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Ask HN: Do you feel/fear that you're more disposable as a remote employee?
22 points by the_wheel on Dec 28, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 12 comments

Years ago when I was a remote employee, I definitely did become marginalized. Projects I took on and completed were often assumed to have been done by an on site employee. People on calls sometimes spoke of me as if there was no chance I was on the call. The CEO even talked about getting me to train my replacement, apparently assuming I wasn't part of the call concerning the department of which I was the lead.

I've found that the issue with being a remote employee is the employee part. My experience has been that trusting your job security to an employer is just not as safe as it used to be. Nowadays as a freelancer who works on mostly long-term contracts, it's possible that some of my clients wouldn't think much of replacing me, but if they do decide to stop using me, I can grab another contract. My office doesn't change. My machine is still my machine, i.e. they're often the more replaceable one.

However, and as others point out here, this only works if you have lots of experience in something highly in demand.

Absolutely, yes.

My experience is that remote work is the exception, not the norm. The only way to get stability as a remote employee is to have an exclusive skill or some other advantage over the other employees, eg. "I'm the only remote employee, but I'm the only one who is a proven data science whiz," "The company cannot find enough locals who know Scala," etc. And even then, your stability is still contingent on this supply/demand imbalance.

Yep. On the other hand, solid sofware engineers are never really disposable - it takes probably 6-12 months on average for SE to ramp-up to full productivity on a team. Even after that period, he/she will grow still, having more influence on the design, the process etc. It's not a smart move to ditch such highly performing remote worker for a fresh local one.

The key to not being disposable as a remote employee is mastering communication, availability, and execution. That doesn't mean that you need to constantly be available, but rather that you need to be available and communicative with your team and, of course, getting your work done on time.

If you do those three things well, then you are no more disposable then any other employee.

Exactly. Perception is key. Communication determines how you are perceived.

When remote, the communication tools are different. Instead of walking over to talk to others, you're likely using chat, voice, or video calls. The meetings include shared screens with conference calls. After a meeting, you may chat or call someone for a private discussion. Those private discussions are likely how you build social bonds and get to know others personally. They can also make it clear you're available to help.

In the office or remote, your communication style builds a perception of how involved you are in projects, what you can contribute, and whether you're viewed as a needed or disposable.

I've only worked for small organizations remotely, but I did have the experience of working for a satellite office (~25 people) of a large company (~6000) and we felt very alienated. They did value our work, however. I think if you are working on something that brings value then you are valuable. If you aren't doing that then you don't have a lot of leverage.

Proximity is always valued over remote.

There is something human about being able to see the person who is doing some work for you. To be able to say hello without agenda. Ask how it's going.

Yes you can do it with Slack and Skype but nothing beats walking over to someone.

In large companies, working remote made me feel disposable. Small companies, if you can get stuff done, you feel valuable while being autonomous.

Given how much work and communication about work is technologically enabled today there shouldn't be a higher risk of being treated as disposable, but despite working remote for many years for a larger corporation it did feel like I might have gone on the chopping block somewhat sooner when the recession hit. Though in the end it might not have mattered because the recently appointed president of the company took the recession as an opportunity to replace most of the founding leadership team of our business unit with people of his own choosing.

Nah...we're all remote :)

Same here, not a person in the office.

Yes, a little. A big issue is that people forget you're around, and so forget to include you, which makes you more disposable.

Yes, absolutely, unless you work for a company where everyone is remote

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