On this page, we're detailing the primary differences between all-remote and other forms of remote working.
In the GitLab Unfiltered video above, Darren (GitLab) and Anna-Karin (Because Mondays) discuss a number of challenges and solutions related to remote work, transitioning a company to remote, working asynchronously, and defaulting to documentation.
Hybrid-remote (which can be referred to as part-remote), is different than all-remote. In an all-remote company, there is no single headquarters, and each team member is free to live and work in any place they choose. Everyone, including executives, is remote, as there are no offices to come to.
Hybrid-remote is currently more common than all-remote, as it is easier for large, established companies to implement. In a hybrid-remote scenario, there is one or more offices where a subset of the company commutes to each day — working physically in the same space — paired with a subset of the company that works remotely.
These institutions are primarily colocated, but allow remote work. The day-to-day workplace experience for remote-by-default individuals is vastly different (and typically inferior) in a hybrid organization vs. an all-remote organization.
In the GitLab Unfiltered video above, GitLab co-founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij chats with Maren Kate, founder at AVRA Talent Partners.
In discussing the decision to go all-remote at GitLab, Sid shares the following.
For us, it was really important that people didn't have to come to the office to get information necessary for career opportunities.
From very early on, we started writing things down. During Y Combinator, they told us "Look, remote work is for engineering, but not finance, marketing, or sales."
So, we got an office. People got hired, they came there, but after a few days they stopped showing up.
[Coming to the office] wasn't needed. They weren't getting any extra information. They were on Slack, on Zoom, in Google Docs, in GitLab pages, in GitLab Issues, in GitLab merge requests — they didn't need to be there.
It's not that people like their commute; it's just that people don't want to miss out. If you make sure that people don't miss out, you can be remote, too. It takes a lot of effort and focus to make sure all conversations are captured appropriately and that everything is documented. - GitLab co-founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij
Employees who want a blend of in-person and working may be attracted to the hybrid-remote working option for many reasons:
Remote and hybrid work come in a variety of forms, which are continually evolving and growing in popularity.
An office-centric hybrid organization looks like a team that is not changing how it works. Synchronous, undocumented meetings and disconnected whiteboards are still hallmarks of collaboration. People are expected in the office for a predetermined number of days per week, though the reasoning is flimsy at best (e.g. "We like seeing people around.").
This approach roughly aligns with GitLab’s definitions of remote time / remote exceptions.
Leadership supports this model by continuing to do what it has always done.
This variation is marked by some initiative to introduce new tools and technologies into the workforce which are designed for distributed collaboration and contribution. Real estate exists for those who wish to work in the office, but there is not necessarily a set amount of forced days-in-office.
This approach roughly aligns with GitLab’s definitions of remote time / remote allowed / remote days.
Leadership supports this model by creating policies and approving new tools and technology to allow testing new flexibilities.
Remote-friendly is marked by a wider acceptance of global distribution of people. Tools are in place that make it easy to work remotely, and processes are remote-friendly by design. Offices exist but serve more as complementary to remote work as opposed to being the first place people go to work. This approach roughly aligns with GitLab’s definitions of remote allowed / remote first.
For leadership to support remote-friendly operation, remote work is supported at all levels of the company, with leaders modeling this behavior by working remotely on certain days themselves.
Being remote-friendly implies that the company also allows people to work asynchronously without forcing set working hours.
This workplace approach has also been called "fully flexible" by Lyft.
Virtual first is the same as remote first, with digital-first and distributed-first also synonymous. This is marked by a deliberate, org-wide approach to pressure test culture, values, and workflows to guarantee that every element serves first the distributed workforce and not the vestiges of office-first workflows.
In the virtual-first workplace, everyone from top to bottom (and especially leadership) should ideally be out of the office.
In virtual-first, the company defaults to asynchronous work.
Hybrid-remote generally requires more effort to execute well than all-colocated or all-remote given the two-tier work environment.
Some hybrid-remote arrangements may involve regular commutes to the office, though not daily commutes. For example, a remote employee in a hybrid-remote organization may travel to an office one week each month for regularly scheduled in-person interactions, while working from a location of their choosing the rest of the month.
For some firms, shifting to all-remote may be impractical or impossible. Hybrid-remote is a popular alternative, but one that should be embraced with great deliberation, care, and intentionality. Hybrid-remote generally requires more effort to execute well than all-colocated or all-remote given the two-tier work environment. Below are specific areas to consider and plan for to ensure the smoothest operation.
Companies which mandate or encourage 1 or more days per week in-office should be mindful of three important factors.
Informal (or unscheduled and unplanned) meetings in an office can be highly disruptive to hybrid-remote teams. While it may feel efficienct to ask someone you see in a hallway for a few minutes of their time, this typically creates disruption in the day of the person you're hailing and leads to undocumented progress. Said progress is invisible to those outside of the office as well as others in the office who are not invited to the meeting, which works against the remote-first practice of documenting all work so that others in the organization can contribute.
Leaders should reinforce a particular rigor on documenting takeaways following informal meetings so that context is agreed-upon, it is visible to others regardless of their location, and miscommunication and gossip is minimized.
Hybrid calls are suboptimal for remote attendees. Leaders transitioning to hybrid-remote should consider redesigning existing office space to optomize for individual workspaces and individual meeting rooms. This reinforces that the office is simply another venue to work remotely from.
Eliminating conference rooms serves as a forcing function to ensure collaboration is accessible to all and removes the temptation to have in-office team members gather around a single camera for a video call with remote attendees.
Leaders may consider keeping one or two large spaces to be reserved for team onsites, where entire teams or sub-teams will intentionally travel on specific dates to meet in person (e.g. fiscal year planning, team bonding, etc.). It's important to still document outcomes from these gatherings and ensure that 100% of the team is included.
Zoom is creating in-office videocall solutions which detect individual faces in a shared room and pull them into panes for remote colleagues. As hybrid-remote becomes increasingly popular post-COVID, we anticipate solutions like these will better equalize the field of collaboration.
The most functional hybrid organizations operate remote-first. This ensures that business continues even if 100% of the workforce opts to work remotely, outside of the office, on any given day. A key part of reinforcing this mindset is a mandate that all work meetings have an upfront agenda.
Practically speaking, this means that all in-office meeting invites have a shared agenda document attached, so that others can read, learn, and contribute regardless of their location (or even if they're awake and available during the meeting time). This process ensures that a Live Doc Meeting procedure happens even for onsite meetings.
This is critical for process continuity regardless of where a team member is. In a hybrid organization, you will have team members who conduct onsite meetings some days, and remote meetings on other days. It's vital that the process of those meetings are the same; it's merely the physical position of a team member that changes.
Coffee chats are an excellent way to broaden one's perspective and meet new people from across the organization. Hybrid organizations should take care to not enable selective coffee chat pairing based on who is onsite and who is remote, as it signals a two-tier work environment.
The proximity of people in an office makes hallway, watercooler, and ad hoc conversations appealing. Leaders in hybrid-remote settings should reinforce the importance of using one's smartphone as a recording device to capture important, non-confidential work-related conversations, so that takeaways are more transparently shared with those outside of the office and misinterpretations are minimized.
The best place for leaders and executives to be in a hybrid-remote environment is outside of the office.
It's understandable for team members to long for social gatherings in and around office settings. Structuring informal communication is vital in a remote setting, and some companies may choose to repurpose some of their office space to accommodate groups and gatherings. Libraries, fitness centers, game rooms, and music studios (among others) could be created to facilitate social gatherings for those who are onsite on any given day.
Leaders who enable this should be mindful of the following.
Leaders should carefully evaluate spoken and unspoken perks of the office, and seek to extend equal benefits to those outside of the office. For example, access to an onsite daycare and fitness center would demand a childcare and fitness credit for those who are remote by default. This becomes particularly tricky for team members who are onsite some days of the week, and offsite others, unless the credits are extended to all.
When growing your team in a hybrid-remote setting, be sure to present an authentic picture of your culture to all candidates. If you interview a candidate in your office when they'll primarily be working remotely, they're unlikely to get a full understanding of what the employee experience will be like once they're on board. This can lead to engagement and retention issues. During the interview process, focus on the aspects of your culture that are universal to all team members, no matter where their work gets done.
Hybrid-remote organizations may see high office utilization in the earliest days of a transition, as people flock to the familiar. However, as remote-first workflows are implemented and people relocate or optimize their life for something greater than a commutable distance to an office, it's possible that more space will go unused.
While this may seem jarring, it's a positive indicator that work and culture are progressing without the need of an office. This will create opportunities to capture greater real estate savings and/or repurpose office space for philanthropic efforts, such as opening up an internship center for the local community.
We believe it's useful for transitioning companies to see how others are embracing and making the shift to hybrid-remote structures. Below are examples of companies who are publicly and transparently sharing their journey, best practices, and lessons learned to guide others.
COVID-19 created a wave of companies intentionally shifting to remote-first. For some organizations, unwinding all of their office space and becoming an all-remote organazation is not practical. Many are announcing their plan to embrace some variation of hybrid-remote. This is not an exhaustive list, so we welcome additions and contributions.
Some hybrid-remote arrangements do involve regular commutes to the office, though not daily commutes. For example, a remote employee in a hybrid-remote organization may travel to an office one week each month for regularly scheduled in-person interactions, while working from a location of their choosing the rest of the month.
While this scenario may still be preferred over one where remote employees are not invited to visit in-person offices, it isn't quite as flexible as all-remote. There's still a commute involved, which can take the majority of a day in both directions for commutes involving flights.
And of course, a hybrid schedule allows more flexibility for traveling while working.
Especially after the global pandemic, people are concerned about decreasing their exposure to germs from coworkers. Hybrid-remote allows employees to choose whether to work onsite or remotely, and empowers them to choose their exposure boundaries and limits.
Not only does hybrid remote allow organizatinos to hire the best talent on the planet, it also gives your employees the opportunity to networy as they meet and work with people from many locations around the world, widening one's view of the world and creating opportunities to learn about new cultures.
All things being equal, employees longing for additional freedom, autonomy, and workplace flexibility will likely view a hybrid-remote arrangement as superior to a colocated arrangement — one which requires a commute and an in-person presence on a daily basis.
Said another way, "some remote" is often viewed as superior to "no remote." Though far from ideal, it can be rationalized that fewer career opportunities, added judgement, and difficulties in bonding are prices worth paying to live and work where one wants.
There are considerations when accepting a role in a hybrid-remote company, and it's important to be mindful of these potential downsides.
Clear communication is one of the best ways to overcome hybrid-remote challenges.GitLab's handbook captures everything an employee needs to know promoting autonomy and efficiency for communication, processes, and procedures.
Each department and team should set, share, and track both monthly and quarterly goals, or "objectives and key results" (OKRs). GitLab's OKRs are also clearly documented in our handbook for visibility across the company.
A lot goes into building an effective hybrid-remote schedule:
Some people choose set days or times to be in-office or be remote, just be sure to communicate your choices clearly to your team so they know when and where they can find you if needed.
Some people work better with a consistent workday routine, while others find it best to ride their waves of peak productivity. Either way, design your work day and routine around your strengths understanding that different seasons, holidays, and family schedules may change this routine.
“I think you need to throw the concept of 'nine to five' out the window and actively experiment to find what schedule lets you make the most of your time. I often find the midday slump to be so real, so if I'm feeling this way I step away for a while and then come back for a few hours in the evening when I generally feel supercharged.” - Tanya Pazitny, Quality Engineering Manager
The movement from hybrid-remote to all-remote is defined at GitLab as an
All-Remote Upgrade. For reference, in January 2020, 17% of new hires attending the CEO 101 call moved from a hybrid-remote model to all-remote at GitLab.
This highlights another reality: not all remote models are equal, nor do they create equality. All-remote is the purest form of remote work, where every individual is treated as a first-class team member.
Through GitLab's All-Remote Stories and the Remote Work GitLab Unfiltered playlist, you can learn more from GitLab team members on what all-remote has meant to them and how it has shaped their lives and communities.
In a remote-first organization, the default is remote. While there may be a company headquarters, or even an array of satellite offices, everything from how meetings are handled to onboarding new hires is structured through a remote lens.
Said another way, there is a culture of assuming that remote is the norm, not the exception, and processes are established to reinforce that.
If you're considering working for a remote-first company, consider asking the following.
It is possible to find remote-first companies with a healthy, understanding culture that works to support both colocated and remote colleagues. Prospective employees should do their own due diligence to make sure the requisite values are established and lived out.
Anyone can test their knowledge on Understanding a Hybrid-Remote Environment by completing the knowledge assessment. Earn at least an 80% or higher on the assessment to receive a passing score. Once the quiz has been passed, you will receive an email acknowledging the completion from GitLab. We are in the process of designing a GitLab Remote Certification and completion of the assessment will be one requirement in obtaining the certification. If you have questions, please reach out to our Learning & Development team at
GitLab is one of the world's largest all-remote companies. We are 100% remote, with no company-owned offices anywhere on the planet. We have over 1,500 team members in more than 65 countries. The primary contributor to this article (Darren Murph, GitLab's Head of Remote) has over 15 years of experience working in and reporting on colocated companies, hybrid-remote companies, and all-remote companies of various scale.
Just as it is valid to ask if GitLab's product is any good, we want to be transparent about our expertise in the field of remote work.
GitLab believes that all-remote is the future of work, and remote companies have a shared responsibility to show the way for other organizations who are embracing it. If you or your company has an experience that would benefit the greater world, consider creating a merge request and adding a contribution to this page.
Return to the main all-remote page.