Long before the pandemic, one firm was already entrenched in remote-working. Here are its deep insights on turning ‘remote-work’ into ‘remote-lifestyle’.

Having the flexibility to work from home used to be a special privilege. Now it is a mandate by law, or at least a necessary part of many office work arrangements.

According to GitLab, which claims to be one of the world’s largest all-remote companies, distributed workforces will not be viewed as a perk as much as a lifestyle requirement in the current pandemic.

Said Darren Murph, Head of Remote at the firm: “Throughout modern history, we have fit life around the rigid confines of work. When remote work is embraced as a competitive strategy, work complements life with greater harmony. More businesses are recognizing this reality and thinking differently about the decoupling of geography and results.”

Here are some research findings and dreamy conclusions that GitLab’s research offers for consideration when organizations restructure their workplace and refine their distributed workforce:

  • Remote is not the future of work; it is the future of living
    The part of the workforce that grew into remote-working positively and managed to optimize their lives to spend more time with their family or community have appreciated the flexibility to fit work into their life schedule instead of vice versa.

    One third have prioritized the outdoors or exercise and health. Some 26% are starting to succeed in streamlining their schedules to reclaim more time in their week days. This sheds light on a nuanced reality: Remote work is more about the future of living than the future of work. The key is that remote work makes the day-to-day errands more manageable, with a series of minor quality-of-life adjustments amounting to a significant net improvement in lifestyle.
  • Remote leadership requires more pragmatism, less office politics
    A diverse array of responses in the research showed that remote workers expect flexibility, solid communication, and trust that they will be responsible for achieving their professional objectives. Remote-working has made in-person politics less important, and clock-in and clock-out times are less relevant. Rather, remote workers demand that they be judged solely on their outputs, which removes bias from the evaluation process.
  • Work/life boundaries are a complicated challenge
    When asked what advice they would offer to anyone considering remote work, 77% of respondents cited four key areas: setting boundaries (25%), staying focused and productive (20%), protecting your mental and physical health (23%), and putting personal priorities first (9%).

    Given what we are learning about the accelerating rate of burnout across industries and with a growing center in remote workers, this could indicate that one of the biggest challenges we still face is to create healthy boundaries.
  • What matters most is not available in an office

About a third of people polled mentioned the value of having a pleasant home office environment, and 25% said being closer to family was important. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they would relocate to a location more accessible to nature, nicer weather, or a better community. Ironically, in a world where so the best companies have spent a lot of money on office perks, only 5% of respondents missed those perks.

  • In-person engagements are vital to building culture
    Sixty-five percent of respondents have said that remote work has had a positive or neutral impact on their teamwork, but 25% have experienced a negative impact. Over half missed the social interactions that come with an in-person workplace. In addition, there were challenges that got in the way of working together as a team.

    People leaders would be wise to support employees working from coworking offices and other third spaces, and strategically find ways to bring people together for bonding and planning. When travel is possible again, it will shift from a dreaded necessity (for some) to a celebrated perk.
  • We do not have all the answers
    Unlike most surveys, GitLab’s strategy to encourage open-ended answers allowed people to respond in their own words instead of prompted, canned answers that hardly ever represent true sentiments. We still may not have all the answers, but continual studies asking new questions in the right way, can get us closer to a better picture of reality.

According to the study, the takeaway lessons are that remote work is still a new phenomenon, that supporting optimal remote-work is a boon for retention, and there is an overwhelming link between company loyalty and support for remote-work.

Also, what workers have loved or hated about adapting to remote-working will shape their expectations if and when they do switch employers.

Due to low percentages of sentiments involving factors such as optimizing their living situation to save money (12%), getting better housing (9%), or achieving even more productivity (12%), the study may hint that these are not serious concerns around remote-working in some scenarios.