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GitLab’s top tips to help HR leaders pivot to hybrid working

Hybrid is the future of work — but how can HR get it right?

Allie Nawrat


GitLab hybrid
Credit: David Tanke via Twenty20.

How can companies ensure they do not create a two-tier working environment? Unleash Your People

  • GitLab has had a remote-only team for many years.
  • As companies grapple with the hybrid future of work, GitLab has some advice on how to make it work.
  • These three golden nuggets will help HR leaders establish successful hybrid working practices.

There is no escaping it, remote working is the future. The pandemic has proven once and for all that employees can do their job from home, sometimes even more productively than in the office.

While some have felt empowered and have flourished in the world of remote working, others have struggled with the lack of social interaction and found themselves burning out.

Therefore, the future of work is looking likely to be hybrid — whereby employees divide their time between office-based working and remote working.

Unfortunately, hybrid working brings additional complexity for companies when it comes to managing, engaging, and empowering their employees – and there is a risk that you can create a two-tier work environment, where those working remotely feel like ‘second class citizens.’

GitLab – an open software development company that has had a fully remote workforce for many years – has published a report featuring advice for companies as they start looking at the best ways to implement hybrid working for their workers.

Here are three useful tips to help HR leaders with the transition:

  • Make the leadership team remote

First of all, GitLab recommends that companies embrace remote-first principles, even if they are not planning to shift to fully a remote staff base.

This ensures that things do not return to the previous way of working where the office was the center of the organization and remote working was an exception to the rule.

A clear way to signal that employees are encouraged to embrace remote working – as and when it suits them – is for the leadership team to not exclusively work in the office.

This “reinforces that the office is no longer the epicenter of power or decision making,” notes GitLab.

This also means that the leadership team can properly understand the remote experience – and spot where improvements need to be made to ensure none of their employees are excluded from the company’s culture.

GitLab further suggests that organizations may want to hire a head of remote with expertise in business or culture transformation – another option may be to bring in external consultants to support the hybrid transformation.

  • Rethink communications in a hybrid model

In the report, GitLab says companies should not try to replicate the in-office experience online.

Instead organizations need to be a bit more creative when it comes to thinking about how they communicate effectively with a distributed workforce.

Although water cooler conversations are always going to happen in the office, GitLab notes that leaders need to make sure that any important work-related conversations going on in the office should be recorded and shared with the entire team.

This helps companies to increase transparency and ensure no-one feels left out.

On the subject of transparency, GitLab also recommends that companies accept that there will bumps on the road to successful hybrid working.

The important thing to note here is that companies communicate what is and what isn’t working with their employees – as well as customers and shareholders – invite them to share their feedback and then make small, but proactive, changes.

Transparency should also be central to hybrid companies’ hiring strategies.

{Read more: Virtual recruitment will outlive COVID-19 – here’s why]

Finally, companies should focus more on not over meeting – GitLab says leadership and employees should “think twice before scheduling a meeting, as well as politely questioning meeting invitations”.

Instead, companies should think about how to allow their employees to communicate more informally and create friendships in the office.

GitLab notes: “Those who feel they have genuine friends at work are more likely to enjoy their job, perform at a high level, feel invested in the company, and serve others within the organization”.

Therefore, companies need to be “intentional” in designing informal communication channels that work for their organization. Examples include social calls that have no agenda, one-on-one video coffee chats, or creating a thanks channel to celebrate others’ achievements.

  • Focus on mental health and tackling burnout

Stress and burnout is at an all time high as a result of the pandemic.

Despite the benefits of remote working, a major issue has been that people are really struggling to switch off from work, particularly as they feel pressure to work harder and longer in order to keep their job.

GitLab encourages businesses implementing either full time remote working or a hybrid model to focus on tackling burnout head on.

It is crucial that employees know exactly what mental wellbeing resources are available to them right from the outset and for conversations around mental health to be destigmatized.

All of the wellbeing benefits and perks being offered to those in the office also need to be available to those working remotely – for instance, access to a gym should be replicated for different fitness credits for those working remotely.

In addition, working long hours shouldn’t be celebrated by the leadership teams, instead companies should encourage their employees to have a healthy remote lifestyle, including allowing them to work flexible hours.

“By ditching the requirement to be seen in the office, team members can structure their work around their life as opposed to their work dictating everything about their life,” concludes GitLab.   

[Read more: 6 mental wellbeing apps to beat employee burnout for good]

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