flexibility in organizing their time. As it turns out, it's this culture that has enabled us to generalize our "Work from Anywhere" policy from 2020.

      Transparency and distributed responsibility, keystones of an asynchronous culture

      The principle of transparency comes in many forms at Alan, such as written decision-making and meetings as a last resort, while the principle of distributed responsibility guides the way we make decisions every day. 

      This mode of operation creates a flexible, high-performance and empowering environment. By making information public and accessible, we facilitate autonomous (good) decision-making. 

      It also helps to put day-to-day actions and tasks back into a broader perspective, and thus restore meaning to work - which is particularly important in a hybrid or remote work environment.

      Internally, we are accustomed to sharing our documents widely and systematically: 

      • Strategic developments and collective successes (commercial or technical) are celebrated every month at the Alan All Hands (AHA) in remote to rally around our common mission. 

      • All accounts of the successes, failures and learnings related to Alan's growth are shared with team members and key investors every Wednesday in the Alan Weekly Pulse;

      • All Alaners have open access to sensitive company information, such as the minutes of Board meetings, and have the opportunity to participate in the quarterly update of the Strategy Pack, which sets out the company's vision, mission and objectives.

      🛠Check-list: Creating the right conditions for flexible and asynchronous working

      • A clear hierarchy of information: To limit the risk of getting lost in too much information flow, we've established a clear hierarchy between must-read and must-not-read information. Our Slack is made up of different "channels" dedicated by subject, only a handful of which are considered"required reading". 

      • Defining objectives at all levels of the company: When you give your employees a great deal of autonomy, you have to give them the means to understand the company's objectives, so as to include their own and help them achieve them. To help them make the right decisions, set quarterly objectives and measure their progress effectively, we have developed a system that enables them to arbitrate between long-term and short-term vision between Units and Crews. Units, focused on an area of expertise or attention, establish a long-term strategy. Within each Unit, Crews (multi-disciplinary teams of 6-7 Alaners) focus on specific missions over a shorter period of time. 

      • A clear "Crew" organization: the Crew is autonomous in defining its quarterly objectives, and each team takes stock of its collective progress on a weekly basis. If necessary, a daily "stand-up" on Slack can be envisaged to unblock delicate situations or help team members refocus their efforts on the most urgent problems. In both cases, the Crew Lead's role is to take the initiative and keep a watchful, benevolent eye on the team's progress.

      • Individual organization framed: At Alan, Crew members are responsible, week after week, for deciding what they are going to work on to ensure that objectives are met. Every Alaner, including management, adopts the framework: Highlights, Progress, Fire, Objectives ("HPFO"). At the end of each week, we publish a public summary of our individual contributions and achievements, as well as the priority objective for the week ahead. The idea is to give visibility and context to the team on the progress of the objectives. 

      Out of sight, out of mind: maintaining ties from a distance

      Alaners gathered for the latest edition of the Alan Check-In
      Alaners gathered for the latest edition of the Alan Check-In

      Working remotely isn't always easy, especially for employees who are experimenting for the first time. At Alan, we're convinced that it's not just rituals that create bonds within a team, but above all that it's effective collaboration based on transparency, shared responsibility, clear definition of individual and collective objectives and trust, as discussed in the previous paragraph. However, it remains important to put in place times and initiatives that contribute to forging strong bonds between team members, so that everyone is in the best possible conditions to succeed.

      If you'd like to go further on the subject, we recommend the podcast episode "Valuing proximity at work to avoid feelings of isolation", in which Lydia Martin, Alan's occupational psychologist, shares her advice to managers. You can find it here.

      Hybrid rituals to create social bonds

      Here are some suggested rituals you can put in place to ensure strong social bonds, and how we put them in place at Alan :

      All Company Get-togethers 

      Bringing the whole company together on a regular basis is an extremely powerful way of strengthening commitment and encouraging the development of inter-team relationships. At Alan, we organize Check-Ins twicea year where all the Alaners from our different countries get together. Here we hold a big presentation to share important updates, celebrate successes and ensure that the company's goals/mission are at the forefront of our minds. We then have breakout sessions or activities where we mix Alaners from different teams and countries. Of course, these events wouldn't be complete without a party where Alaners can make social connections and relax with their colleagues.

      Community Rituals 

      Regular contact points within teams are incredibly important when members are dispersed to ensure they are engaged and feel part of the team, company, etc. This can take the form of weekly Stand-ups where team members can share how they're feeling, discuss any topics they'd prefer to express verbally, and highlight any obstacles they'd like the team's opinion on.

      Hackathons 

      Solving a company-wide problem and working with a group of people you don't normally interact with is very stimulating. Once a year, Alan organizes a hackathon on a specific theme. The aim is to identify new perspectives, to dare to propose ideas we wouldn't have thought of initially, around a 48-hour challenge. 

      "Bimonthly Lunch & Learn

      Twice a month, we organize an informal lunch at which an Alaner presents a topic of his or her choice - usually an area of expertise he or she is passionate about - to the entire workforce. The idea is to feed off the experience of our Alaners, outside their lives at Alan, and to enjoy an atypical moment of sharing where we discover common ground. 

      Informal Slack channels

      Slack is our work tool, of course. But some areas are dedicated to bonding, a kind of digital coffee break. Aficionados of four-legged friends, fans of running or lovers of quotes shared out of context, will all find something to their liking among our many affinity channels.

      Remote working, RPS and disengagement: Adopting a preventive approach

      Our off-boarding interviews enabled us to determine that telecommuting can be a reason for some Alaners to leave. The flexibility it offers is not without risk for their mental well-being: anxiety, hyper-connection, isolation. At Alan, we have adopted a culture of vigilance to monitor certain indicators despite the distance.

      🔍 Spotting weak signals 

      We invite every Alaner, and especially coaches, to pay attention to the following signals: 

      • Feeling "disconnected" or "out of step" with the team

      • Lack of presence or involvement in discussions on Slack or on our decision forum (Github)

      • Relational mismatch with other team members and general sense of isolation

      • Recurrent conflictual written exchanges (Slack)

      • Desertion of face-to-face team events

      • Time amplitude: messages on Slack or e-mails left very early or very late

      • Unusual errors or reduced performance

      🧰 Reacting to team difficulties

      If telecommuting is the cause of an Alaner's unhappiness, we recommend :

      • Determine with the employee whether telecommuting is a short-term difficulty (linked to onboarding) or whether the problem is structural and therefore cannot be sustained over the long term: asking whether it is possible to propose adjustments to make the Alaner more fulfilled could be a good starting point. 

      • Encourage the employee concerned to carry out more informal or informal "syncs", to forge links with crew members.

      • If applicable, offer to put the Alaner in touch with a team member who has gone through and overcome similar difficulties.

      • Organize more recurring physical or virtual team events.

      • Invite Alaner to visit the office or co-working space more regularly to reinforce the sense of belonging. 

      Prevent risks right from the onboarding stage

      If the new recruit has shared his or her wish to opt for hybrid or 100% remote working, we recommend selecting a coach who will be in a similar configuration. As the saying goes: "He who knows the obstacles overturns them"; a coach who has encountered the particularities of telecommuting will be in a better position to advise his coachee effectively to create connivance and immediate proximity - while limiting the risks of "mismatch" between two realities with distinct issues (face-to-face and remote).

      The last word

      We're aware that our Work from Anywhere policy isn't perfect, but we've designed it to be as fair as possible. It is based entirely on our culture of trust and asynchrony, of which transparency and distributed responsibility are the keystones. We are constantly updating it in line with these guiding principles: 

      • Ensuring that all Alaners have a comfortable workspace and adequate equipment: we keep a close eye on the impact of teleworking on the efficiency and comfort of Alaners, and adapt the configuration as necessary; 

      • Maintain a high level of commitment within the team, wherever the Alaners live: we rely on regularly organized strategic meetings rather than facilitating convenience trips (and we then pay for the Alaners' travel); 

      • Being intelligently frugal: we strive to make life significantly easier for every Alaner while intelligently managing our resources to reduce fixed costs and appeal to the good judgment of Alaners; 

      • Protecting Alaners and Alan: we don't seek to resolve all the small legal risks we encounter in order to maintain flexibility, but we do seek to establish a clear legal framework wherever possible.

      Published on 09/02/2023

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