As the world's largest remote working company, GitLab has shown what it takes to succeed.
On 14th October'21, a date that will go in history books as World Remote Working Day with other important dates that saw path-breaking innovations such as the Internet, Email, and Facebook (let's give Mark Zuckerberg some credit for bringing the world closer), GitLab went public with a valuation of $11 billion.
Within two weeks, the stock was up over 50%, increasing the company's market valuation to over $17 billion. That's a fantastic achievement for a company with just 1300+ employees and has been in existence, fully remote from the day it started operations ten years ago.
Its $11 Billion IPO is proof that remote working is no longer a fad, is here to stay, and enjoys the confidence of investors and market movers.
The growth of remote working
While 2020 was the advent of companies being forced to adopt the remote working model to keep businesses running, 2021 has seen companies volunteering to embrace remote working as a means of saving costs and boosting work performances.
With more and more employees loving the concept of sharing work and home responsibilities equally, there seems to be a significant behavioral change at the management and individual levels. As a result, many corporates are now setting policies that allow employees to spend more time working from home than ever before.
However, it may still be sometime before one gets to see remote working more as a norm, rather than an exception to the rule. It cannot be an overnight transformation and would need considerable efforts, time and investments before a company can align its entire operations towards remote working.
TCS Chairman N Chandrasekaran has gone on record to point out that work from home is not a cost-saving measure and has added to the company's expenses. That is primarily because of the long-term leases and service agreements the company has signed up for its premises across the world.
Interestingly, start-ups and small businesses have a distinct advantage over traditional, large companies since they are just starting or their operations have not scaled to an irrevocable situation.
For Founders Neelesh Rangwani & Vivek Gupta, who launched India’s earliest remote working operations way back in 2016, was either the remote way or the highway.
So strong was their belief in the concept of remote working that they explored an innovative model to provide companies with remote assistants for managing their routine tasks. It would help start-ups & small businesses spend more time focusing on growing their business.
How to set up a remote working organization?
To companies looking at bucking the trend and moving towards realigning their operations to make them more remote-friendly and sustainable in the long term, here are some remote working tips that one can learn from GitLab.
1. Work towards creating an office type, virtual working environment
People have an inherent need to socialize and communicate with others. The communication could be discussions about personal problems to the latest office politics. That is what usually leads to men and women spending more time near the water cooler or washing machine.
While the same is not possible in a virtual environment (not yet), companies need to find a way to satisfy this very basic but essential human urge. It means allotting bandwidth (the new retail space on the IT highway) for employee gossip that usually took place around the watercooler or coffee machine.
Creating an office-type environment need not be limited to this but could include having spontaneous meetings on topics that may be interesting to employees. (Something that GitLab does impressively and excellently).
From football teams to what's trending on the New York fashion ramps, there must be something engaging and interactive for all the team members.
On the work front, there need to be forums where employees can promptly get answers to their concerns, be it about a new client or help with moving to a new location. In addition, information needs to be easily accessible within a few clicks, with audio and video being the preferred means of disseminating the information required.
2. Build trust among employees
In an environment where employees may actually never see each other, it becomes more important to build trust among them as compared to a physical office. The ethos of a physical office is in fostering a community feeling among the employees, where all are working towards one common goal.
Unfortunately, this feeling is lost or minimized due to low or almost no physical contact among the remote employees. In such scenarios, organizations will perform much better if they foster a transparent working environment. All employees have equal access to all the significant developments and news about the company.
Checking and verifying facts will help employees trust their colleagues more and be wary of any rumors circulating about the organization.
The keyword here is "being more inclusive" so that no one feels left out on the work front.
Another critical tool organizations can use to build trust among employees is setting up informal communication channels and social connections.
3. Set the right work expectations
What may be flexible hours for you may not mean the same to everyone else, leading to misunderstandings and inefficient time management. While everybody loves a flexible and work when you want policy, it is essential to keep the organization's goals in mind.
A good compromise on the flexible hour's policy would be being available for meetings and discussions when most of the team is online. That can be done by setting standard hours when people can be online to answer queries or resolve problems. The rest of the work hours could be as per the employee's preferences to maintain a perfect work-life balance.
Setting daily and weekly goals could also be a good practice to ensure that all work commitments are met as per expected timelines and guidelines.
In an environment with no one monitoring your working hours, it is very easy for an employee to lose focus and be less productive than in an office. To avoid such scenarios, companies could assign mentors who could partner with the employee for a particular project and be available round-the-clock for any guidance or support they may need.
4. Help employees transit to a remote environment
Since remote working is a relatively new concept, it may not be easy for many employees to adapt to the same both physically and mentally.
Working from home would require them to allocate space within their house to work quietly without any disturbance. That could sometimes be at the expense of the family's privacy and home environment. Employees need to be counseled on this to ensure minimum interference and disturbance in their family life.
To ensure the employee's comfort while working from home, companies may also look at investing in providing them with the best physical amenities. They could be similar to the amenities you would install in a physical office, such as monitors that reduce eye strain to ergonomic chairs.
Setting up a good broadband internet connection will also go a long way to ensure minimum work and communication disruptions.
Most importantly, give your employee sufficient time to transit to a remote working environment and be comfortable in it, especially if they have been part of a typical office setup for many years.
5. Create documentation & guidelines for even the most basic tasks
Since employees can no longer run up to their colleague's desks for advice or mentoring on a particular problem or project, breaking up and documenting every small task is essential, making it relatively easy to understand.
Documenting everything also helps in better collaboration and helps create a reference guide that employees can access anytime they need a resolution to some of their queries.
Everything needs to be documented to facilitate remote working among the employees, from onboarding new members to the SOPs to be followed for a product launch.
Writing notes during meetings and sharing them with colleagues should be standard practice and encouraged to create a more collaborative working environment. In addition, as people are encouraged to write down their thoughts and observations, it will lead to more clear and concise communication.
Is the GitLab model applicable to all companies
Unfortunately, the answer is no.
While futurists may proclaim that remote working is the only way for businesses to succeed, some industries still need to collaborate and work together in a physical environment to grow.
Creative agencies, film-making units, food services, and manufacturing industries are some of the companies that can opt for a hybrid model, with both a physical and remote presence, but may never be able to go fully remote.
While the world transcends new boundaries and explores working concepts never conceived before, saying “No” may seem a bit premature.
For companies that are ready and more than willing to experiment with the remote working concept and give it a try, the transformation may not be as easy as it sounds. The rewards, though, are worth the time and effort you may need to put into the exercise. So, for all it's worth, we recommend giving remote working a chance and making the best of it.
Wishup is one of the pioneering remote working companies in India. It has a 100% remote working environment that meets and surpasses clients' expectations for remote and virtual assistants. That is due to its rigorous screening procedure in hiring employees and then training them in 50+ tasks to meet virtually every administrative or social need a client may have.
Incidentally, Neelesh & Vivek, the founders of Wishup, plan to share their experiences setting up Wishup and how remote working can benefit organizations in an e-book soon.