Remote Working

Tim: [00:00:00] I'm Tim Panton and this is the distributed future podcast
Vim: and I'm Vimla Appadoo and today we're going to be talking about remote working.
Tim: Yeah, whic h coincidentally we both are at the moment. I've been remote working for ages. And actually I do like it most of the time.
How do you like do you do remote working often or how does it work?
Vim: Yeah, definitely. So I'm probably remote working three up three or four days of the week. Usually on site with a client or working from home or in a remote office. So I think it has its pros and it's cons. I definitely do miss working with a team every now and again, but sometimes it's really good just to be able to get your head down for a day or two and just like plow through loads of work.
Tim: But like so you're associating remote working with not working with a team. And what's interesting and you'll hear in the interview is Sarah is that she doesn't see it that way at all
Vim: right
Tim: just a different set [00:01:00] of she uses a different set of tools, but she still very much working with the team which is kind of interesting, but I think you have to make a bit more of an effort not.
To be isolated or if you want to be isolated it's easier, but it like look at it other way, but but I mean what have you what do you see is the downsides
Vim: and what actually just to clarify. I definitely do work with the team when I'm not in the office. I think that's just I like very personally get a different energy from being in the same room as my team as I do when I'm working with them online.
So particularly because I'm quite visual being able to stick stuff up on walls and ask people about it really helps my process thinking and I find it really difficult to get the right tools to do that online.
Tim: Right? Right. So there's a there's a somewhat of a tools gap which again, I think so comes up in the conversation, but I think [00:02:00] depends what you're saying depends from person to person how that plays out.
I mean I've been you know doing well, I haven't had an office for five seven years something like that. You know, I'll go and work in co-working spaces if I feel the need, but I mostly work at home and there are definite downsides in terms of. Like being available for other things. It's like the thing that bugs me most like the landline at home is a kind of incessant, it'll probably ring in a minute with some scammer, and that's much more annoying than it is anywhere else and the same with like parcel deliveries and people trying to sell me double glazing or God knows what it's like somehow my being at home during the day makes you a target for every scammer on the planet.
Vim: Yeah that yeah mines also like the comfort of [00:03:00] being at home means I work more productively because I'm in a really comfortable setting but I also snack more and like I'll make more Cups of Tea and things like that.
Tim: Yeah, you know that's definitely the fridge is there and it has that your things in it, you know, like and your choices.
Yeah now that's definitely a risk and I think also like it's the I certainly noticed that when I switched from being from cycling, what about 10 kilometers to work to working from home like that? That's a huge change in in kind of pass it in. Non-gm exercise. Yeah, and then that was a huge difference like, you know, so you really had to adjust to that and I still struggled to get out as much as I would want to when I'm here.
Vim: Yeah, I can imagine just the like,
Tim: you know, and I'm not I'm not a gym person so that [00:04:00] wouldn't you know, that's not an option really? I'm not not fond of that as a kind of much rather go for a long walk or something, but that she. Somehow motivating myself to do it is a bit different than having to go and catch that train in a hurry which is like where it used to be.
So I think think that's different but I think that, you know, the very can be very productive as you say and particularly on a focused piece of work that you kind of really need to get your head down into well. I think part of that is is to do with us working now more and more on screens and less and less with other media.
I mean, I I'm actually finding remote working more inconvenient now that I'm working with devices because I have to get like have to have the tools and the you know, the test devices wherever it is. I want to work in the old days. I could just rock up in a co-working space and sit there and type all day.
Vim: Yeah.
Tim: [00:05:00] But now with doing the iot stuff I actually have to bring you know, like three raspberries pies in the microphone with me or whatever and that that's actually then set them up on a desk and that kind of somehow gets in eats into your day quite considerably just that set up so that I mean I suppose that's the equivalent of what you were saying about the board.
Vim: Yeah,
Tim: you know having a wall board or having the Post-it notes or whatever it is.
Vim: Yeah. It's like taking a photo of it making sure you have an at-home referring back to it then. Trying to remake sense of it when you're not in the office,
Tim: right?
Vim: Yeah,
Tim: and I think the other thing that that I miss is the sort of serendipity of like, you know, just a casual conversation in the corridor.
Yeah. It doesn't happen in the same way.
Vim: Absolutely.
Vim: Yeah, I think when I was working go back and spaces though that would happen at but it would just be. Less specific and more General [00:06:00] so it would always be it felt when I was working in a co-working space. It felt more like networking them working.
It was kind of like, oh I can introduce you to this person. I can help with that or whatever and that was a big difference and I think that's a new element of working as well.
Tim: That was kind of your job though.
Vim: Yeah, but even when like after leaving that space working in different co-working spaces.
Tim: Right. I mean I still do that but like over Twitter or you know Wire actually a but if I was using slack more I could do it could be doing it over Slack like, you know, hey Fred knows about this. So, you know Jill could help you with that. It's not quite as sort of informal but it's certainly something you can still do over over Electronic media.
I think the other thing that I've noticed although touchwood, it hasn't happened recently is working from home. [00:07:00] Simply doesn't work if like you lose electricity or you lose internet but it's just you can't like all of the tools are based around you having power and internet and if if one or other of those gets cut off at home, it's like it's game over. Basically, it's very very little you could all very little I can do it and it seems true for you. But
Vim: well it happened to me. So my internet was intermittently dropping out only a couple of minutes but a couple of minutes every hour which was just one of the most frustrating things that could happen during the Working Day and it just meant I can work from home anymore the until it got sorted because it was just too frustrating and.
It made me realize how dependent my worker is on being online. There was just that there wasn't anything I could do offline.
Tim: It's funny that sudden realization that like getting out an old typewriter paper and pencil just doesn't cut it like yeah, I kind of [00:08:00] went through the big thinking about like how much infrastructure type should I put in to try and
like prevent this I'm friends have gone kind of totally over that. Well, I think totally over the top. They obviously think they're being completely reasonable but they've like got, you know, solar-powered backup generators for and and three different internet connections one of which is a satellite and like, you know, they can they can work.
Like come the disaster, they'll probably be able to still work, you know through their through their solar-powered satellite connection. Although there'll be nobody who work for you know, but but I do it is interesting to thing you start thinking about like, you know resourcing that and putting the the infrastructure and I mean, for example, do you have a room you work in or do you just like sit on the sofa?
Vim: I have a table but it's like an open-plan room. So that's why the kind of tea music aspect is all [00:09:00] too easy.
Tim: And how do you stop at the end of the day because I like I actually leave I have a small home office and I leave the small home office and shut the door on it.
Vim: I close my laptop. So II very purposefully have a work laptop and personal laptop.
So I don't use my work laptop for anything but work. So when that shut that's it for the day, but what I do find is I'm more lenient with my time when I'm working from home. So I'm happier to take a proper lunch break and then work later into the evening, which I won't do if I'm in an office,
Tim: right?
The flexibility is definitely there more. And I'm most of it is I mean, it's definitely given take you get you get like it's not like your employer is getting short shrift. I think in my experience. Most people probably do more when they're working from home than when they're not.
Vim: Yeah,
Tim: there's an interesting thing about like [00:10:00] the work laptop and if it's true in this country, but in the u.s. there used to be different. Like the copyright on stuff would be different depending on whether you'd produced it using work provided tools or whether you just done it.
Vim: Yeah,
Tim: because there's like because you're reducing the line between being at work and being at home. Yeah like that that's of idle blog post you did in the evening like it shouldn't work thing, or is it a personal thing?
And if you do it on the work laptop, then some courts will see that as evidence that you did it for work, even though it was like 8 o'clock in the evening and it was about a no kestrels or
Vim: absolutely it's that's definitely a line that's blaring and even when it gets into the kind of public speaking event space as well.
I've [00:11:00] noticed that line.
Tim: Yeah, sometimes you have to be super clear about like which role you're playing and actually get up and like, you know say taking my my work hat off here or that kind of thing. You have gone muffled.
Vim: So there's any better. Yeah. Okay, particularly when I've been running events in the about the Manchester Community for a while.
But long outlive different job roles and things like that. It's interesting to see the perspective employers on running those events. Like is it going to take up? What time are you doing out of work? Is it? No, what how does it reflect on what you're doing and work and all of this kind of stuff like I think because there's I feel like I talk about social media a lot.
But because we have more of an online presence now that. Often can be traced back to what we [00:12:00] do as a job. Everything's included like it's much harder to separate out the personal private space.
Tim: Right? I mean, you'll find that the hackers quite deliberately have mean why that's is one of the reasons why they use pseudonyms is that they want to make a clear separation between their penetration testing or their lock picking or whatever it is and.
You know the home life and they don't want the necessarily their social media presence is I mean the quite often they'll have I mean, I know people who have two they have one that's their their work Persona and one that's their like their personal Persona and they try not to let them bleed into each other and they'll even say things like well, hey don't follow both of those like you choose.
You can you can either follow them as an individual follow them as a hacker, but you're not you're not encouraged to follow both because that kind of gives away that they're the same [00:13:00] person. So it's interesting that kind of trying to de blur. The thing that is is becoming blurred anyway, so yeah, I think the other thing though is that that's not new.
I mean you always used to be like people used to be the blacksmith. Yeah, or all the Butcher and that was their societal role as well as their job and I think think we sort of artificially slightly lost that and now I think it's coming back at back around again that you know, there is a isn't such a clear line between what you know Vim does and what Vim if you see what I mean.
Yeah, absolutely. So you did encourage people to consider working from home and consider allowing it.
Vim: I think I actually had a really interesting conversation with someone that watch were very young startup and he worked for that company straight out of [00:14:00] University and he found it really difficult working from home like because he hasn't been put in a work environment before that gave him any structural guidance on how to work.
Coming straight from uni to working from home was really difficult and like didn't know what was expected of him. So I think it's really dependent on like personally how you're able to set that yourself. I think for some people working in a like 9 to 5 work an office environment is needed and for others, it's just not
Tim: yeah that's interesting like so you
I wonder whether after a few years of remote working whether you actually can like readjust to an office environment because
Vim: I do as well.
Tim: I think it might actually be well I may find out the be interesting to see how I get on with that as time goes on cool. Well listen to let's say let's let [00:15:00] everybody listen to to interview with Sarah and today.
So what's interesting with that is well, she'll explain but it's a hundred percent. It's a company to that is a hundred percent remote working and they like adopted procedures and whatever to to make that work. And so I think it's fascinating. Anyway, cool. I'll let you listen to it, right.
Vim: Thanks.

Sarah: So hello, my name is Sarah I'm a ux researcher at gitlab and I've been doing that now for nearly the past two years gitlab is a single application with the features for the whole software development and operations life cycle and the unique thing about gitlab is is that the company's remote only so it has over 300 people working from their own location in more than 39 countries of the last time I checked.
And my job as a senior, ux researcher is to understand user Behavior and the needs and the motivations usually through observation techniques such as [00:16:00] usability testing and then my research is then used to improve existing features or to help design new features.
Tim: So how much of that is like inward-looking on your own practice within the company and how much of it is is external to your customers.
Sarah: It's all inwards. So it's improving the gitlab as a product. And so we speak with a lots of different types of users everyone from kind of like developers to more kind of operations people and we speak to people from different sizes of companies different Industries and all to understand really how they build their own internal projects and how we can build software which supports them.
Tim: And so you've been working remotely for two years and how does that for those? I mean, I know we both done that but for those of people who haven't watched that actually. Like look like you get up in the morning and you [00:17:00] you eat some toast and then what happened?
Sarah: Well, I think the three questions I always get asked about working remotely is like how do you do it?
Like it's you ever get distracted and things like that. So I I've never been a person that gets easily distracted. I can put on a pair of headphones and get into a flow of work quite easily. I have a home office space that I shut the door on each night, which I think is really important to have but having said all this I think that was one one of the great things about working remotely it is like when you stuck on something I like having the freedom to go and get a breath of fresh air or to do some housework, you know, probably thought of some of the best ideas, but I've been vacuuming up the house and I wouldn't get that freedom in an office.
So, you know before us to sit at my desk and I try and force myself to be productive. The another question I always get asked is like what does your day look like and you know what hours do you work and I [00:18:00] think people have this. Kind of presumption that when you work remotely that you work less hours, you know, you have more time to do that the things that you enjoy your hobbies and interests and things like that, but I find like the time but I would perhaps like spend traveling to a job
I actually work. I'm very ambitious. I love what I do and I find it very hard to switch off and I think the difference between. Working in an office environment compared to working remotely so that you don't get like this kind of subtle cues that you might get in an office. So for example, when people get up to go to lunch or it's the end of the day in the putting the coats on walking out saying goodbye.
You don't kind of get that when you work remotely on your own I try and stick to a schedule. So I'm at my desk at the same time each day. I definitely don't work in the pajamas, which is another common assumption that people don't. actually get dressed but I can assure [00:19:00] you that I do I do try and accommodate my colleagues who work in other time zones or Within Myself and I think there's a little can be a real risk of burning out when you work remotely Like as Gitlab we try and look out for people who seem to be answering emails on the weekend or late in their time zone. But some people don't work on a schedule. I guess that's the advantage again of working remotely can kind of do what works best for you. You know, they might be a preferred time that people prefer to like work out like when they put the kids down to bed.
And that's perhaps the quietest time of the day for them and I guess you guys sorry,
Tim: you know, it's a totally totally agree with that like, you know, we particularly think the time zone things very interesting there than you know. I have not in that position at the moment but like there was a point in my life when I was doing remote working where two of the customers one of them was on the [00:20:00] west coast and the other one was in Singapore and so actually ended up working, you know, probably 8 or 9 hours a day, but the middle of the day was free.
So I started relatively early and dealt with Singapore and then I took a long chunk at lunch went out for a walk did the chores did the things that I would normally. You've done like maybe in the evening and then got back to my desk for like 4 once the West Coast were starting to wake up and I would deal with them for a couple of hours and then you know finish it maybe eight o'clock at night.
So my my day sort. Lengthened, but there was this big chunk in the middle. That was pretty much my time free time. So I ended up working, you know, not a huge number of hours more than I should have done but just like differently and and it happened that with my domestic situation at that particular point that worked but I can imagine it for had to take the kids to school.
That would have been really difficult. So it's actually quite an interesting set of. Of once you got that flexibility, actually how much [00:21:00] Advantage do you take of it? How much the advantage does your employer take of it? And how much trust is there to allow that to happen?
Sarah: Yeah, I think there's a lot of trust at Gitlab.
And we we have an asynchronous communication policy. So the way that works is that we work out of issues first, which is something that is embedded into the the GitLabs school. Then we move up to email then slack and that's followed by video calls. So the idea is that if you create an issue that's like for anything that you're working on.
So it means I other people can see what you working on they can contribute if they feel they can help you always have something to refer back to so in the future you can see why a particular decision was made and it may help you with something else that you're keen on. With slack we consider slack to be asynchronous, even though it's a chat client.
We don't expect people to respond right away to a [00:22:00] message and we actively encourage like using public channels as well. So that ensures that other people can chime in and get involved if they need to and learn from whatever is discussion up putting the onus on one person answering a question and then the video calls we use sparingly.
We obviously sometimes it's better to have a conversation with somebody but because people span multiple time zones, we don't ever make it mandatory to attend a video call. We record all video calls by default. I keep a Google doc the main discussion points, so. You don't feel like you've missed out on a meeting you'd necessarily missed out on a decision being made.
You're still very much part of the process. And I think that's why it kind of offers a good level of flexibility in the fact that if you do want to take your kids to school you can do, you know, you're not worried about missing something when you stepped away from your desk regardless of what [00:23:00] time zone you work in
Tim: I think that only works if like that policy is kind of not exactly policed but like you know that there is some some encouragement for people to stick with that policy because I think there's a tendency for like, you know.
It's particularly with slack. There's a tendency for fear of missing out or you know, I've been off slack for half an hour. What are they decided without me and I've certainly seen that happen particularly across multiple time zones you get up in the morning and you find that the rest of the team and made a decision
you don't agree with it's like oh am I going to try and force them to roll this back? Or or do I just live with it? You know because I wasn't there when they when they made that decision.
Sarah: Yeah, I think I think this is definitely just say what you need in a remote company issue need a real set of strong guidelines that everyone can follow and one of the things that we have at Gitlab is a handbook.
So that's like a central repository for like how we run the [00:24:00] company. It's a really big piece of documentation. I think the last check was like if it was printed it would consist of over a thousand pages, but one of kind of values is transparency. It's a completely open document anyone can read it and you can contribute to it by making a merge request but it kind of covers everything to do the quantity from like HR and kind of people operations type stuff like your benefits and the hiring process.
So just generally kind of getting started with Gitlab like the tools and the trick tips like some of the tools we use how the company works like each team or their procedures are documented and. It's when you've got this like kind of reference guide is that if you ever have a question or you're not sure how something works you kind of go into this handbook and you can also.
When like for example, if you found that you have decisions were me being made without you or some [00:25:00] inappropriately pinging you outside of your kind of slack hours and stuff. You can point and back to the handbook and say look this is company policy. This is the way we work here at Gitlab. It's not right what you're doing and I think you know that their handbook has been a great resource for everybody.
Who works at Gitlab or who is even thinking about joining it?
Tim: That's really interesting. So kind of even the the structure is enforced effectively using the tools that you're already you're talking about. Its own it kind of self-reinforcing thing there. That's that's very interesting. I had not thought of it like that.
That's that's cool actually. So what we haven't said is what like. What the advantages for the business are we sort of implied that the flexibility gives gives us as employees like more freedom and to fit it around our own Lifestyles and you know do challenging interesting jobs. But but what what does the business get out of it?
Do you think ?
[00:26:00] Sarah: I think there's a lot less overheads to the business. So the fact that they don't have to like maintain. There is an office equipment and things like that and they can hire people from anybody, you know around the world. They have they have the freedom to do that. They can get the best people for the job. At the same time I think of probably what's a bit of a disadvantage to the employees that work at for a remote companies that there's sometimes a bit of a like a salary sacrifice. I supposed to work in remotely. So you kind of given up a higher level of compensation. Then you might get in an office environment for the flexibility.
And now that doesn't suit everybody but for some people they would prefer to have this kind of remote work in this flexible schedule. So, I guess from a company perspective its lower cost of hiring maybe as well.
Tim: Wow so you your perception is that remote [00:27:00] workers are paid less per hour. Or all less per year or cuz I mean, you know, this is the travel stuff as well, which is kind of hard to factor into that.
Sarah: Yeah, so so at Gitlab we actually have like a compensation calculator and this is something that that we developed to try and make it more transparent about what people across the company were earning and what you could potentially earn if you wanted to come and work with it live. So we put that on Ice onto every kind of job advertisement and it's a formula it's a complicated formula can't remember at the top of my head but some of the things that it kind of looks
into our like a San Francisco Benchmark, so which we determine based on like various sources of Market data, so like LinkedIn, Glassdoor and people like that, and there's a rent index, which is related to your cost of living. You have a level Factor. [00:28:00] So whether you're very Junior and intermediate or at senior.
And then you have like an experience factor, which is like how comfortable you are in that role. So you might be a junior, but you might be just getting started vs. At the top end of that where you are more of an expert and you're ready to take maybe a step into becoming an intermediate. So we kind of put all those factors into this calculator and it spits out what it thinks
is it a good estimation for your salary? You know the kind of feedback that we've had from that internally both from employees and also externally from people who've applied to Gitlab is that perhaps the compensation level is a little low. Having said all that it's not like like gitlab of a very aware of the issue.
We're taking all that data and you know, we're feeding it back into the calculator trying to [00:29:00] make adjustments based on it. And we've actually hired a person who just mainly deals with improving this calculator, but I think there is always. It always comes down back to the thing that you have got a remote job.
You have got the flexibility that you press wouldn't have in an office. So there is always going to be something else that you have to kind of give up. I suppose and I guess added to that as well is like benefits. So with our remote company, it's very very hard. And I really think it's a hard job for people operations team, which is like how HR team to try and standardize benefits across multiple countries for people.
So for example, if you wanted to give a healthcare benefit,
Tim: right?
Sarah: It's like it's crazy because it's so different from the UK to the US and he wants to make sure that all your stack the treated fairly so it's perhaps [00:30:00] different in that effect as well. It's like your benefits and your compensation level a different
so what we practice you would get in an office job.
Tim: So have you worked in a team? So like what I'm hearing from you is get like this like it's like a hundred percent in on a whole bunch of linked stuff, which is all tied around remote working, but it's not like some of it like the openness is. Isn't always present in a remote working task.
Have you worked in something which isn't like which is maybe a mixed team of some some people work in an office and some people work remotely or or is that not an experience you've had?
Sarah: And in previous roles and I've been I've been hired to work full-time with in an office, but then because of the nature of my work I would typically work maybe 1 to 2 days a week from home and I found that if I work from home, I'd probably get a lot more done than working in an open plan office.
But then [00:31:00] it comes back to like the kind of thing that you touched on earlier, but if you weren't in the office and I meeting went ahead it was obviously a verbal meeting a decision was made and then you'd come back into the office the following week and you were not part of that decision. And I think that's the difference that Gitlab because everybody is remote everybody's in the same boat.
Everybody know how I knows how it feels to be left out of a meeting so nobody wants to you know do. Do that to their colleagues. I guess it's I think it's a very different Dynamic having everybody remote versus this mixture of half remote half in an office, right?
Tim: I think that's that's actually really I mean my perception of it is that you can maybe have a team who are all remote working for
like a company with an office, but I think once you have some members of the team local and some of them remote think that gets [00:32:00] really difficult to retain the level of fairness and equal access and I must be an absolute nightmare to manage. I've not like, you know. Because you effectively and something I wanted to touch on actually, it's like management styles.
Like how do you I think if you're a manager for a remote team, do you have to relearn all your skills? Do you think people manage remote teams differently or is it the same thing? Really?
Sarah: I think it's the same thing. Really. I think it's just having that open communication. So your direct reports about how they want to be managed in terms of like my manager.
I'm quite a while. I don't like being like micromanaged. I'm very like independent. I suppose I meet with my manager like once every two weeks via a call but I know that she's always there to like kind of get in touch with if I've got a problem or an issue. But yeah, I think it's I think it's very similar to being in an office.
I think like I say you've perhaps [00:33:00] got to be more Vigilant on terms of like making sure that when your team's work in like when what time are sending you emails that perhaps and what time you getting that slack messager if you feel like it's outside of their kind of working hours and it's probably worth following up with them just to make sure that they're not, you know on the risk of burnout.
Besides that I don't think there's many differences from gradient and in an office manager versus like remote.
Tim: Yeah, I'm kind of thinking about people whose whose management style was actually a lot about physical presence. So actually like, you know, they would kind of come and and talk to you at your desk and kind of get a sense of what you were doing and who you know, you are with it and that
like I don't think that I think those people would find that transition quite difficult. Well, yeah, but I mean, I guess they just have to learn [00:34:00] it. Really.
Sarah: Yeah, I guess the thing is is that there's a high level of trust when you you work remotely you thinking that the people that you're working with a getting on with their job, you know, they're doing the things that they need to do.
I do think like the skill set of the people that you hire has to be quite high as well because. It's very hard to do training remotely and to monitor someone's progress remotely as well. I think because you're not sat accross a desk from them, you know, you can see what the working on all the time and this is why we've always had this like the process with the issues to so be open with what you're doing and.
It's a very I think I found it when I first joined Gitlab quite an adjustment. It's like I was getting on with stuff but I was having to make it very explicit. What I was working on having to write everything down written communication is such a key thing for any role that Gitlab with this that you know, you [00:35:00] expressing all the time what it is you doing and it is it doesn't feel quite as natural because I guess when you're in an office, you know, you do say.
I all working on this today you perhaps like your daily stand up in the morning and say this is what I'm working on today and you don't get that we still have like kickoff meetings once a month. We have retrospectives once a month, but no, we don't have a like we used to have. A slack Channel which was dedicated to like what you working on and every day you could come in and post like these are just kind of stuck.
I'm going to be working on today, but we kind of didn't want to put that that pressure onto people again, it comes with the kind of flexibility and the value that you know, you don't feel you have to log on it 9:00 a.m. In the morning and say this is what I'm working on today and you know things change things change and
you might want to start your day out through 2 p.m. You know, it [00:36:00] doesn't we don't want to feel like we were checking up on people. I suppose we just wanted people to feel like they were being trusted to get on with their job.
Tim: I also felt that some of the tasks don't divide up that way. I mean, you know, depending on what I'm working on.
All right, I may be doing pretty much the same thing for well not a month, but actually probably Yes, actually occasionally if I'm like really writing something. From scratch new, you know, I've got a specification in front of me and it's pretty clear what I've got to do, but it's like a month's worth of coding like my status would be pretty much the same.
I'm implementing this RFC like, you know, I could say I'm on page seven now, but that wouldn't be true. You know, it's like yeah, so I don't I think it does think you're right. It's really it can get very kind of. Formulaic and become a burden that kind of reporting if it's to to fixed and structured so that one of the things you mentioned was like about training [00:37:00] and and I'm interested to know like that and a how how do you do ever meet your colleagues in person.
Do you like you know, how does that work? Do you know what any of them look like?
Sarah: I do we have a summit every nine months where we can all get together. Our last Summit was in Greece. And they company flew everybody out to kind of meet one another and we have a few days of like activities where we go and see the sites and we can get to know people in an informal way.
And then we also have like a few work meetings as well so we can meet up as a team and perhaps go to dinner together. We can discuss as the vision for the team and things like that like what's on the horizon for us. So I have met these people and I'm also not alone in the UK. We have a UK entity to this about 20 or so people who are really working in the UK at the moment.
So I've also met some with them. I think I think my nearest person [00:38:00] to me. I'm in Manchester. The nearest person to me is Liverpool, so it's not that far away from me. So yeah, I've had the opportunity to meet quite a few of the people that I work with
Tim: and then we when I was doing. This for a multinational they,
we ended up the team pretty much only ended up meeting at conferences. So we would get like sent on mass to go and do a conference maybe one of us was giving a talk and then the company would pay for a few more people than strictly necessary to go to the conference and that meant that and that maybe a day or two on it either side.
And then that meant that you would get to meet the rest of the team and and hang out with them. As well as like doing whatever it was you were doing at the conference running a workshop.
Sarah: Yeah,
Tim: presenting a talk or something and that that actually work quite well, so you and you ended up meeting people without it being thing you saying about grit in Greece seem would feel to me like it was a kind of very [00:39:00] artificial environment and and kind of hard to set the tone right maybe.
Sarah: I don't know. I think people are excited to meet one another. I think it's some of the things that we employ in internally. He's like obviously when you work remotely use like you lose like the daylight chitchat that you get in an office. So where you go to make a Cuppa tea and you have a random chat with someone you kind of lose that when you work remotely and we we tried to create some like it at Gitlab we had a random slack Channel where you could post anything that's on your mind at that time.
And we encourage coffee chat calls which 30 minute conversation with anyone in the organization just just not about work just about your hobbies your interests and we also have like a daily team call which is open to everybody at get lab. So the first part of the cause normally like company announcements and then the second part is an opportunity for anyone to speak and we have a different topic [00:40:00] every day.
And so for example on Wednesdays. Travel, kids, family and pets and you just put your name down and you speak and it's so funny that you take part in these calls and they make you feel like I suppose less isolated and alone working remotely and then when you actually go to the summit's to meet people
remember the things that you set on the calls like I remember like I had someone who came up to me and said I remember that you you know, you spoke about going to this concert on the team call and I really love that band and I just wanted to speak to you about them. And and it was nice. It was it was it was really good to meet people in that environment.
And if I think when you kind of come back and you go back to working remotely when you come home from these Summits you've got a. A more well-rounded understanding of the type of person that you're working with as well.
Tim: Yeah, and I think the Chit Chat thing is really really interesting how you form that and how you.
[00:41:00] Because people do have a natural need to kind of just have a general chat about stuff that isn't like directly work-related or even to kind of let off a little bit of steam about, you know, this customers driving me mad or whatever without it actually hitting the issues and being public and I think that that sort of stuff is like creating.
The right medium for that is in is it he's an interesting challenge. I'm going to seen it done a few ways and it's kind of I'm not sure I've seen one really good yet, but it's been but it's fun challenge. So on the on that I wanted to of the kind of a little think maybe a little bit about where this might go in the future one thing I saw done which I don't think it totally worked but was interesting was.
What was it called? And it was called squiggle or something and basically your webcam would take a you know, if you allowed it to would take a snapshot every [00:42:00] 30 seconds or minute and that would be distributed within your team or a selection of of people who you wanted and then they could see if you're at your desk looking bored.
Right and and then they might end they might instigate a one-to-one voice call.
Sarah: Right
Tim: just for chitchat because hey he's looking stumped or he's looking pissed off. I wonder what Tim's worried about it that you know, and actually it seemed like a really good idea, but I don't think it totally worked but it feels like that sort of glance around the office.
There isn't an equivalent. You have to try and work out the tone from what they're saying on slack or whatever and that like that's not a good indicator of what mood people are in usually for me. Anyway, I find it really hard to read that.
Sarah: Yeah, I think the the taking screenshots of your side. Your desk is probably taking it a bit too far.
And again, like I say we go Gitlab everyone work for different times anyway, [00:43:00] so it probably wouldn't be like a great solution for us. I've heard of like chatbots within slack that you know, we'll check in with your team and you can kind of rate how your day's going. I think that's possibly an Avenue that it's worth exploring.
Just whether people feel they can answer those things honestly, and then like I think it is, I think a lot of the onus I think is on you when you work remotely rather than waiting for someone to ask you if you're okay. I think you have to speak up if you're not. I think that's the difference from perhaps working in an office.
Is that you you've got. Take more care of yourself. Be more mindful of your actions and look after yourself more when you work remotely and say if you're not happy,
Tim: right. I mean, I think one of the area's I'm working in at the moment is is security, you know network security and things like that and and that is particularly kind of seems to be quite.
[00:44:00] Difficult not exactly a mental health challenge, but like it's quite a because your you spend your whole day kind of questioning like what everybody else takes a safe assumptions like you're in your busy spending your day undermining what everybody thinks of known facts and actually that's quite
corrosive on your mindset like, you know, because you are busy undermining things. You're busy questioning everything and that leaves you sort of slightly adrift and so a lot of the infoSEC professionals. I know actually have like side channels to other infoSEC professionals where they can just like, you know, shitpost basically and and kind of ground themselves a bit, which is really interesting.
I wonder whether that's true in. In other like weather graphic designers do the same thing like, you know Grumble about fonts or something. I don't know. We need to keep see that kind of
Sarah: yeah, I guess I guess we sort of have it. I suppose in [00:45:00] something that we've just started within the ux team actually is that we have designers and they would typically work like on an issue on their own and they would you know come up with a range of ideas for stuff and then they would probably sit probably have to settle on something themselves.
But now we kind of introduce like a sort of buddy system so that they can always call upon somebody else within the team. Just to kind of get a second opinion on stuff but I suppose it will kind of would work in a similar way and in the fact that you know, you kind of working with this person on stuff.
But also, you know, you could turn to that person as well. You know, there's someone in the exact same role if you fit facing the same challenges, it's somebody else that you can turn and talk so
Tim: so do you think there are any other kind of. Future developments in this space that's going to make it like even more prevalent obviously kind of higher quality internet as made the whole thing possible in the first place, but like.
[00:46:00] I don't know. Do you think VR or something like that? It's just going to replace the office totally or
Sarah: I'm not sure. I think I think that the main thing is more people working remotely. I mean, you're right high-speed internet as helped with that video conference than has helped with that. I think the.
They say it's been very strongly like the technology sectors that people, you know work remotely like developers researchers such as myself designers, but I think we'll see branching out more roles. I also think it's been kind of driven by. The u.s. Remote working. I think there's not an abundance of companies within the UK that kind of offer remote working.
Not fully remote. I think it's kind of more of a split. I've started to see the growth for those kind of companies now and they definitely weren't there two years ago when I was kind of applying for Gitlab and things so I think it's [00:47:00] just they actually in which people have the option to work remotely.
Tim: Okay, cool. Well look thank you very much for that.