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The Remote Show

Show Notes:

Job's links:




Remote Company Website

About Page for Job on Remote dot com

Darren Murph, Head of Remote at GitLab




GitLab Company Website

 Darren Murph's README

Wait But Why's "The Tail End"


Tyler Sellhorn (00:02):
Hello everyone. My name is Tyler Sellhorn and welcome to another episode of The Remote Show, where we discuss everything to do with remote work, with the people who know it best. Thanks so much for listening. The Remote Show is brought to you by We Work Remotely, the largest community of remote workers in the world. With over 220,000 unique users per month, We Work Remotely is the most effective way to hire today. We are blessed to be learning out loud again with Job Van de Voort and Darren Murph. Job is the CEO of Remote. Remote empowers companies of all sizes to pay and manage full-time and contract workers around the world. They take care of international payroll, benefits, taxes, stock options, and compliance in dozens of countries. Darren is the head of Remote at GitLab. Darren is a visionary in organizational design and he spent his career shaping remote teams and chartered remote transformations. He also advises and invests in global startups and serves as a remote work transformation consultant.
Tyler Sellhorn (00:57):
First of all, I just want to say thank you to you Job and Darren, for the ways that you've been a part of the remote work movement from the beginning and for the ways that you've helped lead our world during this time of crisis. And just to start off the podcast, I just wanted to invite you both to do my favorite question here recently has been to ask those 2019 remoters of which you are both. Count yourselves in that club. Give us the through-line or give us the compare and contrast of those different time periods of remote work, where we've got 2019 and before, and then during the pandemic that we're still in the midst of here in 2021, and then give us the vision forward of 2022 and beyond.
Job van de Voort (01:39):
I'll start Tyler. I mean, everybody has experiences. My experience hasn't been that different. I think I just saw a little bit more than most, which is before the pandemic started, remote working was an exception. Many people call it teleworking or like, and it's something that you do temporarily. And it was always not full work. You did a bit of work to to the side maybe, or maybe only a particular part of your work or another full fledged member of the workforce if you were working remotely. And there were exceptions to that, but those exceptions were made mostly freelancers. They were also, again not real full-time workers. Remote work was not work. I think it was maybe a sort of work, a sub segment of work. And then I actually think there's some pump that has happened already between then the start of the epidemic.
Job van de Voort (02:28):
And now, which is we are forced to work remotely and we were forced to make a change. And we all went into a mode of well, we're forced to work from home, but we're waiting for this to be over. So we can start going back to the office where massive cognitive dissonance, because of all the money we put into offices and living in particular places, of course. But in that period of time, we all realized, oh, well we have to, we have no choice, but in a bit, this will all be over when we are vaccinated, we're going to go back to the office. Then when's the dynamic was like 6, 8, 9 months in. We started to realize, well, one, we said, 'Hey, I this works.' This remote work. We can actually do our work like this. And two, it gives us a lot of freedoms.
Job van de Voort (03:11):
And if I'm not going to be forced to go back into the office, maybe I don't want that anymore. And I think right now today, which is August we're in a point where, okay, most people never want to go back to the office. If at all, it would be an optional thing. I heard about a company where it was written about wildly that everybody wants to go back to the office. But then if you actually asked the people there, it's just the majority of people said that at most they would go one day a week to the office. So that is exactly the state in which we are now where we're realizing well we don't have to. And then when that comes, what I think leads into the next stage, we realize we can work remotely. That brings additional freedoms. And now it is up to us to capture those freedoms.
Job van de Voort (03:55):
Previously, we were in a situation where the worlds and your freedoms were mostly besides the country, which you live in, but it was mostly determined by your employer and your ability to get a particular job. So if you want to live in a particular area, you have to look for a job there. Or if you want to do a particular profession, you have to move to a particular place. If you want to earn enough money or do that profession at all. And that concept that determined the entire freedoms is now gone. And now the power, or one of the major decision criteria and one of these freedoms lies with the individual that says not, 'I'm going to move to a place because I want to work for a company' but that says, 'I want to move to a place because that's where I want to live or that gives me the lifestyle that I want to lead.'
Job van de Voort (04:42):
And then I will be able to find a job because it doesn't really matter anymore where I am to do a great job having that is what is happening next. And that's completely reshuffles almost all of life. Everything that we considered normal two years ago is gone the necessity to commute, for example. It all still exists, but it will be so much smaller than it was before the necessity to live in a particular place, the inability to live in a remote places. To overuse the word, all of those things are now so different. And it suddenly becomes so much more accessible, like living far away. And I think that is what this is leading up to and the magnitude of it, I think previously it was a niche thing. It just now becomes a normal thing, jobs where you have to be in an office full-time, they'll be the exception, not the rule anymore.
Tyler Sellhorn (05:34):
I'm so glad you gave me an opening for the dad, joke that I'd been saving up. This is the Remote Show brought to you by We Work Remotely talking to the CEO of Remote and the Head of Remote at GitLab. This very matter and we're also talking about working remotely and the knock on effects of what that can achieve for our world. Darren, tell us your thoughts. Give us that line by line of pre-2019 right now. And then in the future.
Darren Murph (06:05):
With few exceptions, remote was allowed pre COVID and now we're moving into an era where it will be supported. And there's a huge difference in experience when something is allowed versus supported. I would also say optimization comes to mind pre-COVID, very few companies optimized for remote. So if you work remotely, you did it as a bolt on to the co-located culture. It was not optimized in any way, shape or form for the people who did not come to a physical headquarters. Now we are in this process of rapid optimization. There are a lot of companies that recognize this was the sea change moment. They have spent the past year and a half rapidly adapting and building what I call remote muscle and remote fluency rapidly optimizing for a future that will look very different. In the years ahead, the optimizations I think are going to blow us all away.
Darren Murph (07:05):
There will be tools and technologies workflows that were purpose built for this new world instead of adapting old tools or using common tools in uncommon ways. And yoke really pointed on something that I want to harp on, which is this fundamentally changes the relationship between work and life. And there are a lot of companies who are still to some degree bearing their heads in the sand and acting like they don't have to change.
Darren Murph (07:32):
This is a fundamental re-architecting of how work is done. But beyond that, it's a re-architecting on how people expect their lives to be controlled or dictated by the employer. Institutional power is not easily relinquished, but neither are individual freedoms. And after going on two years of this, for a lot of people having access to more freedom and flexibility, it's going to be very difficult for companies to claw that back.
Darren Murph (08:00):
And I think even companies have realized there's really no need to do that. There's a lot of perks on the employer side as well. I think a lot of the global narrative focuses on the individual, but it makes sense for employers as well. I'm excited to see what the future looks like when people recapture that time. People who have heard my story know that I'm an adoptive dad and being an adoptive parent or a foster parent becomes a lot easier and more practical when you have the spoils of a remote job and you have that additional flexibility, the orphan crisis is something very near and dear to my heart. This is just one example that if you give tens of millions of people, hours of their week back and they choose to repurpose that to make an impact on something like this, humanity can solve a lot of things that are ailing us right now, just with recapture time.
Tyler Sellhorn (08:49):
Yeah. Darren, you went ahead and underscored some things that Job said. I'm going to say some things back to you, all that you all have just outlined for us. There's going to be some cognitive dissonance for us as we are considering a return to the office, there is going to be some diamond strings, some norming and storming as they say in my previous life as a school teacher. I've been quoting you for a very long time Darren, that remote is a forcing function.
Tyler Sellhorn (09:20):
And there's no going back to a world in which people have not worked remotely. That's already happened and the opportunity to reclaim the time and to reclaim the freedom. Those are some things that you were saying there. Wow. Yes, please. More of that. Ma'am and sir. Okay. So one of the things that I want to make sure that we circle back to, we said right off the top, that Job is the CEO of Remote.
Tyler Sellhorn (09:46):
And Darren is the head of Remote at one of the largest remote first organizations. Obviously today, they're not necessarily that because of all of the other organizations that are also operating remotely, but I'm thinking of that 2019 epoch, I'm curious, what was it about working, because a little bit behind the curtain. I didn't mention this in the intro, but Job worked at GitLab before he founded Remote. I'm curious, what is it about the experience of GitLab working remotely in 2019 and previous to that basically prompted you to build this other thing? maybe the question is better asked what are the problems that Remote is solving Job?
Job van de Voort (10:31):
So I joined GitLab basically when it was founded that then I left in January, 2019 and we never really had an office. Not really. We just never had one and we were very pragmatic about it. So we were like, 'Well, if we need to get an office, we'll get an office.' But we never felt the need. And what we found was the opposite is that there's so incredibly many advantages to not having offices and working as a fully distributed company. That's very obvious. The one thing that wasn't obvious and the one thing that I felt wasn't something like video communication or collaboration tools. So we built our own collaboration tool, GitLab of course, and video tools they were at first, not very great, but they quickly became better and better while we were building GitLab to the point that there are great or at least good enough.
Job van de Voort (11:14):
I realized that one, there was this massive advantage to building a company fully, remotely and fully distributed. I always believed in the power of talent anywhere and having no relationship to where you are bored. And we really saw this at GitLab. So it was very obvious to me that most companies would operate in the same way in the future because it was all upsides and almost no downsides. The one thing that was not solved. And besides what we do as a company, as a global problem, isn't necessarily solved is, well, I want to hire someone in a different country. How do I pay them? And how do I make sure that everybody is aligned. And everybody aligned, meaning one, I can actually pay them. I can send my money to their location too. Meaning it's legal, it's compliance. No one is going to get sued for this.
Job van de Voort (12:01):
Everybody can pay the taxes as they should, but also everybody gets their benefits because depending on where you live in the world, one you're entitled, to have statutory benefits, you're entitled to particular benefits. But two, you might really, really need them for whatever reason. That's typically, health insurance, for example. This was basically an unsolved problem and GitLab was a pain to figure this out for each new country in which we would hire someone. I started to Remote specifically the salt, this believing that if we would solve what I believe is the hardest problem in building distributed companies, then more companies could work that way and that's why.
Tyler Sellhorn (12:39):
Well, I, as someone who has experienced the compliance and payment headaches of cross border employment, I'm grateful for the work that you and others are doing to make that with less headaches as you guys describe. So Darren, as head of Remote at GitLab, tell us some more about that thing that happens when we say work is no longer a place, work is no longer a place work is something that we are doing.
Tyler Sellhorn (13:12):
What does that force us to think about as employers? There is that 'Okay? Well, you don't have to come to an office.' The GitLab folks there at the beginning said, 'Well, we all know, offices is great. This is lots of upsides, not much downside.' Okay. So tell us, what are those things? What are those upsides? What are those things that aren't there as downsides? Give us some high level there. Why we should do that?
Darren Murph (13:39):
Yes. I'll start with the first question, which is essentially, it's a chief architect. You think about a co-located company. Everything is intentionally designed. The lobby is designed so that people hang out together. The actual water cooler area is designed for people to hang out together. Conference rooms are very intentionally designed. Security is very intentionally designed. You have to do the same thing in a remote company.
Darren Murph (14:04):
It doesn't seem like there's infrastructure there. You just say, 'Hey, everyone, go home and keep doing what you're doing.' And that's passable. A lot of companies have figured out that it is passable during COVID, but for it to be a key component of what you offer employees, you need to put that same level of rigor and intentionality. People ask me all the time, what does a head of Remote do? And why are all of these other companies hiring senior leaders in the remote space?
Darren Murph (14:33):
And at its core. You really have to pressure test all of your workflows, and your values, and your culture and ask yourself, do these work without a physical HQ, are they location agnostic? And if you start going down the list and you find that some of these things either don't work remotely or don't work optimally outside of the office, that's an opportunity for improvement. You build your own list of transformation based on how many of those still require the office. And we're at a place where most things, for knowledge based companies and digital companies can actually be done outside of the office. Now, of course, I will say, if you're in the automotive garage business and people need their oil changed so far, that still requires people onsite to do it, not to say that we might not move to a different model in the future, but that just gives you a glimpse of what's required.
Darren Murph (15:26):
And I think a lot of companies may be underestimate the amount of change, especially if you were built in a co-located fashion. If culture was built on co-located norms, if workflows were built on co-located norms, there was a lot of unlearning, a lot of undoing and a lot of rebuilding it's difficult and you need people involved. You need people to be tailwinds and not headwinds.
Darren Murph (15:50):
And I've often joked that this person is the chief visionary, the chief storytelling officer. If you just enact a lot of new policies on this is the new way we're doing things. This is the remote way. That feels like a mandate. If you paint a picture on how people can live their lives differently and enjoy the benefits of building something different than that feels more like purpose.
Tyler Sellhorn (16:14):
Okay. I just want to say this moment right now that we're living through together has called for the leadership that you both have been demonstrating to the world that, Hey, this can be done and it can be done well. And that here's how to do it. I know that for myself. We work remotely was a primary place that I came to find out about remote work and learn how to do remote work. But it was also the GitLab handbook. Obviously I'm now am a podcaster for The Remote Show. So I'm very much so a remote nerd, but that is available to anyone we live in the information age. And maybe that's the question that I want to ask to start with you, Darren, what are you finding as you are advising the world of work the world generally, what are you finding as the common themes that people really aren't understanding yet, or that, 'Oh God, I said this and people are clicking with it and it's working effectively.' What are the things that we need to get better at? What are the things that we're already doing well?
Darren Murph (17:21):
In terms of what we need to get better at, we need to get better about not romanticizing the past. You'll oftentimes find people that say, 'I missed this about the office, or I look forward to going back to this' without the acknowledgement that this no longer and will never exist again. Even if you remember a small time capsule of a moment in the office, even if you go back, those people you remembering, not all of will, it has forever changed and that's a lot to grapple with. And we oftentimes romanticize that, but we forget the grueling hours of commute to get to that one little nugget that sticks out in our brain. And I think that the pandemic has a lot to do with that. It makes us reminisce fondly about the past and forget about all of the things that weren't so awesome about co-located work.
Darren Murph (18:15):
So that's step one, is realizing that we're moving onto a new future. And step two is, looking at it through a lens of opportunity instead of scarcity. So instead of saying, 'Well, we can't do this because of the office.' Look at the opportunity to do things differently. More efficiently, more effectively and Remote is a classic example of this companies are able to scale up much more quickly and hire the best person for the job and deal with cross border hiring headaches so much more seamlessly and effortlessly. You look at a tool like Yac, custom built to enable asynchronous voice conversations and provide a way out of Zoom fatigue and a different way of thinking.
Darren Murph (18:54):
But change is hard. People don't like to change. Humans have lived for a really long time and there's a long trail of history to prove this. I do have sympathy and empathy for those who are going through change and they're romanticizing about the past, unless you've seen what the benefits truly can be. It could be difficult to get behind. And the pandemic has limited the true remote benefits. People have lost the commute and they see the benefit of that. But there are a lot of benefits to intentionally design remote work that much of the world has not yet seen. And I do think they will see that as we get further through this, but they haven't seen it yet.
Tyler Sellhorn (19:32):
Job, what do we need to do better? What have we done well already?
Job van de Voort (19:35):
I think and this goes in line with what Darren was saying, I think the most important thing to realize is that we're basically starting from scratch, redesigning what it means to work. We need to get better at forgetting what it was like, this goes in line with Darren, sort of romanticizing the past, but also let's not try to recreate what we have because if you're not together in an office you're not together in an office. It's literally not the same thing. It's a very different way of working. And then after that, all the other, I think, nice and interesting variables of, for example, having people in multiple time zones, having people that speak multiple languages, you can think about things very differently.
Job van de Voort (20:19):
We're getting okay with figuring out, barely making it work. I think that's basically where we are. It's just we're figuring out that there maybe, not having meetings all the time that everybody agrees on like, 'Yes, we should not have meetings all the time.'
Job van de Voort (20:36):
Everybody hates to have meetings all the time. I think we're not very good at not having meetings all the time yet. So asynchronous communication and tools like Yac, of course there was like Loom and many others. They are very useful in that. Just learning how to communicate without it becoming an exercise in frustration is one very important step. And also just being comfortable with the fact that it's different and different in all the ways. For example, if you listen to people talking about the office and the romanticized idea of the office, which is always 'Well, we are all together, always collaborating and brainstorming and everything we do is a creative brainstorm that we do together and then and it all happened magically at the coffee machine.'
Job van de Voort (21:17):
Now, I'm certain there's been moments like that, that yes happened at the office. And yes can maybe be hard to replicate in a remote environment because you do not have the coffee machine and there is not the whiteboard, but the majority of your time in the office, you also spend by yourself working and doing that is significantly better, more efficient when you're at home or wherever you want. It can literally shut up everything around you. And it's even better when you realize that you can do this whenever you want, instead of between 9:00 to 5:00 or 9:00 to 7:00, depending on the country you live in. So let's embrace that. We have to get much better at embracing the good parts of remote work and much better for forgetting what is bad. The more we do that, the more happy we will all be. Work will start to feel like a facet of your life and no longer, the other way around.
Job van de Voort (22:13):
It can really be like that. And I have many days, most of my days are like that. Where I feel I wake up, I have breakfast with my kids and my wife. I take them to school. I work out, I do some work. I have lunch. Maybe I go do groceries. I do some work. Then I have dinner with my kids. Then I have a... I spend some time with my wife and then I go to bed. Now in all of this, what I was saying, I just mentioned work twice actually.
Job van de Voort (22:40):
It doesn't make up the majority of my time in the day, maybe about half in total hours spent, but nonetheless, it's a facet of my life. And it's not that I've worked and then life happens around it. the more we embrace the advantages of remote work, the more we can have this life where it is freedom and you can do it however you want. You can work in one block. That's the beauty of it. That's the nice thing of it. But to do that, we have to embrace all of it because when are not communicating asynchronously, if we're not effectively communicating, if we're not accepting the fact that, well, it is not very effective to be in meetings all day, then it's never going to work.
Tyler Sellhorn (23:18):
Dear listener, don't miss what Job and Darren just said, don't miss it. They are talking about not just how we're working. But how we are choosing to live. And that's been a fundamental question of all humanity forever. How shall we live? And the fact that we're inviting our working lives into that philosophical conversation is a fundamental reshaping. And we're be going all the way back to the beginning of our conversation. It is a fundamental change to the way we are going to go about our lives, where we are living, when we are working, where we're working. It's changing. We're saying, okay, maybe 2019 remote was a location, independent way of working. And it warms the cockles of my heart to have you both say Yac out loud in this conversation. But yes, asynchronous communication tools are the future of us, not just being location independent, but time independent as well as we work together.
Tyler Sellhorn (24:26):
Okay. So I want to close with this question here for you and introducing it for myself in my favorite way of thinking about it. But when you describe remote work, what is your favorite story or what is your favorite metaphor for what remote working can be represented? As for me, I believe that some of the very first effective remote workers were Naval captains, and their crew. We're looking at each other in home offices right now in the background of my video is a bunch of nautical theme, tchotchkes and whatnot. And I really do believe that asynchronous communication, clear scope of work, navigating by your surroundings, and learning as you go, what is going to be accomplished. Those are all things that are really, really important for us to think about. And there's routines to the life on board ship. Tell us what, what are your examples? What is your metaphor that makes it true for you? Or maybe as you explain it to others, what's your metaphor for remote work?
Darren Murph (25:28):
I'll start with that one. For us, it comes down to deconstructing. The notion that remote and co-located are fundamentally two different tracks GitLab is all remote. We have to do the things that we do with much more rigor and intentionality and much earlier in the stage of the company, but it is basic great business fundamentals. All of the things that you just mentioned, empowering people to bring their whole selves to work, communicating and working at a time that best suits their peak productivity, hiring people in a vast array of time zones, so that you're more resilient and that you have a broader swath of coverage. Equalizing and creating equitability on how people can contribute to work. All of these things I just mentioned have very little to do with remote other than the fact that they are a must have in a remote setting and fairly optional in a co-located setting.
Darren Murph (26:28):
And I've had a lot of luck getting through to people by framing it in that way. These are things that you and your business should be doing anyway, even if 100% of the people go back to the office by choice after COVID. And so I look at the early remote work pioneers who architected this and think they just had a really good, unique grasp on how to run a really cohesive business with minimal dysfunction and maximum inclusivity.
Darren Murph (26:55):
I like to go at it that way because it removes the us versus them type of mantra. And it gets us all on the same page. We all have this amazing opportunity, this global permission slip to do things differently. And although different companies will fall in different places across the spectrum of remote, we're all still rowing in the same direction. And the more that we can recognize that the more successful have more quickly.
Tyler Sellhorn (27:21):
Job van de Voort (27:22):
Yeah, I think this might not answer your question directly, but the one thing I think about with remote work is freedom, which is what I alluded to before as well. And that goes really, really far, because as you mentioned, both of you. Remote work is such a great forcing function for some good behaviors. One of them, for example, being that a remote organization in which you give far greater ownership to individuals, and far greater independence to individuals will thrive more than any other organization. And so we have this great moment in which we essentially are given the ability to massively adopt freedoms that we previously didn't have. This is not just about location. It's also about great organizations will give more freedoms to the people working there and get rid of the traditional notion of work being work. That it's something that your boss tells you what to do or something that is keeping you busy.
Job van de Voort (28:21):
That is what drives me at least to do all of this. Its freedom from location, but it's also freedom from having a job that is not good. If you're given greater freedoms, you'll perform better. You'll enjoy your job more because if given freedom, then of course, you're going to search for things in your life, you're going to search for challenge. You're going to search to do something better. And then of course the nice thing about this is that, it's a freedom, not restricted to people living in metropolis, it's a freedom for everyone. As long as you have internet access, which slowly is becoming ubiquitous, literally ubiquitous. So I think that is the thing I think that drives me. And that is what I like to think about. When I think about what is this big change going to bring to us?
Job van de Voort (29:06):
How can you inspire people to say, 'Well, we should change our ways' is to think about giving people freedom, because that's ultimately what we want. Previously, we worked for money and the money was to pay the rent, but that it was all very restricted in what we could do with it and where we could use that money. And now we've been given all these freedoms to really live a life that we want to live. And I don't know. I think that is the most amazing aspect of all of this. And that is what I like to think about that is what I'd like to focus on. I love that.
Tyler Sellhorn (29:41):
Outstanding. I'm hearing you say, 'Do it on purpose.' I'm hearing you say, 'Do it with freedom.' Darren close us out.
Darren Murph (29:49):
Yeah. I just wanted to give one shout out to an article that interestingly recaps a lot of what Job said. If you search for the tail end on a site Wait But Why this article is five or six years old now, but it really just looks at how you can frame the human life. You can put every weekend of the average human life in tally marks on the back in front of one sheet of paper, even at the absolute optimal, that's all you've got.
Darren Murph (30:15):
And when you really look at that one sheet of paper and you think, 'Wow, if I only have the weekends to look forward to at best, it really reframes the intersection between work and life.' And what Job was saying is when you inject freedoms so that you don't have to wait for just two days a week to be able to live or architect a life that is meaningful to you and your family and your community. And in fact, your employer, you think about things completely differently. We are going, we as a society are going to take vastly different actions going forward than we did before. Just because the restrictions are lowered.
Tyler Sellhorn (30:51):
Well, I can't do better than that to close it out. So thank you, Job. Thank you, Darren. It's been our pleasure to be learning out loud with you today.
Job van de Voort (30:58):
Thanks Tyler.
Darren Murph (30:59):
Thanks Tyler.
Tyler Sellhorn (31:02):
Thanks so much again for listening to the show, be sure to check out weworkremotely.com for the latest remote jobs. And if you're looking to hire a remote worker, We Work Remotely is the fastest and easiest way to do so as always. If you have someone we should talk to any advice you have, or if you'd like to advertise on the podcast, please reach out to us at podcast@weworkremotely.com that's podcast@weworkremotely.com. Thanks so much for listening and we'll talk to you next time. 

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