All employees of Common Knowledge are entitled to a work laptop, along with any equipment that they need to do their job effectively (monitor, keyboard, graphics tablet, etc) and have a comfortable and productive remote working environment (for example, membership of a co-working space).
We use the slightly colder term 'employees' rather than 'members' here because the policy covers anyone in PAYE employment with the co-op, such as:
- Full members of the co-op
- Prospective members on a formal membership path
The goals of this policy are:
- To avoid situations where employees feel they need to buy services and equipment required to do their job out of their own money.
- To ensure that we all have access the equipment we need to do our work effectively.
- To be mindful that we are using the financial resources available to us efficiently.
- To minimise the environmental impact of electronic equipment.
If these goals are not being met, this policy should be revisited and improved.
As a worker-owned co-op, we have a responsibilty to support each other. As an organisation founded to produce social change, we simultaneously have a responsibility not to use the movement's (and the planet's) resources spuriously. So please use your judgement when requesting equipment. Ask for what you need, but don't take it just because it's there.
It's very likely that we all have different needs – some of us may be perfectly happy working from home, others may not have a place they can work from, or not want to work from home for some other reason. Some of us may already have a perfectly sufficient laptop to work on, others may not.
Wherever possible, we procure equipment and services from worker co-operatives who share our values and operate in a sustainable manner. We re-sell, recycle or donate equipment when we no longer need it. We consider if there is an appropriate option to use second-hand or refurbished equipment.
When an employee wants to make an equipment purchase, they should:
- Briefly raise their need in a co-op meeting. This could be expressed as a specific request ("I need a new laptop") or an issue that needs addressing ("I'm getting wrist pain when I work"). This is so that there's a bit of visibility and so that people can chime in with advice or guidance.
- If the equipment costs less than £100 (or £25/month), no further process is needed – just buy it.
- If more than £100, investigate buying options and, if appropriate, financing options in collaboration with the finance circle. Document the findings on notion.
- Raise a loomio proposal. When it passes, buy the equipment. Full co-op consent is required for large purchases (over £1,000).
This places the onus on employees to be self-reliant and take initiative in resolving their own issues. However, this self-reliance takes place within a wider culture of solidarity.
In particular, longer-term members should be attentive to issues with working conditions and equipment that newer members and non-members have, who may be reticent to ask for things.
Our default assumption should be to trust one another's judgement on what we need. The main other consideration should be whether the co-op can afford it given our financial health at the time.
A large purchase is defined as anything costing more than £1,000, or £100/month – something that may have an impact on our cashflow.
These are delt with differently in two ways:
- Full co-op consent is required before they can be made.
- Financing and insurance must be considered.
Our preference is to buy equipment outright as this is more cost-effective in the long-term. However it is important for us to balance this need against our short-term cashflow.
For equipment costing over £1000, unless the co-op is is in a very strong cashflow position (at least 3 months of runway), our default approach is to finance it. This typically adds an overhead to the total cost of the equipment (around 10%) in exchange for spreading payment over multiple months.
The impact of monthly repayments on our financial health should be taken into consideration. The implications of fiancing options should be cleared with the finance circle and, if relevant, the accountants.
This may sound onerous, but we're talking about a very small number of suppliers here, so the work won't have to be done often.
Before making a large purchase, ensure that it is covered for loss, theft and damage by our business insurance, and make appropriate alternative arrangements if not.
Any equipment purchased by the co-op remains the property of the co-op. When an employee leaves, they may be offered the option to buy equpment at fair market value. However, the co-op should prefer reallocating equipment to other co-op members if this helps us avoid buying new equipment.