Gitlab hero border pattern left svg Gitlab hero border pattern right svg

How to build a remote team

On this page

How it works at GitLab

For GitLab, being an all-remote company did not start as an intentional decision. It was a natural evolution as our first team members started choosing to work from home.

Traditional, on-site companies often take processes, camaraderie, and culture for granted and allow it to develop organically. But in an all-remote company, you have to organize it. This can be hard to do at first, but then as you scale it becomes more efficient, while the on-site, organic approach can quickly fizzle out.

Now that we're a much larger team spanning the globe, we've learned a lot at GitLab about how to collaborate effectively and strenghthen our culture, all while working remote. Take a look at how we make it work.

We facilitate informal communication

Making social connections with coworkers is important to building trust within your organization. One must be intentional about designing informal communication when it cannot happen more organically in an office. All-remote companies need to facilitate these interactions for their teams. Here are some of the ways we do that at GitLab:

"I’ve been given a tour of team members’ new houses, admired their Christmas decorations, squealed when their pets and kids make an appearance and watched them preparing dinner – glimpses into the personal lives of my colleagues that I’ve never had in any office job." - Rebecca, Managing Editor, GitLab

Coffee chats

We understand that working remotely leads to mostly work-related conversations with fellow team members, so everyone at GitLab is encouraged to dedicate a few hours a week to having social calls with anyone in the company.

It's a great chance to get to know who you work with, talk about everyday things and share a coffee, tea, or your favorite beverage. We want you to make friends and build relationships with the people you work with to create a more comfortable, well-rounded environment.

The Coffee Chats are different from the Random Room video chat, they are meant to give you the option to have 1x1 calls with specific teammates who you wish to speak with and is not a random, open-for-all channel but a conversation between two teammates.

Team members can join the #donut_be_strangers Slack channel to be paired with a random team member for a coffee chat. The "Donut" bot will automatically send a message to two people in the channel every other Monday. Please schedule a chat together, and Donut will follow up for feedback. Of course, you can also directly reach out to your fellow GitLab team-members to schedule a coffee chat in the #donut_be_strangers Slack channel or via direct message.

Coworking calls

These video calls are scheduled working sessions on Zoom where team members can work through challenging tasks with a coworker, or simply hang out while each person works on their own tasks. This recreates a productive working session you might have in person in a traditional office setting, but from the comfort of your own desk. Want to try advanced mode? Screen share as you work together (keeping in mind any confidentiality issues).

We default to asynchronous communication and documenting everything

From opening issues to discuss new ideas to recording "Ask me anything" (AMA) sessions with our leaders, we're intentional in our approach to documenting everything and sharing openly. This level of documentation means we can communicate asynchronously as much as possible, allowing us to collaborate during whatever working hours are best. Because we're all located across many time zones, this communication style is an important part of how we operate as a flexible, efficient team.

"While some companies allow their employees to work remotely, it isn’t always flexible. With the asynchronous model, it gives me the freedom to design my day around my peak productivity hours and take care of general life stuff." - Sarah, Digital Marketing Programs Manager, GitLab

Remote work is also what led to the development of our publicly viewable handbook, which captures everything you'd need to know about the company. If you can't tell, we like efficiency and don't like having to explain things twice.

Each department and team's quarterly goals, or "objectives and key results" (OKRs), are also clearly documented in our handbook for visibility across the company. We check in on these goals monthly, so there's as much transparency as possible around what each team is accomplishing.

Our approach to documentation also helps with onboarding new team members, because everything they need to know is in one place. We also have an extensive onboarding template and we host a GitLab 101 for new hires to ask questions.

Docs instead of whiteboards

We're often asked, "But how do you whiteboard without everyone physically together?" We use Google Docs for collaboration. Every meeting has a Google Doc agenda, which is used for documenting discussions, decisions, and actions. Everyone in the meeting can add notes at the same time, and we even finish each other's sentences sometimes.

By brainstorming in text instead of drawings, we're forced to clearly articulate proposals, designs, and ideas, with less variance in interpretations. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it's also open to as many interpretations as there are people viewing it. With Google Docs, we use indentations to go more in-depth on a given topic. This method retains context for comments, discussions, and ideas, even if someone wasn't present for the original conversation.

Docs instead of water coolers

Documentation also helps with transparency, which is critical to remote work. While decisions made around office water coolers may be familiar in traditional workplaces, input is limited to those present. Those who are not present feel left out, and you're missing an opportunity to hear different perspectives.

The GitLab way of working is more inclusive. By documenting everything, no one is left out of the conversation and a diverse set of perspectives can be heard, not only from GitLab team members but also from customers and community contributors.

We're transparent about hiring and compensation principles

Hiring

We've published our hiring process, including example screening questions, in our handbook. While this may be unique, we see it as simply staying true to our transparency value. The process shouldn't be a mystery. Letting candidates know what to expect allows them to focus on whether the role and the company are right for them, while we evaluate that too.

Compensation

As an all-remote organization with team members and candidates around the world, it's also important that we're as open as possible about our compensation principles. That's why we created a compensation calculator that helps determine compensation for more than 200 regions globally.

Take a look at how our compensation calculator works, and learn more about why we pay local rates.

Country hiring guidelines

Hiring globally as an all-remote company has many advantages, including bringing diversity to our team. But it also poses unique challenges because many countries differ in their rules, laws, and regulations. Find out more about how we handle this in our country hiring guidelines in the handbook.

We encourage flexibility and balance

Work from anywhere

At GitLab, when we say our people can work from anywhere, we really mean it. We care about the results of their work, not where it's getting done.

This flexibility often means something different for each person at GitLab. We have team members who are completely location independent and travel full time. There are others who join and travel the world with remote coworking and coliving organizations. Many of our team members appreciate the ability to still be able to work while visiting friends or family away from home. Even for those who typically work in their home office, this flexibility means they can do things like run errands on a weekday, take their child to school, spend more time with family, or walk their dog during the day.

We have a channel on Slack called "office-today" where our team members can share photos of their work location or view on any given day.

Time away from work

It's important to clarify that being able to work from anywhere does not replace the need to take time off of work. We recognize how crucial it is to build in time where you can mentally take a break from your work, and as a company, we encourage our team members to do that. Learn more about how time off works at GitLab.

“I work closely with our executive team here, and they have been so supportive and encouraging when family-related conflicts arise. They are constantly reminding me that “family first” is our mantra, and give me ease of mind to take time away when needed. Sid, our co-founder and CEO, told me if it’s a beautiful day out and I just want to go enjoy it, I should do that. Moments like these make me so proud to be a part of the GitLab team." - Cheri, Manager, Executive Assistant

Sharing what we've learned

Check out these interviews with GitLab CEO Sid Sijbrandij to learn more about how our all-remote company works.

Tips for leaders and other companies

Here are some best practices that may help your all-remote team be successful:

Hiring

Tips for employees

Arguably the biggest advantage of working remotely and asynchronously is the flexibility it provides. This makes it easy to combine work with your personal life, although it might be difficult to find the right balance. Here are some tips that might help:

Create an ergonomic workspace

The goal of office ergonomics is to design your office work station so that it fits you and allows for a comfortable working environment for maximum productivity and efficiency. Since we all work from home, GitLab wants each team member to have the supplies and knowledge they need to create an ergonomic home office.

Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic how on how arrange your work station.

Note: If you develop any pains which you think might be related to your working position, please visit a doctor.

Dedicate time for health and fitness

It's sometimes hard to remember to stay active when you work from home. Here are some tips that might help:

At GitLab, we want to ensure each team member takes care of themselves and dedicates time to stay healthy. You can also join the Slack channel fitlab to discuss your tips, challenges, results, etc. with other team members.

Contribute to this page

We recognize that the whole idea of all-remote organizations is still quite new, and can only be successful with active participation from the whole community. Here's how you can participate:


Return to the main all-remote page.