Due to global issues concerning COVID-19 (Coronavirus), many employees and employers are facing a new reality: they're remote, and they’re unsure of when they’ll be able to return to the office.
For leaders who are suddenly managing work-from-home teams, there are five things you can focus on right now to maximize stability.
(If you're an employee adjusting to a WFH reality, see our worker-focused starter guide.)
Tens of millions of people globally are experiencing a seismic shift in work. Many have been forced into their homes and asked to not only make do, but maintain or increase their productivity. For many, this is their first extended experience with work-from-home.
Globally, the narrative has neglected nuance, referencing the phenomenon as a global "remote work experiment."
It is neither remote work nor an experiment.
Being forced to work from home during a pandemic restricts all but a handful of remote work benefits. Losing the commute and making synchronous meetings more human are two perks which are felt, but the heart of remote work — the freedom to choose where you work, the ability to weave life into your work schedule, the opportunity to optimize your life for something other than proximity to an office — remains squashed.
Particularly for leaders who survey their workforce to understand their perspective on remote work, be intentional about highlighting this reality. Make a concerted effort to untangle "remote work" from "crisis-induced work-from-home." In asking someone if they would prefer to remain remote forever, for example, it's important to clarify that remote is fundamentally different than working from home while quarantined. Many workers may need assistance to visualize a remote future which is liberating as opposed to isolating.
Shifting an entire division or company to remote triggers a shockwave of change. Evaluate current managers and rally a team of experts who have remote work experience, and are able to communicate nuances and serve as resources to those who will inevitably have questions. A core part of this team's role will be to document challenges in real time, transparently prioritize those challenges, and assign DRIs (directly responsible individuals) to find solutions.
Executive assistants may take on a more significant role in the transition, functioning as a documentarian in meetings and aiding with internal communications cascaded to the rest of the organization.
This will be rudimentary to start, and will serve as a single source of truth for more pressing questions. Communicate this company-wide, and update it continually with DRIs for common questions around tools and access. This can start as a single company webpage or repository in Notion or Almanac, and will serve you well even after the current crisis subsides.
GitLab uses GitLab to build, sustain, and evolve its company handbook. GitLab is a collaboration tool designed to help people work better together whether they are in the same location or spread across multiple time zones. Originally, GitLab let software developers collaborate on writing code and packaging it up into software applications. Today, GitLab has a wide range of capabilities used by people around the globe in all kinds of companies and roles.
You can learn more at GitLab's remote team solutions page.
One of the most sizable challenges when going remote is keeping everyone informed in an efficient way. Put concerted effort around systematically documenting important process changes in a central place to minimize confusion and dysfunction.
In the GitLab Unfiltered video above, Adrian Larssen sits down with GitLab CEO and co-founder Sid Sijbrandij, as well as GitLab Head of Remote Darren Murph, to discuss business and societal changes related to remote work in the wake of COVID-19 and the great remote work migration. Discover more in GitLab's Remote Work playlist.
Depending on team size, consider an always-on video conference room per team, where team members can linger, or come and go as they please. This simulation helps acclimation, enabling team members to embrace the shift to remote in a less jarring way. It also shows intentionality around informal communication — an important element that occurs spontaneously in an office, and needs an immediate replacement in a remote setting.
Whatever your current view on transparency, leaders should not hold back during this time. It's vital to maintain perspective through this shift. Everyone reacts to remote work differently, and not all homes are ideal workspaces. This can (and likely will) feel jarring, and team members will expect frequent updates as leaders iterate on their communication plan in real-time.
For a fast-boot on this front, consider replicating GitLab's public communication guide.
While functioning remotely, strip the tool stack down to a minimum. Google Docs, a company-wide chat tool (like Microsoft Teams or Slack), and Zoom are all you need to start. If your team needs access to internal systems through a VPN, ensure that everyone has easy access, and instructions on usage are clear.
Working well remotely requires writing things down. For companies who do not have an existing culture of documentation, this will prove to be the most difficult shift. Aim to funnel communication into as few places as possible to reduce silos and fragmentation. You'll want to proactively solve for mass confusion when it comes to finding things — policies, protocols, outreach mechanisms, messaging, etc.
Humans are naturally resistant to change — particularly change that is forced during times of uncertainty or crisis. Leaders will have to meet this reality head-on. An all-hands approach to recognizing the new reality is advised, and is vital to empowering everyone to contribute to the success of a remote model.
Particularly for companies with a strong "in-office experience" it is vital for leadership to recognize that the remote transition is a process, not a binary switch to be flipped. Leaders are responsible for embracing iteration, being open about what is and is not working, and messaging this to all employees.
Managing a remote company is much like managing any company. It comes down to trust, communication, and company-wide support of shared goals.
In the video above, GitLab's Head of Remote shares his top tips for employees and employers who have been forced into a work-from-home scenario with Jack Altman, CEO of Lattice. Discover more in GitLab's Remote Work playlist.
GitLab built a comprehensive course on remote work leadership which is hosted on a leading online learning platform, Coursera. The course, titled “How to Manage a Remote Team,” provides a holistic, in-depth analysis of remote team structures, phases of adaptation, and best practices for managers, leaders, and human resources professionals. It is offered free of charge, with an optional certificate available for $49.
This course is ideal for current managers, executives, and human resources professionals who want to learn how to lead and support a high-functioning, scalable remote team. GitLab is one of the world’s largest all-remote organizations; experts from throughout the company will guide you through in-depth lessons for leaders, people managers, and HR professionals to build, manage, and scale.
By the end of this course, you will be able to:
For the final project in this course, you will create a real or hypothetical strategic plan to transition a team to remote operation. You will assess your organization's remote maturity and infrastructure, and identify the best team structure for remote operation — including determining whether to use an all-remote or remote-friendly model. You'll outline plans for documentation, education, leadership, and equipment or resource needs for your unique organization.
This is an intermediate-level course, intended for learners who have previous experience managing or leading people. To succeed in this course, you should have at least one year of management experience. No remote experience is required.
We recognize that many companies are in need of establishing baseline remote principles right away. For those who wish to dive deeper, consider studying and implementing the guides below — surfaced from GitLab's comprehensive guide to remote work.
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.