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How Gitlab is adjusting to work from home

October 6, 2020, 1:46 PM UTC

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Monday morning I interviewed Darren Murph, head of remote for the coder collaboration company GitLab, from my bathroom. There was a time when that would have been an odd and embarrassing thing to do, let alone write. But you already know where I’m going with this—and so did he. Some workers were in my home, and my school-aged daughter was remotely attending class in the small apartment I am using as an office. Thus my banishment to the privacy of the privy.

Murph has a simultaneously upbeat and realistic view of our work-from-home experiment. GitLab is an all-remote company, and Murph is clear-eyed about the difference between remote working as his company and others envisioned it before the pandemic and the unfortunate situation many now find themselves in. “The best part of remote is yet to come,” he says. “Right now we’re in what I call crisis-driven work-from-home.”

His point is that while there certainly are pros and cons, one shouldn’t confuse our current setup with the goal, which is a distributed setting that allows people to live where they want but with the right tools (like comfy furniture or a co-working space) and the ability to decamp to a coffee shop or whatever else floats a remote worker’s boat.

I asked Murph if GitLab used to bring its people together. The answer was something along the lines of ‘Heck, yes.’ The whole company gathers once a year, and teams meet for bonding and team-building. “In-person is vital,” he says. “We’re communal beings.” As for travel expenses: “If you unwind your offices you’ll be hard-pressed to ever spend what you would have spent on real estate by putting people up in hotels in San Francisco and New York,” he says. He lives in coastal North Carolina, near his and his wife’s extended family, and says he never could have done it without the ability to work remotely.

Murph thinks in a year’s time companies that truly and flexibly support their workers will shoot up in employee survey ratings such as Glassdoor. And reputations will plummet at companies that merely tolerate staffers who have re-architected their lives during the pandemic on the assumption they could.

Adam Lashinsky


This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.


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