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All Remote Drawbacks

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Despite all of its advantages, all-remote work isn't for everyone. It can have disadvantages for potential employees depending on their lifestyle and work preferences, as well as the organization. In the spirit of transparency, we'll also highlight counterpoints and solutions to these challenges.

In the video above, GitLab Director of Technical Evangelism Priyanka Sharma discusses pros and cons of remote working with a panel of experts from TFiR, Arm and ISG Research.

For employees

In the video above, GitLab co-founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij addresses remote work and its biggest challenges with Leo Widrich, the co-founder of Buffer and present-day executive coach.

  1. Onboarding can be difficult when you're remote, because it involves more self-learning and you're not physically with your new coworkers and fellow new hires. - Learn more about how GitLab onboards its all-remote team members.
  2. The first month in a remote role can feel lonely, especially if you're transitioning from a traditional office setting. - To prevent loneliness, all-remote companies should consider an intentional structure to informal communications. - Scheduling coffee chats, social calls, and incentivizing in-person visits between team members are several of the ways in which GitLab accomplishes this.
  3. Remote settings can cause a breakdown in communication skills if organizations aren't deliberate about creating ways for their people to stay connected. - All-remote companies should default to asynchronous communication to combat feelings of being left out of important discussions. - We welcome all-remote companies to glean from GitLab's approach to meetings, as well as our scheduled AMAs, group conversations, and key meetings that are open to all.
  4. Some may find it difficult to work in the same setting as they live and sleep, because a dedicated workspace helps to switch the context from their home life to work. - All-remote companies should not assume that team members will work from their home 100% of the time. Organizations can consider reimbursing coworking space usage and creating an atmosphere where team members are encouraged to construct a workspace that is ideal for their comfort and productivity. - GitLab team members have shared their own solutions in a number of blog posts, including a series on working at home with kids and utilizing an RV as a traveling office.
  5. Team members in different time zones may have to compromise on meeting times.
    • All-remote companies should consider meetings as a last resort, instead relying on asynchronous collaboration tools like Google Docs and GitLab Issues to facilitate meaningful dialog without time zone concerns.
    • To prevent pent-up frustration over working odd hours to facilitate a global call, all-remote companies should consider treating each team member as a manager of one. This goes beyond the basic definition of flexibility by empowering team members to structure each day according to the needs at hand. For example, spending more time with family earlier in the day to compensate for a late-night work call.
  6. It can be hard to separate your personal and work life. It's important to encourage boundaries and make sure you don't continue to work during your family time.
  7. Remote work requires you to manage your own time and be self-motivated, disciplined, and organized.
  8. Differences in currency and tax requirements around the world can create challenges for the employee.

For your organization

In the video above, GitLab co-founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij discusses some of the organizational challenges involved in building and sustaining an all-remote company.

  1. Because it's non-traditional, all-remote work sometimes concerns investors, partners, and customers.

"In the beginning they assess your team, then they assess your product, and then they assess your financials. When it comes to the team, [investors are] super skeptical they will be able to create something with all-remote. Then when it’s about the product they say, ‘Yes, maybe, but what about scaling?’ And then when it’s about the financials you can let the numbers speak for themselves so it’s less of a concern. — GitLab co-founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij

  1. Differences in currency as well as tax, immigration, and labor laws around the world can create compliance challenges for the organization.
  2. You have to be more intentional about cultivating, sustaining, and documenting your company culture.
    • While this is an obstacle for all-remote companies, colocated organizations should be deliberate about documenting their culture as well.
    • All-remote organizations should document everything, including values, and ensure that they are easily accessible to all.
    • GitLab demonstrates this with its Handbook, a living document that is continually iterated on by team members. We encourage all-remote organizations to glean from this and develop their own handbook.

Return to the main all-remote page.