GitHub has begun formalising its office culture, processes, and layouts following its acquisition by tech giant Microsoft. The companies insist GitHub will remain a separate entity but GitHub says it wants to record and share some of what made it so appealing to Microsoft.

The open source software management company says it is now time to take stock of its workplace culture and practices as staff numbers tick over 1100, the majority of which work remotely.

Github is currently working on its first “space design handbook”, expected to be released publicly in January. The report documents some standardised procedures and setups for GitHub offices as well as guidelines for staff working from home and in co-working spaces – the last two groups account for around 70 per cent of GitHub staff.

But the company also wants to share its tips with other organisations, in line with its open source ethos.

“We believe if you’re interested in working the way GitHub is working you should be able to do so,” said Lara Owen, GitHub director of global workplace operations, ahead of the company’s annual developer event in San Francisco this week.

Lara Owen, GitHub director of global workplace operations. GitHub.com.

Owen says GitHub is documenting its workplace “formula” in a 72 page pdf which will be updated annually and available for anyone to view.

“I know Microsoft, WeWork, many others have this [guide] and keep it internal, but we wanted to share it with the world. Like everything else we do.” 

The guide includes recommendations for office spaces including avoiding “amenities” that don’t add value.

“We want to make sure that there are still moments in our space that bring people together but that aren’t necessarily Instagram worthy,” Owens said.

“We’re not going to do it for the ‘Gram’ anymore. We’re going to do it for our customers we’re going to do for our employees. And it’s all about bringing people together.”

Distributed workforce

Owen said while other tech companies are trying to overcome the lack of housing and office space in California by contributing to the construction of new real estate, GitHub is instead doubling down on its remote and coworking practices. 

“We want remote work to be available to everybody. We believe talent is everywhere, opportunity is not.”

The company encourages employees to work from home if they prefer and are not close to a GitHub office. Over half of GitHubs global workforce already works remotely and Owen says GitHub has maintained the balance throughout it growth.

Around a third of GitHub’s 1100 staff work at the San Francisco headquarters where the company says the office space has been laid out with the employees in mind. A dedicated library, for example, was built as a quiet zone to cater for more introverted employees and those who usually work at home in quieter environments compared with the main open planned spaces.

According to Owens, the guide is not about creating a homogenised or “McDonalds” experience across offices but the company does want customers to feel a familiarity in each location.

“Oftentimes in tech spaces, you can walk into a tech office and you don’t know what they do. It’s a cool tech office [but] you have no idea if they’re in fintech, if they’re in biotech … So we wanted to make sure that people knew what GitHub is.”

Owens told Which-50 there are no specific guidelines for the amount of time employees spent at offices nor does the company monitor it. 

“One of the great things about GitHub is the flexibility and autonomy we leave [to employees] and I think that draws a lot of people who want to work life balance already,” Owens said.

“If you only come to the office two days a week, that’s fine. If you come to the office all day, that’s great. If you only come to the office once a month that’s also fine.”

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