Working from home has been forced to take off during the corona pandemic. This may suit you perfectly, or not at all. Because you have to be suitable for working from home, they know at GitLab, a company where remote working is the norm. GitLab is a company that makes it possible for programmers to jointly build mobile apps or computer programs in a DevOps platform in the same environment. It was co-founded in 2012 by Dutchman Sid Sijbrandij who is now CEO. Read more: How Sytse Sijbrandij turned GitLab into a billion-dollar company
GitLab has had an office for a short time since its inception, but it soon became apparent that employees did not come there very often. GitLab no longer has an office. All staff work from home or a workplace elsewhere. There are now 1,300 employees in 69 countries who work remotely.
When Roos Takken, People Business Partner at GitLab, joined the company a year and a half ago, working from home was obviously not as widespread as it is now in the pandemic. “Working at a company without an office was a conscious choice,” she says. “I wanted a job that would be completely remote. I have worked at various organizations, both fully in the office and in the office, alternating with working from home. What I found difficult about this hybrid model is that communication takes place in different places. And I noticed that I didn’t necessarily need an office to work effectively.”
Her friends and parents thought it strange that she would never see anyone from the company in person. “I personally thought that the lack of informal contact you have in the office would be the most difficult aspect. Short conversations when you meet, have a cup of coffee together. But it happened to me. I notice that I consciously spend time on informal interaction”, says Takken. GitLab also encourages this with meetings that you can attend and leave whenever you want. “For example, there are scheduled coffee chats with colleagues in which you don’t talk about work, but about shared hobbies, for example. This ensures that you have much more intention in informal conversations.”
Do not feel guilty
If you work remotely, a conversation about small numbers is less likely to happen by accident, you have to look this up and initiate it yourself. You may feel a sense of guilt if you consciously start small talk during work. That is not necessary, says Takken. “Informal contact is part of it and it’s not something to feel guilty about. With us, these social moments are therefore consciously organized and recorded in our handbook.”
Since Takken has consciously chosen a company where remote working is the norm, she also considered herself suitable for this. For GitLab it is important that you are a manager of one.“Are you a starter, can you organize your time well, are you persistent and do you work well together? That is what a manager of one is”, explains Takken.
Be your own leader
“I know myself that I am a self-starter. I like deadlines and everything on time. So I can manage being a manager of one, but it is something that requires continuous effort. It’s not that a lot comes to you automatically or that someone says something that motivates you. A lot has to come from within yourself. Remote working gives a lot of flexibility, but you have to be able to motivate yourself towards the results. And there is no one who draws up a daily to-do list for you, which is something I am constantly working on myself.”
GitLab also focuses on working asynchronously. If Takken starts a particular task in the afternoon, her colleague she works with may pick it up in the evening. “There are sessions in which we think together, but after that it quickly turns into a division of tasks.”
Communicate clearly and completely
Another important aspect of working from home is communication. This is usually done in text and you miss the information provided by facial expressions, gestures and the context of the office. At GitLab, half a word is not enough. That is why meetings are recorded and work-related agreements are recorded in an ‘issue’ on Gitlab.com, so that everyone is aware of all the information. GitLab also encourages employees to give appropriate compliments, constructive criticism and thanks through the #thanks Slack channel.
By making and sharing conversations and agreements public, information is prevented from being interpreted differently and from taking on a life of its own. In addition, according to GitLab, an environment where everyone has access to the same information is also more inclusive. But you shouldn’t mind documenting a lot and investing time in this. In an extensive recruitment procedure, GitLab tries to find out whether candidates are suitable for working from home. “We use the STAR method in which we ask for examples of someone’s behaviour. There are different types of interviews for different positions, but the remote working competences are always included,” says Takken. “For example, we can ask how someone has completed a project from A to Z. How did you approach it, what was the feedback and the result?”
Takken realizes that remote working competencies are also important in the office. “When working from home it is more important that you can manage your hours than when you work in the office. But there too you have to meet deadlines and be motivated. These competencies are even more essential in remote working.