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Remote Only (remoteonly.org)
938 points by omot 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 361 comments



My somewhat reductive conclusion about remote work is that it boils down to the ability to be an effective writer.

If you're not good at written communication, or you work with people who are not good at it, remote work will be miserable.

People who are not highly fluent in the company's written language or those with some level of dyslexia will struggle. Also some people get frustrated with the more analytic approach required by text, relying instead on spoken rhetoric.

I think even if you're colocated, there are huge benefits to following the remote work practices and improving your written communication. Documenting your work in an issue manager and using chat primarily for communication means no one will miss out, even if someone is sick, a new starter, or on a different team. All these things can make a dev organisation much more effective and break down silos.


This does ring true. Years ago when I was running a remote-primary shop we hired this one guy that just struggled. I spent the next year trying to get him on track and one of the big issues was his writing was terrible; both internally and with our customers.

Right before we finally gave up, I went back and looked at all his interview communications. As part of the interview we would exchange several e-mails to see how their communication was, because we lived and died by e-mail with clients. All those communications were totally on point.

So I asked him: Why were your e-mails before we hired you so good? "Oh, my wife wrote those for me." So I'm sitting there thinking "We should have hired your wife."


Why didn't you hire his wife when you learned that she wrote these emails?


Weeeeell... She didn't apply... :-)


This has been my experience, 100%.

All of the jobs I have ever interviewed for casually listed "great oral and written communication" as a skill in the job reqs. I have felt that I had a problem in this area.

I have worked as a remote contractor off and on for most of my life and have never run into an issue.

For the past year and a half I have been on a remote team.

It wasn't until my team lead, who did all of the oral and written communication, left, this past month, that I was placed in the position to pick where he left off.

It became immediately evident how poor my skills are in this area. I know that I am a poor communicator, but I didn't realize just how insufficient I was. Not only grammar and spelling, but conveying complex subject matter in a succinct way for folks lacking detailed domain knowledge. This is a problem!

Regardless, there is hope. How do you get better at writing? Write more. At least that is what I am told. I am now chomping at the bit for long-form writing opportunities to get experiencing it putting thoughts and plans on paper, as well as, using a new SaaS app to commit/tracking writing 5 minutes a day.

Any and all tips are welcome.


1) I don't believe you. You're a fine writer.

2) Writers write. So write more. The only actionable advice I ever got.

I used to devour howtos like Bugs In Writing. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/601222.Bugs_in_Writing

Once I felt confident that I'm saying what I meant to say, I think I stopped. I should probably revisit the classics for a refresher.

3) Simple is harder. Explaining complex stuff is a ninja power. Just keep at it.

4 bonus tip) Proofread, edit stuff you wrote 3, 6, 9 months ago. Consciously note how your writing skill and voice have changed.


Write more, but get feedback.

Unselected, ungoverned, training, can simply reinforce bad habits.


If your spelling is poor, make an effort to improve. But don't wait for that to happen. Start composing your email in Google Docs or the word processor of your choice with spellcheck turned on. It is worth the extra step of copy pasting your emails in order to get spelling and grammar right.


Spelling's one of the least problems with writing.

Structure, meaning, flow, logic, and engaging the reader the most difficult.

Logic and rhetoric over grammar.


I was never that good at writing but just putting some effort and caring about what you write down makes a huge difference. After you write an email or a document, read through the whole thing and edit. Is it obvious what I want to happen? Do I sound like a dick? The biggest improvement for me was to give more concrete answers. Like when someone asks you for a meeting, don't just say "yeah any time's fine", actually give a few dates and times that work for you. It also cuts down on the annoying back and forth of scheduling via email.


This is great. Thank you.


I'm mildly confused. Your post here seems fine and quit readable. How do you arrive at the conclusion, that you're lacking in written communication skills?

(sorry for question instead of tips)


In a sense, your confusion here -is- the problem:

"conveying complex subject matter in a succinct way for folks lacking detailed domain knowledge."

FWIW, I didn't have the same confusion about the post, so I don't know how lacking the author is in this specific setting.

But I have had the same general struggle.

I have an MA in English/rhetoric and am a software dev, and even with that nexus of training it has been a lot of work to get better at communicating... the struggle to communicate technical issues to non technical people is a lifelong journey with a complex path. It's just hard.

So here's my tip:

smaller sentences. More paragraphs. Simpler language.

And IME we do best when we develop a continual awareness that although communication is difficult, it is possible.


> So here's my tip: > > smaller sentences. More paragraphs. Simpler language.

I've also found thinking about sensual clues to be helpful, e.g. what would the user/customer/whatever see (or hear or feel) at this point? What (exact) text would they reasonably anchor on based on everything they might see? I also try to visually distinguish different types of info, e.g. exact text of some kind of UI element, code.

Another really helpful tip is to confirm that the user/customer/whatever sees/hears/feels some (exact) specific thing at a specific { step / point in space-time }. If they don't provide the (near) exact response I expect, I try to notice my confusion and debug right then and there until my confusion is resolved.


This is useful advice.

If you abstract it, the general form is something like "work with concepts that your audience is already familiar with", which is good advice for any communication. And, similarly, be on the look out for any data that says your communication has started to go awry.


Sample size is one, and they might've discussed this before. Someone with good written communication skills can write effectively, without too much details, quickly on the fly. The same holds true for verbal.

I believe there's two important key points: confidence (but not overconfidence) and empathy/sympathy. Putting yourself in the other person's shoe and figuring what they need to hear ie. not what you want to express. The latter is secondary!

Sure, you can practice it, but only so much. I have autism, and I'm utter shit at this (even in my native language). I've been practicing it pretty much all my life (I remember having issues with it at elementary school). I'm terrible with being to the point and keeping communication short. And if it is short, its usually too rude.


Maybe it took a long time to write that post. That's what I struggle with anyway.


"I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time." -- Blaise Pascal

I encourage you to not criticize yourself too harshly.


I reread it a few times. I reread it aloud. This is a new discipline.


May be evidence that the additional training/work s/he's put in is paying off. I agree that the post does not show a lack of written communication skills.



One good to practice is to think of something that really bothers you: traffic, politics, your in-laws, whatever. Then write a blog post explaining why it makes you angry, and giving ways to fix it.


Don't just write more! Also read more! :)


People say that, yet in my experience it's not actually true. We just need to communicate enough to coordinate. I'm not a great communicator, I don't think most people at my work are great communicators, yet we work just fine as a remote company. I feel people exaggerate this belief.

Regular chatter in public chat channels seems sufficient. What really seems to matter is work ethics.


Maybe the bar is lower than you think. As your comment demonstrates, you are able to form complete sentences that are either correct in terms of spelling and grammar, or so close that I can't tell the difference.

I don't know where exactly the bar is, but a sentence is certainly below it if I can't figure out whether someone told me they did X or they are asking me to do X.


I think it also makes a difference if you work with people across different timezones or not.

Regular chatter might be good enough to communicate between people in roughly the same timezone. However, If I send an unclear chat (or email) to a colleague who's starting her day when mine has already ended, she can't act on my message and we'll have to waste another day clearing up that miscommunication.


I’m on my second remote job, and I find all HN threads on the subject contain this bizarre exaggeration about how different it is, and how you need to be a certain kind of person, and have stellar communication skills. I feel like it’s the same as people warning others off living in Seattle - i.e. gate keeping.

And how are these hypothetical poor communicators performing at non-remote jobs, anyway?


I don't think you have to be an experienced essayist or something. If you can read HN and make comments I think you've probably met the bar. I've worked with people who really struggle to convey or understand technical discussions in text, such that I usually had to talk with them face to face to communicate anything non trivial.


I don't work remotely as such, but usually with distributed teams. Personally I find skype chats or similar the best way. Writing emails is quite a long winded way to get to where you want and takes me a while. Chats are more two way so you can judge where the other person is with understanding the problem, and has the benefit of being written down for future reference.


Yeah, I find Skype or Slack or some other form of IM to be absolutely invaluable in making remote work effective. But it's also semi-synchronous and interruptive, relative to email.


> Regular chatter in public chat channels seems sufficient.

That means your teammates' communication skills are sufficient! Congratulations.

> What really seems to matter is work ethics.

I disagree. Work ethics mean nothing if you don't understand the work that needs to be done, because the problem or the approach is not communicated clearly.


> it boils down to the ability to be an effective writer.

effective reader too. One should be able to quickly make sense out of several hunbdreds of email messages, otherwise it will end up in "synchronous mode" -- dozen of messaging windows opened at every moment.


so true.

I have a business partner that I can talk to very effective in person. I had to relocate, and now we have to deal mostly via email. I have been working remotely for ten years now and saw no problem with the change. But it has become disastrous. I figured out that he is just not an "email type". Only picking up the phone works with him, but this does not fit into my workflow. I'm undoing our business partnership currently.


Why doesn't picking up a phone fit into your workflow?


For many, a ringing phone is much more disruptive than an email notification.

Picking up a phone for voice calls is synchronous.

Responding to an email is asynchronous.

(The asynchronous advantage is probably why SMS texting & WhatsApp/FB messaging has overtaken voice calls.)

I had a friend that didn't use email and always called my phone. Whenever I shut off the ringer, he'd eventually send me an email. But the content of that email was always, "Hey I got no answer on your phone. Give me a call."

Argh!!! Why can't you just put your question directly into the email?!? My behavior of not answering his phone calls failed to "train" him to switch to the email mode of communication. It drove me crazy. I finally realized that some people in this world have brains that work better with voice calls. Unfortunately, that's incompatible with the way I like to work.


Phrasing a question in a way that ensure it will be understood by the reader is non-trivial. For tricky problems that might require several steps of back and forth, the ability to ask clarifying questions and access tone of voice that you get on a voice call is valuable.

I'm not saying that this guy was thinking this through that extensively, but IMO there are times when a voice call is more effective.

Did you attempt to explain to him why you didn't answer the phone as opposed to trying to "train" him? i.e. engage in open communication and have a conversation about what works and what doesn't for each of you about various modes of communication.

His request for you to "give him a call" moves thing for you back into the realm of the asynchronous.

I wonder whether maybe you have some other issue with voice calls?


>, the ability to ask clarifying questions and access tone of voice that you get on a voice call is valuable. [...], but IMO there are times when a voice call is more effective.

I agree that voice calls can sometimes be more effective. Some types of tech support debugging are much easier with the interaction of live phone calls.

Those weren't the type of calls my friend was making. His calls were banal questions like, "I'm looking at these cameras the Canon 10D and Nikon D70. Which do you think is better?" He could have just typed that question into an email for me to reply whenever it was convenient. Instead, I hold the phone to my ear while I'm googling "Canon 10D vs Nikon D70".

>Did you attempt to explain to him why you didn't answer the phone as opposed to trying to "train" him?

No, I never told him in blunt terms, "don't call me anymore unless it's a complex question that requires the advantages of voice communication." I was hoping that dropping a ton of hints would do it but it didn't work. In any case, I changed my number so it's no longer a problem.

>His request for you to "give him a call" moves thing for you back into the realm of the asynchronous.

Not really because what ends up happening is after I call back, his brain says, "jasode is available now" and he'll call 5 or 15 minutes later with a new question. His threshold for initiating phone calls was very low which put me back in synchronous hell.

>I wonder whether maybe you have some other issue with voice calls?

Well yes, as I mentioned earlier: it's not my preferred form of communication. I do acknowledge and respect the fact that others default to voice but that doesn't change the fact that it's incompatible with how my brain works.

There is clearly a disconnect between people who prefer different modes of communication since the gp poster (throwawaymath) seemed truly confused and therefore asked, "Why doesn't picking up a phone fit into your workflow?"


Gotcha. Thanks for breaking that down. It's definitely frustrating when people don't consider the impact/costs of the requests that they are making.


_Always_ picking up the phone doesn't fit into my workflow. Some things are better discussed via email or chat. I think it is very difficult to work remotely if you only have direct verbal communication available.


sort of tangental, but i wonder how a drop in/drop out system like teamspeak/vent/discord/etc. would work in a professional setting. you have direct calls still, but if you just want to be available to coordinate through voice you could. similar to leaving your door open and letting people stop by.


Keeping an open channel on Teamspeak could be compared to having a person sitting at the next desk.


> If you're not good at written communication, or you work with people who are not good at it, remote work will be miserable.

I had a pretty poor team leader a few years ago with a bums in seat type job. He would never write anything down and teh result was quite frustrating. The spec used to change frequenty and he would come and verbally tell me it. then he would change it again, then again. A week or two later when I actually got around to implementing teh said feature I would ask him what he wanted done,

"I thought we talked about that." "Yes we did but you changed your mind 4 times and I can't remember what the conclusion was."

I used to regularly ask him to put things in writing, but he was usually to lazy to deliver on that.

So I don't think these problems are unique to remote teams.


One species of gatekeeper (control freak) won't write things down.

Another insists that if it's not documented, it didn't happen.

These challenges have confounded me all my working life.

My few truly positive working experiences happened when there was mutual trust, regard, esteem. First time it happened, I was gobsmacked. I'd read about trust, but had never seen it IRL. It was a never ending warm fuzzy bath of shared awesomeness.

I still have few ideas how to find, nurture, create trust (especially in a chaotic env). But I now know it when I see it. And when I'm not feeling it, I mostly just go thru the 9-5 motions, keeping my expectations and investments lower.


TBH, I think was somehow your fault. Before writing even a single line of code I make sure that "I" understood what is needed.

Then, if nothing is written down anywhere, I'd just sum up what I am going to implement (email, wiki, internal docs, readme whatever) and send it to anyone involved.

Check mate for for control-freak-undecided-colleagues. :)


I agree that writing well is important, but I would characterize this as beyond writing alone. Assuming that "remote work" isn't confined only to teams in time zones where working hours don't overlap, it's quite easy to start a chat or an audio call/conference. "Talking" directly is more important, and many a times yields quicker results than exchanging long emails or documents, whether it's with text (chat) or voice or even video calls. But it does come at the cost of trying to setup a mutually convenient time and being available (synchronous vs. asynchronous).


> it's quite easy to start a chat or an audio call/conference

"Ok, we're all here. Wait, where's Mike?"

"I think he was making coffee. Let's wait for him."

"Hey, is Zhang saying something?"

"Zhang, say something."

"..."

"I think your microphone is broken."

"Can you disconnect and reconnect?"

"Hey, he's typing something. I... will... reboot. Ok, let's wait for him to reboot."

"Hey, Mike's back. Someone tell him we're waiting on Zhang to reboot."

"I don't think he can hear us."

"Guys, I'm gonna go grab a coffee while Mike and Zhang figure it out."


If you're working in a largely co-located company, where video conferences are an uncommon occurrence then this probably fits.

In the context of this conversation around remote only companies though, everyone is going to be set up to be able to properly participate in a video call - that means making sure everyone has a decent internet connection, microphone, and camera at home. When people aren't at home tools like Zoom have the ability for them to dial in to conferences on a regular phone which deals with the remaining problems.


> In the context of this conversation around remote only companies though

I've worked mostly remote for many years and please trust me - it's almost exactly the same, with every weekly meeting starting with "is everyone here", "do you hear me?" etc etc.

This is especially when working from home - typical residential connections are having less nicer SLA and may get flaky from time to time. And someone may leave their phone near mic cable. Or someone's machine may need rebooting. Or conferencing service may be experiencing problems.

Glad if it's not like this for some, but I believe it's not exactly uncommon.


I worked with a team remotely for 3 years, solely relying on Google Hangouts for video and an occasional Zoom meeting. The video/mic/hardware problems are _incredibly_ rare.

Being late or grabbing coffee instead of starting a meeting are culture problems at a company, not problems with the medium.


> The video/mic/hardware problems are _incredibly_ rare.

You've had better luck than I have. Our New York team is still dealing with the problem of the Boston office being virtually inaudible, while Dublin sounds like they're speaking through a megaphone directly into my ear.

That is, assuming we didn't lose a room, or the Hangouts equipment isn't broken - then Boston uses our manager's laptop, which actually sometimes has better sound quality.


I've worked remotely for 10 years. This happens with new setups, but if you're doing it daily, it stops happening.

I don't do standups anymore, but at my last company, they often took about 5 minutes from dialing to hangup.


I covered part of this under "being available" at the end of my comment. But I completely get what you're driving at. Apart from people's availability, some of the technology is still horrible and quite unreliable (I'm looking at you, Skype for Business). But my main point was that writing emails and documentation cannot be a substitute for instant communication (chat) or voice communication.


Zhang was on mute. Happens to the best of us.


I wholeheartedly agree! I am writing a newsletter to help developers improve their written communication (shameless plug: https://writingfordevelopers.substack.com/)

Do you have an opinion on what aspects of written communication are the most important for remote work?

Just gathering ideas to write about! :)


I think the thing a lot of people struggle with are applying soft skills in their written words. Many devs in my experience come across as very analytical, almost emotionless in their written communication. It's precise, but not great for developing social bonds. It's something I'm very guilty of myself, especially in code reviews. I think we could all benefit by considering the human element in our writing.

It's such a different skill set though compared to in-person communication, where much of this happens non-verbally. I think it's a lot easier for people who grew up with it. I spent a lot of time on MUDs and BBSs when I was younger, where this kind of communication was prevalent.


I like this idea of a "company's written language", I have known many people who are great communicators who nonetheless didn't write using the correct corporate cultural terms and were viewed as "poor communicators".

Basically this boils down to how strictly you cling to new buzzwords.


Even though I'm much better at expressing myself with writing than through speaking, I get some anxiety about bothering people or keeping their attention that makes it difficult to "work through" a problem remotely. When I know exactly what I'm doing and just need to communicate it, everything's great. When there's an issue that two or more people need to look at and discuss at the same time, it gets much more difficult. I'd be the perfect remote worker for a company without tight deadlines where there are never any "fires" that need to be put out. But there aren't very many of those.


I agree completely, and to build on that idea, it is extremely valuable to be able to take an idea from your head and write it down in a way that fully explains the idea, but is as concise as possible. I see this go wrong a lot in Slack. Some people will not take the time to completely form a thought and will instead just type everything that is in there head as quickly as they can. Then others react because they have misunderstood the original point. If you have a few people trying to communicate with this method it quickly becomes chaos. The process of untangling some of those types of conversations can take far longer than the original conversation did.


100% agree. I think this would even apply to non-remote jobs too.

I used to work remotely as a freelancer and I miss it so much. I now work in-house at an agency and everyone here fails so miserably at writing. Almost all discussion is verbal, nothing is documented and so much double-work happens it's not even funny.

To make matters worse, the agency doesn't use any project management software. So all projects have seemingly imminent deadlines. It's miserable.

If our team was more apt to learn, adapt and document more, we'd probably be a lot happier.


This is the main reason I want to try and learn Emacs, OrgMode, and Babel. The stuff that Howard Abrahams discusses on the below video is something I think would be highly successful in a remote environment. Documenting your workflow as you go, including commands and output, then emailing it to your team that day or uploading it to a document store/gitbook:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dljNabciEGg


You can grasp org.mode pretty quickly, is all tab-tab-tab and a lot of asterisks here and there.

Emacs needs more effort but it is an achievable goal. Very customisable so you could even ask somebody to create your own comands and circumnavigate the hairy parts for a lot of time until building enough confidence. Finding a good tutor or having somebody interested in the program in your company would help a lot, obviously.


>If you're not good at written communication, or you work with people who are not good at it, remote work will be miserable.

not just remote - any and all work will be miserable. I work remote and in person with lots of people who will not write things down. When I call them on it, they say "I'm not your secretary" - but they are happy to have everyone be their secretary.


We had the same problem even in person to be fair: one of the guy didn't speak english properly, we had a lot of troubles understanding him. And he also talked a lot, which made things worse (listen to a lot of things you don't understand). In the end, communication must be great, no matter what.


No amount of writing in my life prepared me for the amount of writing I do as a remote developer. I probably write 20+ "pages" a day if you count all of the documentation, emails, chat messages and GitHub discussions I write. Luckily for me, I love writing.


Well Linus is a great writer, so I agree with your conclusion.


> Disadvantages > Scares investors - Scares some partners - Scares some customers - Scares some potential employees, mostly senior non-technical hires - Onboarding is harder, first month feels lonely

We do a full remote policy at SerpApi.com, however I found this disadvantages list a bit dishonest, they are more way numerous and important, the most obvious are missing real human contacts (and it doesn't get easier with time), and harder life and work separation.


> missing real human contacts

For me, personally, working from home has amplified the good parts of working with people and human contact and removed the bad parts.

When we do meet in person (4-5 times a year) we have a blast.

When we communicate via video the communication is a lot of fun and very purposeful at the same time. Sometimes it feels like I speak to remote co-workers by video more than family and people in real life! So, lot's of human interaction there.

At the same time, there is now no interruptions when someone gets bored and wanders over for a chat.

There is no need to instantly answer questions when overly eager bosses have a brain... idea.

There is no need to watch the clock and make it look like I'm staying late just cos everyone else is.

And I can work on stuff anytime I like, like if I wake up at 5am by accident I can knock out the current sprint board and have a break during the day.

So, in my case at least, saying "the most obvious are missing real human contacts" is simply not true.

I do think that remote working is a bit difficult to pull off well and I've found the key is to really get to know people well when in person and on video chat.


Yeah, "missing real human contacts" doesn't reflect my experience with remote work either. I'd characterize it as giving me much more control over my real human contact: I get to spend time with who I want on my own schedule to a much greater degree than I could in office jobs. Day to day that's mostly people who have nothing to do with my current work: girlfriend, friends, family, people at my krav maga classes, etc. and as a (sociable) introvert I don't burn through so much of my "social energy" just having to be around people in an office all day.


I'm sitting at my desk with my noise-cancelling headphones doing a mediocre job of blocking the 20-minute "standup" happening next to me in our open office. I'm going to be transitioning to a remote position soon, and can't wait. I already have two unsolicited offers from friends with office space to let me work in their spaces occasionally, so I have options for getting human contact—when I want it.


My need for human contact is not only verbal communication: it's cleaning the coffee machine, taking a walk, playing around, throwing a duck, being randomly head-butted by a scrum master, going for an afterwork beer... Lot of interaction with people


Yes, I don't think it's one size fits all by any means. It sounds like any company you work for needs to have real world team interaction as part of the day to day. Nothing wrong with that!


No shoulder tappers at home! I'm happy.


I agree here. The extra time I get to spend with my young kids, my wife, and my friends instead of commuting is the polar opposite of a drawback with regards to human contact.


I don't share your pessimism about the list of downsides, and am honestly surprised, as while normally I chuckle at the "HN is always negative" sentiment, this post being the top reply is a real head scratcher, as someone who is both 1. on a >75% remote team, and 2. who has been advocating/watching HN advocate for remote for quite some time.

I'd say "missing real human contacts" is summarized well under a combination of harder rampup/scares some potential employees; as the lack of "Real contacts" seems more of a personal/subjective or team-process-and-tooling-rooted feeling than anything I've observed to be inherent and unsolvable; it's trivial for me to get a face to face with anyone on my multi-national team. Now, to try and read this charitably, if you meant something like "increased difficulty networking" I'd actually agree, but again, if you're at a place in your career where you accept that, it's significantly less of a downside.

Mostly, that's the gist of a lot of the things people list as hard negatives to my ears, including your second point of harder life/work separation. I don't mean to be dismissive, but "that seems like a personal problem." (Edit: see my clarification in child post re: this wording, I came off more accusatory than I'd have liked, but didn't want to rewrite history) With the broad slew of coworking spaces, home offices, coffee shops, and other ways to partition one's time and mental spaces, I don't accept that that's something that can't be solved in the same proactive fashion as a professional would approach any assorted social frictions one might run into in _any_ office environment.

If you read any frustration in this, it comes from a place of, "a lot of the complaints I read are solvable problems or isomorphisms of in-office problems", and a hope that we'd be self-interested enough as a field to be more proactive in seeking solutions, given the benefits that can come from a more distributed workforce. I want to encourage and productively improve sites that try to support this, and part of that is avoiding a re-encroachment of remote work stigma/fear in many people's eyes.

Edit: yes, I'm going to break the HN rules, but christ people, at least _respond_ before blindly downvoting. This was not a glib response, and this topic (remote work) is something we should be able to discuss in good faith without accruing negative score before I even finish grammar-checking my own writing.


>I don't mean to be dismissive, but "that seems like a personal problem."

This is incredibly dismissive. Almost all the "advantages for employees" are personal. How is "No commuting time or stress" not a personal benefit? The advantages for remote work are almost entirely being sold that they are better for people. If someone has a personal problem with an aspect of it, then it should be taken seriously.

Imagine if you told an employer that the commute to work was rough so you would like to work remote and he told you "that sounds like a personal problem, why don't you move closer to work?"


> How is "No commuting time or stress" not a personal benefit?

My commute is a 20 minute walk through a very nice park, and my partner walks the same route in the morning. It’s one of my favourite parts of the day, and it would be a hard push to get me to give that up right now.


You 're suggesting that you have to be forced by your employer to take a walk in the park. I think you 're justifying the parent's dismissive comment.


How would working remotely affect your routine? You could even work all day in that park.


If you two didn't have that commute you'd be free to do it whenever you felt like, not forced to twice a day at mostly-fixed times.


We're all very jealous.


Where do we draw the line though? Do we draw the line? At what point do my personal preferences/issues (and trust me I have plenty of my own) become my team's/workplace's problem? I certainly fall closer to the side of "it's my job as a professional to find a situation that doesn't drive me nuts", which is probably where our disagreement might arise. (Candidly, and unfortunately, it's probably born out of the pragmatic "a job don't owe you nothing" upbringing)

You aptly point out that "no commuting or stress" is a personal benefit; to play devils advocate with that, wouldn't having a "typical job" then be "dismissive" in not catering to someone who might be incredibly sensitive to the commute? I bring up this contrast since I think a lot of the friction with remote is that it's a change from the status quo, not necessarily that the status quo doesn't incur its own comparable (if inverted) costs.

Let me try and rephrase my point better, regardless. I don't think there's a one size fits all, period. Some people simply want/like/work better in some environments than others, and to paint these often personally-aligned preferences as generic pros/cons, we muddy the waters.

You asked the question at the end re: a boss telling me that about my commute. Honestly, yes, this has happened to me. And I switched teams, to the one I'm currently on, which is extremely remote friendly. I don't mean to whitewash remote work for any given person or say that everyone has such a lucky opportunity, I see it as two sides to the same coin, in which we shouldn't assume highly-granular personal choices to be a global downside to remote work, and we should enable as many opportunities for that choice to be present as possible.

Edit: After rereading my posts, I'll concede that "personal problem" may not have been the best way to put it, and comes off as far too accusatory. I want to delineate between problems I expect a professional adult to be able to understand their own exposure to and handle via their own autonomy, vs problems that are only in the purview of the workplace to solve/that we can't expect individuals to navigate feasibly.


> to paint these often personally-aligned preferences as generic pros/cons, we muddy the waters.

I'm not sure that listing pros/cons paints them as anything (or vice-versa), though maybe I haven't quite gotten your point (and I've read all your edits).

I've never had an opportunity to work anywhere all-remote, remote-first, or even truly remote-friendly, and I harbor an interest in the discussions, including anecdata, primarily because so many of these things are personal. I, as a reader, am pretty capable of figuring out which personal preferences don't actually match up to my own and which pros/cons may not actually apply to my situation or profession. The water isn't muddied for me by more information.

As such, I very much would prefer to hear a more complete [1] and expansive list of both advantages and disadvantages to a remote-only culture. I find it's even important to include what you describe as "isomorphisms of in-office problems" if only to point how they're easier/harder to deal with when working remote.

[1] I think a grandparent comment used the adjective "honest", but I think that's only relevant as maybe a jab at the article itself, which is clearly promoting an agenda.


> At what point do my personal preferences/issues (and trust me I have plenty of my own) become my team's/workplace's problem?

At the point when the company is losing value and opportunities that you could be providing. It's a business.

To be clear: whether or not it's economical to deal with this problem also matters.


The advantages are not all personal. The environmental benefits that come from reduced travel and reduced need for office space (which sits empty much of the time) is no joke. Neither is the economic / environmental benefit of freeing people up to live anywhere, not just where the corporate offices / factories happen to have located. That means people can go where the housing is available and affordable. We can repopulate areas -- like many midwestern small towns and medium towns -- that have emptied out as jobs have moved away.

These are very significant societal benefits, not personal ones.

That said, remote working isn't going to work for everyone. Extroverts, especially, I think tend to struggle with it a little bit.


I actually do agree 100%, both issues that I've posted are personal issues, however, remote work is also meant to solve personal issues in the first place, so I don't think it's disconnected.

I do have made my company fully remote so I do believe remote work is way of the future, but we can't be disingenuous about its downsides.


I think a lot of it has to do with HN being frequented by people in SF who do like their workplaces, and are being overwhelmingly incentivized monetarily to like them. People outside US seem to be a lot more sympathetic to the idea.

If the downside is "lack of separate workspace / human contact", then it is blown way out of proportion imho. It's easily solved by using a coworking space, and it's not reason enough to dismiss remote work.


You might want to try using a writing style less similar to coding. I don't know if I'm noticing a trend between an influx of new users from reddit after their BS UI redesign, but your text can get quite dense (it's not lacking in information that makes sense). Did upvote you because I feel you made some very experienced and work-aware points.


Meta-comment: You're right, and it's a weakness I've observed in my own posts for years now. There are other commentators that often come into HN threads I post in, and make my point better+more succinctly than I could have. I wish I could replicate/learn from those examples better. I think it's less of a redditism and my own overly-loquatious style/attempting to avoid misunderstanding through verboseness. The feedback is really appreciated.


I found Twitter helped me unlearn Reddit verbosity. You learn to write succinctly or else you'll have trouble expressing your thoughts at all.


It's a life long habit to unlearn, because you have to balance the skill set.

When you are intending to speak to an audience, I think it matters to know your audience, which gets complicated, when the audience is constantly shifting.

Cheers!


This assumes that the only place a remote worker can work from is their home. There is nothing more detrimental to a person's psyche. Cafes and coworking spaces are the most obvious and effective solution to this problem.

I made countless friends while working remotely and a good 90% of them I met in a coworking space (and the so called "digital nomad" community is made of some really awesome people). Plus you have the option to change coworking space if you don't like the people, the coffee, the wallpapers or whatever. You can't do that with a traditional office (or it would be reaaally hard to justify).


> This assumes that the only place a remote worker can work from is their home. There is nothing more detrimental to a person's psyche.

That is rather hyperbolic. Many remote workers do fine working from home. Others do not. Not all people are the same. Any of us can think of things that are "more detrimental to a person's psyche" for nearly all individuals.


For example, coworkers who use the bathroom and just rinse their hands. That is worse for my psyche than working from home.


Is there something filthy on your junk? Better get it clean than keep dirtying your hands


What does it have to do people using the bathroom and not washing their hands with my junk?

I can only suppose you mean everyone can just rinse his hands after using the urinal because his genitals are clean. They aren't, unless your sweat is both antiseptic and insecticide. Anyway, I meant using toilets too, not just urinals.


But, see, the way to get it "clean" is by washing ones hands regularly with soap and warm water (ideally before touching it [1]).

Really, though, you're making the (likely false) assumption that ones "junk" is the only thing touched in the restroom. You're also ignoring the potential for aeresolized bits of feces sprayed by commercial flush mechanisms.

None of this adds up to "filthy" per se, but hand washing is one of the best disease spreading preventions we know of.

Personally, if they're not going to wash I'd rather someone not go anywhere near the sink after using the restroom instead of also touching the fixtures and giving the bacteria on their hands a drink of water.

[1] I once worked in a building with a dentist who washed both before and after.


I always do both and it feels extremely weird to see people not actually do it. In between bathroom breaks at work I've touched my desk, keyboard, smartphone screen, perhaps adjusted my shoes, perhaps shook someones hand. By that time, hands already feel filthy enough to not want to touch myself anywhere before washing.


I suspect that's where you may be crossing over into an irrational fear of dirt and/or germs, which can lead to, at the very least, people being dismissive of concerns.

After all, your desk, keyboard, smartphone screen, and even shoes aren't likely to be places other people have touched, so not much potential for spreading anything.

Shaking hands, though.. filthy habit ;)


Your keyboard is filthy, but your fingers aren't really the best bet for germs to infect you, unless you put them in an orifice or touch some skinless area probably. I'll avoid further details.

But yes, I'm not suggesting that not washing your hands all the time greatly increase your likelihood of getting infected with something. Just slightly. I just have slight OCD and it's still weird to me how people don't feel anywhere close to the same way I do about these things.


I guess I don't see the risk? It's been close to 20 years since I last had a stomach flu, and never got salmonella yet. I believe total avoidance of all bacteria is just going to make my immune system more lax.

Don't worry though, I do wash my hands after a bathroom visit. I just don't care that much if someone else doesn't.


> I guess I don't see the risk?

That's the point, though. Once you "see" it, it's way too late.

> It's been close to 20 years since

That's just anecdata, but, as you point out, you do wash your hands.

> total avoidance of all bacteria

That's not exactly possible (and essentially deadly, unless there are archea that can take the place of all our gut bacteria.. I'm not sure).

> I just don't care that much if someone else doesn't.

I'd agree it's unreasonable to care more than just slightly, since they'd be increasing the risk more for themselves than for you. However, increased risk for everyone (including you) is non-zero.


> That's the point, though. Once you "see" it, it's way too late.

I see your point, but it simply falls to things I rather not care about. Adding a mental/habitual burden on something that is either unlikely or not that serious isn't just worth it; a life is more relaxed if it can be disregarded.

I also acknowledge that it's not something that can be simply chosen though. I do I know about certain things way more than some of my friends, even if I didn't want to.


Everybody is different, which is something that I think HNers seem to forget sometimes.

Some people thrive working from home. Some people thrive working with a colocated team in a private office. Some people would thrive on a remote team, but working in a coworking space (I'm in this boat).

Personally, I'd go stir crazy if I worked from home on a regular basis, not just from social isolation, but from working where I live. I try to keep my life compartmentalised; my gym, my work, my home, and the bar I drink at are all different places and I like it that way.


I work alone from home and love it. I can have quiet/nap time when I need it, make my own food, and spend time with my dog.

I'm very social and love spending time with people, but work isn't my outlet for that. I find that friends in an office end up decreasing my productivity and causing me to have less free time for friends, family, and relaxation.


Agree completely. The power of remote work is not just avoiding your commute and working in pyjamas, but being free to choose your environment. You could work for a company based in a big, expensive city, but live hours away in a smaller town.

Or perhaps your partner works in a regional area, but you can take a tech job from afar rather than be limited by the local market.


I don’t think it’s very detrimental if you have a separate room or area of your home that is only used for your remote work.


That surely helps but at the end of the day it depends on your personality. Some people can go a lot longer working completely alone (e.g. if you have a family), others prefer working in a more social environment (e.g. solo travellers), at least occasionally. I definitely prefer the latter.


I've worked exclusively remotely for a number of years, and while I tend to prefer it, there are times where I miss the hustle and bustle of an office place.

For those occasions, I've always just relocated to either a coffee shop (or similar) or a co-working space with drop-in rates. If you're extremely rural, or those aren't options, I don't know what to tell you.


This is exactly what I said...?


I got a 3 monitor setup at home, which basically quadrupled my productivity. I now work from coffee shops only if I’m doing “shallow work” - lots of small tasks, none of which requires deep thinking. For example if I need to answer a bunch of emails I’ll do that from a coffee shop.


I think this is a great balance and something I'm interested in trying more. I have three displays at home and four displays at my co-working space desk, but I'm interested in periodically using a local pub for sessions of 2-3 hours to do single-screen work over a beer. e.g., dealing with emails, invoicing, etc.


How can you work and drink at the same time?


Generally speaking, two beers over two hours with a meal is not going to push most people even to being a bit tipsy.


Ballmer Peak! https://xkcd.com/323/

But seriously, how would it be a problem? In the afternoons, we often have a beer at our desks while working. I often work at night after having a drink at dinner or in the afternoon after lunch at the pub. Having a pint beside the laptop while answering emails or working on a side project or making content changes for a client wouldn't be especially difficult or problematic.

I've worked for myself for 20 years (http://www.isaacforman.com.au/) so there are rarely issues with time and place of work either. I'm mostly anchored to my desk because I like the room to move of four displays.


It never occurred to me to be desirable to mix alcohol and working. I don't drink much but if i choose to have a pint it is as a reward after finishing work. It's like a ritual that delineates clearly that work has finished and it's time to unwind. That feeling is practically the best thing about the pint.


This hasn't been my experience. I have worked remotely for years and I don't miss the open-office environments in the least. For me, nothing is more detrimental to my psyche and health than an open-office environment. I guess we all have different needs.


There are, factually, things more detrimental to a person's psyche.

There's also a good chunk of people actively seeking that because of their personal characteristics (psyche?).


I really hate "real human contacts", when absolutely everybody can interrupt you, when you need to listen somebody's else "interesting" stories just because saying "stop trash talking" is not polite.


This is a valid criticism of the list. Please submit an issue for further discussion!

https://gitlab.com/gitlab-com/www-remoteonly-org/issues/


Added some changes here: https://gitlab.com/gitlab-com/www-remoteonly-org/merge_reque... (username: hartator)


Sure, will do!


Working remote is not for everyone. I was in a 100% remote position for 3 - 4 months and really missed the human contact. We had numerous calls, great tools for sharing, but for me personally I need to be around people.

Perhaps it would be better to remove "remote" from the title completely. You may have several locations where people can come together, don't call them headquarters and those not there remote, but instead everyone is team member who sits in various sites. Some of those sites have 1 person, others have 4 or 5 or 10. And those with more than an individual


Came to the thread to say this. The site loses a lot of legitimacy by glossing over very real tradeoffs to having a fully remote team.


One person's disadvantages is another's nirvana.


I'll start by saying that pushing to normalize remote-work is a noble endeavor. But that being said, as you said, glossing over the disadvantages leaves this site/post feeling very one-sided. I say this as someone worked fully remote for 2 years. It was a fantastic job but the main reason I left was the disadvantages of being remote. To say that the advantages are far more numerous, and far outweigh the disadvantages is subjective and myopic. It works for some people and some types of work but to say it's the Best Solution sadly seems to be to just be being disingenuous.


Another disadvantage of global employees is the overhead of understanding employment law, taxes, etc for each of your employees' countries and/or provinces.

Having clusters of remote workers, perhaps there is a sweet spot.


This seems more like an opportunity for a company to come in and handle those details for you. I believe those exist already but they seem mostly targeted at larger multinationals rather than scrappy remote-only startups.


I think the HN population is strongly skewed towards people who prefer to sit alone and work.

I just changed job from an open office to remote work, and while everybody thought my new job sounded like a great opportunity, no one was jealous of the remote part - "So, now you have rent a shared office, huh?" (and yes, that is what I did)


I've been working remote for 3 years now in software and I agree completely.

The biggest downsides are: loneliness, feeling like a shut in, and working all the time because you're only two steps from your "office". These are NP-hard problems to solve, especially for an introverted 4-eyes like me.


> the most obvious are missing real human contacts

Human contact for me is more about friends and out of work activity. Colleagues are colleagues, if you want "real human" interaction, you'd need to get out of the office anyway.


Yeh.

They don't pay us to socialise, and I can count the number of times on my middle finger of how many people who at the offices I've worked at I'd want to spend my free time with.

Strangely, now that I'm working remotely, I actually do socialise with my colleagues when we meet every 3 months, and enjoy it.

Apart from that, I'm around people who I enjoy being with instead of staring the clock or the rear of a car. And I have more social energy to do so.


I merged https://gitlab.com/gitlab-com/www-remoteonly-org/merge_reque... which added a lot of advantages and disadvantages. Looking forward to more MRs to improve the list.


Can you expand on the disadvantages then?

If you were to write that list, what would it look like?


I worked for a company that was mostly a remote workplace for almost a year, and there were a lot of problems i found while trying to manage a team.

Time zones, were a huge issue and pain point when trying to get a large number of people on the same page. I found my self often having to give the same meeting twice, which put more pressure on me. Even worse was when i would have to go over points only for someone who wasn't available for the first meeting, to raise issues that we didn't notice, and so on.

After 6 months the team basically felt like it dissolved into the European team, and the North American Team. With me trying to ferry information from one team to another.

So many times regardless of how amazing the latest tools we tried were, it still pales in comparison to a whiteboard. The company bought me a high end digital whiteboard, that allowed me to pass control to other people, it was a buggy POS. On top of that since i was the only one unfortunately with the white board, it meant i was the one who was always doing the drawing and trying to extrapolate a diagram from what someone says.

Sometimes some team members would spend hours drawing up a digital mock up of what they were going to push for only for it to become completely useless within a very short time.

I also found some people no matter how hard i tried, some people seemed to interpret working remote meant, they got to work in their own silo, and would ignore 99% of everything going on around them. This lead to numerous conflicts, and other issues.

Also one other thing i found, was that 1 on 1's became super impersonal, and frankly felt extremely uncomfortable.


The website appears to emphasize communicating via the written word and other asynchronous forms of communication. I'm curious whether you found communicating asynchronously didn't work or wasn't as effective or if it was the team members specifically that were the issue?


I'm not the parent poster, but I think the document glossed over the biggest perceived disadvantage:

Despite technological advances, I still believe that face-to-face communication is the most efficient way to transfer information and come to conclusions on difficult decisions. It's also the least susceptible to misinterpretation.


> I still believe that face-to-face communication is the most efficient way to transfer information ...

Why do people think this. For one thing, and I think it is most important, face to face communication does not give either parties time to think. It ends up with awkward, unproductive pauses.

Face to face communication is great for small talk, chit chat and rumors. Not for communication backed by actual thought...


I’ve found face to face communication effective for resolving contentious disagreements and, as the parent said, difficult conclusions. I’ve seen things get a bit out of hand over email that then get resolved quite efficiently after a face to face.

Live video chat is a good alternative, but I think more natural human empthay comes out in face to face experiences. People seem to understand the other side’s perspective more fully and confusions that can show up in email from things like poor word choice can be resolved quickly before they fester. Live video chat gets you much of this but isn’t quite as effective in my experience.

To me this observation just means that on remote teams you need to be observant of such issues and spend a little more time to resolve them, which can be a fine trade off for remote teams. (Or ideally avoid overly contentious debates in the first place)


In my experience face to face communication is great for resolving contentious technical disagreements because whoever is doing the most thinking and the least talking falls behind, thinks "fuck this" and capitulates instantly; usually resulting in the wrong decision being made.

If the metric is "time to decision" then face to face will do very well.


>I’ve found face to face communication effective for resolving contentious disagreements...

I have observed the same. But 9 out of 10 times, it was because the losing party couldn't spend much time thinking about counter arguments.

So again, it cures the symptom, but it benefits only the person with the loudest voice in the room, and not the one with sound reason.

>People seem to understand the other side’s perspective more fully and confusions that can show up in email from things like poor word choice can be resolved...

Don't buy this either. As I said before, the "seem to understand" bit might come from the fact that people often does not express disagreement in face to face communication that often, because they didn't have time to think it through.

EDIT: This is assuming that the both parties in the discussion are more or less on the same level of competence. If the communication is going to be mostly one sided, then face to face communication (Like a teacher in a class room) is fine.


> So again, it cures the symptom, but it benefits only the person with the loudest voice in the room, and not the one with sound reason.

..or even just the facts. I have, on (fortunately rare) occasions, refused to heed a manager's encouragement to speak with someone directly, because my disagreement isn't even about reasoning, but about facts.

It can be remarkably frustrating to have to repeat the same thing to someone who believes in something that is demonstrably false. At least over e-mail one can copy-and-paste.

It's as if (some) people can't tell the difference between matters of fact and matters of opinion (or judgment).

It may be true that face-to-face is best at resolving contentious disagreements on matters of opinion. However, I'd think it could only be true if those disagreements are based on everyone reaching their opinions from the same facts, and even determining if that's the case could easily be short-circuited by a premature opinion (e.g. loudest voice in the room).


"Face to face communication is great for small talk, chit chat and rumors. Not for communication backed by actual thought..."

wat.


You know, face to face communication is good if you are repeating stuff you heard from somewhere or stuff like "Hi there, how was your weekend" type of talk.

When you want productive communication, you want thought backing content and framing of every one of your sentences...


There are ways to alleviate these problems though. By "disadvantages" in this respect I understand "inherent problems that can't easily be solved or at least alleviated".

You can establish policies that ensure life and work separation (as in: "No calls outside of designated work hours") but you can't easily allay an instinctive as well as indistinct fear that everything will go the dogs if people don't work in the same office anymore.


...and timezone differences


Doesn't seem to be much discussion about the environmental impact of remote work.

Lately I have been feeling how ridiculous it is for me to drive everyday to a office and sit at a computer then drive home. So inefficient from an energy usage perspective.

I see so many jobs that could easily be remote if people could deal with the issues outlined here.

Imagine the difference in traffic and office space if every job that could be remote was. I would think the environmental impact would be huge.

In a utopian view I could see us returning to small villages as there is no need to move to the city. You could live in smaller communities wherever you like with others you get along with in person.

High speed internet has made this possible, but it seem like we have just scratched the surface of how it could change society and the planet.


There is a company in Switzerland that is trying to get companies stop having their own offices, instead offer to employees the possibility to work in their local town / village in coworking spaces that they connect to the network.

To work at home is not for everyone, it can be lonely, you might not have an extra rooms to use as an office. So with their still the employer paying for your office and for all the infrastructure you need.

http://www.villageoffice.ch/en/the-coworking-network/


I did some reading on the impact of remote work on the environment last year, unfortunately it seems I may have been too aggressive with my bookmark pruning and can no longer find the material I managed to dig up. Between just the pure numbers of cars being removed from the road and the improved efficiency of those that remain (less stop & go traffic, etc), the impact seems to be fairly substantial.

Plus then companies can have smaller offices, saving money and energy. People save themselves an hour or two every day by avoiding the commute. You have to wonder how much the butts-in-seats philosophy is actually costing the world.


Co-working spaces could be a big deal if they catch up (i.e. if real estate prices drop enough so they can be affordable to everyone). They would create small "commercial" regions around them with a small scale economy around them, and that could be transformative for neighborhoods.


I've been saying this for a decade. Not many things have changed since :(


I wonder if the claim of environmental friendliness actually works out in practise. Friends of mine who do remote jobs occasionally have the need to meet in person requiring international flights (which while being infrequent, are far more impactful than a local commute by car). You could say this isn't true remote work, but it seems to be the common manifestation. Conversely you can live closely enough to a workplace to walk or cycle.


Imagine the difference in traffic and office space if every job that could be remote was.

I was wondering how much work cannot be remoted and it seems a lot. Remote work is a privilege.


It seems to me nearly all white collar office/desk jobs could be remote as they basically involve sitting at a desk with a computer and phone. I believe more than half of all jobs in the US are considered white collar.

Perhaps I'm overly optimistic about what could be done remote, but modern cities seem to be basically a bunch of tall buildings with offices that have a desk and computer to sit at.


It seems to me nearly all white collar office/desk jobs could be remote as they basically involve sitting at a desk with a computer and phone. I believe more than half of all jobs in the US are considered white collar.

You are cheating! Not all white collar workers can work remotely. Everything healthcare, legal, teachers, everybody with a public-facing work, computer technicians, sales... Actually, could anybody make the reverse list? Better than dismiss the discussion with another downvote.


But the decrease in traffic and used office space translates to significantly less commuting time and more space at work for people who can't work remotely. It benefits everyone.


Cities are essential for social life since an abundance of social events, potential friends and sexual partners means that you'll be able to choose ones that you like more (or even have some as opposed to none).

The effect of remote work is instead that it no longer matters as much in which city you live, as long as it is large enough.


I've worked mostly remote for over 20 years, both as an engineer and a business owner. I wouldn't give it up for the world.

However, simple fact: not all people are cut out for it. Some perfectly fine engineers are better in an office environment with other people. Sometimes an office environment is LESS distracting for those people, not more.

It also depends on where they are in life: A person with toddlers is going to have a better work life if they can get away occasionally. I had my own struggles with this and had to work through the new environment.

So, both are good and can work depending on when and where your life is at, and neither is perfect.


+1. I'm the exact opposite. I've been offered remote jobs a couple of times, but there's just something about going to an office, talking with people in real life, even getting interrupted during work is something i tend to like. Working from home, or even from a co-working space doesn't make me happy.

A lot of the things mentioned in this manifesto are perfectly valid for non-remote work as well. Making sure knowledge is written down, shorter and fewer meetings, 'results of work over the hours put in' seem useful in any work setting.


I tend to lean more towards the classic introvert where too much interaction will tire me out after a while, but I make sure to spend time with people I care about on the weekends to balance things out and that's usually the right balance. My week is devoted to work and taking care of the kids, which I love too.

I still go through peaks and valleys of how much outside interaction I'm craving though.


I completely agree with this. Probably due to being much earlier in my career, I haven't yet learnt how to separate my personal life from my work life well. I use the office and my commute to form a boundary, which works very well so I have a good work life balance, but as soon as I work from home I either get much less done, or I get much more done and have no free time. I hope to improve at this, in 10 years time (when I hope to own a house/have a family/etc) I'd hope that I'm working from home 1-2 days a week _every week_, but I'm not there yet.


I've been working remotely for the past half year (same job and same place, I just started doing it remotely) and I was a little afraid of that: mixing my personal and professional time.

For me at least it turns out that the fear was completely unfounded, before I always got in at roughly the same time and always left at the same time, leaving the laptop and phone on the office. Now while technically the laptop and phone are always accessible I've found that I've no problem in keeping my working time within a very strict schedule, normally I start at ~8.00 and usually at 16.00 almost exactly I'm logging out, plus the phone goes automatically into do not disturb mode until the following morning, effectively recreating my office working routine. Your mileage may vary of course but I was surprised at how easy it was to completely separate my activities and preventing them blending together.


The struggle never really goes away and you have to accept that. You will have peaks where you're excited about something and super productive working late and then valleys where you go weeks feeling way less productive.

Life will find ways to make you have to change your strategy over and over, but I think that's more about being human than anything to do with where you decide to work.


Yo, you gotta tell me when you’re working. You must. You’re on a team that is depending on you and somebody has to know where the fuck your are and when you’re going to fix whatever is broken today.

“Where’s will?” “I don’t know, our manifesto says nobody gets to know when he’s working.” “Well he broke the site.” “That’s his right as a sovereign citizen.” The end.


If Kevin broke the site, it's a process problem. Kevin didn't break the site, he introduced code that might have broken the site, and the lack of tests to have detected the it broke the site. Jane then peer reviewed the code that might have broken the site and approved it. Bob then failed to notice that the site was broken during QA. The QA environment was apparently configured differently enough by Taylor that the site could appear working in dev and QA, and pass unit and functional tests without exploding until it hit production.

The team broke the site.


As true as this is, unexpected problems happen. Kevin may be the only one that can fix it, or at least be able to fix it a lot more effectively than others. The issue might not be Kevin's fault (i.e it's really a process problem), but being able to talk to him immediately (or at least know his schedule) will go a long ways in getting the issue resolved in an acceptable time frame.

Nothing against remote work, but knowing everyone's typical working hours makes things run a lot more smoothly.


If your process cannot revert a breaking change with a figurative snap of fingers, the process is broken. It is like driving a car with no brakes.

About the only time where I've seen this fail is if it was a publicised feature launch that was way premature.


And when it's the build server itself that's broken? No process can account for every possible edge case, and you need to have flexibility to handle the unexpected.


At some point problems reach the "Call Kevin now, I don't care what time it is" level. Your processes should enable anyone to handle problems that are not at this level.


if the build system is broken, then no new code gets built to roll to production. Your build system has no resiliency in terms of having more than one, or ability to roll back? Do you even have version control implemented along with a mature change control process, with automation and monitoring in place?


Kevin's available hours should be common knowledge, or easily findable in a system of some sort, ranging from text file to excel sheet to Exchange to massively overpriced time-tracking software.


Doesn't really help to know peoples hours. If they're not overlapping with yours then you have a potentially crazy overhead on time it takes to get responses to issues that could hold up your work completely.


That's a fundamental problem of teamwork. This also happens when the coworker sitting right next to you, working the same hours, has a higher-priority task than the one you're waiting for.


It absolutely does, although in my personal experience far, far more rarely. And even if that person was sitting remotely at their own hours you’ld then have to wait for them to get ”to work” and then do that higher-priority task and then get to your request so the overhead is still waaaaay bigger.


And what happens when Kevin is on vacation or is sick or quits?


This was in response to Practical Tip #1: "People don't have to say when they are working."

I'm arguing that this tip is harmful. I should know he was on vacation, and thus have a plan in place to handle anything that might come up while he's on vacation. If I'm completely in the dark about when he's working, things are going to be a lot more difficult.


Vacation / Sick time is a bit different than needing to run errands till 10am, either shifting the working day round a bit or spreading the time out over the next days or week etc.

Doesn't hurt to check in when you're available again as a courtesy but the benefit is NOT having to get permission to do something like this up front.

If you're remote as an employee then presumably the company has process around holidays and stuff that would be followed. If you're a freelancer then part of what stops you, and your client, from being fined by HMRC (in Britain) is setting your own working hours and days.


The main bit of process missing here seems to be the requirement that the developer of a given feature is at work (or at least on call) when it's deployed and has it's first full day of usage (or whatever makes sense for the particular type of application). Don't deploy on Friday afternoon, it's better for everyone to wait until Monday morning. Certainly don't deploy major feature work just before going on holiday, etc.


Additionally, if Jim had configured the backups properly the site could be reverted to a stable build. A lot of measures could prevent these situations.


There's nothing more annoying than asking a question, and not knowing if you're going to get a response in 5 minutes, in which case you stretch your legs and grab a water; or a couple of hours, in which case you move onto another task while you wait for a response.

"Oh, but if you ask in a public Slack channel, someone else will answer!", is the inevitable response from someone here on HN. Unfortunately, that is not always the case for a multitude of reasons.

Whenever I've worked remotely, I've always clocked in and out on slack, either through posting in a channel or sending a DM, or by using statuses. That way people can know that I've gone for lunch and will be incommunicado for the next hour.

It's the same as working in a physical office, if you're out of office, your colleagues should know how long for.


That's why I don't do operations. Remote is only fun if you aren't "on-call"


Amen. Especially with Slack in your pocket.


That point is a little bit bad worded. It is more pointed to old school managers who think that by controlling working hours they are controlling productivity.

After all in remote work productivity is measured about communication, issues , commits and pull requests done.


The corollary here is that if nobody knows when you're working, people will always expect you to work. That whole work/life balance thing depends on having clearly denoted "working time" and "not working time".


Full-time remote worker. We solve work-life and burnout problems at my organization by having set hours and hard stops at the end of the day.

What you lose in having a fairly rigid schedule, you more than gain back by not having to carry around that “always on” feeling.


Also full-time remote worker. We solve the problem by letting people know when you will and won't be available. It can be super informal (e.g. "Hey guys, gonna be out of pocket this afternoon") or entered into a shared calendar.

I agree with you (and OP) that there has to be some visibility into what work is going to be done when, and there are lots of ways to solve it, that said, I'm sympathetic to the notion that "I don't care how or when you work, as long as the work gets done." I'm a big fan of measuring developers more by the velocity of their Jira queues and commit history than how often they're available to be bothered with non-coding stuff.


I guess, but even as an on-site employee if production breaks because of me and I’m not in the office, I’ll still get pinged 10/10 times


> Yo, you gotta tell me when you’re working.

Sure, have core hours, and make them known.

If I know someone won't be "at" work for the next 20 hours (part time, different timezone) I can factor that into how the teamwork will... Work.

Is something on fire, and only a single person can put it out? A) that's sad B) sometimes happens anyway (and then you can try and fix A after the fire is out) C) depending on what's on fire, contracts etc - you can always call and wake someone up.

But mostly it's just nice to know people's schedules - so one can plan work.

Maybe there's some pair programming to be done (via shared screen session or whatever) - obviously try and schedule that when both parties are available...

It's really not that different to chasing after a manager that's busy with meetings or a co-worker who's part time out of the office doing on-site consulting work.

Even in a shared office, developers need to plan "deep" time when they have time to focus - or nothing will get done due interruptions.

Just because someone is sitting right there does not mean they're "free" for a chat. They could be deep in the debugger chasing a bug.


This premise I guess is exactly for you to not have any part of your project strictly subject to only one cowboy coding.


So you're saying that "Will" is your organization's single point of failure? So, when he goes on vacation or when he's sick or quits the whole thing comes crashing down?

If that's the case, I hope I don't own any stock of it, as you're a single injury away from disaster.


This is easy: you call Will on the phone. You should have the personal contact information of anybody who is a single point of failure.


Having worked on a team that was responsible for uptime of some high traffic web apps, there's a difference between when you're working and when you're on call. We had an on call schedule for emergencies and down time, but we rarely had actual emergencies to respond to. The rest of our work was done in two week sprints. No one cared when we did the work, as long as we stayed on track with those two week sprints and got everything done most of the time.


I think this is a valid and important point, especially as this is aimed at #1 on their list of 'practical tips.' The item in question isn't even really a practical tip. You should submit an issue that suggests a real practical tip for how people can be both flexible with their time and available in urgent situations.


I have been working remotely for about 2 years and the last 5 months completely out of cycle with the rest of the company.

This comment hits the nail on the head [0]. Everyone's butt is on the line. It should never be one person's fault that the website was taken down. If one person has the power to damage your business and only they can repair the error, then you have a process problem.

[0] - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17252798


Pick up the telephone and ask him.


Yo, why isn't the site monitored with alerting that tells Will the site is broken? Why isn't the site set up so that if a change is deployed and breaks it, the site can be rolled back to the last working state? Yo, why don't you have change control and a roll back process?


I used to work with a guy named Noah. The ongoing joke was... "Where is Noah? I don't Noah."


This "manifesto" really clarified for me something that I've often noticed about people who strongly believe in remote working but had trouble putting to words. For a lot of people remote work is less about the actual remote aspect of it and more about the kind of relationship the employee has with their employer. It is a relationship where I think the employee is more empowered and freer to find a work life balance that satisfies them.


Precisely. And I think this is why many employers are also highly hesitant about remote work (at times). They don't necessarily want to give their employees that much power, but they lack the courage to say that directly. And instead you hear the criticism that it's less productive.


I agree. It's much less about productivity.

I analyzed my commits at my last part-time-remote job, before I went full remote, and I was about 2x as productive during times when I was not at the office, even when accounting for the fact that I scheduled meetings during in-office days.


An an employer who allows people to work remotely. My experience has been that some employees cannot handle the responsibility and their output drops a lot if they're not behind their desk. Others are fine / better. (Because I found it hard to tell some people they're not allowed to work remotely, while others can, I ended up replacing the ones who performed poorly when working remote.)

My point is that you cannot really argue for or against remote work without taking into account that your employees might not all be suitable for that work style. (But if you're building a new organisation then you can pick the right people from the start)


If you give people more explicit feedback about their performance and hold them accountable only for their performance regardless of where they get the work done, the problem disappears. I get the sense that you're holding yourself responsible for the performance of your employees, but for remote work to be successful, you need to hold the employees responsible. If you find that some employees aren't responsible enough to handle that, don't you want more responsible employees anyway?


Yes, I came to the same conclusion: I need employees that don't need to be micro-managed. Changing their behaviour (if that is even possible) seemed to require more effort than I was prepared to put in, so I ended up replacing them.

However, I haven't found a good way to assess whether potential hires are good at this. Everyone claims to be an independent self-starter who is great at remote work whilst in the hiring process...


This is the kind of thing you can suss out of personal references. Of course, many people will provide the best / most reliable (for them) references they possibly can, but you can still get a good signal with the right question. Ex. "Can you tell me about any times ____ pulled through without oversight", or "delivered something both useful and unexpected", etc. Anything that isn't a fast, resounding "yes" with details is probably a "no".


Potentially filter for people who have a demonstrated history of successfully freelancing. They've likely learned how they work most efficiently already.


You're asserting a kind of direct malicious intent that I don't think is fair. Certainly, remote work puts some demands on the manager that a bad manager won't be able to handle. If anything, it's an unwillingness to confront this inability.

But remote work also puts very high demand on the workers: they have to be very conscientious, self-motivated and proactive and effective communicators. Everybody know slackers who are not pulling their weights, and who would slack even harder if given the "power". The idea that "working from home" could be a euphemism for a half day+ off did not gestate out of the blue in a mean-spirited managers head. A classically managed working environment can mitigate a lot of this in a way remote environments can't.

A successful remote working environment requires a particular non-average grade of manager and employee.


Honestly, I find it a bit weird so much of this blog post focus on making all information visible and documenting everything (which I agree with) and then there is:

> People don't have to say when they are working.

That just seems a bit at odds with the rest of the post and I don't really agree with it.

Sometimes there are questions that only one person (let's say Nick) can answer or situations where Nick is more valuable than other employees. Let's say I've got a moderately time sensitive issue and I'm pretty sure Kevin knows the answer as he's an expert in the subject, alternatively, I could pull aside Bob, Joe, and Linda and we could probably figure it out after a little while.

Knowing when Nick will be back online plays a big factor in what I chose to do next. If Nick is offline for lunch and will be back in an hour, I'll wait for Nick. If Nick started work early and is now offline for a long weekend, well then I need to pull Bob, Joe, and Linda away from their work to help me.

Having at least a general idea of when people will be available seems like it'd be even more important in a situation where I can't ask the people around me, "Has anyone seen Nick today?"


If all information is visible and everything is well documented, it should be rare to have the situation where one person is the only one that can answer that question. This will totally still happen for remote teams, but I think it happens more in other organizations that rely on face time and verbal information exchange.

I still generally agree that knowing when folks are online can be helpful and don’t see a big issue with that as long as you don’t have a culture that starts measuring people by how many hours they put in. Rather than an upfront “I will be working today from X to Y” something passive like a Slack recent activity indicator could be enough.


> If all information is visible and everything is well documented, it should be rare to have the situation where one person is the only one that can answer that question. This will totally still happen for remote teams, but I think it happens more in other organizations that rely on face time and verbal information exchange.

I worked at my last job for just over 2 1/2 years and, while we had an actual office, for the first two years I was there, we also had a true "unlimited vacation/remote work" policy. It wasn't unheard of that some people would take 4-6 week vacations and others would work remote for multiple months.

Documentation was great, but you can't document everything you know, so there will always be gaps. I'm a developer, so these will be dev focused, but some scenarios I can remember where one specific person was needed are:

- Legacy code. Bob was the only one around when this code was written and it hasn't been touched in years, now it's breaking and no one understands why. (In an ideal world, there wouldn't be knowledge silos like this, but there always are)

- Specialties. Most developers know this tool, but Bob is an expert. We need to do something that requires an expert. We need Bob.

- Bob left an ominous, yet vague comment on my PR. I don't want to merge until I get clarification. (something like "This looks hacky. I guess it works, but we should probably change this ASAP." or "Eww")


> Legacy code. Bob was the only one around when this code was written and it hasn't been touched in years, now it's breaking and no one understands why. (In an ideal world, there wouldn't be knowledge silos like this, but there always are)

Not sure how well/different that works in a remote-first company, but at previous workplaces I was, we tried to have one day a week dedicated to refactoring, which might reduce that problem.


> - Legacy code. Bob was the only one around when this code was written and it hasn't been touched in years, now it's breaking and no one understands why. (In an ideal world, there wouldn't be knowledge silos like this, but there always are)

Not sure if valid, if some legacy code was written a few years before, probably even author will have no clue what's wrong.


The author might have a higher chance of figuring it out. This is playing the likelihood game though. In perfect world, the code would be tight and small enough that you wouldn't take long to understand it, and then the complex components (there are always a bunch of these) are well tested and documented. Especially rationale for design decisions or implementation quirks.

Old code does not necessarily mean legacy code.


LOL Disadvantage: "The need to prepare food."

Are we talking about generally existing as a human being? Yeah, until they invent food replicators you're gonna have to prepare your own food. Get used to it.

I'd say getting to use your own kitchen to prepare your own delicious and nutritious meals is one of the prime advantages of remote work. It saves you way more money over going out to eat, and it's a much more healthy alternative to blindly trusting a restaurant or some food service company like Sysco.

Then again, I am a bit of a maverick in that I make all of my lunches at home, even when I have an office I must travel to for work. You can do your entire week in advance on a Sunday evening, spending less than $30. Not. A. Hardship.

We really should push back against the catered meals and supposed "perks." That's money the company could have spent on increasing your salary or paying a higher dividend to shareholders. Instead of doing that, they've decided they're going to spend your money on an army of chefs to keep you at the office 24/7.

I'll take the higher pay, greater freedom and autonomy, and my own home cooked meals, thank you much.


> The need to prepare food

I'm wondering if that one came from the perspective of those big campuses like Google who have free cafeterias for their employees? Fairly weak point either way.


I think it's an intended joke; a dual of "home food" in the advantages.

(Unless you, or someone else contributed that after reading and before I did, of course...)


That's what I get for not reading the whole thing


I assume catering food for your employees is tax advantaged.


Yaaay government deciding it's better for my employer to pay a food service provider instead of just paying me directly.


For the love of all that is sane, please top trying to push nonstop video calls onto remote employees.

Embrace asynchronous communication.


At GitLab we work async by default. But we also learned that video calls are great for bonding and solving complex problems. We don't use video calls for presentations or status updates. The exception is functional group updates that are recorded for the people the can't attend and that spend a lot of time on questions.


Asynchronous communication is like eventual consistency.

It seems pragmatic until you actually struggle to get everyone to be on the same page at the same time, then you spend a lot of time figuring out how to be consistent.

I agree the video calls are probably over the top - but asynchronous communication != synchronous communication.


Recently I had a bad experience at a fully remote company that decided to fix its remote communication issues with, wait for it...meetings! I went from short daily in person meetings with a longer retro to hour long (or longer) video calls every day during my lunch break hours, since they were on Pacific Time. The last standup I joined was two hours long and involved yelling.

Needless to say, I became a lot more fond of Amazon's pre-meeting written notes after that.


Same goes for getting rid of most meetings, period. Realtime audio/video synchrony is just not that useful many times, whether remote or in-person. Asynchrony is just generally better by default in a wide range of common situations.

It’s particularly bad when you combine it with timewasting predetermined Agile meetings and distraction-oriented open plan offices.

Employers who want happy, productive, collaborative workers: Stop disrupting people with useless meetings and denying them large chunks of private, quiet time to work however they see fit. Stop embedding them in open plan spaces.

You know, treat them like an adult, with basic human dignity, who wants to be respected and trusted that they will succeed with their own judgment for how to effectively communicate and manage their work schedule.


I completely agree that the most effective way for remote teams to communicate is via asynchronous video messaging instead of real-time video conferencing. Some of the difficulties I've experienced coordinating meetings with remote colleagues include:

- Difficulty scheduling a time that fits for all participants. Some team-members are inevitably stuck with a non-ideal timeframe. Often times it's the same employee suffering each meeting, which leads to resentment.

- Interruptions during productive hours. See the Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule (http://www.paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html) - reacting to interruptions can be disastrous.

- Frustration from choppy/laggy video that results in loss of important parts of updates and valuable information.

I'm actually building an app called Tape to address these kinds of issues and to improve communication and collaboration across teams by integrating into existing workflows not against them. If any of you guys are interested in learning more or trying out our product, I'd love to connect: https://trytape.typeform.com/to/pKe6X5


Interesting, having never used async video messaging, what's the strength of video here?


It's easy to go overboard with them, but if video calls are the price for going remote, I'll gladly pay.


> For the love of all that is sane, please top trying to push nonstop video calls onto remote employees.

Nonstop video calls are dumb, but people should try to be on video when there are scheduled meetings. It really helps to see other people when having a discussion.


what's the right amount? 2 group calls per week, each under 1h?


pair programming is more effective IN PERSON


I don't think I've ever seen any objective evidence on this one way or the other.. have you?


Why? Pair programming is actually something I haven't found much different remote vs in person, assuming the right setup.

I feel like the downsides of remote conferences really only kick in with multiple participants.


Didn't see anyone top level mention it, but:

Disadvantages -> Timezones

Timezones make scheduling team meetings hard, and if your organization ever becomes big enough to warrant a physical office people far away will start working late hours to keep up with the main office.

YMMV, but it's 3 AM here in Berlin and until 10 minutes ago I was still actively working.


I've been full-time remote for just shy of 5 years and timezones is definitely an issue. Up to 4 hour difference is sustainable indefinitely, 8 hours can be with the right people (doing split days is great for this), but beyond 8 hours and the amount of effort required for synchronous communication (video calls) causes it to not happen and the team loses cohesion.

You need the synchronous communication to have non-work conversations, and you need those non-work conversations to develop and maintain the relationships required (trust, rapport, etc.) for remote work.

> if your organization ever becomes big enough to warrant a physical office

...then you probably don't have enough buy-in to be a fully remote company and that is far harder to work around than timezones.


> YMMV, but it's 3 AM here in Berlin and until 10 minutes ago I was still actively working.

Sounds like an unhealthy implementation. I've worked 12 hours apart from a main office for 3 years and never worked past my local business hours.


Depends on the team. In Operations, timezone differences can be quite good since it allows you "follow the sun" type of on-call shifts.


Not having meetings sounds like a benefit to me.


> scheduling team meetings

See written & async first communication. Mailing lists work for things like linux kernel development.


> Save on compensation due to hiring in lower cost regions

Pay people what they're worth regardless of where they live. If you have a developer in Nigeria or Ukraine or Vietnam that is as equally capable as a developer in the Bay Area, they should be paid the same.

Doing otherwise, at best, perpetuates Western hegemony, and at worst is simply racism.


This is a bit ridiculous. It's not hegemony or racism. It's how markets work. People in those markets have fewer opportunities for highly paid employment. As a result, employers have more leverage in negotiations. It's as simple as that.


It's how markets work.

Markets work by paying for value created. I’ve tested extensively, and found that I’m equally capable of writing code on a beach in Thailand as in a felt cube in California.

I’ll grant that there is a Cost of Living difference between those places, but I would prefer that difference to be captured by me rather than somebody else’s company. It’s me doing the work and creating the value, so that seems reasonable. If you want to purchase my services, you get to pay my market rate. End of story.

Never drop your rate when working remote. That should probably be written in the article we’re discussing.


> Markets work by paying for value created.

That is not completely true. Market pay also depends on demand and supply. When I was 19 I got 20 Euro an hour (tax free!) doing some CAD work not because of my skills (they were pathetic), but because a large project of a small company depended on some CAD work being done and he (the boss) couldn't find anyone to do it (part-time, for half a year only, very simple work on a shitty laptop were some reasons why I can imagine he had problems). As a test I was asked to draw a line and give it a specific colour in AutoCAD, that was it!


Unfortunately, you will get outpriced by people doing "the same" work for less. Since you cannot know the global prices, you cannot even meet them, much less compete. Lowest bidder often wins.


I know, right? I've lost track of all the money I've lost from clients going with the lowest bidder over the years. I must be literally hundreds of dollars by now.

A bit of advice: Those cheap guys are not your competition, and those bargain hunter clients are not the ones you're trying to land. Let them all race to the bottom all they want. Maybe one of them will find a dev who doesn't know his value yet, but the rest will get their money's worth. It doesn't concern you.

There is only one of you, and your rate is the same whether you're onsite in the Bay Area or working remote from anywhere else you choose to be.

That mindset has served me well over the years. I'd recommend taking it on board.


People in those markets usually aren't comparing their offer with local competition, the job market for remote workers is worldwide. Many companies do pay remote employees based on the value they bring to the company regardless of where they live so they are the competition.


The problem with this is that a remote worker will have problems finding opportunities or getting found, especially because the competition is so huge. It is like the problems contractors face taken to some non small power.


His is a moralistic argument. I expect he understands the mechanism at play here.


This is correct.

Simplified, the counter argument appears to be:

"If a company has the leverage in any capacity to exercise its dominance over a potential employee—to extract as much value from them at the lowest possible financial liability—it should in any case attempt to do so. It would be absurd to do otherwise."

Personally, I can't abide by that—especially when the only basis is locale—and no matter if they bring the same value to the company as a local six-figure-salary employee.


That's pretty much a company's MO no matter where you go. It's always about leverage and market forces. If an employer could pay you 75% less to do the same work they'd do it in a heartbeat.

It's better to know the rules of the game otherwise you'll just end up being played.


Yes and no, I think. Like some other commenters implied, I think it's short sighted. The outcome of working employees like that can end up being of lower quality, so the product suffers, and loses market traction.

I've been witness to this first-hand. Of course, it's only anecdotal, but just the same it's informed my opinions.

Though you're right about your last point absolutely— it's often pretty safe to assume they're (especially larger companies) operating under the pretense we're both referring to.


> It's how markets work.

The "labor market" is a pretty good example of how markets don't work. Workers are pretty much forced to participate in the "market" because they have to eat. This alone is a ridiculous distortion of market mechanisms. There are also huge information asymmetries regarding salary levels.


What if you are a nomad, changing locations month after month? What is your employment market? Is getting hired while in a high income place then moving to a low income place immediately after regarded as a good move in this game?

A remote only company playing the local income game is a major red flag for me. It's basically an employee caste system at that point, with second class employees based solely on their physical location.


Ah yes, the ever ethical and humanist market. I don't think it's wise to look for cues on how to be ethical from the market.

You're right about the mechanisms at play though.


I guess we'll have to throw purchasing power out the window to discuss this one. So pay the developer $20k per year or pay them $100k? If the former, I guess those US developers are just screwed and will probably make more money flipping burgers. If the latter, or anywhere between, then we'll just see developers move to the cheapest, lowest tax countries to arbitrage the artificial market inefficiency. Or are you suggesting we force developers to stay where they are too?


> So pay the developer $20k per year or pay them $100k?

If they bring you $20k worth of value, pay them $20k. If they bring you $100k worth of value, pay them $100k.

Would it suck to be a developer in San Francisco on the same salary as your colleague in India? Sure, but nobody forces you to live in San Francisco.

> If the latter, or anywhere between, then we'll just see developers move to the cheapest, lowest tax countries to arbitrage the artificial market inefficiency.

So? What does that have to do with your company? Does it have a moral obligation to contribute to global inequality?

Wouldn't it be better for the world if good hard money for taxes and locally sourced goods and services were flowing into less developed countries?


> Nobody forces you to live in San Francisco

Spoken like a person without a family or property who is fine with moving to India in a heartbeat.

Do you even know Indian culture? Languages? How to actually acquire a decent living place in there?

It is an existential risk. A pretty big one. You could end up on street or worse. Alleviating this risk takes negligible resources and quite a lot of time.


Sigh. Just because I mentioned San Francisco and India in the same post, that doesn't mean that I believe that those are the only two places on Earth. Get out a map, find a place you like, figure out if there is one that is not San Francisco but might still be acceptable to you. There isn't? Not even elsewhere in the southern US? OK, stay in San Francisco. You have my permission, which apparently you need.

But if you're interested, I do have experience migrating to new places where I had to learn new languages.


Paying someone the value they create is a whole lot more trouble than the equally unprofitable option of not employing them at all.


Maybe, depending on what you mean. Do you mean it's hard to measure individual developers' contributions in monetary terms? I agree. But they average out. If you can afford to pay two people sitting in your office equal amounts on the assumption that they contribute equally, you can also afford the same if one of them sits elsewhere instead.


I'm not saying I disagree with you, but why exactly would it be bad if people moved to places with cheaper cost of living or less tax?


Nothing wrong with it per se. As a developer, I would love to move somewhere cheap and still be paid a Bay Area salary, so I could come back to the US and buy several houses after saving up a truckload of money. But I don't think that was the OP's goal.


> Pay people what they're worth regardless of where they live.

Note that people are fine with getting a lower salary in exchange for being able to work remotely.

You could turn it around and say remote employees are "paying their employer what working remotely is worth".


Personally, if a company uses remote work as an excuse to pay less, that's a red flag for me. Pay should represent the value you offer to the company, period.


> Pay should represent the value you offer to the company, period.

Sure, but value works both ways.

"Your salary should represent the value working remotely offers to you"

If it's reasonable for you to think that way, why wouldn't it be reasonable for companies too?


Salary should be scaled in part by cost of living, otherwise it's unfair to people in high COL countries.

Gitlab does this when calculating salary [1] for their employees. It seems only fair to me.

[1] https://about.gitlab.com/handbook/people-operations/global-c...


Why is it fair to subsidize people to live in high cost of living locations?


Probably best to rent a postal box in the Vatican City, collect that sweet super high pay check and actually live somewhere cheaper :)


Because otherwise, after COL, you might only save $10k per year in a developed country, and $30k per year in a developing country.

That would be just as lopsided and unfair to your remote workers as paying them all market rate, so that your employees in developed countries get paid $80k per year and your employees in India get paid $8k per year.

Or do you expect your developers in America to relocate to India?


Why not subsidize everyone's lifestyle so they all save the same amount of money, regardless of spending?

Would you pay more money for the exact same product made in a different city? How is hiring developers different?


If you've identified the "best" candidate for a position and want to hire or retain that person, you're now competing with the other offers available to that candidate (which include CoL-adjusted offers), not with the salaries you're paying other employees.


Well, I think the idea is meant to be that you get the best developers possible, regardless of where they are, while still trying to keep expenses minimal.


Gotta say, cutting pay just because someone moves feels icky.


It's not racism, it's simple market forces. Supply and demand and the local cost of living. Someone living in Ukraine will do just fine on 10% of what a Bay Area dev gets paid.

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