How Gitlab have successfully moved to remote working

Posted on August 19, 2021
By rita cincotta

How Gitlab have successfully moved to remote working

Recently I heard the Head of Remote at Gitlab, Darren Murph being interviewed.  Darren shared some valuable insights into how Gitlab has successfully moved into a permanent remote working arrangement. 

I’d like to share these with you. 

He made the point several times that having a “Head of Remote” role was key for Gitlab.  Just like any other serious transformation project, a change in your ways of working should be treated the same way.  Let’s face it, if it was easy to have people work more flexibly, organisations would have been doing it for years.  It wasn’t until we had to that we are all now embracing it in some way. 

Darren also talked about re-skilling an organisation to work in a location agnostic way.  Sending out an email advising of the change in work location every time there is a lockdown doesn’t count as reskilling.   Have your policies, processes and systems been carefully reconsidered, and redesigned where necessary to facilitate successful remote or hybrid working?  It is not enough to have a few guidelines for how it’s done.  You need some rigour around the tools that your teams can use to collaborate, and also how collaboration, communication and meetings will occur. 

The physical office is no longer sticky.  It’s not a place people need to be.  Office space is being reimagined.  It is being redesigned for a place to go to meet, to collaborate but not to do focused or deep work.  But as a leader how can you recreate that feeling of belonging to a team and being connected?  Many workplaces are doing this through sophisticated software and in changing the way they work.  Tools like Qatalog, Trello, Slack, Asana, Monday to name only a few won’t replace the office environment but will enhance the way your team works and create a feeling of connection. It also helps for work to be more visible and transparent.  This helps to maintain and build trust.

For organisations that don’t adequately invest in remote or hybrid working, the reality is it will not go well.  Imagine me trying to re-wire my house, without any experience or qualification.  It would be a disaster.  For remote or hybrid working to work, this isn’t about giving the People and Culture team a “special project”.   This is about carefully considering what is required, for what purpose, and who do you need to make it happen. 

Also, you can’t half move to remote or hybrid whilst the pandemic is still around.  This is a serious a long-term play that you are making if you choose to go down this path.  And if you do, be really intentional about it.  Ensure you have the appropriate level of sponsorship across your entire organisation (again not just People & Culture).

Here are the top tips Darren shared for employees and employers:

Top tips for Employees

  1. Repurpose your commute

Meditate, exercise, take care of domestic stuff- what ever you need to do to make things flow smoother for you.  Congratulations you just got a whole lot of time back.  Don’t use it for work.  Use it to help you work better.

  • Raise your hand to make change happen

Be part of the solution.  Raise ideas, pilot new ways of working and new tools.  Look out for colleagues that might be doing it tough.   

  • Rethink the way you have done everything until now

Question everything about how you have lived so far.  Your schedule, your fitness, your health, your food choices, how much time you spend playing candy crush.  Absolutely everything is up for change if you want it to be because the way we can now work has enabled this to happen.

Top tips for Leaders

  1. Declare that you are moving to a new way of working...  this isn’t a half-baked temporary initiative.  If you are doing it declare it.
  2. Give someone the actual role of leading remote- don’t add it to someone’s job as a “special project”
  3. Infuse empathy in everything you do.  This is a tough time, lead with care and kindness.   

If you get a chance to have a look at GitLab as a case study, it’s well worth it.  They have a bunch of free resources to show how can do remote and hybrid working sustainably too.

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