Growth in availability and demand for remote work is at all time highs, and many companies are transforming from primarily in-office to permanent remote-based work. This transition to more remote-friendly workplaces has come during challenging times and has been a bumpy ride for companies and people alike.
Unlike companies that have a remote culture in their DNA, many companies hiring remotely now have transitioned to remote hiring out of necessity. This forceful transition has resulted in some rough edges, ranging from Zoom fatigue due to countless meetings, to stories of requiring cameras to be turned on to monitor productivity. If Gitlab is to remote work what Google is to engineering practices, then it stands to reason that in the same way most companies are not operating at Google scale, those chances are the company recently converted to remote work probably isn’t Gitlab level prepared for remote workers.
Most companies are just figuring out what it means to be a remote company. Remote work is a double-edged sword—when handled well it can be a life-altering, empowering experience. However, when handled poorly, taking on a new job entirely remote can be a real challenge as companies figure out remote onboarding, benefits and management of this new remote workforce.
The same forces driving and enabling remote work have put workers under high levels of stress and pressure. It’s been a lot. People may be tempted to choose remote to feel insulated and protected, able to control a safe working environment for themselves or the people around them. However, even in the best of circumstances, remote work is isolating.
In fact, to help address this, the Gitlab handbook has dedicated resources to help you prepare and adjust your life and workstyle to remote asynchronous work. Acknowledging that employees will likely need assistance to retain the personal connections we need to function as both employees and people when working remotely.
A hybrid workplace is a compromise, an attempt to strike a balance between the benefits of remote and office-based work. It can be tempting to dismiss hybrid workplaces as reluctant to accept remote work.
It can be an approach that provides the support structures a shared office provides, while still offering the flexibility that empowers employees to have more control over when, where and how they work.
It’s about finding the right fit for the culture of the company.
What to look for in a hybrid workplace
Remote work needs to be different from traditional office-based work. The modes and norms of office-based work don’t fit well into remote-based work. For it to work well, companies need to let go of some of the office-centric workstyle, embrace the strengths of remote work and transition towards a more asynchronous style for collaboration and communication.
Similarly, hybrid work needs to be meaningfully different from both in-office and remote work.
Ask why the company chose hybrid
Workstyle shouldn’t be a casual decision, it should be a reflection of the company’s culture. When considering hybrid workplaces, as a potential candidate you should be looking for this to be a result of an active decision. The company should be able to communicate the benefit and motivation without difficulty. Look for mentions of culture, supportive environment, stability, and relationship with the community.
Ask about a normal day when remote
When asked about working remotely, if it’s business as usual that might be a red flag. It could be an indication of a lack of conviction to embrace remote work, a reluctant compromise which may lead to further changes to workstyle in the future.
Rather than business as usual, look for lessons learned from the forceful transition to remote work. Things like: dedicated focus time, reduced distractions, and higher general quality of life due to flexibility. Consider bonus points for answers involving inclusivity relating to different personality types, work styles, and caretaking responsibilities.
Ask about a normal day in the office
For hybrid workplaces, treating in-office work like business as usual might be a red flag as well. There needs to be a motivation beyond the status quo, there should be a focus on collaboration, team building, and culture. An acknowledgement that rather than the status quo, there is a dedicated and defined space where you can go when maybe you need a break from home office life.
There should be special attention to the hybrid hiring process to give greater insight into the visible culture a physical office provides. Look for companies who want to sell you on the perks of their office environment. The company is more likely already present in your community, the company should be sharing how they have chosen to be in the community, to want to walk you through the office, to let you get a feel for the place. It’s an opportunity for them to show off and for candidates to get insight that is really hard to get from an all-zoom process.
Ask yourself what you really need
If you think you need the support that an office can provide you but still need much of the flexibility that remote work provides, a hybrid approach may be exactly what you need. A place that allows you to restore yourself; in part by providing you the flexibility you need, in part by surrounding you in a supportive community. All the while letting the remote work revolution develop, evolve and stabilize.
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