Get Reworked Podcast Episode 34 Guest Betsy Bula of GitLab

Get Reworked Podcast: GitLab's Betsy Bula on How to Make Remote Work

April 26, 2022 Digital Workplace
Mike Prokopeak
By Mike Prokopeak, Siobhan Fagan

Get Reworked Podcast Guest Betsy Bula or Gitlab
For many companies, remote work was just a stopgap measure to address a temporary disruption to business as usual. For others, it's a way of life. 

In this episode of Get Reworked, we talk to Betsy Bula, all-remote evangelist at GitLab, about how her company came to embrace all remote all the time, and what others can learn from their example. GitLab has collected lessons learned in a publicly available guide that runs to thousands of pages, but remote work there remains a work in progress.

Listen: Get Reworked Full Episode List

"Even still, this has been a journey," Betsy said. "We're always iterating and making changes. Even for a company that's been long remote like GitLab, it's not a thing that always remains the same."

Highlights of the conversation include:

  • Just how successful remote work has been throughout the pandemic.
  • Why GitLab decided to go all remote and how they overcame objections.
  • How remote work is a constantly evolving set of practices.
  • Whether or not a company should hire a head of remote work.

Plus, co-hosts Siobhan Fagan and Mike Prokopeak talk with Betsy about North Carolina basketball, the legacy of Duke's Coach K and why hybrid work as a model is overrated. Listen in for more.

Have a suggestion, comment or topic for a future episode? Drop us a line at [email protected].

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Show Notes

Episode Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited for space and clarity.

Mike Prokopeak: Hello, Siobhan

Siobhan Fagan: Hey, Mike.

Mike: Alright, we're recording this almost exactly two years after most of the office world — the information-working, knowledge-management, knowledge-worker world — went to remote work. And now folks are kind of heading back into the office. In some cases, they're heading back.

And there's an element in the back of my head that's kind of been waiting for this moment to say, I have a feeling bosses really just want people back to work in the office. This remote work revolution wasn't so much a revolution, but an interlude. It may be just a cynic in me speaking, but do you have a similar vibe? Are you seeing things a little bit differently, Siobhan?

Siobhan: I definitely have picked up all along to some deep-seated skepticism towards this remote work experiment we've seen over the last two years, Mike, which is unfortunate because I don't think that we can actually see this as ... if we're talking scientific experiments, there was no control. There was an absolute lack of control, actually, because of the circumstances in which it was taking place.

And so, well, I honestly don't know if those bosses who are skeptics would ever have been convinced even if remote work was being done in the best of circumstances.

Mike: But it's pretty clear that there are some distinct benefits to remote work. And even if bosses don't want to see it, because to use that word control, they're looking for a different sort of control in their organizations. They would like to have people back in the office and keep things simple and sort of have things be the way that they want them to be. But we would lose in the course of that a lot of the benefits of the flexibility and the creativity that organizations have found within themselves to approach work.

And I think that's why it's important for us to have this conversation today with our guest. Our guest is actually Betsy Bula. She is the all-remote evangelist at GitLab, and she focuses there on sharing the company's all-remote brand with the world.

They were doing remote working long before the pandemic forced many of us into that situation. So they've really been documenting and making this process very clear internally and now they're sharing that with the world. Before she took over the all-remote role at GitLab, she was on the marketing team where she focused on employer branding and recruitment marketing.

Betsy is working from home as you'd expect in a remote organization, and she lives in Raleigh, NC, where she is joined by her golden retriever as her co-worker. So I'm eager to dig in with Betsy and learn a little bit more about GitLab and their approach to remote work. How about you, Siobhan?

Siobhan: I am too, Mike. 

Mike: Alright, let's Get Reworked.

How Successful Has Remote Work Been the Last Two Years?

Mike: Welcome to the podcast, Betsy.

Betsy Bula: Thank you, Mike, it's great to be here.

Mike: So we are excited to have you here because you have been a bit of a remote work expert, and we're at a moment after two years of pandemic working where folks are kind of in a transition moment, Some people are returning back to the office, some are choosing to do a hybrid, some are staying on remote.

And so we wanted to first talk with you about your assessment of how successful remote work has been over the last two years when many folks have been forced into it, because your organization GitLab was doing remote work before the pandemic hit. So I want to get your assessment: How successful has remote work been, broadly speaking, over the last couple of years?

Betsy: Yeah, so you're so right. We're at a really interesting inflection point this year. And I'm just really eager to see how it continues to play out throughout the rest of 2020, and beyond.

What we've seen in the last two years is remote work enabling tens of millions of people to question these traditional ways of working and living that we've all sort of just followed along with, and it's really put the reins back into the hands of a lot of knowledge workers, job seekers — and people just have more options than they ever had before.

So they realize that they can separate work from a single location. They don't have to relocate to have a successful career. And they don't have to sacrifice time with family, or hobbies, or friends, or things that they love, to succeed at their job.

So I think in many ways because of this really sudden, widespread adoption remote work has been a really big silver lining of what's been a difficult couple of years otherwise. And that said, I think, remote work has also been misunderstood in many ways, so I look forward to seeing how people experience this newfound flexibility, and what will hopefully be a more normal chapter, whatever normal will mean for all of us beyond 2022.

Mike: Can you explain what you mean by misunderstood because, as I'm hearing you talk about it, I hear a lot of it's been good for employees, the individual workers, you know, because they've been able to see this alternative to what had been the the 9-5 grind or to the daily commute. So what are the misunderstandings that you've seen over the last couple years?

Betsy: So you touched on it a little bit, you know, in the first question, that it's been not true remote work in these past two years, it's been forced to work from home during a global pandemic, which, for anyone, even companies like GitLab, who have been fully remote long before 2020, that is just not a normal experience for any of us.

So, you know, I think just for employees, it's been something that's really been a challenge in many different ways, depending on your own unique situation, and circumstances and location, and all of those different factors.

But, you know, even for companies, it's really forced them kind of out of their traditional comfort zones and forced organizations to really examine processes and technologies and norms and bring those up to speed for the future. So it really has opened up doors for more than just the employee side of things. It's also impacted companies. It just came about at a time when they really had to do it in kind of a hurried way, and not necessarily have the time and the space to intentionally make the changes that need to be made.

So that's where the kind of misunderstanding comes about is that, it wasn't possible for us to take that intentional time when your organization's being told to make these changes overnight and get everyone home all of a sudden. So I think that's what we're gonna see in these next months and years is people really having the ability to take that intentionality and put that in the equation and hopefully really give it a chance.

Why GitLab Decided to Go All Remote

Siobhan: So GitLab had a little bit of a leg up in this area, in that it's a remote-first organization. And I was hoping that you could just describe a little bit about what it is that GitLab does, and why it is that they decided from the get go that they would be a remote first organization?

Betsy: Absolutely. So you're right, we've been so fortunate to have really a number of years to build on this foundation, and be intentional and iterative about how our all remote team functions.

So to take a step back GitLab, the product, is the DevOps platform, it's an amazing collaboration tool that allows teams to deliver software and work together faster and more efficiently in a single platform. And then GitLab, the company, has been remote since inception, like you mentioned.

So in the very early days of the startup, you know, as the team was starting to grow, it was very clear that they did not need to, or really want to, come into a singular office space to get their work done every day. And our CEO will tell you that back then, and along the way, there was a lot of external skepticism about how that would work once the company added more corporate teams like marketing and HR and sales. But he and our leadership team continue to do what worked best for GitLab, and today we're more than 1,300 team members across 65 countries around the globe. So it's scaled in a remarkable way and that's really due to the foundation that they set back in those early days.

So things like starting the company handbook really early which today acts as our single source of truth across the team. It's actually, just for listeners, it's something that's publicly available, it contains over 2,000 web pages. I will warn you it's a very, very large resource. But if anyone would like to check out our company handbook, you can just Google GitLab handbook.

But even still, this has been a journey. We're always iterating and making changes. And it's even for a company that's been long remote like GitLab it's not just an overnight thing that always remains the same.

Siobhan: So did you notice when they started adding on those more corporate teams a difference between the remote practices of say, all of your developers and your marketing team?

Betsy: I won't speak from first-hand experience, because I joined about three years ago. So this happened prior to my time at GitLab. But we saw just tremendous scale.

And I think that's what a lot of our remote work resources address, is that it's one thing to be able to work remotely on a small team of five developers, for example, but once you get to a bigger scale, and you do have more of those corporate teams, it just requires more of that intentional upfront effort in things like documentation and figuring out what your norms and your values are that you want to really rally the team around and continuing to codify those in something like a company handbook, so that you have this single resource that everybody can rally around and really buy into as you continue to hire people.

How Betsy Became a Remote Work Evangelist

Mike: So you brought up the handbook. And we also want to get into the remote work playbook which is a relatively fresh thing for our listeners as well. But before we get into some of the details and the processes behind it that you're starting to refer to here, I want to understand a little bit about your own personal journey here, because this wasn't necessarily your original career path to to be a remote work evangelist.

How did you find yourself in this role?

Betsy: That is a great point. So yes, when I first started at GitLab, I had been part of talent brand teams, mostly for tech companies. And so it was a cool experience to come over to GitLab because it was my first experience as part of an all remote team. I had been in an in-office environment I had, I had worked in a hybrid setting where I was one of the only remote members of my team.

So I've had lots of different sort of experiences with remote work across that spectrum. And when I started with GitLab, it seemed like such a natural progression, because much of what we do, you know, as a talent brand professional is talk about why someone would want to join a particular company. And for GitLab those reasons as a candidate even were so obvious to me. And then they played out so authentically, once I joined the team, that it just seemed like a natural progression, once I did move on to the all remote team, which is where my role sits now.

So our team is essentially responsible for helping share, GitLab's experience and remote work best practices with the world. And then we also do help to reinforce those practices inside of GitLab, too, as we grow. So that's you know, I've been at GitLab for over three years. And it's just been such a cool experience to have that perspective, from both the people side and the marketing side of remote work.

Do Companies Need a Corporate Head of Remote Work?

Mike: You mentioned a couple of things that I think serve as a good transition to start digging into how GitLab approaches remote work. But one key area, I think that we've written about a number of times at Reworked and I think some companies are thinking about it, and I know GitLab has this role is actually having a head of remote work.

You know, why would you make the case that a company needs a head of remote work at this point? Why can't we just say, hey, you know, what, HR and IT figure that out, which is what they did two years ago, and that worked out okay, didn't it?

Betsy: That is a great question, because we hear this conversation a lot. And the head of remote really just kind of sets the tone for the behavioral and cultural shifts that are required to to truly embrace remote work. And that's in any form, you know, whether you're all remote like GitLab or your remote-first, your hybrid remote, you know, whatever model of remote work you're embracing, there's a ton of behind the scenes operational work that goes into making that work smoothly. And you really do need someone who's kind of steeped in that organizational design and the operations of a successful remote organization.

So if you think about the tremendous workloads that are already on the plates of people like IT teams, and HR leaders, and all of those roles that people will sometimes suggest this should fall into, they're really unlikely to have that bandwidth on an already full plate or really the breadth of experience. So that's where we kind of encourage other companies to take stock of what their roles look like. And we would argue that it really needs to be someone's whole job.

That said, it may not be possible for someone to hire like a full-time remote leadership level role at first. And so you could start with something like a chief documentarian, for example, that somebody that helps you get sort of a handbook as sort of the foundation of your documentation. And then you could even work with a remote consulting firm to bridge the gap until you're able to hire a remote leader more full-time.

But you know, I will say Our head of remote Darren Murph really pioneered this role with GitLab, when he joined in 2019. And it's been something that I would say is crucial for any type and size of organization. And we actually have an entire guide in GitLab's broader guide to remote work that's dedicated to the head of remote role.

So again, listeners are welcome to look that up and learn about what the role entails and the job responsibilities and the career path even that you can take to get there, so you can search 'GitLab head of remote.'

Opening the Benefits of Remote Work Up to the World

Mike: Great. All right, so let's begin then because there's the new remote playbook, which we will link to in our show notes so folks can kind of see how GitLab approaches remote work. And you've actually mentioned the handbook too, which is even years of documentation around remote work.

Why the impetus to share this publicly because you know, a lot of companies will document they're internal workplace and their processes, obviously for their own benefits and efficiencies. But why share this with public? Why was it important to really take this out to the market?

Betsy: Right, so I'll set the stage a little bit, you mentioned, you know, we have GitLab's handbook, which is kind of like the overview of how GitLab itself, ticks really like the background of our culture, and you know, all of our norms, and communication practices and all of that. And then we also maintain an extensive library of guides about remote work. And so these days, there are more than 50 guides, I think, included in that library. So it's a really large resource, and we're always adding to it.

The remote playbook actually condenses all of that knowledge and those lessons into this single resource that we will produce annually based on the latest trends and what the needs are in the industry and what companies are struggling with at the time. So it acts as this blueprint for leaders and teams and remote workers to navigate this way of work. And we would argue way of life.

So it really doesn't matter what remote model you're embracing, there's something in the playbook for every type of team to benefit from. And we do this because we see the benefits and the future of remote work for the world, and for other companies and other people. and we want to see others be able to embrace that in a intentional way.

So the playbook is also free to download, and you can access it at allremote.info. And like you said, Mike, in the show notes.

How Remote Work Practices Changed Over the Last Two Years

Siobhan: So Betsy, you said that you joined GitLab three years ago, and I was wondering from your perspective, what kind of changes have you seen in how remote work practice there has changed in the last two years from your first year at GitLab?

Betsy: That is a great question. And I think the perspective when I first joined, I was learning so much about how this successful all-remote company ticks. And the foundation of it the basics, the fundamentals of how a successful remote team operates has stayed the same, largely, but I think people have had to get more creative with how they stay connected.

For a team like GitLab, we are all remote we have zero offices, but we did prior to the pandemic have regular times that we would get together in person because that time, even for an all-remote company is important for things like relationship building. And it helps you then work better when you're working asynchronously back at home or wherever you work remotely.

We really did during the pandemic, and still, miss those opportunities to get together. And so there were things like that, that required us to sort of pivot on some of the basics of remote operating like informal communication and figure out how to do that, and continue to build those relationships when we had to be virtual these past few years.

And so you know, that creativity has applied to I think every team in the world. But these days, I really think we're seeing the conversation around the return to office to focus on the where of work and less focused on what it should be, which is the how of work. And so that's what we hope with things like the playbook that were able to help teams leave those kind of old-office-first habits behind and really be able to focus on things like informal communication, working asynchronously, and upskilling your team to help them work remotely more effectively.

So we've seen a ton of change on our team and being creative about how we stay connected. And we hope to be able to continue to share that knowledge to help other teams too.

Siobhan: Can I ask from those previous in-person get-togethers, would you give companies that are still pushing for a hybrid model advice based on that, on what to use those in-person gatherings for?

Betsy: Yes, so we exclusively use those for team building and relationship building, we do not do work at those gatherings because ultimately, you know, we want to use that time as productively as possible. And for us that we know that we can get our work done when we're working remotely. But in the amount of time that we have face-to-face, we really want to be spending that time getting to know each other as humans, which we already do when we're virtual by doing things like coffee chats, and all of the different ways that we embrace informal communication.

But there's just something about that in-person time that we really want to capitalize on that and make sure that we're getting to know each other as humans and not just co-workers. So that's what I'd recommend as far as when you are gathering in person versus trying to make it a mix of work and get-to-know-you sessions but really focus in on that relationship building.

Mike: I want to come back to something you mentioned just a minute ago, Betsy around focusing on the where of work rather than the how of work and how companies really shouldn't be doing the latter.

Beyond the obvious actually where people are working. Are there signs about that you might be focusing in the wrong way in the workplace so that you're focusing on the where, and not the how, beyond obviously just being in the place.

Are there signs that you're practices have not evolved to where they should be when it comes to the how of work?

Betsy: I think the biggest sign would be if you are still trying to operate in the same way that you did in 2019. There really is no way today to copy paste, the way that any type of company operated then into the year 2022, given everything that's gone on.

And so one of the things that we really encourage people to do is, even if you are going to re-open your office or already have and you have a subset of people that either wanted to be back in the office full time didn't want to be back at all, some people that want to go on certain days and not others. And there's really no one-size-fits-all, because we're all individual people. And we all have different needs and work preferences and ways that we're most productive. And so I would say the biggest sign would be either continuing to push forward with the way that you operated in the past, not taking in all these lessons that we've learned in the last couple of years about the ways that people differ in their work preferences and styles. And then also just not listening to your people.

So if you're hearing all of these different preferences and choices, be transparent about that, let your team know that not everyone agrees, and therefore we're going to provide, you know, XYZ level of flexibility so that you can decide that on your own. So I think we're gonna see lots of different versions of that in the coming months and years.

But those are kind of the top two signs, I would say, to really dig in deeper and make sure that you're setting your organization up for success for the future.

Mike: Yeah, again, centering this in where we're at in this moment, where companies are struggling to find people to hire whatever you want to call it, the great resignation, the great reshuffle. There's people who there's this churn in the job market, people leaving jobs, and companies are struggling to bring people in to do the jobs that they need them to do.

What's the role that remote work can play here in helping companies solve that challenge of talent? You talked a little bit about geography. And I think that's maybe one approach. Can you talk a little bit about where you see remote work fitting into helping companies solve this problem they have with finding people?

Betsy: Absolutely, you know, I think there's so many benefits for individual people that remote work provides. And so I think, a lot of times, we talk very specifically about flexibility for someone's day, and that's crucially important to many job seekers and people right now.

But I also think there's a huge list of benefits to the company for the future that are less talked about things like making your team more agile, and being able to hire from a broader swath of the world. And things like that are what will actually make your team more authentically, you know, geographically diverse, and then therefore, your company better set up for the future and able to bring in diverse ideas and be more inclusive of more people across the world and open up a lot of opportunity for people all over the world.

So there's these benefits that we kind of zone in on that are very important, but there's a broader story there. And so I think companies will start to discover that if they do open their hiring funnel to a broader subset of the world and start to pull in those team members. But that's something that we've really benefited from at GitLab. And I'm so grateful, you know, personally to get to work with people that are based all over the world every day.

So it's just a cool experience, even on the individual level, but also really benefits your team as a whole.

Siobhan: Betsy, I want to ask you about something that is in the remote work playbook, because it notes at one point that some organizations are using remote work as basically a carrot now, as a short term recruitment and retention strategy, what's the danger in that approach, if the organization really isn't embracing this as a long-term path forward?

Betsy: Yeah. So what we're seeing is a lot of companies sort of digging their heels in and using the term hybrid as a band-aid of sorts, in reaction to demands for more flexibility. So they're seeing and hearing this need in the market, but the reaction is less of, okay, let's really provide this top-level experience for people, and it's more of, we want to go back to the way we were working before, but we will offer this option for a day or so a week to work remotely just to help with hiring needs.

And that's something that's just going to set both the company and the employee or candidate up for a bad experience and a mismatched experience. So you know, we really look to see that the ideal scenario here would be that hybrid remote workplaces really incorporate a lot of those remote-first principles, even if they do have an office and a set of people that go into the office every day. And that way, you're going to move forward knowing that this is not just something that you're putting on your career site. It's really something that's incorporated into your culture and into the daily workings of your organization.

Mike: So there's a lot in the remote playbook, and obviously within GitLab's handbook, that we have absolutely no time to get to today. But I'm hoping if we give you sort of three organizational levels, if you can pick out one remote work practice that you think is key, and tell us a little bit about why that is, to try to bring this to life.

So, so maybe let's start at the individual contributor level, the colleague or the teammate level, what's a remote work practice that is essential for people at that level to put in place if they're going to be successful in remote and/or hybrid work?

Betsy: So I would say for the individual contributor level, practicing a self-service mindset and learning to be a manager of one is crucial in a remote setting, you know, you are in charge of your daily priorities, your time management, you know, how you set up your work environment on a day to day basis.

And this one is a skill that's often new for first time remote workers. So that's why I call it out because I think it's a an important one to not overlook that. That may be an adjustment, but is really important for your long-term success on a remote team.

Mike: I heard you talking about, in another conversation, about working handbook-first. Does that kind of apply here? Is that what you mean, a little bit?

Betsy: Yeah. So what that would look like in practice is, for example, if I after we talk have a question about something, you know, a process about one of our benefits at GitLab, for example, I should be able to work handbook-first and have that self-service mindset to help myself find those answers, because GitLab and our team has done such a great job of documenting everything that we should need to know about how the company operates.

So my first stop should be to think, let me go look that up in the handbook and hopefully I find the answer there. If it's not there, my goal is now to find the answer and then to document it so that when someone else has that question, inevitably in the future, that information is now part of that handbook.

And so that's what we say with handbook-first, it's really encouraging people to use that single source of truth for what it's meant to be and to help us scale as we add new team members and onboard people, etc.

Siobhan: So Betsy, I want to talk about the management level now. And we're seeing more and more of the debate happening about whether remote can work or not. But recently, ex Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that the in-office work is better, because I don't know how you build great management virtually.

So I was wondering what your feelings were about if management, at the virtual remote work, is intrinsically harder, or if people are overthinking it?

Betsy: I would not say that it's necessarily harder. I think it's different in some ways. In other ways, a lot of the traits of a great manager in an office are similar traits to a great manager remotely.

But there are some additional things that the playbook actually covers in detail too, and our guides will go into even more detail, but there are things you know, like building trust and having a lot higher level of empathy that for someone in a remote management position, those things will set you up for more success, and then also carry over to your team and make your experience better for your team members.

So I would argue there's also a lot about the success of managers that is set at the leadership level, so, I know we'll get to that too, so I won't spoil that. But one of the biggest things I think, that I've seen in the news lately is, is all about managers trying to track their people and saying, well, I can't see someone sitting at their desk so how am I supposed to know that they're being productive?

And we would argue back, do not track your people? Why does it matter whether they're sitting at their desk at a certain hour and each day, if you've set goals with them upfront, and they're documented, and they're things that are measured on either a quarterly or monthly or weekly basis, if you track those results, and then let your people decide when and where and how that work gets done in whatever way works best for them, you're going to still achieve the outcomes that you want, and you're going to have a happier, more trusting team because of it.

So we've always said the only time that it should matter how many hours someone is at their desk is if you're concerned that they're working too much. And there might be an issue of burnout. So otherwise, for managers track output, not time spent.

Siobhan: So that's one thing that you're recommending that they don't do, and that they should not be closely monitoring, to build trust. But what would be a more proactive practice that managers can do to build this trust in a virtual environment?

Betsy: You know, one of the things is to have regular touchpoints with your team. So I think that's something that people ask about, is do you recommend one-on-ones on a certain cadence? And just because you are remote doesn't mean that you have no connection to your team?

So we do recommend managers to have that video so that you have the facial reactions and can see someone's face. Video one-on-one connections either or weekly or whatever frequent cadence works best for that team member and where they are in their career.

And not only does that help build trust between the manager and the team member, just because you're using that time to get to know each other and understand each other as people, but it also gives you time to run through, you know, an agenda of things, that person might need your help unblocking, because that's really what a manager's role should be in a remote setting, is unblocking that person so that they can run with their goals, it should not be the micromanaging and trying to check in on every detail of exactly what they're accomplishing in each day.

So those one-on-ones and staying connected are a great place to start.

Mike: If we  can bring it up to the leadership level, the executive level, and I think you've probably addressed this in a number of places already in this conversation, but if there's one practice that you want to crystallize in people's heads, as far as leaders and how they operate in remote work, what would it be?

Betsy: Leadership sets the tone for everything else. So leaders need to be able to be the ones to build a culture of trust and transparency. And I think we see transparency thrown around as a buzzword a lot. It's actually one of GitLabs, six core values. And so we are very intense about how we hold ourselves to those values internally, because they're so important to how we function.

But having your leadership actually model that type of transparency, and even allowing other people to hold them accountable, when that doesn't happen, is something that will set the tone for the entire company and every other aspect of your remote or hybrid or remote-first team and help them thrive or not.

But it also enables managers to see an example of how to operate in this way and continue to function that way, so that it really does filter all the way through your organization.

Siobhan: So then, I'm wondering if there are certain people certain personality types, either as individual contributors or managers or even leaders, obviously, we're hearing from ex-CEOs of Google, who just are not meant to be working remotely? Is that possible? Are there people who just really do not function well in this setting?

Betsy: You know, there may be people that don't thrive in this type of setting that embraces total transparency, and really aims to like enable people instead of being the one to kind of take the credit and be the face and do all of those things.

So I would say it does, because it requires a high level of self-awareness and empathy and the kind of servant leader qualities, there may be people who just simply don't prefer that way of working.

So I, on one hand, think that a lot of those things can be learned. And then in other ways, if you're not interested in that type of work, it could just not be the right fit for you.

But there's also a ton of investment that I think needs to happen from the leadership and manager level in how to upskill your management team to work remotely. So having trainings and things like that, to be able to teach your managers here's how to really thrive with your team remotes can go a long way in sort of helping someone that may have a more traditional mindset, make that leap if they're willing to do it.

Underrated/Overrated With Betsy Bula

Mike: This has been a lot of fun so far. But as we like to do with this podcast, we do a little segment we call the underrated/overrated, where we'll throw a few topics at you, you can give us a quick answer whether you think it's underrated or overrated. A little bit explanation, feel free to kind of give that to us as well.

Are you willing to play along with us, Betsy?

Betsy: I love it. Let's do it.

Mike: Alright, I'm gonna start off with a work related one. And we're going to talk about hybrid working. So as we've said, a lot of companies are kind of moving to this hybrid work model as a character sort of keep people attracted and retained, and one of the common ones is you work three days in the office two days at home in your typical work week.

Do you feel like that hybrid working model is overrated or underrated?

Betsy: Oh, I have to say overrated, because it limits the full benefits of remote work. So for both the employee and the company, when you require those days in the office, it's preventing people from being able to do things like relocate to another location for better quality of life or whatever the reason, maybe it prevents the company from broadening that recruiting scope.

So I would say overrated there. I will also caveat that there are ways to avoid these pitfalls of hybrid work and those ways are outlined in the playbook. So definitely check that out.

Siobhan: Okay, Betsy, underrated or overrated, directly transferring workplace practices in office workplace practices to the remote setting, underrated or overrated?

Betsy: Very overrated. There's really no way to copy paste the kind of rules of the road for in-office work to a remote setting and you you don't want to try, and there's no reason to try, because there are resources out there now and there are so many new tools for remote teams. There's so many ways that you can really do this right. It just takes that intentionality.

Mike: Alright, completely off of the work topic here but I know you're a college basketball fan. And we won't necessarily bring up your bias yet, but I'm sure it'll come out in the course of answering this question.

So, I want to ask you about whether you feel like Coach Mike Krzyzewski, the longtime, recently retired coach of Duke University's men's basketball team, is an underrated or overrated coach?

Betsy: Oooh, all right. I have to say overrated, because go Heels. I will reveal my bias.

Mike: And we knew that was coming. I knew it was coming at least.

Betsy: Yes, absolutely. No doubt there. But I will also congratulate him on an epic career. I don't think that can be argued with. But I'm just thrilled that the way that that epic career round it out was the Heels beating them.

Mike: It caps it off. 

Betsy: Always some friendly competition.

Siobhan: I think you set her up there, Mike, but ...

Mike: I'm actually going to send a link to the podcast to Coach K.

Betsy: Hey, I'm glad I added in the congratulations.

Siobhan: Alright, Betsy, I think this might be another loaded question. But underrated or overrated, dogs as co-workers.

Betsy: Oh, underrated. Although I hope people already know that they're wonderful coworkers, know there's so many benefits here. I think I say this as my dog is literally napping on my feet under my desk. Dogs not only just give you a lot of levity in your day, I would say this about any pets, I won't, you know, say that cats would couldn't do the same thing.

But there's so much to be said for having something that encourages you to take breaks every now and then and get up and move around your house or wherever you work remotely. It forces me to get outside and take walks and be outside and fresh air and just all practices that are very good for any type of work routine, and really forces you to have a routine, you know, you have to feed the dog and let the dog out at certain intervals and things like that. So it has been a wonderful thing. I do not recommend getting a seven-week old puppy the week that you onboard into a new job the way that I did when I started. It's difficult to potty train and onboard at the same time. Otherwise, great decision.

Siobhan: That also was a very diplomatic answer. So I will not forward the podcast to all the cats in my network.

Betsy: They're equally great. They just don't typically go on walks with you. So that's where they fall down.

What's Next for Remote Work

Mike: Alright, well, thank you for playing along with us. As we look ahead to closing out this conversation, I want to turn our focus a little bit to what's next for remote work. So we talked about how we're kind of in this transition phase of people's approach to work, we also actually have talked a lot about the practices that GitLab has collected and others can learn from.

But as you're looking at the way some companies are approaching this next phase, where they're trying to build flexibility and take some of that freedom that they've come to enjoy or provide to employees from the remote work practices. As you're looking at, broadly speaking, how they're approaching it, do you think they're going to be successful? Why or why not?

Betsy: So we touched on this a little bit. But I think the bottom line is really we're not going back to the way things operated in 2019. So even the companies who have returned to the office and are trying to still lean on those office first practices and norms, they're going to start to lose people because people have other opportunities.

Now, you know, even for a company like GitLab, we have to stay on top of our game, because there are other all-remote companies. Now we can't just say, Hey, we're all remote. So come join us, we have to really explain what we offer to someone as an excellent employee experience and why that is and then also provide that experience once someone's actually on board. So I think, you know, the companies that are really being intentional about balancing the needs of their employees, and those are going to be varying needs, like we mentioned, and offering that to them in whatever way works best for that company, they're going to be the ones that are successful and able to continue to attract and retain the best talent as we go forward.

So again, it all comes down to making the right organizational changes and applying those remote first principles to remove the office as a crutch. So hopefully, that's what people can gain by downloading the remote playbook. And you know, ultimately, the other thing is, it's important to remember that any route that you're going to take here is going to be a transition, it's going to be change and change is hard on people. And so you know, recognizing that as a journey and something that's going to have iterations and bumps in the road and being transparent about that with your team will also help set you up for success.

Overcoming the Remote Work Skeptics

Siobhan: So if you met a remote work skeptic today, what would be the strongest pitch that you could make to them to convince them?

Betsy: I could make a company level pitch if it was somebody that was interested in the leadership side of things and why their company I should benefit from this. But I also think that on the personal level, it's even, it's harder to argue with those with those examples. And I think most people have seen an example of that in their own lives in this past couple of years, whether or not it was, you know, a perfectly normal remote experience aside, it still showed them benefits that they can get out of incorporating remote work into their lives.

The one thing I would share with someone today is actually a personal anecdote or story. I am expecting my first child this summer, and these last couple of months, being able to work remotely has been so game changing for me because I've been able to still have a very successful experience working for a great company and have not, you know, missed anything in terms of work, while also going through what can sometimes be a very challenging chapter and a very exciting one.

And so I haven't had to sacrifice either of those things and can have them simultaneously. And that, to me is such a perfect example of how remote work really opens doors, you know, even in just kind of the daily lives of just regular human beings. So that's probably the argument I would use is think about the ways that your life could meld together more effectively and in a way that gives you more time for the things that matter to you. And that hopefully is something that remote work can provide.

Mike: Well, first of all, congratulations on that news. I'm assuming we're not breaking it to the world. Yes, but 

Betsy: No, in fact I actually wrote a blog post last week on my LinkedIn about all these benefits I've seen as an expectant parent working remotely. So definitely check that out as well. I would love to continue that conversation too.

Mike: Good. Good. Because I didn't want to have to send the podcast to Coach K and to your family.

Betsy: No, no. Well, we'll spare you that one.

Mike: So as you're looking ahead, beyond thinking about that big news in your personal life, the long term trends that you're watching for how they could shape the future of work and its effect on remote work, what are the things that you're watching that you want to keep an eye on? To see whether that means you have to adjust practice, or your sort of companies should adjust as they're looking ahead to making the most out of what remote work can offer?

Betsy: Yeah, so this is another thing the playbook actually touches on a bit is that we're starting to see these emerging trends we're excited to keep tabs on and an overarching theme is really that less focus on the wearer and more focus on the house. So I'm excited to see that play out in the coming year and hopeful that we will be able to continue to outline ways that companies can actually achieve that. And that playbook is an excellent place to start.

We also we have predictions about things like cities and towns being reinvigorated by people having more choice and where they live and how much time they have to commit to their communities. I think we're going to see businesses continue to be more agile as they're even if they're going back into the office, they're hopefully establishing some of these more long term practices that will prepare them for future crises that we hope will never happen, but we want to be prepared for in the future.

And then I think we're also going to see a lot of remote first practices reach more industries that we didn't expect before, which will be fascinating to watch how that kind of morphs them. And it's going to likely require remote leadership roles to continue to expand because of that, just needing that expertise in what's a more traditional industry. So there's so much more definitely check out the playbook for more of those predictions. But we're just really honored to get to be part of these transformations and hope that we can help people truly embrace this way of living.

Siobhan: So Betsy, thank you so much for joining us today. And I want to add my congratulations, too. My microphone was on mute earlier but that really was probably one of the most compelling personal anecdotes of why remote work works that I've heard in a while. So thank you for sharing.

Betsy: I'm so glad and I appreciate y'all having me. It's such a fun conversation. And I could I could do this all day.

Siobhan: We might take you up on that. We're gonna link to the remote work playbook and some of the other resources that you mentioned. But if people want to find you and follow you online, where is the best place for them to do that?

Betsy: Sure. So you can find me on Twitter at Betsy Bula and then also on LinkedIn under Betsy Bula, like I said, I'm always excited to have conversations with people and hope that we can add more perspectives to things like I mentioned the blog posts about expectant parents. So please do check out those and also follow GitLab on Twitter. We are always sharing the resources and hope that we can have other people contribute to those as well because that's really our mission is that everyone can

Siobhan: Awesome. Thank you so much, Betsy.

Betsy: Thank you.

Wrap Up and Final Thoughts

Siobhan: So Mike, I loved that conversation. But on a sort of higher level, what I love is that this company, who at the end of the day is providing software for other companies has taken it upon itself to also become the evangelist for remote working. So it's basically creating an extra lane for itself to operate in.

Mike: Yeah, it's really kind of a smart business decision in a way because, and Betsy mentioned it towards the end of the conversation, that really just offering remote work isn't enough of a differentiator. If GitLab can show that they are really serious about this and continue to evolve this practice and share this with the world, then it really does become one of those ways that they stand out from their competition and can bring in those people who are really serious about this is what we want in our lifestyle. And we want to find a company that we can be with for the long term.

Siobhan: And I think that Betsy a made a very compelling case for why they do, but even if somebody was still skeptical about how serious they were the 1000s and 1000s of pages of documentation they've created on this topic would probably convince most.

Mike: Yeah, absolutely. And we're an all remote company as well. So there's probably lots that we can dig in there and find out as well, so I'm eager to dig into those 1000s of pages as well. So alright, Siobhan, great to talk to you again.

Siobhan: As always, Mike.

Mike: We encourage you to drop us a line at [email protected]. If you have a suggestion or a topic for a future conversation, we are all ears. Additionally, if you like what you hear, please post a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you may be listening. And be sure to share Get Reworked with anyone that you think might benefit from these types of conversations. And then finally, be sure to follow us at Get Reworked on Twitter as well.

Thank you again for exploring the revolution of work with us and we'll see you next time.

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