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Working remotely

Hi all!

 

First post for a while

I would like to ask you all if you had experience working remotely with Holacracy.

The reason of that question is: we are growing at iGi Partners and I see as we integrate more people the need to train them, to have interactions with them, to have visibility on their work for alignment purposes, see how they are doing in their roles and to coach them which is very difficult to do remotely because we have no visibility on the work (tactical meetings are not enough) and because the self-motivation usually goes down even if the purpose is clear and they are eager at the beginning to pursuit it. It takes a lot of self-discipline et self-motivation to work efficiently remotely and most people (including myself) can't do it on their own.

Of course, we have tools like Google Apps (Hangout, Gmail, Drive, etc.), Slack, Zoom and all that kind of stuff but interactions are very hard to provoke remotely and we can't really have deep conversations that will move the company forward.

Personally, I am working remotely for a year now and I can see I need interactions and noise to do my job so I often go on a pub to have that kind of stuff but these interactions are not company related and I also need interactions with my colleagues which I had before, working at an office with others. Holacracy meetings are not sufficient, the company needs to have chats by the water cooler on a daily basis and provoking it with hangout or zoom doesn't make it spontaneous and is very formal, not achieving the power of informal discussions. And sometimes, without knowing it, motivation goes down... it is normal but not very efficient for the company.

So, I know H1 has experience with it so I would love to have feedback from partners at H1 like [@mention:449411339497350002] [@mention:455886150941203371] [@mention:450960215289659578] and others to get some perspectives on this.

I guess it is even harder to work when you are not dealing with client (moving) and just doing “back office” work at home...

 

Thank you all for your help on this!

21 Replies
Eliana
06/13/2018

Hi Margaux! What a great topic! The Unit where I used to work, was also distributed among several citys within three different language regions and experienced a great challenge trying to push the Holacracy Implementation, mantaining the purpose orientation, the motivation, etc. Tribe Space seems to be quite hard to be build and kept, when interaction is only virtual. Anyway, it would be great if we could collect and exchange best practices for this issue. We started the program "High five", which was a monthly meeting where everybody was invited to come personally and enjoy five different face to face formats.  We coordinated to do a tactical and a governance meeting, an eat together, a share together and a work2gether.  Of course, this means traveling and investing time and financial resources and not every company has the chance to invest on it. While considerating such an intervention it is good to think, that several studies confirmed that psychological safety and trust are main factors for the building and functioning of high performance teams. We also included questions to our online check-ins which allowed us to get to know each other in a new way, not only job-related (like https://www.nytimes.com/2015/0...edding-or-small.html). Investing in Tribe space may seem wasteful, but it might be a great investment on the performance, commitment, orientation of the team. I look forward to your own best practices! All the best, Eliana  

Margaux
06/13/2018

Hi Eliana,

 

Thank you. Your comment made me realize I forgot to mention that we are doing 4 retreats per years, in-person for 1 week each.

But it is not enough

I am wondering if it is possible to work remotely alone..

Tom Mulder
06/13/2018

[@mention:449693036337664795]

Maybe [@mention:550748956143473957] can share some insights. She works in a fully remote organization for several years now. Also she speak French ;-)

 

Ivan Matosyan
06/14/2018

Hello [@mention:449693036337664795], 

Great topic!

We work remotely for amost 6 years. Our distributed team is now of 15 people + many remote contractors/freelancers. We have 2 times per year a face to face team gathering, as it only two times, we have situation that I have not seen some people from their start in our company, in one case it is more than year and half already. I do not feel that it is problem, our culture is to work remotely, nobody wants anything else.

Same as you, I do personally feel that I need to see people and have some noice arround, that is why I work in two to tree different places a day (home, starbucs, co-working).

What works for us:

1. We make space for tribe interactions at holacracy meetings. 
2. We use as little communication tools as possible, so that we concentrate  communication. Actualy we have only one main communication tool, everything else is complementary to that one.
3. When we have a video call, we always turn on camera. From the begining of our remote hiring proces we set it as mandatory for the whole time, so our partners are used to it and cannot imagine to go calling without it.

Beside above mentioned there are some things which people started doing naturally. Usually there are lot of one on one meetings a week through video conferencing, just to solve some tactical tensions. People created guilds and gather several times per year in person without company involvement.

When we have a company gathering once a half a year I feel I know people very well even though I meet some of them for the first time in person.

Hope that helps.

Ivan

Xavier Boëmare
06/14/2018

Hi Margaux,

I feel there are 2 needs in your message : having people/noise around you ("life" :-)) and also being able to interact more often/differently with your partners.

Facing that issue with "work@home" in my company, the current "solution" is usually the co-working places : you get "noise", people, and good conditions to work (might be missing at home). And because it's a melting-pot of different businesses, can creates some opportunities too !

Personally I can "live" working at distance with my colleagues, but cannot stand being alone for long.

I don't have issue working with my colleague on skype, and meet them from time to time (your retreats)

In my humble opinion : You wonder if it's possible to work remotely : Yes, alone : Not for long (but does not have to be your partners).

But that's only my personal view.

Hope it helps :-)

Margaux
06/14/2018

Hi Xavier,

 

Thank you. I've been thinking about co-working spaces but if we all do that, then the question of money comes: who should pay? The company? That's a lot of money at the end of the year and it doesn't create value for the company as interactions are outside of the company. The person? Then it becomes an issue if she doesn't have a huge compensation. I really think co-working works but between partners of the same company. That's the conclusion I've had and I am trying to see if it is the only solution...

Louis
06/14/2018

Some people can work alone without issues (myself for example, I just need to put music in my headphones, and can work alone with only emails/chat interactions if needed in addition to weekly meetings), so I feel like it depends more on the type of character of the person and its conditions for working. After, it's sure that for brainstorming, getting new ideas or “foolish concepts”, interactions are needed, and I believe in our company Margaux, we have two chances: The retreats, along the possibilities to work on clients for a couple weeks together (so you basically get lots of informal interactions, allowing easy brainstorm).

As for your last message, curious to know in which context you're talking? Yours, or a generic one, or just as example?

Margaux
06/14/2018

[@mention:449974511354699742] Thank you for your answer but working alone like you do sometimes (not very often) is not the same as working alone for a long time like Xavier said. You have was more interactions than I do, so informal that you can't even see it

Louis
06/14/2018

[@mention:449693036337664795] I don't know how you can know how I work, interesting. And haven't seen an answer to my last question.

Xavier Boëmare
06/14/2018

Yes Margaux, I fully agree. If co-working could mean cost reduction for big company set up in very expensive cities, it could be the opposite for smaller one I guess.

Maybe some "discount" co-working places exist in your area ? By discount I mean not much more than Starbuck, without Starbuck heavy traffic :-) There are some around start-up incubators usually : Chairs, tables, coffee and wi-fi :-)

Or maybe some associations in your area where you could get connected to some entrepreneurs like you who are looking for places from time to time to gather, exchange, and work ?

Just brainstorming here.

Margaux
06/14/2018

Love your brainstorm

I found this amazing website: https://www.officeriders.com/

https://www.nouvelobs.com/rue8...-dans-ton-salon.html

 

I think I am going to try it for me but still for other colleagues, especially new comers, it doesn't solve the issue

Romain Bisseret
06/14/2018

We've been full remote working here at In Excelsis since the beginning. We had to face those challenges and I find Holacracy was of great help for precisely separating the "work space" and the "tribal space", the latter being one that should definitely be adressed! The way we did it is a lot of inspiration from Jason Fried's "Remote" book, along with trial and errors and course corrections.

After three years, we faced the same challenge you described, despite the monthly "journées INXL", the occasional lunches here and there and a lot of online meetings. We envisionned two paths: renting a co-working space for those of us near Paris, or renting a "company house" yearly for sprints together every other week. Life provided us with the first option and we then dismissed the second one (my preferred option, but well... :-) ).

We're pretty happy with it, even though it's just been a month and a half. It definitely brought back motivation for some of us. As for myself, I lost a lot in personal productivity (nothing beats long hours of uninterrupted work) ; but communication is better, and I see motivation is naturally "rejuiced" each time we see each other (even when it's only twice a week considering our current engagements with clients).

Now, I wouldn't consider co-working as a waste of resources ; far from it! If you find a place where there's a real community and not just brunches, nice colorful sofas and people sitting next to each other, you can indeed find tremendous value in it in terms of networking, expanding your reach to other POVs and companies, and even access to resources you couldn't have had otherwise.

Linda Berens
06/14/2018

I really like this topic and the suggestions.

We at encode.org have been virtual and global from the beginning. We meet quarterly in different locations in Europe and in North America, but even then some of us can't make those meetups. And it didn't completely satisfy.

So we recently started a weekly scheduled 'water cooler' session that we show up to when we can. This really helped with the casual conversations that bring us together, especially those who are not involved in any Special Topic Meetings and coworking on special projects. The new person who came on board was better able to feel connected as well.

In addition we have Guilds and Special Interest Groups that meet over Zoom. These meet our social needs as well as develop skills in self-management and interpersonal interactions. We have guilds registered on GTD, Holacracy Practice, Purpose, Honoring Differences, Legal, and Language of Spaces and anticipate having more arise as needed. The Guilds meet over Zoom as well as during Meet-ups and also have Slack Channels in our Association Slack account (as distinct from the Organization Slack account where channels are about doing the work.)

There are personality differences in how much external stimulation and interaction. Working in places with lots of stimulation drives me bonkers, but I do need to feel connected to the people I work with and love the casual opportunity to discuss work topics.  At the beginning of the trend for working remotely a colleague and I wrote a workbook on Interaction Styles with lots of customized hints for different styles. (This was written before Holacracy came into such widespread use, so there is content about management, but the suggestions still work for working together). The Quick Quite to Interaction Styles and Working Remotely by Susan Gerke and Linda Berens is available on Amazon.

I look forward to reading more posts in this thread. 

Francois Richer
06/14/2018

Hi,

very interesting discussion. Seems that there is a needs to take care of the interactions between the humans forming the group giving their energy to the holarchy and that the Holacracy could be not enough for some of them. (Maybe the holarchy I am involved is very stimulating;-)

I am investigating several thing to identify what are those magic interactions between humans in a group (especially a group in Holacracy) :

I am preparing communication on this but it will come not before october.

Best regards

Sabrina
06/15/2018

Hi Margaux, fully resonate with the topic of your post because it's been my lifestyle for quite a bit now. Besides others' contributions, I'd like to give you my 2 cents on one thing you've written "[co-working space] doesn't create value for the company as interactions are outside of the company":  you can't imagine how many insights and (direct or indirect) leads/deals I got from interacting with others at a co-working space. If budget is the real concern, note that I have a group of local people (solo self-employed like me) I work with once a week, and we show up depending on who is available and we pick a new location each time (someone's home, a café, their office space).

Margaux
06/15/2018

Wow, so many answers, thank you!! 

[@mention:550889693724425252] Thank you for sharing your experience. When I say a co-working space is a waste of money, it is just when it is not shared between people of the same company. I can see from [@mention:490932114704493598]'s comment that it can generate leads but we don't all have sales roles and it makes more sense to capitalize, as a company, on interactions between partners of the same company - would be different for an independant I guess.

Thank you [@mention:581434538543771509] for reminding me of the different interaction styles. I can fully understand that and at the same time, the company has some needs we need to cover even if the person prefers to work alone in a silent environment. It is a question of survival.

I don't know if my mind is stuck or whatever... My current thinking is that we need on-site human interactions to run a company and take it to the next level - no matter the way people prefers to work given their interaction styles. And the more we have that type of interactions, the better. Every once in a while is not sufficient IMO but I guess it depends on the personality... Arg, so complicated...

Sabrina
06/15/2018

Good luck to you [@mention:449693036337664795]!

Chris Cowan
06/16/2018

[@mention:449693036337664795] I resonate with the challenge. Shortly after joining H1, I moved up to Pennsylvania to be closer to other H1 partners, so that is one way I tried to address it. We have retreats of course, and I get a lot of that from coaching at trainings, because there are so many other partners there. Just a few things that come to my mind, but I definitely don't have this solved or anything.  

Linda Berens
06/17/2018
Margaux posted:

Wow, so many answers, thank you!! 

Thank you [@mention:581434538543771509] for reminding me of the different interaction styles. I can fully understand that and at the same time, the company has some needs we need to cover even if the person prefers to work alone in a silent environment. It is a question of survival.

I don't know if my mind is stuck or whatever... My current thinking is that we need on-site human interactions to run a company and take it to the next level - no matter the way people prefers to work given their interaction styles. And the more we have that type of interactions, the better. Every once in a while is not sufficient IMO but I guess it depends on the personality... Arg, so complicated...

Thank you [@mention:449693036337664795] for clarifying more about what tension you are feeling. I think you may be sensing into something deeper than personal preferences. This tension may go beyond your personal preferences for work style and be something to process by reflection and dialog about what the tension is for the organization. At first I thought you were feeling the tension more about tribe space or the individual motivations space. But with your clarification that it is a question of survival, I wonder if it might be something to do with a deep organizational need you are sensing into.

I think it is important to honor all the Interaction Style differences when they are doing role work, but there are times when interaction is crucial, when solving some major problem or determining a major strategy shift is needed. 

Key to sorting this out is to be sure it is not a projection of our own preferences and needs and it seems you are doing this. I'd be happy to be a sounding board with you on zoom if you want. 

Nick Osborne
06/18/2018
Thanks [@mention:449693036337664795] and all for such a rich thread. Here’s some additional input which may contribute to mitigating what you are pointing to:
 
  • Perhaps 4 x 1-week in-person retreats per year aren't enough to provide what you seeking? At HolacracyOne retreats are mostly every other month, usually for approx 9 days including travel. Plus there are additional mini project/circle based in-person gatherings as needed. Although this is expensive in terms of partner time and travel, I understand it’s considered important for supporting healthy inter-personal relationships
  • I know that some people arrange to co-work online to meet the need for more real-time interaction. This means that it’s just a time when partners are working and getting on with their own thing as you do in a co-working space, but they have a zoom meeting open and can chat while they are working. So it’s like the virtual version of co-working. This can be done with 2 or more partners and some people have regular times each day/week when they do this
  • I know some organisations schedule unstructured social time/tribe space for people to hang out and chat directly before/after some virtual circle meetings as a way to create opportunities for more real-time interactions
  • When a lot of communication is asynchronous and virtual like email/slack it can create a sense of disconnection for some people. A way to remedy this is to seek opportunities to schedule real-time calls with partners to communicate about work instead of the asynchronous email/slack messaging
  • This is slightly different but very related on the ‘group-as system’ level- I understand that for human systems to sustain health and vitality over time there needs to be ways for 2-way feedback to be given and received in the matrix of relationships between all people. If the conditions for 2-way feedback aren’t there and the channels aren’t open, it can create a sense of disconnection between people, leading to a feeling that more connection is needed. 
Margaux
06/18/2018

Love it, thanks!