January 14, 2021
Darren Murph, head of remote for GitLab, was interviewed during this week’s all-digital CES 2021 by Joe Matthews, VP of purchasing & diversity officer at Gentex Corporation, on the future of remote work. Murph stressed the importance of communicating in ways that treat remote and in-house staff equally. It will be especially important if you reopen your office post-pandemic and allow people to continue working remotely to signal that you are committed to supporting remote work and not just “allowing” it.
Managing a remote workforce is more about unblocking than directing. In a distributed environment it is harder to know what is blocking your people, so communication and openness is key. Murph advises managers to focus on ways to communicate and maintain transparency that treat the on-site and remote workforce equally. Be sure to give remote workers digital visibility. “People need a single source of truth,” he suggested.
When offices reopen, if you plan to continue supporting remote work, one thing to avoid doing is to have your executive team flock back to the office. If you have your entire executive team in one place, in an epicenter of power, the communication workflows and the decision-making processes will more than likely gravitate back to wherever the executive team is located.
Keeping part of the executive team working remotely is a forcing function that maintains both the effectiveness and the optics of your support for remote work. It keeps you inclusive and thoughtful of people you can’t see.
In terms of office space, rather than force everyone back to the real estate, the reopening can be an opportunity to rethink the asset. Use some of the space for a social good such as more internships, Murph said.
Matthews asked Murph to respond to the increasingly complex question of compensation; shouldn’t two people doing the same job be compensated the same regardless of where they live? Murph responded that the market will decide, and then went on to give a variety of examples of different compensation approaches. Watch what others are doing, try to do better, and play the long game to attract and retain employees, he said.
Companies that want to maintain remote working as an option will need to invest in the tools and resources that make it an equal, effective and efficient alternative to being in the office. You should assume that the difference between ‘allowing’ and supporting remote work is obvious to everyone in the company.