Building Remote Teams: Lessons From The Gitlab Remote Playbook by@alexharris

Building Remote Teams: Lessons From The Gitlab Remote Playbook

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DevOps giant GitLab are one of the leading fully remote tech companies. They have produced a ‘Remote Playbook’ to guide companies looking to adopt remote working, or refresh their current approach. The playbook is a bible on how to run a remote team successfully, efficiently, and mindfully. There is no one-size-fits-all remote model, but GitLab recommend a fully remote model. Some companies have seen hybrid models as a good ‘next step’ in their remote journey.

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“The path forward requires you to rethink your processes, norms, and culture in a way that will serve a diverse and dynamic workforce, no matter where they choose to open their laptop.” – GitLab Remote Playbook 2022

TL;DR

  • DevOps giant GitLab is one of the leading fully remote tech companies, and has produced a ‘Remote Playbook’ to guide companies looking to adopt remote working, or refresh their current approach.

  • Full of incisive and practical tips for all levels of remote work models, the playbook is a bible on how to run a remote team successfully, efficiently, and mindfully.

  • Sections include a summary of different remote models, the importance of setting up a Head of Remote role, along with guides on management, culture, and communication within a remote environment.

What is GitLab?

If you are working in a tech company in 2022, chances are pretty good that your model of work has changed significantly from the office-centric culture of pre-2020. Unless that is, you work at GitLab.

Launched in 2014, GitLab is a platform dedicated to every step of the development cycle. At its core, it is a git repository, but the software’s unique strength is in its application as a DevOps tool, allowing for end-to-end collaboration and full DevOps capabilities. Check out our deep dive into GitLab (and their competition GitHub) here.

GitLab is one of the largest remote companies in the world, boasting team members in over 65 countries across multiple time zones. Having always worked fully remote, they are well qualified to advise teams that are transitioning – or even just considering a move – to a new remote or hybrid model.

What is the GitLab Remote Playbook?

If you are drowning in questions and concerns as to how to move to a remote model of work, the GitLab Remote Playbook is the rescue boat. Chock full of hints, tips, and advice – all backed up by years of experience – this is your bible on how to run an all-remote team successfully, fairly, and sustainably, straight from the horse’s mouth (or the Tanuki’s mouth, in this case).

It is an invaluable tool whether you have been remote for years or you’re just considering a move. We’ve summarized the main points below!

Summary of the GitLab Remote Playbook 2022

Remote Working Models

There is no one-size-fits-all remote model, and although GitLab recommends a fully remote model, their guide does acknowledge alternatives. Check out a selection below:

  • All Remote: Like GitLab, this model is based on a fully remote team at all times, with no central office or time zone.
  • Remote Allowed: Most teams are allowed to work remotely sometimes, but with scheduled office days and exceptions depending on location-dependent work.
  • Remote Days: The entire company has set days that everyone works remotely.
  • Remote Exceptions: Some teams can work remotely 100% of the time, but others are required to work from a central office.

Pitfalls of Hybrid Remote Models

Many companies have seen hybrid models as a good ‘next step’ in their remote journey, but GitLab doesn’t believe this is the best way forward, with the below being a selection of reasons:

  • Culture is built around those in the office
  • Lack of access to in-office perks on remote workdays
  • Fewer development opportunities
  • Lack of consistent support

The good news is that the playbook does contain advice for those committing to a hybrid approach, including sacking off mandated office days, driving perks away from being office-based only, and encouraging remote-first leadership.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Transition to remote:

Transitioning from an office-centric model to either fully remote or hybrid can be a daunting prospect. Some tips from GitLab to ease the transition include:

  • Hire a Head of Remote: Pioneered by GitLab, this full-time role can be essential in ensuring that transitioning to remote work becomes a strategic advantage rather than a headache. Not sure what the role entails? There’s a guide for that.
  • Remote executive team: Start from the top down, giving the signal that remote work is the future (as well as giving leadership an understanding of the remote experience)
  • Start to document everything****: Remote work depends on a culture of strong, consistent, and accessible documentation.
  • Close the office: The ultimate sign that a company is remote, closing the office ensures that any two-tier attitudes between remote workers and office teams are eradicated.
  • Equip and empower your team: No two work-from-home spaces are the same. Ensure your team members have the equipment they need to thrive as remote workers, allocate a budget towards this and encourage experimenting with different setups.

Managing:

Managing styles differ wildly as it is, but the difference between managing an in-office team and a fully remote one can be night and day. Luckily the playbook has some invaluable insights, including:

  • Embrace transparency
  • Foster a documentation-first environment
  • Build connections between different teams
  • Measure output and results – not working hours

As it happens, we have our guide on managing remote teams successfully here.

Communication and Culture

Effective communication strategies and behavior are essential to a smooth-running remote team and are pivotal in ensuring team members don’t feel isolated or lost without face-to-face interactions and updates.

  • Asynchronous work: If you are committing to a remote work model, then forget the normal rules of time (to a non-science fiction degree, obviously). You can now eliminate the need for your entire team to be working at the same time every day, and according to GitLab, prioritizing asynchronous work by heavily reducing meetings, replacing them altogether with strong documentation, and moving away from an expectation of answers coming ASAP can be instrumental in remote working success.

  • Informal communication: Natural in an office, a conscious decision for remote workers. Building trust and friendships in a remote working team are just as important to create a successful and happy work environment, so it is up to team leaders to encourage workers to reach out, socialize and get to know one another.

  • More inventive socials: Zoom Happy Hours are easy, but creating a calendar of more engaging social events can create a much stronger culture. GitLab employees enjoy the show and tell, Reddit style ‘Ask Me Anything, talent shows, and even “juice box chats” where their kids can meet!

  • Prioritize mental health: Burnout and isolation don’t just occur in remote work models, but it is important to ensure your team can recognize the signs of burnout, stress, and anxiety, and is comfortable doing something about it. Document mental health resources – especially in onboarding, avoid celebrating long hours and destigmatize conversations around mental health. Taking these sorts of steps can make all the difference to a remote team.

Here at Adadot, we equip you with all the data you need to make remote development work sustainable, as well as successful. We measure metrics from a range of integrated software – including GitLab – and offer you unique insights into your performance, with a focus on well-being and collaboration. Take your first steps here, and you’ll be writing your playbook in no time.

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