Workwell Culture Handbook

In 2015, we set out to build a great app that would make employees happier and more connected at work. In addition to building a great product, we knew right from the start that we wanted to build a special workplace. A workplace that would make our own employees happy and encourage them to grow and deliver great ideas.

Our vision of the ideal workplace came to life when we settled in the House in September 2017: a beautiful three-story town house with a garden that would welcome our team, family members, and friends.

This page provides a summary of our guiding principles (Our values) and tips on how to grow and thrive as a member of our team (How can I be successful at Workwell). We tried to reference real, specific examples to make things even clearer.

We believe these principles will smooth the onboarding process for new members and help all of us stay consistent with our vision as Workwell grows.

We hope you enjoy reading these principles as much as we've enjoyed writing them.

Our values

What it meanspermalink

At Workwell, we work on a project basis and value ownership. Everyone can become a lead on a project. However, we do have "experts" and "mentors" who have accumulated authority by demonstrating expertise, helping others and adding value. Feel free to go to them for advice, but they won't be giving you directives.

Why we do itpermalink

We believe that allowing every team member to become a lead on a specific project encourages everyone to be more proactive, to learn and to grow. It means that everyone can make a difference, whatever their seniority.

How we do itpermalink

We don't believe in fixed hierarchies or in having bosses within or outside of the teams. Instead of a boss-subordinate relationship, we rely on peer-based mutual commitments and ownership. Any individual who has the expertise, interest, or willingness can step in and offer to lead a project.

For instance, in the πŸ” Roadmap, roles are added to the feature cards to make it easy to know who is in charge of what.

πŸ‘¨β€πŸ‘©β€πŸ‘§β€πŸ‘¦ The Team (not public)

Each individual at Workwell has a number of roles which can vary over time and across projects. If a new situation or need arises, anyone can offer to take on a role in the project team, regardless of their job title.

Example: Feature Teams

Feature teams are created to implement the roadmap. A typical feature team will include at least one member of the business team, one member of the customer success team and one member of the tech team. Everyone is involved and can take the lead on a feature by becoming the owner.

At Workwell, any individual can make a decision without seeking validation from the entire group, as long as they involve all the people who will be affected by that decision and all the people with the expertise needed to make that decision. We appreciate that ownership comes with responsibility. So that everyone can keep track of the progress of a task, we encourage shared written content over Slack 1:1s or in-person meetings, for instance as found in the πŸ‘·β€β™‚οΈ Engineering documents or the ✍️ Meeting Notes (not public).

What it meanspermalink

We strive to be mindful by being aware of our surroundings, acknowledging the impact others have on us and the impact we have on them. We try to be kind to the people working around us, to our organization and to the environment.

Why we do itpermalink

Being mindful allows us to create a positive, harmonious work environment, which is beneficial to team members and to the company. This allows us to:

  • feel less stressed
  • avoid becoming overwhelmed
  • reach our flow as often as possible
  • be happier individuals at work and outside of work

How we do itpermalink

We're running a marathon, don't beat yourself up πŸ’“

We are an innovative company and have mountains to climb together. We're in it for the long run and not a quick win. So we need to make sure we can hold up to the challenges, and not burn out while trying to reach them.

Every day is day 1, so keep your ego in check and throw away your legacy 🀳

Being emotionally attached to our work means we care. However, we encourage everyone to remain ready to part with their work and make things evolve in radically new ways, because sometimes, we have to take tough decisions and do what is best for the organization. We are still in a discovery phase, looking to find the right product, and this means that a lot of changes will happen until we get there. What is true today may no longer hold 3 months from now. We have to stay lean, react fast, and be able to "throw away" the weight of past work. If we can't do that, we become heavy, inefficient and accumulate debt.

Take time off 🌴

We believe taking time off is necessary to rekindle interest in what we do and foster creativity. When we do take time off, we always inform the team we work closely with and plan ahead so that operations keep running smoothly.

Example: handing off email access

Marie gives her 100% when she is at work, but she also enjoys being completely off the grid when she goes on holiday or disconnects in the mountains. To make that possible, Marie entrusts Alisa and Paul with handling her emails, so if anything urgent comes up they can take care of it. Same goes for the customer success team. If someone takes a few days off, another team member takes over to make sure nothing important is overlooked.

Example: me time 🎨

It sometimes feels like we are giving a lot. Make sure you care for yourself. We try to set a good example by having weekly yoga and meditation sessions with Louise at the House.

Your problem is my problem πŸ’

We're all in the same boat and we're always there to help. If we are not able to help directly, we help find the person who can. If a question is not formulated clearly, we try to put us in the shoes of the other person and understand their issue. We give our 100% until that person has found a solution to their problem.

I am as interested in your growth as in my own growth: I take and give feedback with care and interest 🌱

We are all about helping each other grow and believe one important way of doing it is through feedback. There is no such thing as "bad" feedback, as long as it is done with good intentions and in a helpful manner. That's why we encourage people to actively seek feedback from others, and share this feedback publicly in the 🌱 Workwell Team Ladder.

When facing a conflict, make it about facts, not people 🧩

When we are in disagreement, try to only use factual arguments, and seek other people's opinion if stuck in a debate.

Have as few meetings as possible, and timebox them πŸ“

No one likes extended meetings, so we try to use written notes instead. Written notes also allow us to make sure the information arrives to remote team members. Asynchronicity means that anyone can catch up when it suits them. Mandatory recurrent meetings with no agenda should be avoided at all costs. No one likes them anyway. When a meeting is necessary, the agenda and subsequent decision should be stored in ✍️ Meeting Notes (not public). Furthermore, we avoid meetings in the afternoon to ensure everybody can be fully focused and do deep work for a prolonged time.

Spread the knowledge πŸ€“

We value written content over orally conveyed information, because written content can be shared to other clients and with team members, and asynchronously. Taking the time to write things down and share that information with others makes us more efficient as a team.

Example: the πŸŽ“ Guides and FAQs pages

We regularly add sections in the πŸŽ“ Guides and FAQs pages to reduce repetitive work with different clients, and so that they can also freely access the knowledge without needing a dedicated phone call.

Use Slack wisely πŸ™‰

Slack is a great tool for open-space communication, but it can become a distraction and hurt our productivity. That's why we have agreed on a few ground rules:

  • Avoid pinging people directly on Slack. Instead, write to dedicated channels. Since different people can answer, response times are decreased and information is shared.
  • We don't use Slack for feature requests and bugs, we use the πŸ’‘Idea Box and 🐞QA pages instead (not public). This allows us to have an organized overview without creating an unnecessary sense of urgency. Only exception is when there is an emergency, where we use the #emergency channel on Slack.

Everyone enjoys a well-kept office and we believe everyone has to contribute. Same goes for the Environment.

Example: Angels πŸ‘Ό

Every week, 3Β team members take their turn as "angels" and attend to household duties. It is up to everybody in the team to keep the House clean and homey!

Example: Recycling 🌿

We recycle plastic, paper, and cardboard. We have implemented Castalie's water filter system to avoid using plastic water bottles around the House.

What it meanspermalink

We wish to become a standard by embracing openness, both externally and internally, not by forcing deals or playing on secrecy.

Why we do itpermalink

Being transparent and open allows us to:

  • Be more efficient as a team: information flows smoothly and no time is wasted on hidden agendas
  • Be more spontaneous: there is no fear of disclosing confidential information, everyone can speak freely
  • Have new ideas: having full access to the context and to all the necessary information makes it easier to come up with relevant, creative solutions
  • Have ownership: without a comprehensive knowledge of the context, it is impossible to have full ownership of what you are doing

How we do itpermalink

We try to be as transparent as possible with our product, which means communicating effectively with our users on the product roadmap and challenging our product internally.

Example: πŸ” Public Roadmap

We publish an open πŸ” Roadmap and a condensed list of new features so that our clients and users know what features are coming up, and publish 🌱 What's New.

If we have something to say, we just say it. We encourage our users and team members to do the same.

Example: OfficeVibe

We use OfficeVibe to encourage team members to give anonymous or public feedback on the organization by answering questions regularly. The results are then discussed during Team Meetings.

Example: ☝️Company Idea Box (not public)

We've implemented a company idea box to collect ideas from team members.

We apply and abide by the same rules. There are no "exceptions".

Example: Salary Grid and Team Ladder

Things like our salaries are not up for negotiation, because this favors those who are better at negotiating, and doesn't promote staying humble. In the beginning, we made some mistakes and we are working to correct them. We now have an open, transparent πŸ’° Salary Grid and 🌱 Team Ladder. Team members are free to comment on each other's ladder cards to help them grow.

We believe our clients should be fully aware of the benefits that come with getting involved with Workwell. Knowing why you choose Workwell is a solid foundation for a lasting relationship. We win deals not by being harsh negotiators or keeping things opaque, but because we have the best product. If the product is great, users will come to us.

Open Housepermalink

We think physical spaces have a great impact on the way people feel, interact with each other, and work. To us, creating a work environment that is aligned with our vision meant finding the right place. The Workwell House has two guest rooms. The community (clients, partners, entrepreneurs) and the team (ourselves, family, friends) are welcome to stay any time.

What it meanspermalink

We are driven and ambitious, and we need to excel at what we do. We are never scared of questioning our own decisions. We don't accept mediocrity and low-impact work. We are proactive in suggesting improvements at all levels of the company and in trying new things. Failing is OK, not taking action is not OK.

Why we do itpermalink

By joining Workwell, we accept a mission that is bigger than us and that will require us to challenge ourselves. We do it because we want to take this project far but also because we want to become the best version of ourselves by developing skills and a mindset that extend beyond Workwell.

How we do itpermalink

We are a product-driven, ambitious startup and we believe in thinking long term. We take pride in taking the hard path and in the long-term reward.

Example: From Never Eat Alone to Workwell

Workwell used to be Never Eat Alone, an app that would allow employees of large companies to meet over lunch. As the user base grew bigger, the need for a more ambitious product arose. We could have decided to stay with NEA and make easy money, but we decided to build a more ambitious product.

Example: Saying no to a lot of money from real estate to become a global standard

We changed our business model to turn our product into a global standard. This meant turning down juicy deals which were not aligned with our long-term product vision.

As a tech startup, we operate under harsh conditions. We have to spend smart and work smart. Distinguishing between the essential and non-essential is essential.

Example: The Workwell House 🏑

When we were looking for office space back in 2016, we realised how expensive, and frankly boring, it would be to take some regular coworking space. We found the House and it was a win-win situation.

We strongly believe that our values, as a company and as a team, stem from our ability to turn problems into opportunities. People are willing to pay for a product that solves a problem. Turning problems into opportunities and finding solutions to problems which feel impossible to solve is by nature challenging. In times of doubt, we remember that there are no limits to what we can do to solve the problem. If we put it the right amount of thought and energy, every problem can be solved.

Some problems can be bigger than others but there is still a need to meet the deadline: if more time is needed to find a solution, it is important to communicate and anticipate. We own the problem, we divide it into smaller problems, but we keep it moving and deliver results.

Example: We started from nothing

We started with no money and no contacts. Our office was the Tuileries Garden and Starbucks. We sent letters, emails, went to events and conferences, looked for mentors until it paid off.

Example: Saying no to white-labelling

We participated in a big RFP. The company wanted a white-label app, which was not aligned with our product vision. Instead of giving up on the RFP we decided to bid as an open platform and won the RFP. No is never a no.

We encourage everyone to learn and grow. However, we all have our limitations. Becoming aware of them and acting accordingly is an important skill to master. Don't be scared to be challenged by the people you hire: "Know your talent, hire your weaknesses."

Example: Marie's dyslexia

Marie is dyslexic. She knows that writing is not her forte and that there is only so much she can do about it. When writing is an important issue, Marie goes to the right people to help her.

Example: As the company grows, our team and processes change

Some people are a great fit for early stage, because they thrive on chaos and love working in a process-free company with no teams to manage. As the company grows bigger, new processes become necessary, work methods evolve and early team members have to adapt. Sometimes, it's best for everyone to acknowledge that the fit isn't there anymore.

Our audience is global, therefore we need to anticipate accordingly. Being global by default is the best way to prepare ourselves to the future but also to make sure our remote teams feel included.

Here are a few things we do to work global:

  • We use English as our default language for written content and in meetings
  • We use tools which are compatible with remote working
  • We have a House that can welcome remote clients and team members

How can I be successful at Workwell?

Our end goal as a tech company is to build a great product that will improve the lives of our users on a daily basis. Our end goal as human organization is to help our members grow and become the best version of themselves.

In order to achieve these goals and to help everyone be successful, we've come up with a few principles. We hope they make your first few months at Workwell as easy as possible.

Building a great product is at the core of what we do. Make sure you are familiar with the product vision and that all your decisions are aligned with it. We use our own product internally to detect bugs, improve existing features, and feel the impact of our work every day.

We grow as a team by giving and accepting feedback. Stay open to criticism and build trusting relationship by challenging others directly and encouraging them to challenge you. Criticism is not a way to drag you down, it is a way to pull you further up.

We live in a fast-changing world. What was true yesterday might not be right tomorrow. Stay up-to-date with what is happening, keep a curious spirit and open yourself to the possibility of connecting with people who have different world views.

We are global by design and English is our default language. Make sure you use English for all written content, and be sure that no one feels left out when around the table.

Everyone is responsible for making sure the Workwell House stays tidy and cosy. When it is your turn to attend to household duties (i.e. become an Angel), just embrace it. Everyone will be grateful. However, even if you are not an Angel during the week, act as one.

Speed is a consequence of efficiency, not of rush. Rush leads to chaotic speed, which leads to inefficiency, which leads to slowness.

We cannot afford spending time inefficiently. Always think about how you can do things smarter.

Set high standards for your work, this will pay off in the long run.

When the project is right for you, step in. It's the best way for you to grow.

Whether you are the team lead or not you are in charge of your work, not someone else. We are all here to help but you are accountable for the results.

Be an expert in your field, but don't stay stuck in that field. As a member of our team, you will be asked to multitask. Everyone is involved in company culture, hiring, communication.

There are a lot of things happening at the same time, and information is key. It's always best to say things twice and to make sure everyone is informed, even if it means repeating yourself or saying something someone already knows.

Keep an optimistic mindset and a fresh soul. Never take things as a setback.

Be efficient at closing tasks and get things done. Don't leave topics open and dangling. Scope, estimate time, execute and close. Most importantly, remember that when something is done it must be done, not half-done. And people are here to help.

Failure is never personal, we fail as a team and we see failure as an opportunity to grow. Be proactive about failure: admit when something is wrong, go to the people who can help and fix it.

Hiring is everyone's responsibility. Hiring the wrong people is detrimental to our organisation, especially now where we are laying the foundations of our company. That's why hiring procedures must be followed. Make sure you stick to them.