Skift Take

The pandemic has pushed many companies into new ways of working, but there’s a lot of work ahead to transition and realize all the benefits — traveling included.

As well as giving employees more flexibility and freedom, business travel also gets a makeover in the next phase of remote working.

But that nirvana is still a way off because even after coronavirus, companies will be need to be clinical in their transition to remote working.

That’s according to Darren Murph, head of remote at GitLab. Speaking at the Skift Global Forum opening event on Monday, he said the software services company wrote the “playbook” on distributed workforces, several months before the pandemic began.

“We have over 40 guides on how we do everything, we’re an open core company so all of that information is open sourced,” Murph said. “I began building that, and then Covid happened. And it turned out it was useful for all that information to exist, so now a lot of it has been translated into what has become the blueprint for many companies who are suddenly remote, and they are now in the transitionary phase.”

Company benefits

Murph argued that a remote culture fosters creativity, where work fits into your life schedule, rather than the other way round. At scale, and over time, this creates happier, more productive people who are freer to think creatively, he said, which has a domino effect on staff. True diversity, geographically and culturally, was also easier to obtain.

Remote working enables people to travel more, with less judgement, too. “People can fly on a Tuesday, and their upgrades will clear. If people have family that are visiting, and it’s the holidays, they can fly a few weeks earlier and avoid the peak prices,” he said.

Darren Murph, head of remote at GitLab.

Meanwhile, the days of burnt-out execs will be gone, as they’ll no longer be required to fly for 32 hours just for a two-hour trip. “I’m really excited about how Covid will impact business travel, it’s going to be more exciting. Think about what what you can do without those 32 hours… there will be shorter more spontaneous trips to spend time with people,” Murph added.

Meanwhile, the nature of remote employees will lead to more frequent meetings. “Those who are offsite by default are always going to want human connection at some point,” Murph said. “So what ends up happening is travel becomes a core part of culture building. Business travel should get a lot more dynamic. You’re going to have teams of 10, 15 or 20 people who suddenly need an offsite every quarter or so, to build strategy, to bond, or build relationships.”

This trend is already being identified by hotel companies like CitizenM, which is due to build a new property next to Facebook’s HQ in California.

GitLab also holds an annual event, GitLab Contribute, once a year. However, many companies have a long journey ahead in reaching the nirvana of working remotely. But employees feeling overwhelmed by continual Zoom meetings shouldn’t feel so bad, according to Murph.

“We’re not remote working. This is crisis-induced work from home. I’ve not been able to work remotely in the past six months; I’ve been able to work from home. It’s suffocating to some degree,” he said.

Changing from a co-located company to a remote one is a complex journey, with writing and rigid documentation key to fostering innovation. “Most companies are in phase one, pressing copy on the office environment, and pasting into the virtual environment,” Murph said, adding that by writing things down, and opening it up to feedback, GitLab is able to live without constant meetings.


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Tags: citizenm, facebook, sgf2020, skift global forum

Photo credit: Remote working enables people to travel more, with less judgement, according to GitLab's head of remote. Kristin Wilson / Unsplash

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