How we organise ourselves
We are dispersed
mySociety has never been based in an office: we work remotely and collaborate online. Staff live in locations all over the UK. Our workplaces vary, but include:
- our homes
- desks in co-working spaces
- small shared offices for team members who live near one another
- any combination of the above
- plus, it’s common to work on trains, in cafes and and other public spaces when traveling on mySociety work.
mySociety pays for the equipment you need, including your work laptop and anything else that’s essential to getting stuff done, including desk rental if you’ve chosen to work in a co-working space.
Even though we are spread across the country, we are a tight knit team that quietly work away on subjects of great importance.
90% of the time I’m working alone at home but for the cat, but I never feel lonely or isolated — we’re great at keeping in touch.
We work in small teams
There’s one team for each of our practice areas — which doesn’t mean that members of those teams are physically in the same place, just that they are working on the same project.
Many members of the organisation work within one practice area, and there are also plenty of people who work across all of them: researchers, designers and HR for example.
It’s great to work somewhere you feel is doing something socially useful and knowing that the outcomes are available for anyone to see and re-use.
mySociety team members are never short of a pun or a joke to brighten up your day — couldn’t find better colleagues (or friends) anywhere.
We use technologies to help us collaborate
When you work remotely, it’s all the more important to communicate effectively, so:
- We’re diligent about keeping up to date with communications, responding to questions promptly, and sharing information to ensure that nobody misses out.
- During work hours, we’re all in Slack, which has a general channel for everyone in the organisation, and sub-channels for different topics and teams.
- At 11:30 each morning, everyone shares what they’re working on; each project’s team also has its own system of check-ins.
- We use video calls when we need to have a meeting, or it’s quicker to discuss something face-to-face — and also for our fortnightly ‘show and tell’ sessions.
- We create and store documents in Google Drive, allowing for real-time collaboration as well as an archive of documentation that any team member can access.
- Similarly, issues are all tracked via our GitHub repos, so they’re known and seen by all: working openly on platforms that allow sharing is a basic mySociety principle that helps us all stay informed.
- There’s a Wiki in which we record everything we need to know about our projects and protocols.
- We can share deep thoughts, progress, frustrations or frivolities on our internal blog.
I wasn’t sure how communication would work in a remote company, but I can confidently say it’s the best communication I’ve seen across a company of this size.
The virtual environment really comes alive in such a lively sparky way, plus there is a real treasure trove in terms of the strong institutional memory.
We also meet up face to face
At the time of writing, COVID-19 has caused us to suspend real-life get-togethers. But ordinarily, when there isn’t a pandemic going on, we value our face-to-face catch-ups, as detailed below.
- The entire organisation comes together for a two-day meeting, approximately quarterly. One of these meetings is the annual retreat, a chance to assess how we’re doing, discuss strategy and plan for the year ahead, usually from a large rented house deep in the countryside.
- Meetings take place in different cities around the country so that everyone gets a turn at not having to travel too far. Travel and sustenance costs are covered.
- They provide a chance to get together socially too, so there’s the option to join team meals, and those who enjoy such activities have been known to arrange karaoke, climbing, cycling and games-playing sessions. No pressure to take part though, if that’s not your bag! Perhaps you’d like to suggest something else. Or just chill in your room; that’s fine too.
- Outside the organisation-wide meetings, team members call face to face meetings as and when required, with those colleagues relevant to the project in hand.
- mySociety is happy to support any team member who feels they would benefit from real-world time with a colleague — just expense the costs.
- Our commitment to the climate means that we ask team members to travel sustainably where possible, and we offset less sustainable travel where it can’t be avoided.
It’s so different from working in an office and seeing the same old people day after day: I’m genuinely delighted to meet up with my colleagues face-to-face.
I really appreciate that taking time off in lieu is actively encouraged at mySociety, and that there isn’t a culture of working over your hours, like there is in other organisations.
And some of us travel internationally
- Much of our work involves helping partners and parliaments around the world develop their own digital democracy and civic engagement practice, and sometimes this is best done in person.
- Our Research team may find it easiest to investigate or interview on the ground.
- We speak at other people’s events, and run our own conference, TICTeC.
- Again, international travel is sustainable where possible, and TICTeC has its own environmental policy.
The opportunity to meet and work with a huge range of people from all over the world and learn about their cultures and experiences has been the best thing for me.
mySociety projects have taken me all over, from Brazil to Uzbekistan to New Zealand, but wherever I end up working, I feel safe and fully supported by the organisation.
We organise our own time
Lots of us work 9:00 – 5:30, but that’s not set in stone:
- So long as you put in your contracted hours, communicate clearly about when you’ll be around, and make sure that a good chunk of your work time coincides with others who may need to talk to you, you choose when you work.
- Although you’ll agree priorities and deadlines with your team, you’ll decide what order to do tasks in, and no-one will micro-manage you.
- On the other hand, if you do need guidance or inspiration, you can ask for more input.
- We track our hours on Freckle, which also allows everyone else to see what we’ve been working on.
- Shared Google calendars help us see who’s around and when.
- We’re strict about not allowing overwork: if you log more hours than you’re contracted for, you’ll be requested to take them off in lieu.
- Holidays can generally be taken at any time, in agreement with your team.
- We are very flexible: it’s fine to take off further unpaid days once your leave has been used up; to ask for a change in your contracted working hours; to request a job-share; or to take a sabbatical from work.
Everyone at mySociety is trusted to manage their time in the most efficient way that works for them. There’s an understanding that everyone has different ways of working, and that’s accommodated for.
I love the support that I get in my work; questions get answered, training is easily available, I’m free to attend conferences and events which I think are useful and I’m trusted to decide what tools I need.
I appreciate being trusted to do my job and given the autonomy to manage my workload without close oversight.
It’s pretty empowering to have meaningful flexibility in organising my hours and workload. It also means I can pursue other personal projects and interests, which would be impossible with a normal 9-5 office job.
mySociety is always evolving. Staff members may — and often do — make a suggestion about the way we work, what we work on, or changes that they think should be made.
You’ll be allocated a line manager who will check in with you regularly to ensure that all is well, and an operations manager who will steer what you’re working on. In the case of the CEO, management is covered by the Board of Trustees.
If you are unhappy about any aspect of your job, you should let your line manager or the CEO know about it as soon as possible — whether there’s a problem with your work, your colleagues, your equipment, or any aspect of your working conditions. In a distributed workplace, problems may not be noticed as quickly as they are in an office environment, and it’s always good to tackle them before they grow bigger.
If you are stuck on a task, feel free to chat it through with your team leader, colleagues or line manager. Everyone hits problems sometimes: you won’t be judged, and we’ll do our best to resolve them with you.
Security is a primary concern at mySociety, and you’ll be asked to adhere to our strict protocols when it comes to passwords, keeping data safe, and access to your hardware.
If you’re ever unsure about something or need help there is always someone who will help you and usually know the answer!
I really appreciate the collaborative way we work. Everyone has a say, and we’re all working towards the same aim.
If you’re in a practice area, you’ll work most closely with others in that area — but there’s plenty of opportunity to switch teams throughout your career at mySociety, should you wish.
Each team has its own style of working, but all of them follow most of these methods:
- We use GitHub not just as a code repository, but to ticket issues, create a teamwide to-do list, and allocate tasks to specific team members. These tasks are not always code-related: you may allocate a design task, for example, or a research one, by opening up a GitHub ticket.
- Anyone in the organisation — and members of the public, if it’s an open codebase — can open a ticket in any of our repositories (make sure you’re not replicating one that’s been made before, though).
- GitHub tickets are pulled into Trello or Waffle and reordered to set priorities.
- Work is split into fortnightly sprints: these begin with a prioritisation meeting, and end with a review.
- Some teams have daily standups — that is, brief meetings in which everyone states what they’re planning on working on that day, and any problems they may be facing.
We review each other’s pull requests, so we all benefit from everyone else’s way of working. Comments are always clear and helpful, full of useful points… and often, things you’ve missed or tried to ignore!
We value a diverse workplace, and recognise that we all benefit from a wide range of views, cultures and experience as we tackle the job of making tools that are useful for everyone.
And so, we strive to make our job ads as inclusive and welcoming as possible — based on research into which vocabulary encourages applications from all sectors of society. Meanwhile, our organisation-wide Code of Conduct prohibits any type of discrimination across all our activities, online and off.
But we recognise that we’re still learning, and growing. mySociety originated as a small group of friends who were homogenous in terms of race, education, language and gender. Since then it has evolved, expanding to include employees from wider backgrounds with different skillsets and outlooks.
We’ll hold our hands up: it’s not enough. While we’re doing well on gender balance, we need to do better in terms of attracting people from BAME communities. We’re actively looking into how to do that, and we welcome suggestions of places we can put our recruitment ads, networks we can reach out to, and so on. Got a tip? Drop us a line.
When it comes to the practicalities: we’re happy to discuss and make adjustments to working spaces, hours, methods and equipment to cater for the needs of individuals. And we’re always open to hearing about the experiences and insights of our colleagues, through the platforms of team meetings, lightning talks, the internal or external blogs, or informally through online chat and of course, face-to-face conversations.
And then, we’re looking at ways we can support the groups who create pathways into our field of Civic Tech. Watch this space and we’ll report back on that.
- Most mySociety codebases are Open Source, so the code is visible to all, as are the accompanying issues and the discussions they contain. Open Source also means that we occasionally get suggestions and patches from volunteer coders outside the organisation.
- We code in a range of languages and frameworks and most developers are very familiar with a couple, while knowing enough to roll their sleeves up and get to work in others.
- All pull requests are reviewed by someone else on the team before they go live, to check for any bugs or errors.
- Developers mentor one another, and sometimes arrange to do pair coding. There are also occasional skillshare coding days.
- As well as fixing anything urgent, development priorities are primarily informed by our funding, and also by the insights and requests we gain through user support mail and our own research.
- To provide out of hours coverage for our commercial clients, developers may voluntarily take a turn in the on-call rota to deal with any emergency that may arise. Extra pay compensates for the potential loss of free time.
- Developers are encouraged to arrange their working hours so that they create documentation and deal with technical debt as well as coding.
I feel like we really do make a difference, not just for a few days or a few people but by fundamentally improving the way things are done in democracies.
I love that we are supported to keep on learning and develop our skills with encouragement and enablement to facilitate this.
And that’s how we work
If it sounds like the way you’d like to work, too, then watch out for our job announcements.
Current vacancies are displayed on our Careers page — sign up to the careers newsletter to receive alerts when a new position is advertised.
Got any questions? Want to know straight from the horse’s mouth how mySociety employees feel about their jobs? Ask us anything.
This is both humbling and immensely satisfying work.