From a remote concept to a flexible mindset

Philippe Vimard
Oct 7, 2021 · 6 min read

Can companies show the same type of flexibility they ask of employees?

At Doctolib, we pledge to remain agile, and when it comes to the future or rather the present of work, it is no different. That’s why all Doctolibers can now benefit from 3 work modes: remote, hybrid or office-based.
But flexibility comes with its fair share of questions and challenges. Here’s how we got from “is this remote thing going to work?” to “let’s do this!”

Remember when 2020 began?

Back then, at Doctolib, all 1,000 of us were ready to launch new products and features, accepting challenges with the same grit and resilience that the company founders showed on day 1, seven years before–and ever since — when they were going door-to-door, sitting down with general practitioners and understand how to best address the pain points within their practice.

We were a fast growing European company with tech centers in Berlin, Germany, brand new offices in Levallois, France and one that was bound to open in Nantes, France. To make sure our distributed tech teams worked together seamlessly, we adopted quite a fair amount of remote-first principles and best practices from redefining remote team rituals, to scheduling informal team time, or adapting our meeting etiquette.
So when the pandemic hit and both Germany and France went into lockdown, there was a lot to deal with, supporting healthcare personnels in their fight against COVID-19, making time to take care of our own, but switching to full remote was fairly easy for us.

Now, fast forward to the present time. Thanks to our team, we are still a fast growing European company. Despite the unexpected and taxing conditions affecting not only our customers and the patients, but also our relatives, and ourselves, we:

  • have virtually been working full remote for 18+ months.

Simple nudge or big leap?

Why are we making such a switch when, just like most companies on the planet, “remote under lockdown” suddenly became our only option and we had to make it work?

Well, looking back at the last year and a half, we managed to deliver.
And although we are not out of the COVID woods yet — we’re working on it — we’re taking a stand for more flexibility.

Making a move like this might sound bold, especially as many companies are rushing collaborators back to the office on a full time schedule. In reality, it feels more like a logical, almost organic, next step to offer more flexibility in our work modes.

What really happened over the past 18 months

When we went into lockdown, the tech team quickly assembled a taskforce of a score of remote champions in charge of coordinating and supporting the switch to remote.

We did experience issues under these unusual circumstances:

  • 3 days into the first lockdown, 30% of the tech team expressed a feeling of social isolation,

We adopted several solutions in order to preserve the wellbeing of Doctolibers: informal virtual coffees, discussion opportunities and game sessions were the most obvious ones to tackle the sense of isolation.
We also deployed a free self-care service where Doctolibers could address mental health and general fatigue issues with therapists, psychologists, or coaches.

As a quick fix, we lended desks, chairs and displays to any Doctoliber, on request. (And since then, we’ve partnered with a company to provide all Doctolibers with sustainable options for desks and chairs.)

Once those basics were secured, we worked on adopting the best practices and tools.

To this extent, we got inspired from Gitlab’s Guide to All-Remote, a good reference on the matter.

We had to adapt our tools as well:

  • Instant messaging, we extended the use of Slack and adopted it as our official company messaging tool.

Of course, to better serve healthcare professionals in those moments, we were growing the tech team. Providing new joiners with a valuable and meaningful onboarding experience became even more critical.

Throughout the last year and a half, we have kept a finger on our teams’ pulse, through surveys, employee engagement tools, informal discussions, company all hands and open talks…

And some positive effects to remote work emerged, including:

  • better focus; more flexibility means the ability to better organise our calendars, and find larger slots to engage in deep work or make the best use of our time.

Lockdown remote is not a regular remote, yet, it seemed to be working somehow.

So we based our decision on two factors:

  • we chose to listen to Doctolibers’ wishes to have more flexibility,

There… you’re all caught up now on our decision to be more flexible with our work mode offer!

Remote is here to stay?

Your guess is as good as yours. We don’t have all the answers and we’re okay with that. And as with everything we have undertaken so far, we’ll approach this with curiosity, humility and openness. We’ll test & learn (and keep you updated).

So what does this flexibility mean for us now?

Making flexible work… work

This is what we came up with. Some of what we’re describing today will likely be adjusted for the better as we go.

We now have 3 work modes, and anybody on the tech team can choose the mode they want.

  • Full Office: you always have a reserved desk. Some people have a preference for the office for various reasons, we should not compromise on their experience.

We’ve also introduced monthly Domain Days: every month, all team members working on a domain meet for 2 consecutive days to do all the things we think are better in person — mid-term planning, team building, brainstorms… And because we want to maintain a positive team dynamic and environment, we allocate our Team Spirit budget — money dedicated to team building activities — to events EVERYBODY on the team can join.

Because we are serious about this change, our Workplace Experience team has also redesigned the office layout to create new coworking cafés, base camps, and other meeting set ups to foster collaboration and impromptu exchange. (We might have to write another article to show you.)

What’s next

And we already have some ideas on ways to improve:

  • a guide to help managers and their teams work in a hybrid set up,

We know we have not found the perfect formula for post-COVID future of work in tech, but more than ever, we’re learning, testing, and actively seeking feedback from every Doctoliber, to better suit their needs and transform healthcare, together, one line of code at a time.

We’ll keep you posted (and in the meantime, you should join us in transforming healthcare together!).

Doctolib

Improving Healthcare for Good

Doctolib

Founded in 2013, Doctolib is the fastest growing e-health service in Europe. We provide healthcare professionals with services to improve the efficiency of their organization, transform their patients’ experience, and strengthen cooperation with other practitioners. We help pati

Philippe Vimard

Written by

Doctolib

Founded in 2013, Doctolib is the fastest growing e-health service in Europe. We provide healthcare professionals with services to improve the efficiency of their organization, transform their patients’ experience, and strengthen cooperation with other practitioners. We help pati