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I'm leaving GitLab to help everyone work remotely (linkedin.com)
301 points by snow_mac 39 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 227 comments

There's an interesting downside about remote work that most articles don't talk about. Pay.

The brutal fact is most companies simply re-brand outsourcing as "Remote" employees. Case in point, a few years ago, a DIY website builder (a company with a name of a coniferous plant species which I won't name directly) contacted me for a "remote" position.

I passed all their tests and we eventually went to the salary negotiation stage. I agreed to this interview in the first place because I read online they paid really well for their employees, particularly in the US (Bay area).

So, when we were discussing the pay, I threw in a number that's common for the Bay area employees and what seemed very, very reasonable for me. In fact, my current salary was almost the same, just so to make it clear to you that I wasn't trying to take advantage of them or anything.

Immediately, the founder got offensive and told me, "What? Are you serious?? You live in Asia (I was living in Singapore at the time, which already had better pay as opposed to PH), for our employees in Philippines we pay 1/3rd of that and I can still get the job done. Why would I want to pay you that salary?" I told him, "Well, this is what you pay your Bay Area employees, don't you? Besides, my experience more than matches the job profile and requirements and my test results just proved to you I am more than capable for this position."

His answer? "But, you don't live in the Bay area". I thanked him for his opportunity and advised him to contact some sweatshops instead of playing the "remote" game. Since then, I very very carefully ask anyone who uses the word "remote" a LOT of questions, qualify them if they really know remote isn't the same as outsourcing before even going into the interview.

I would have happily agreed to a lower salary if it was fair enough. But, asking me to go down to 1/3rd of my price because of where I lived in seemed ridiculous to me. In the last 10 years, I've lived in 7+ different countries and 35+ different locations within them as I'm that sort of person who likes to travel and explore new cultures. Basing my salary or worth based on where I'm from, where I live in at present seems the most ridiculous thing to me about remote work.

Edit: Typos and clarifications

GitLab themselves have this issue too. They openly publish their formula for calculating salaries [0], but it is very strongly weighted against the local rent index. If you spent all of your salary on rent, then yes it would be fair, but if you want to buy a car, new iPhone or go on a Caribbean cruise, it's going to cost the same whether you live in the Bay Area or Belarus.

For example in the UK if you live in London and earned £60k, according to GitLab's 'Move Calculator' in Bristol you would earn £42k, or in Brighton £38k. Yes there is a difference between the living costs, but there is not that much difference. A 1br apartment close to the center of Bristol is around £900/mo, and in London zone 2 around £1200/mo.

I've seen a lot of remote startups offering salaries around $100k USD, independent of location. For most of the US (outside hot areas like SF or NYC) and Europe that's a good salary, but what if the person you want to hire likes living in the middle of SF and doesn't want to move? For them that salary is going to be too low. I'm not really sure what is the middle ground here.

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

I don't think adding a location factor for anything that is less than 100% of the companies core location is fair. You are doing the exact same job and have the same skill level, you should be paid the same. If you decide to move somewhere where living is cheaper then that is up to you and should not affect your earnings.

This is how you keep poor countries / states poor. Instead of paying people the same which would result in larger taxes paid and more spent in those locations you are keeping status quo.

Location is a factor though. If you live in the middle of nowhere, your chances of finding another job are low. If you live in SF, your chances of finding another job are high (because most jobs are still in person jobs). That is why location matters.

It has nothing to do with your value and everything to do with what the company has to pay to get the talent it wants.

Then let it be enforced via competition and market forces - rather than just using location to lowball somebody.

If lots of people are applying from a low-cost country, the employer is free to choose and thus, would be able to offer a lower salary. But from my understanding, employers want the same level of quality as they would get from the bay area, but insists on paying 3rd world wages if the remote is at a low cost of living location, even though there are very few other candidates suitable!

Well, it is enforced by competition. Not every market player is going to be rational, though. And it was rational for the CEO to try to pay lower than SFBay pay, but maybe not to bail on the negotiation entirely.

> Location is a factor though. If you live in the middle of nowhere, your chances of finding another job are low. If you live in SF, your chances of finding another job are high (because most jobs are still in person jobs). That is why location matters.

This is only true as long as remote jobs are so rare that the candidate is unlikely to find an employer who will pay non-location-adjusted compensation (even if that comp is midway between Bay Area-adjusted and Asia-adjusted comp), or more directly, to pay based on value added.

And… that statement is already not true for great (top 20th percentile?) candidates, and trending towards not true for candidates in the middle of the Bell curve. That is, a person with known skills and a good network can obtain offers from multiple remote-first/remote-friendly companies today. There's already a location-ignorant market for their skills.

As more remote jobs are available, more people will get multiple remote offers, that is, they'll find a location-ignorant market for their skills. The clearing price for their skills will trend towards the value they're perceived to add, even if it takes 5 or 10 years to get there. That perceived value isn't location-adjusted, particularly for remote-first companies trying to hire the best candidates or to hire as many great candidates as they can find (rather than to save compensation expense).

I agree completely. As there are more remote jobs, this will apply less and less. At which point I suspect you'll see a bimodal distribution, much like you see with in person jobs today.

There will be the "location independent" companies that pay top dollar, and then everyone else who pays a "global market average". Top candidates will get the top pay, and everyone else, even if they live in the Bay Area, will have to fight for the "global market" rate jobs, meaning it won't be feasible to be a programmer in the Bay Area anymore (barring a solution to the California housing crisis).

> It has nothing to do with your value and everything to do with what the company has to pay to get the talent it wants.

Hmmm... this sounds very strange.

Getting a job is dependent on you proving how much value you'll bring to the company, but your pay has nothing to do with "your value".

Sounds like someone wants their cake and to eat it, too.

In the case of a US remote worker for a California company, to which state does that worker pay state income taxes? If they're paying California taxes, they should get California money.

I know quite a few people doing remote work for California companies making California salaries, paying localized taxes. It's worth noting that they don't get California benefits either...

California taxes aren't higher because the average pay is higher... Someone making minimum wage pays the same for fuel as anyone else there. The taxes are higher because there are more social programs and generally it all costs more. the real estate in large parts of california are higher based on market desire. That creates side effects of people asking for and getting more money to work there, and it circles around.

Taxation as a percent of income is entirely down to effective spending. And often corruption. Maybe start charging Nestle fair value for all the water they remove from the state.

I agree with you, something needs to be done in order to solve the world inequity. But when a price is negotiated, it's all about how much the seller can get, or how much the buyer has to pay. The quality of work has a relative small impact on price, it's all about how much it would cost to hire someone else, or how much you would earn working at another company. We are in a good trend though, with world globalization - with the help of the Internet.

> You are doing the exact same job and have the same skill level, you should be paid the same.

Colocated employees at the same skill level performing the same job aren't paid the same - employers and employees negotiate compensation individually.

There is no "core location", and also you can't demand remote companies to implement completely equal salaries while in-situ jobs (and rents) vary wildly. It's a double standard.

It's even more expensive in some locations. A car in Sri Lanka costs more than buying the same model in Canada. In Canada the Yaris Hatchback for example is half the current selling price in Sri Lanka. iPhones and other electronics are also priced at rates that are almost double or even more because of shipping and super high tax rates (the latter is there to keep foreign currency from flowing out of the country reserves). Rent and basic living costs is a very poor estimate indeed for calculating spending power within a country.

It's been discussed before on here.

In the UK it's particularly comical because a good number of people commute that far; I've had colleagues (Central London) living in places that according to GitLab should earn half as much.

Indeed but it's weird even when you're not remote. I live in Guildford, and companies unashamedly offer <50% of your average London pay.

The train takes 35 minutes to get into Waterloo... Commuting sucks, but it doesn't suck that much.

This is why I've exclusively worked for London based companies for the last decade or so, even though I now live about two hours outside of London. All the similar jobs around here would as you've seen result in me taking a 50% pay cut, and because I work remote 80% of the week, spending more time commuting into the office.

The difference is so high inside of London compared to an hours train away that it's not even on my radar any more to even look for jobs in the UK outside of London. I sat a jump of 2/3rds in salary when moving to london.

There are some higher paying roles outside of London. Farnborough has defence companies, Swindon has Nationwide, Bath/Bristol has DVSA, Edinburgh has RBS, but yeah, you're generally right. Live in London, if someone offers you "fuck you" money to go elsewhere, you can always rent it out. :)

> in Brighton £38k

Interesting. This is roughly the amount they're offering contractors in Poland.

Everywhere in Poland on top of that, because it's considered a single region, so you could possibly live in a small town where rent is ~£250 and other expenses proportional to that.

What if the person you want to hire likes crashing Lamborghinis and doesn’t want to stop? Living in the middle of SF is a luxury good.

Then don't hire them. If there were sufficient alternatives to hiring SF engineers, nobody would hire them. But they do, which suggest there aren't sufficient alternatives. Hiring is hard.

If you gave Gitlab a PO Box address in the Bay Area as your address, wouldn't they have to pay you Bay Area salaries without you paying Bay Area rent?

If not a PO Box, some other proxy by which you aren't genuinely living there. Maybe just a short-term roommate lease situation?

If you lie to your company saying you live in SF when you live in Asia your going to have a hard time explaining why your never available during the middle of the day, what are you going to do when your asked to travel to somewhere in the continental US and you try and submit a travel expense for a flight from asia, etc...

Throw away account, believe it or not, I've been doing exactly that for the past 3 years - operating a consulting business out of the Bay Area (virtual office) while actually living in Thailand/India/Kenya, etc. I'm always available and working till 7pm PST no matter where I am (Google Fi/Google Voice numbers). It's actually pretty easy to pull off.

It's almost a no brainer to me. If I can charge 3-4x more for the same skills that I have, why not. I'm not gonna take a huge pay cut just because my location changed. And there's almost no explaining involved.

At times when you can't go somewhere physically, sometimes you can tell your clients you're traveling this month. If something is important, you can take a flight. The amount that you're saving, the flight costs are negligible.

I've been thinking of doing something similar, but I need to build up a client base first. Did you build that up before you left, or did you do it while remote? Also, do you have any tips for building up a client base?

How can I reach you? I have a few questions. (ps. you can reach me i have my email in my profile. Thank you).

Then don't submit a travel expense for a flight from Asia? In fact, if you're working remote, you should probably pay your own way for travel if it's not a core part of your job, and if it is, you should probably live somewhere convenient for traveling to the places you typically go.

Also, what happens to a full-time remote worker who decides to move? If they tell their employer that they moved from SF to somewhere far cheaper, should that employer dock their pay? What if they're just temporarily moving (e.g. living abroad for a year, but returning afterward)? If you're going to work remote, it may make sense to rent for a month or so in SF to be present for interviews and then move back to wherever you want to live, which would essentially mean you "live" in SF for that period, so it wouldn't be lying.

Tell them you have multiple residences and declare one as your primary.

I know that shit works because rich people do it for taxes all the time.

> I'm not really sure what is the middle ground here.

The middle ground is irrelevant. The market price will be determined by supply, demand, and the differences in productivity and other factors of remote programmers. They’ll meet somewhere in the middle between the current local labour market model and one where collaboration software and practices are so perfect that there’s only one market for programmers, the global one. But we don’t know where yet.

Right. If you want to hire people who live in the bay area, you should pay enough for them to at least live sustainably there.

If that's too expensive, adjust your recruiting or hiring strategy. Maybe recruit bay area programmers that realize their current salary isn't sustainable since they need to plan for illness, retirement, saving up to launch an idea, etc.

There are some interesting arbitrage opportunities in that data[0]. Even if the average for a province is $X, there will be plenty of cheaper towns in it.

[0] https://gitlab.com/gitlab-com/www-gitlab-com/blob/master/dat...

Ugh that's awful price disparity as well. It's pretty expensive here in the UK.

You should always pay me for what I can do not where I live.

> but what if the person you want to hire likes living in the middle of SF

I think, the idea, is that in SF he'll have no problems finding jobs. They are looking remote because of shortage in SF. I mean according to them.

> I've seen a lot of remote startups offering salaries around $100k USD, independent of location.

As long as it's within US?

Is there a fair way to adjust based on living costs - within certain bounds - that isn't based on rent index, or at least weighted in favour of lower cost areas? Paying Bay Area salaries for every employee just isn't feasible for most startups.


The only fair way to adjust is based on value to the company, and what the potential employee is willing to accept. It isn't reasonable to use pay to remove the financial advantages of a candidate's choice of location, and then claim "you can now hire the best people on the planet in any particular function" as the original link does. If someone is among the best people on the planet, they'll likely be paid considerably more than the San Francisco average without regard to what their costs are.

One of the touted benefits of working remotely, for those who can, is exactly the ability to trade off the advantages and disadvantages of living in places with varying characteristics, and it's unsettling to have a company which claims to support and encourage remote work also be upfront about actively working against remote workers' ability to make these choices.

Yeah. "Paid to a standard of living" seems unfair for employees in that it dictates the employee's spending. (e.g. someone saving half of their salary in high-cost area saves more than someone saving half in a low-cost area, for the same 'standard of living').

AFAICT, the flipside is that "flat global pay" is that then the company can't offer as compelling an offer to those in expensive areas. (i.e. if everyone paid a flat fee and you were stuck in an expensive city, then you would be penalised when looking for remote work).

It's either flat fee or adjust for cost-of-living based on a person's location. Flat fee is fairer, but it cuts out talent from the most expensive places.

Paying Bay Area salaries for every employee just isn't feasible for most startups.

How does that explain the large number of Bay Area, on-site-only startups?

It probably implies that only certain types of start ups are well suited there. E.g well funded VC startups that are looking to go big or go bust where paying lots for talent is worth if for access to many more employees and VCs.

I'm talking about startups that are outside the Bay Area, and outside the US.

On-site-only is a lot more productive, we just like to pretend otherwise because we wish it wasn't?

As evidenced by?

I'm offering it as a possible explanation for why onsite-only Bay Area startups could be a success but remote startups not be able to afford Bay Area salaries.

Yes, you'd use something like the OECD's price level index: https://data.oecd.org/price/price-level-indices.htm

None of these are perfect, you're never going to get two truly comparable locations when accounting for mortage/rent, groceries, cost of transport, cost of consumer products etc., but it's a whole lot better than mainly looking at one variable (rent).

> Is there a fair way to adjust based on living costs

Not for work where the employer isn't specifying a location constraint. For on-site work, while one can debate the exact ideal formula, location adjustments within a firm based on comprehensive cost-of-living makes quite a lot of sense.

Exactly. Many "good" companies do that as well, Mozilla for instance. It's fine if they don't pay top Bay Area rates (e.g. 500K-700K+ total comp), but playing the "we pay a competitive rate in your region " game doesn't cut it - I work remotely to escape my region rates - fortunately, there are companies who pay solely based on contribution rather than coordinates on the map.

Then new graduates and others with difficulty selling themselves start working for the coordinates people and after six months or a year they leave to go work for the contribution people. The more and faster that happens the quicker companies will convert from the former to the latter.

Having talked to

1) one coworker who moved from the bay area to the midwest

2) another coworker evaluating NYC vs other potential places to live in the US

it seems like what Mozilla pays doesn't differ that much across their different US geographic salary bands. Both coworkers found it would be more favorable for them to take the small pay cut in exchange for a dramatic cost and quality of living difference.

I meant the gap between the US and e.g. Zimbabwe or Pakistan. As I've mentioned to Gitlab's CEO here, you should aim for fairness in terms of the quality of life. Otherwise, if you go with the "region market rate" - I bet someone living in US or Canada (or Switzerland) has much better quality of life compared to someone in Zimbabwe or any other poor/developing (or non-developing) country.

And yes, someone from Mozilla confirmed here some time ago that they do differentiate salaries based on the country/region - they won't pay "US salary" to someone in Ukraine for instance.

I'm sorry - $500k!

I work for a big US company in the UK in a senior role and I get $150k approx. I work just outside London but I regularly have to attend meetings right in the City.

I'm going to move to Mexico before Trump gets his wall!

You can stay in London, e.g. Facebook pays mid to high six-figures (GBP). Seven-figure is also possible for some (incl. bonus), even for IC engineers. They are poaching engineers from finance sector.

I work in Finance! I shall have a butchers.

That looks like a totally unprofessional discussion from his side. It's good that he gave you some kind of feedback on the salary part, but most of the companies will simply reject your application in situations like these, with a generic reason: "we decided to go with a different candidate".

Anyway, the sad reality is that salaries are currently location based, no matter how you put it. At least until the world becomes a single economy, if it ever happens.

The obsession companies have with location varied comp is irrational.* The only solution is to arbitrage by living in a high comp area that is not terrible. There are second order benefits (opportunity etc) from living in those areas which you get for free; we have to use them.

If it were a “nobody wants to live there” comp, I would completely understand. Supply and demand. But is London really ~twice as bad as Brighton? My lungs agree, but surely that’s not what the market thinks?

Pay people double to live on the South Pole, not San Francisco.

* Perhaps it is a rational reaction from companies to an irrational behaviour of the labour market, where the majority of devs expect it and get offended if you don’t. Fine. Whatever it is, it’s “free money”.

It is not irrational, it is a cost reduction and very sensible from their point of view. Of course, they can do this only because remote is not a protected class.

It could also be fair if they were to offer relocation to any place the employee picks, but even writing that sentence is ridiculous, why would a business act fair when they can exploit people?

> There's an interesting downside about remote work that most articles don't talk about. Pay.

Which is extra annoying, because working remotely means that at least two expenses may be pushed on you: office and hardware.

If you're me, and you live with just cats and love your vintage 2013 MB Pro, that might not be that much. But I also would get 80% of the benefit from a job that's just close enough to my home, doesn't have an open office, and doesn't enforce strict working hours. People who benefit more, like folk with families, also need to spend on a home with an extra room.

I think any company should pay for equipment for their employees. GitLab does this, we will do this.

Desk, monitor, computer, chair, etc. Alternatively, offer a budget for a coworking space.

These kind of expenses are nothing compared to a monthly salary.

>vintage 2013 MB Pro

It's considered vintage already? I only just bought it 18 months ago.

It is important that the company embraces the remote working completely -- i.e. even if they have local employees their work process needs to be exactly the same as for the remote ones. Ideally, the company should have no offices, and offer all employees expense allowance to pay for a local office if they want to (e.g. a coworking space or similar, with the option to pool it together if there are more people in the same location). As long as a company treats people differently based on the location (usually by those who are in the same location as the management get treated more favourably), it is not possible to have a real remote culture.

Another issue is related to the time zones; things tend to fall apart if teams work across more than 4-5 timezones. I should be possible to organise teams according to time zones, but that creates a similar (although less disruptive) differentiation as co-location.

> when we were discussing the pay, I threw in a number that's common for the Bay area employees

> I thanked him for his opportunity and advised him to contact some sweatshops instead of playing the "remote" game.

> asking me to go down 1/3rd of my price because of where I lived in seemed ridiculous to me.

I agree with the general principle that you shouldn't give massive discounts because you live in a lower cost of living area, but you're comparing it to a Bay Area salary as if that's the norm. It's a massive outlier. Going down 1/3rd of a Bay Area salary (I'm assuming a developer of some sort from context) still puts you in the top 1% or so of earners virtually anywhere in the world. Offering two thirds of a Bay Area salary certainly can't be described as a "sweatshop" salary.

Sorry for the lack of clarity, I have since edited my post. They asked me for 1/3rd of my price - Not going down by 1/3rd, but rather 1/3rd of my quoted salary. So, if it was 100k, he was asking me for 33k.

They did offer 1/3 of, and not 2/3 of, from what I've understood from the OP comment.

Going down 1/3 means going down by 1/3 not going down to 1/3. It's possible they misspoke though. 1/3 of a Bay Area salary is still not a sweatshop salary and will let you live like a king in many places in the world though!

Let's reverse this notion: if your company is a remote(-friendly) company the place your employees are living is their decision. Since your company allows them to work wherever they want, they don't necessarily have to live in the Bay Area. This becomes a personal preference and I don't see why a personal preference is your business, moreover why you need to reward it with extra money.

Also it's worth considering that in this business your employees are hired to think. It is nice companies starting to realize that it's not needed to be present 100% in the time in an office to be able to deliver the thinking, but they also need to realize that my brain produces the same output no matter where I live.

> they don't necessarily have to live in the Bay Area. This becomes a personal preference

This was part of my point: you're taking the Bay Area as the standard by which you're judging everything else. This is backwards. The Bay Area is an extreme outlier.

Yes, it's a personal preference. But if you choose to live in the Bay Area, your income requirements eclipse everybody else's. Everybody else can live extremely comfortably anywhere else on that kind of money. If you have the personal preference to live there, why should a business pay you more than everybody else everywhere else? It's your personal preference and it doesn't help the business in the slightest.

It's also a bit weird. Where I live is very expensive and far away from family but I live here because it's a nice area in proximity for jobs.

What's to stop me just moving somewhere cheaper after I get the remote job tired to location? Are they going to renegotiate with me? What if I just forward my mail and don't tell them.

Further still, there are always expensive areas in poorer places and cheaper areas in expensive places. Are these companies going to start auditing our finances before they discuss renumeration?

> Are they going to renegotiate with me?

As an example, GitLab explicitly requires you to inform them and makes no guarantee about if and at what pay level they offer you a new contract.

> What if I just forward my mail and don't tell them.

Sounds like an interesting problem for the courts once they find out.

Both answers seem ridiculous and like something that would quickly be dismissed in the employees favour in EU countries.

But at the end of the day, do we really think gitlab is going to dimiss or renegotiate with a performing employee rather than this being a loophole to get rid of someone they don't value?

> What's to stop me just moving somewhere cheaper after I get the remote job tired to location?

Nothing, assuming I can find other people with the similar quality as you, but significantly cheaper because they live in lower cost of living area, why would I not replace you ?

It's almost safe to assume they wouldn't hire me in the first place if they had the quality on tap significantly cheaper.

yes, the point is people (assuming similar work quality) living on cheaper place can afford to undercut other people living in more expensive place. That's why remote position usually pay less, because you are now competing globally.

Which goes back to the point, the price is the price and not, the price is variable based on location. Either there simply isn't enough value for anyone to be based in SF, or it should be possible to present similar value whilst being based elsewhere.

The only way you can demand SF area salary by living in let say vietnam is if you can convince your employer that they won't be able to find anyone else in the world that can do your job as good as you.

Yes, "going down by 1/3" would mean what you say - but they wrote "going down TO 1/3 of": "asking me to go down to 1/3rd of my price because of where I lived".

I read "going down to 1/3" differently than "going down by 1/3". "going down to" leaves you with 1/3; "going down by" leaves you with 2/3.

> they wrote "going down TO 1/3 of"

They didn't; as the OP already mentioned, they went back and edited it.

One of the upside of hiring remote employee is for better value. Assuming similar skill, because why would you pay 100k for bay area employee where you can pay 33k for remote employee?

You’re talking about a remote employee costing less, not being a better value. The value of an employee is not equal to that employee’s cost. Assuming all employees were paid equally, you’d still find some who were more/less valuable to the company than others. Extend this recognition outward, and the cost can quickly be seen to have little to do with determining the value of a good (or poor) employee. The things that determine a team member’s value are things like productivity, coachability, quality of work, and many other things unrelated to their raw dollar cost.

From the employer perspective, better value means lower cost for the same amount quality.

That's an extremely naive employer perspective. It is exceedingly rare to be able to place an exact dollar amount on the contribution of a team member. Much less to place an exact dollar amount on some subjective notion of quality. The only exact dollar amount an employer-employee relationship definitively has is the negotiated price at which the two actors are willing to play together.

I've been the employer. With any technology professional, I'm willing--and happy--to pay right up to the rough approximation of value I feel the team member brings. Most of the time, that rough approximation is, "Do I feel like the company is getting its money's worth out of this team member?" It's rare to find the same amount of quality among a number of team members, because everyone is unique and brings their own flavor of contribution to a team. Person A might bring a lot more to the planning, architecture, and direction of the project. Person B might be great at not only delivering code, but helping others do so, as well. Person C might be a royal pain to manage as part of the team. Person D might crank code out non-stop, but seems to create bugs/issues in proportion to the amount of code they're pushing out. Judging the quality of team member contribution winds up working out to some sort of curve--there are usually outliers on the high and low ends. You want the vast majority of the team to be roughly equivalent and trending toward the high end. The low-end outliers--those who clearly are not keeping up with the team, not providing enough value in their contribution, are difficult to manage, aren't good team players, etc--those are the people where the cost starts to become an issue.

An employer who prioritizes the exact dollar cost to be as low as possible isn't looking for quality--they're looking to fill seats as cheaply as possible, while hoping something passable comes out as a result. Nobody who knows what they're doing is going to want to stay in an environment like that.

I'm not sure what you are trying to say here but yes

>dollar amount an employer-employee relationship definitively has is the negotiated price at which the two actors are willing to play together

I agree with this. But don't forget, the employee living in lower cost of living area can afford to negotiate lower pay to undercut those who live in expensive area.

Let say I move to vietnam, I can now easily afford to demand for 1/2 of the pay compared someone who live in bay area. Then why don't a company choose me instead ? Again, assuming I can produce the same quality of work as bay area programmer.

The goal of a company is still to make money and managing expense is always important.

why would anyone want to do that? you think your company is some kind of special place? ill just look for another job where i dont have to just ask for 1/2 of what i want...

Sure, if I can find a company willing to pay that much. It is going to be difficult in global market. By going remote, you are competing with people around the world.

If think you are that really really special programmer who are better than most people worldwide in what you do, then yeah you can demand whatever you want.

I knew I'm not that special. By living let say in Vietnam, I'm still happy with the 1/2 amount I got and companies has incentive to hire me instead.

The good news is I think this is a problem that goes away (or at least is lessened) as remote work becomes more ubiquitous. When there's more supply of remote employers, presumably some of them will make a big point of paying people the same rates everywhere as a hiring differentiator, which will make it harder for employers just looking for a good deal.

"Good news" depending on who you are. If remote really becomes a common thing US programmers will start earning Europe salaries, and Europe programmers will start earning China salaries. I don't think it's going to become that common (I'm thinking less than 10% of programmers will work remote 10 years from now). Yes it will be more common but it will not be common.

By the way, Singapore is one of the most expensive cities to live in Asia, probably behind Tokyo.

One of the most expensive in the world, not just Asia.

I think rent in Singapore is probably higher. Much less area to live on.

Housing in Singapore is not suspect to normal market conditions. Yes, expensive, but 80% of people live in subsidized housing.

I completely agree with this.

A person did put in the same effort as the other one for learning something.

Since a person leaves in an area which isn't properly developed or cheaper, he/she is living in order to save money or due to some other personal reasons, shouldn't be discriminated and paid less for the same talent/value the company receives.

Obviously it always feels better to live in developed areas.

When a company is receiving same quality from different vendors, they should pay the same for different vendors irrespective of their origin of locations.

I'm a dev working remote in the PH. While this state of affairs is frustrating, I await the day when pay for technical work has nothing to do with one's location.

Your biggest mistake was mentioning the Philippines. The sad fact is that a lot of employers, including Filipino ones, associate this country with low-wage employees and cheap labour. That's why the PH is the capital of outsourcing and offshoring in order to cut costs. It shouldn't matter, and I feel sorry for Filipinos trying to get paid fairly in this business climate, but unfortunately this country is so corrupt that it's a case of poor economics and planning.

Basecamp, although currently in a "hiring freeze", pays the same salary no matter where you are: https://m.signalvnoise.com/how-we-pay-people-at-basecamp-f1d...

I would love a list of such companies, maybe people posting on the monthly who's hiring thread can clarify that.

Like it or not they are right, you are wrong IMO, maybe not 1/3rd but much less. Salaries are what they are in SF, because that's what it takes for people to live there and have a sorta decent life.

Rent, food, taxes, transportation etc etc reflect on salary. Also competition has a major impact on salaries. Companies fight a lot over SF engineers, not so much for those in Asia. (unless they're super brilliant)

Edit: Google has ~ 85,000 employees. If they give each employee an extra $100K bonus it would cost them $8.5 Billion. They can afford it. Why they don't give it? Because they don't have to.

Salaries in SF are driven by competition, not living costs (in fact living costs are driven up by the high salaries). There are plenty of cities with comparable living costs to SF, but with much lower salaries.

Fine, but en engineer looking for a job today has to live in SF, with SF prices. The chicken/egg question doesn't matter at this time.

What would happen to salaries if 150,000 more engineers from middle America started to apply to jobs in SF?

> I thanked him for his opportunity and advised him to contact some sweatshops instead of playing the "remote" game.

He's right, you are wrong. Bay Area salaries are high because it's very expensive to live there. Even dev salaries in Europe are 20-30% of what they can be in the BA.

..but it's expensive to live there because of Bay Area salaries..

How expensive is it to live in Singapore?

I had a very tiny one bedroom there, barely bigger than a studio, and it was the equivalent of US$2000 a month in rent.

Ah, you can live like a king in Asia for $20 a day!

Which is very much not true in Hong Kong (where I live), or Singapore (where I have friends), or a bunch of other places in 'Asia'...

Has anyone tried signing up for remote.com?

I just did and they wanted an email for jobs which I thought was OK.

Then I tried to add a profile and it prompted me to export my entire LinkedIn history. It says to export "The Works".

My LinkedIn is quite massive and I've checked the export for "The Works" includes my entire contact list.

That's pretty shady. Why not just import my profile? There's an option to export only profile data. How many people will follow these default instructions and upload everything they have ever done on LinkedIn?

We should be much more transparent about this, you're right.

We're going to split this up between your profile and your contacts, and make it explicit what happens.

I know it's nice to see you in here and commenting, but I have to weigh in a bit to offer advice. These types of issues shouldn't exist in a modern application. Particularly one that deals with a fairly sensitive subject for a lot of people (looking for work).

I hope it's not an indication of the overall data handling approach within the application in general and just an oversight for launch. It might be worthwhile to re-visit your internal policies/review practice for safe harbour and be upfront about it.

Just a suggestion!

Are you actually doing anything with the contacts currently or is that data discarded?

Thank you. I never like to import my contacts cause they don't necessarily give me consent to share their contact information, but importing the other bits from a profile is certainly useful.

I felt the same, but exported just my profile from LinkedIn and the import worked all right.

I agree with a lot of his points about the value of remote work, but the biggest one is that the labor pool is much much larger. This is such an advantage that I believe it outweighs the higher bandwidth conversations and the deep talent pool in the Bay area, but it does require reconfiguration of the company. Sharing of data, leveraging of online tools, trust in employees, adjustment to communication differences.

In fact, I don't know if you can take a company that is built onsite and revamp it to succeed in a 100% remote manner. Perhaps, if you replace one department at a time? I don't know, and haven't encountered any stories of such a transformation.

Anyway, congrats to the OP. I don't know if we need another remote job board, but heaven knows we need more remote jobs.

> I agree with a lot of his points about the value of remote work, but the biggest one is that the labor pool is much much larger.

That's clearly an advantage for the employer, but not necessarily for the employees who live in globally-more-expensive places. Taken to the obvious conclusion, remote developers in India can do the same remote work for a lot less money than remote workers in the US can afford to.

I know it sounds crass and protectionist, but US workers cannot afford globalization despite the increase in profits for employers.

I'm always amazed at all the developers who are in favor of remote work....as long as you don't offshore....

If I'm going to hire remote workers why wouldn't I hire great talent in Vietnam or China or Poland instead of in the US?

As a remote developer from (and living in) Poland, working from an US company, please do offshore :). You can pay us 2x less than you would your local devs, and we still earn 2x more than we would working for a local shop :). (EDIT: but see replies)

WRT. timezones, they sometimes are a problem, but in my experience, they actually force better work arrangements. You can get an uninterrupted stretch of time for focused work before the people from another zone start asking you stuff, and after the overlap passes and you're done for the day, they get uninterrupted time too. Also this puts a bit extra pressure on writing things down, which is almost always positive IMO (in every place I've worked so far, there's way too little documenting happening, which causes lots of waste for everyone).

In a game theoretic way it would be more beneficial if we all align our compensation demands to US salaries, independently of location, and in your case you get 4x above local shop salaries.

Yes absolutely. At the very least, workers at offshore divisions of the SV giants (e.g. Facebook London) should be demanding compensation to match their Bay Area colleagues.

I’m curious, how far off are they today?

It seems like there can be a >100,000USD difference in total compensation. Take it with a grain of salt, but there's some self-reported numbers at https://www.levels.fyi

If you click on an individual position, you can filter reports by location. If I were a SWE working for Google/Facebook/Uber in London, I'd be irked.

Depends on your location though... A senior developer in some areas in the U.S. will be under $80k/year, in SF/SV it could be over $240k/year. Which is already a lot of variance (3X). In the end, I chose to live in a city where even local development jobs are at the higher end of the pay range in the area (top 5-8%) and better ratio to the cost of living for the area compared to say SF/SV and other places where the lower income for dev is closer to median (20-30% position).

It depends on a lot of things, and it's always negotiation. In the end, know what others are making as best as you can and ask for 10% more than you think you may get. In the end, you may lose 75% of the opportunities, but you only need 1 job at a time.

That would require you to convince all other worker to do the same, which is I don't think is feasible.

You're absolutely right, and thanks for pointing this out!

Are there that really all that many? The pushback I see from developers against "offshore" is specifically directed at cheap outsourced offshoring. That's an entirely different kettle of fish to hiring people to work for you directly.

Absolutely. Hire the very best. The disadvantage to hiring within a specific geography is that your talent pool is limited and you are forced to compromise your internal standards to the capabilities of the available candidates.

Companies are willing to pay more for competence and I am willing to accept less pay to work with a more competent team.

> I'm always amazed at all the developers who are in favor of remote work....as long as you don't offshore....

Think of it rather as "who are in favor of remote work as long as it doesn't end up pushing them out of a job if they don't leave their home country" and it might make more sense. The answer is because it harms _my_ financial prospect in favor of someone _else_'s just so that executives can further consolidate wealth at the top.

> If I'm going to hire remote workers why wouldn't I hire great talent in Vietnam or China or Poland instead of in the US

Right. If you're going to hire. But that ignores the "if I'm going to get hired" side of the equation which affects significantly more people.

You can replace "remote" with "manufacturing" and trace the economic collapse of middle America. Hiring great talent in Vietnam, China, or Poland may be great for people in Vietnam, China, and Poland, but that doesn't come for free for US workers. Are US workers more important than Vietnamese workers? No, of course not. But if you live anywhere in the US then you literally cannot live on a typical Hanoi salary, and that has real consequences.

There are often legal, contract, or regulatory restrictions on outsourcing software development to other countries. For example, most grants from the Department of Energy require that funds be spent in the United States.

While I'm sure restrictions like this exist in government contracts everywhere, I suspect companies working government contracts are a tiny proportion of the whole. i.e. in the general case, these restrictions don't exist & companies are free to hire their permanent staff from anywhere they please.

They're definitely not the majority, could be as high as 20-30% of jobs being secondary to the government (varying by location). The US Gov't employs nearly 1% of the population as direct employees and roughly the same as contractors.

Not all of the 20-30% would be bound to US employment for all projects, but wouldn't be surprised if a large portion have U.S. only requirements by locality (citizen + visa employees).

Note: I currently work for an election services company, and have worked in eLearning development though am no expert on the field of labor, law or guesstimates, just going from past reading and other loose knowledge. I did a brief google search to try and track down sourcing, but unable to find anything firm.

Hopefully those employees in Vietnam or Poland would soon start demanding higher salaries. If you're selling your labor into a global market, charge what the market will bear, which is evidently a small fortune.

It is already happening. In Poland the salaries among developers are getting closer and closer to salaries in Germany or UK. The reasons are that developers can find a job for foreign companies (therefore local companies need to increase salaries in order to compete), but also that local companies get more foreign customers, therefore they can quote higher prices and offer higher salaries.

I don't know how reliable Payscale is but it's showing software development salaries in Germany to be 2x those in Poland.

Time zones make a big difference to remote collaboration. South and Central America are likely to become increasingly popular for offshoring for that reason, IMO.

Timezones are a drawback for quick slack style discussion but can be a plus sometimes when work on a project can be done by both sides of the team. You can work while they sleep and they take the relay when it's their "shift", and it can increase throughtput.

Also, I've been working on an US EST schedule since 2000 (from Eastern Europe). It's great for waking up late (I hate early mornings) and having the day free for shopping or whatever.

It definitely encourages asynchronous communication if the time difference is large.

It really depends on the project in my experience. Sometimes, or at least initially, you need a lot of back and forth contact and without that it really slows the project down.

I don't know why, but it just doesn't work. My guess is that the top tier candidates from those places are capable of moving to a place with higher standard of living. At least that's the case where I'm working now. The best Indian candidates have been able to demand relocation to the US and the rest are still in India.

People seem really set on reading this as "hire developers from a 3rd world country". But no one said that was the only option.

Go hire some French or Belgian or Danish developers or New Zealand developers, you'll find the salaries are nothing like Bay Area salaries... And few of them would consider the US as having a higher standard of living.

If you're just trying to get good candidates for salaries below the Bay area rates, basically pick any 2nd tier city in the US. It may still be more expensive than France/Germany etc, but there's no language barrier, closer time zones, similar holidays, better labor laws (for the employer), etc. In my personal opinion the cost difference doesn't make up for those hurdles until you get much cheaper salaries like India, China, Brazil, etc. Obviously individual circumstances apply.

Because many tech companies are not looking for sweatworkers but people who fully understand the context in which the product they are working on exists...from my expierence you won’t find these folks offshore

I don't work in the US. I guarantee you those people exist outside of the US.

You think the engineering team behind Alibaba's singles day sale are just a bunch of sweat workers? You think people in Bulgaria can't understand context? Engineers in Canada can't?

I should have been more clear, I meant in your typical engineering offshoring shop.

Of course you can find talented engineers with product sense elsewhere...though so far a majority keeps flocking to the pacific north west.

Kind of backing yourself into a corner. You can find competent people anywhere, so if you are advocating remote work, just realize that there is no longer anything unique about living in the USA.

If that were the case itd have happened already.

The old joke:

Two economists walk down a road and they see a twenty dollar bill lying on the side-walk. One of them asks “is that a twenty dollar bill?” Then the other one answers “It can’t be, because someone would have picked it up already,” and they keep walking.

The rarity of finding $20 bills on the ground, let alone smaller valued bills such as $1, proves my point.

Why can't it be in the process of happening? Is there a global on/off switch somewhere?

Its a moving target!

Of course todays top skills will be broadly available in 10-20 years...it will all be common sense. But what ever the next frontier will be, again only a bunch of experts will exist for it.

As a contrary anecdote, I once worked on a project where we had a method with a cyclomatic complexity of over 200. (The company had a tool that stopped counting at 200.)

I was not allowed to change it, or even add tests to it, because it was written by the NY office and they would have complained about it.

Bad programmers are everywhere.

Ah, that's fair. I guess I'd say it's still a big advantage for an employee, because the number of firms that are available for remote work is most likely larger than the number of firms in any one locality (especially if you limit commute time). Maybe not the Bay area, I have never lived there. The pool is large for both companies and employees.

But the biggest advantage to employees I'd say would be the lack of commute. Even with a quick commute (15 min) you are gaining 2.5 hours a week. That is a huge amount of time that employees are not compensated for.

When I worked remote, I found I worked more hours than the days I went into the office and spent 40 minutes each day commuting. It's a lot harder to walk away from work when it is embedded in your home life. I actually quit my most recent job when they decided to close the office and move to full time remote work, so YMMV.

A compromise could be a co-working space or separate office in the house. It is very beneficial to have a clear divider between home and work life, so if you felt you weren't achieving it I totally understand the departure.

If the time difference isn't a problem, there are people with a much lower cost of living who are willing to work for 20 times less money than anyone in the Bay Area.

The ones that are worth hiring don't charge 20 times less regardless of their cost of living, because why would they?

I agree, but it takes a while for us to realize how much we are worth. Impostor syndrome is a big thing.

Market value is different in different parts of the world. It's called arbitrage

OTOH half the articles on HN are about how SF is made unliveable by the high salaries in software engineering, so maybe this will self correct, making some of the most expensive places in the US cheaper (I guess the process would not be painless though)

Frankly, I think culture and localization have value. There will always be companies that prefer local. There are definite advantages to having people in proximity together for at least a portion of a given week.

In terms of working with remote workers. I've done it in several environments. Often it's time zone differences and differences in approach and culture that wind up costing more, which may or may not offset other needs. The total cost may go down, but the time to complete a project often goes up. It depends on the needs of given project(s) to the company, as well as the distribution and size/scale of management.

In the end, I'm happier to see offshore workers ask for more. I live in a city which has a higher pay to cost of income ration (for my field)... I stay here for that reason. I'm not taking less because the average is less.

Because, assuming similar skill, as by living in cheap place I can afford to undercut other people living in more expensive place. That makes me more attractive to the employer.

I first encountered this idea reading VoxDay. He was against free markets because - to paraphrase - US workers are too stupid to compete.

This tribalism is so strange to me. I can sort of understand the US-vs-the-world thing (the US is huge), but being from Europe, with dozens of tiny countries, the ideas that Belgians are intrinsically worth more protection than Albanians is just nuts.

> the ideas that Belgians are intrinsically worth more protection than Albanians is just nuts

They aren't intrinsically worth more, but it matters if you happen to be one of those Belgians who loses your job to an Albanian who earns less than it costs for you to not live on the street.

You can't lose your job; it's not something you owned in the first place.

> I know it sounds crass and protectionist, but US workers cannot afford globalization despite the increase in profits for employers.

That's because it is.

Thanks - goal is not to build a job board. Goal is to move remote working forward. A job board is an obvious start if done well (note: we have a long way to go, right now).

Hiring from anywhere is amazing, but there are many challenges in paying and employing people from different countries. We hope to make some dent in that, but I'm aware that's going to be very hard.

I think this is why so many people have a negative view of remote work. They worked at companies that hired remote workers but the majority of people were in-office. That rarely works out well. You need commitment from the top all the way down and throughout the organization.

I’ve worked at 100% remote companies most of my career and they are excellent. Every person is invested in making communication work.

My last gig was where we were a remote team but most employees were in-office. It was impossible to get even the slightest bit of adjustment on how work gets done (write stuff down, don’t have private meetings without us, etc). Eventually it created hostility and not much of anything got done.

I agree with a lot of his points about the value of remote work, but the biggest one is that the labor pool is much much larger.

Also, those people can bring their own connections even establishing remote teams.

Being well-rested pretty much all the time (no commute, no two-hour pre-work morning routine), having a much bigger talent pool, not having to pay for a physical office, and eliminating office-related distractions (open offices suck) all make remote work pretty much a win-win for employees and employers. My company is in the middle of the transition, and the dividends are paying off already.

It isn't always a win win. I prefer remote myself, but not everyone has a quiet or understanding home to work in and not everyone can work well completely isolated. When the last place I worked at asked if the team wanted to go remote, only a handful said yes and even those people still wanted the option to come into the office. For a lot of people, the workplace is where they have friendships and structure that makes them feel happy and like they are progressing in life. I don't feel the same way but I empathise and I suspect it may even be the majority.

> It isn't always a win win.

Agreed. Especially with less experienced folks, remote work can be hard because there's less context. You can't see someone struggling quietly at their desk, they have to ask for help or you have to ping them.

It's give-and-take.

At a butt-in-seat job, I'd turn up on time and leave on time - and that's the end of it. If during those hours I happen to be in an unproductive mindset (eg, unable to concentrate) then so be it. I'm paid for my time. If I happen to be in a productive mood after hours, their loss.

Now that I'm working remotely, if I'm feeling unproductive then I will stop work and do something else (shopping/walk/etc.) and resume when I'm more productive.

I also don't mind being contacted out of hours (I'll decide if I'm busy or not) - they're flexible with me, so I'm flexible with them.

They'll get the same number of clock-hours from me, but with more work output.

Yes, this is a great point. If I "felt stupid" when I was in the office, that was fine. I would chat with colleagues or just look out the window. On the other hand, if the same thing happens at home then I feel guilty about it, "stop the clock" and then resume later.

I wish he'd write a book about how to run fully remote companies, especially _international_ ones, like GitLab. Having recently founded a company myself, I have no plans of ever renting a permanent office if I can avoid it. So far though, I only had to deal with regulatory stuff in two states (DE and WA), and I get a throbbing headache from just contemplating doing this in every state and internationally as well. Would be pretty cool to know where the rakes are buried under the leaves so to speak, and how best to structure/manage such an organization, even besides the usual communication related challenges.

You probably already know the book, but Basecamp's founders collected their thoughts on the matter a while ago: https://basecamp.com/books/remote

Unfortunately, this book does not address any of the complicated legal logistics aboute remote work (setting up multiple companies abroad like GitLab has done, hiring contractors, giving stock and stock options to people around the world, benefits, exclusivity, etc.).

I haven't read a lot about this online but I know it's one of the problems with remote work.

I'd guess that the whole arena is just so complicated and idiosyncratic that it's basically impossible to generalise the way you'd need to for a book.

Details/legalities are going to vary depending on where your company is registered, where your nominal "offices" are (some/most legal jurisdictions still insist on the fiction of a registered office, even though the whole point is to work completely decentralised) and where you're hiring people. So a book/website/wiki/whatever covering all the legal, tax, compensation, worker rights, healthcare, etc., etc. for all the combinatoric possibilities seems unlikely. A high bar and of limited value, since the rules are in any case shifting all the time. So it ends up roughly where we are, with each company hacking through the specific cases that cross their paths with their respective lawyers and accountants.

In this regard, the one thing I have seen is that most Remote First/Only companies I've tripped across seem to throw the questions of healthcare, home office allowances and even income taxes over to the employees... it's already too complicated for them to deal with unless they severely limit the number of countries they'll hire from.

I mean, healthcare is OK to throw to employees, IMO, provided the employer is willing to pay more to compensate the employee. It's not a difficult thing to procure. I've had my own insurance for over a year, and yes, it's pretty expensive, but if I were someone else's employee and my employer covered a half or 2/3rds of the cost, I'd be pretty happy. The cognitive overhead is about the same: you just review your cost increases at the end of the year and sigh.

Thanks - good idea. My plan is to make that kind of content available on Remote.com and not just in a book.

Is anyone else not as optimistic about remote work? I feel that the workplace is the single largest facilitator of friendship/relationship/community building that most adults have in the modern day. If this goes away I really fear that the loneliness problem will become even worse.

When I worked remotely 2 days per week this was a problem for me, because all the people I worked with were together in an office. I felt quite isolated on those days and enjoyed going into the office to see people on the other 3 days.

However, when I changed jobs and was almost completely remote it was a lot better. Firstly I was working with other remote people so we communicated in different ways and not just about work. Secondly I made more effort to contact other remote workers nearby and meet up with them for coffee or lunch.

On balance I much prefer remote working to office working.

Remote work doesn't mean solitude, it means being free to work wherever, and often times whenever, you feel comfortable. It also means less commute, less cars, less pressure on the environment. If friendship/relationship/community is a worry go work in a nearby co-work space or a coffee shop or the park even, it might be a walk or bike ride away.

You're simplifying things. I don't think parks or co-work spaces will cut it for most people. Many software developers are introverts to begin with so meeting new people will become impossible for them in a remote work setting.

Yeah, as someone who is on the extreme end of introverted (not shy, just happy to be alone) this was the case for me. I got a membership to the co-working space, did many of the social events, attended some meetups even, but the connections just wouldn't stick.

On the flip side, when I have worked at an office I have always come out after a year or so with a couple close friends in the organization. Because of the physical proximity many of the shared experiences are more intense. Putting out production fires, after work beers, dropping in on a co-worker to talk about the product, etc, lead to longer lasting relationships.

Developers have a tendency to assume that technology can solve more of our issues than possible. I have plans to start my own company with a bit more savings and network under my belt, and I will be doing zero remote, assuming I can afford to.

Humans are not robots, we may be some sort of an algorithm but a very complicated one: we need emotional bonding and physical proximity is very important for that.

> Many software developers are introverts to begin with so meeting new people will become impossible for them in a remote work setting.

Even in work setting it's "impossible" for introverts to meet new people. I'm introvert and I talk to hardly no one at work.

How I meet people is by going to a pub where we can play board game. You simply sadly can't passively meet people, you need to want to meet them or else it will be a simple hello started from someone else that will bring to nothing.

I hear you. But a person like you would do even worse in remote work. The little social contact you have will be reduced to almost zero. I'm an introvert myself but I do see a big risk for isolation and depression if I worked remotely.

When you're working remotely, you have to actively, consciously make an effort to bond, connect with your colleagues. Think regular hangouts where you just have casual chats, casual 1:1 conversations and -if possible- semi-regular meetups in real life where the point is not to work.

That'll feel very unnatural at first, but over time just become part of working remotely.

I feel like that's only problem for people with no social circle outside the world who spend their whole days at the office.

I have worked remote and in office jobs. Whenever I work remote, I find I'm naturally more involved in meetups. This helps make up for some of the social activity I am missing.

More about my thoughts on the downsides of remote work here:


I have a family, so working at home is far preferable to working in an office. Then again, my previous workplace was toxic (bad management), so perhaps it's better with better management, but I can't see how working in an office can ever compete with being at home with my wife and kids.

If you want/need more social interaction, there are plenty of other options to consider, such as:

- join a sports team or community group - interact with neighbors (they become co-workers if they're also working remote) - get a co-working space - attend community meetups regularly (I go to technical and entrepreneurship meetups) - get hobbies outside the house that involve others

The nice part about working from home is you get to decide who to interact with since you're not stuck with whomever your company chose to hire, and you can still communicate with them over chat or whatever. Sure, you have to be a little more proactive about it, but I think it's clearly better.

Yeah. I don’t like working at home because I want the separation, and I don’t have enough room to dedicated space to work.

I also find face to face meetings far more productive, and I struggle to hear people on calls (my hearing isn’t great).

I suspect it gets a lot better when the company has no one at all in the same place, but as soon as some people can have a quick chat in the office I think a two tier system will develop and that will cause issues.

This is my feeling as well.

I also enjoy my commute (which is rather short: ~25 min door to door) as a way to get into the mood for work or leave it behind on my way home.

Then again I am one of the people that enjoy open office plans. There may be some correlation with this.

Or, people use the extra time they were commuting (i.e. alone) to join up some clubs/hobbies/meet old friends.

Probably a personal issue, but I can count on zero hands the number of friends I've made in the workplace.

I am glad he is expanding remote work as it can be beneficial to companies who need it and motivate workers morale; however, working remotely full time is not always the greatest if you do not have other priorities in your life.

For example, for my first job out of college, I was placed in a team where my manager was working in a different city, and half the team was in a timezone 12 hours ahead. It was great if I wanted to leave at 3 or come into work at 10, but man, it was isolating as a new hire coming into the office and not speaking a word to anyone or interacting with anyone on my team while other teams around me had productive meetings or team lunches. Working remotely in this case did not give myself any extra motivation to work for the team or help the team because I did not know them personally. Maybe there are other ways to work remotely and still foster this camaraderie, but I find it hard to see when most conversations are phone calls where people looking into their computer screens.

I had the same experience when I first started working remotely, I would go a couple of days in a row without talking to anybody at work because everyone had there own thing they were working on. Another coworker left his remote job after 7 months because he felt so lonely that he ended up working at bars and coffee shops with free wifi just so he could have normal human interaction. I'm at a new remote job, and my solution to loneliness has been hanging around in smaller twitch channels talking to streamers and regular viewers. I get less work done, but I don't feel like a miserable piece of a machine now.

> I get less work done, but I don't feel like a miserable piece of a machine now.

Why don't you just do that work faster without being on twitch, and then use the extra hours to go outside and participate in an actual community or engage in some more gratifying activity?

That's a great solution, and I think too companies realize that by people working remotely, they are sacrificing 100% total productivity. Another thing that I did was explain my situation to management to transfer me to a new thing and explain the isolation that I was feeling. It also does not help that when I was working remotely, I was expected to work the standard work day hours. The problem with that was that you do not get the benifits of doing a hobby spontaneously because you are expected to be on call or available at those hours.

I think he overvalues temporary documentation. There is a difference between writing extremely detailed notes on something because you know you won't be available for 12 hours rather than documenting a summary and asking questions if needed. The former is only a shortcoming of working remotely. You end up writing a tremendous amount of documentation that is really ephemeral, just to allow people to work in that manner. There is no substitute for face time, and video conference doesn't do that. The only companies I've seen be successful at this are extremely small, and the employees they do have are highly independent.

> You end up writing a tremendous amount of documentation that is really ephemeral

Yet I find that writing more about what I’m doing (most commonly in the form of extensive code comments and verbose commit messages, but also in other forms) helps me produce better work.

Time and time again I explain in writing how something is or why it’s done the way it is, and realise in the process substantial ways in which it might be improved; or how it’s actually completely broken for an important case that I hadn’t considered; or any number of other reasons why further work is desirable.

"Big" is a subjective measure, so I don't know if you think 450 is big; it is in my world. This 450 staff company GitLab, that this person is leaving, is well-known for being successful at being 100% remote. Maybe they're an outlier (probably they are), maybe they're the one proving you wrong.

Maybe your experience is with "remote-friendly" companies, versus GitLab being a 100% remote company. Purportedly, they don't have any number of people that are commonly colocated.

I suppose they might be the one to prove me wrong. But I think the larger they get, the more they'll hit the problems big companies face, and it's compounded by being remote.

Good for them for making it this far, and from what I've read their product is great.

> There is a difference between writing extremely detailed notes on something because you know you won't be available for 12 hours rather than documenting a summary and asking questions if needed. The former is only a shortcoming of working remotely.

I don't see it that way. It may seem like this today, or tomorrow, but half a year from now you'll be thankful for any piece of documentation (!= Slack messages) that you can get when revisiting old tasks and trying to piece out reasons for them.

I've been in the industry for close to 15 years writing software now. The documentation is almost always out of date. You end up looking at the code to get the real story, and the documentation just gives you a rough outline of what it's supposed to do. but I was mostly speaking about additional day today documentation that needs to be written to keep remote workers up-to-speed rather than a 2-minute hallway conversation.

I was sitting in a meeting a while ago, and someone said something about being physically present in the office for an engineering process, and it just really struck me that I honestly didn't even consider that relevant, let alone valuable.

At least in tech, anywhere that can hold a stable SSH session open is a workplace, as far as I am concerned.

I do think F2F (and not just videoconference) time is valuable and companies need to budget that if they’re remote. You probably need some T&E to make up for people being scattered.

Face to face time is good for team cohesion and building human to human connections, you have more trust in people that you've met personally (and trust is a big deal for remote work), but in my experience at least it's far less efficient in pretty much everything else: meetings last longer, discussions have more digressions, people are more likely to interrupt others while working and when they do it usually takes much more time because you feel that you need to be polite and socialize a bit, while remote communication is much more brief and to the point.

> I do think F2F (and not just videoconference) time is valuable

Can you say why?

It's still a much higher bandwidth, lower friction channel than contemporary videoconferencing systems. Even a little bit of lag destroys normal human conversational flow.

Big tech companies these days have multiple buildings and all their conferences rooms wired. You experience the difference between in-person and videoconference collaboration on a daily basis. Quite a bit can get done on Zoom, but for anything intricate the trek to the other person's office is worth it.

It helps build relationships in ways remote can't.

Source: Have been remote for 10+ years.

If I ask someone "We need to add spidev to the dtb, can you do that?" there are several possible answers they can give:

"Yes" meaning "This is a <1 hour job for me, I've done such things several times and have all the tools, skills, data and experience needed"

"Yes" meaning "This is a <1 day job for me, I've done similar things once or twice with some difficulty"

"Yes" meaning "This is a <1 week job for me, I don't know precisely what to do but I can probably figure out how to do it with my general programming knowledge, and Google"

"Yes" meaning "I have no idea, but you wouldn't be asking if it was impossible and I don't want to say no to my senior"

The differences between these yeses is often lost in nonverbal communication.

Sounds like you're not asking precisely the question that you want the answer to.

I'm sure the hive-mind will make itself known in response to this, but I think the 'problem' is more nuanced than just "you pay X in SF, I want X".

I agree completely that location shouldn't really affect the pay - I've worked with a company (heavily skewed to remote work) that favoured (Central/Eastern) European workers because they could hire 2 for the price of a single US worker to do the same job.

I think the issue with the OP's case specifically is that SF salaries are ridiculously over-inflated - the solution is to pay people less and encourage them to live somewhere that's actually liveable.

Factor in how much money the company is probably spending on it's own costs in SF (i.e. office rental etc) and they should probably pay the remote workers more because they provide the working space/etc themselves.

> I think the issue with the OP's case specifically is that SF salaries are ridiculously over-inflated

When the employing company is making billions of dollars, it's only fair to pay its employees accordingly. This attracts talent. There's a reason why you generally find the best tech workers in the Bay Area and other tech hubs.

You're suggesting that SF salaries are high purely because a small number of the companies in the area make billions of dollars in profits, and the rest are just playing "Keeping up with the Jones" on salaries?

You think it has nothing at all to do with ridiculous cost of living caused by a massive influx of workers, in turn caused by an almost cult-like obsession with a particular geographic location funded by billions upon billions of other peoples money?

It's cyclic. When employees are highly paid, rents will go up. Other people will also want in on the high salaries, so competition goes up to acquire the best employees, salaries go up, rents go up, rinse and repeat.

Landlords don't know what their tenants earn. They know when there is a lot of demand for available living space. Higher demand means they can ask for more rent, with a greater chance someone will agree to what they ask for.

That’s fine if you hire employees to work remote outside of SF only, but if you try to pay less in the Bay Area an employer is only going to get either poor quality employees or those who will switch companies immediately when a better offer is inevitably presented. Have to be competitive if you want good talent in the Bay Area.

There is "good talent" literally all over the world, that's the point.

We hear stories about people moving from all over the place, to be in SF and the ridiculous salaries, and simultaneously how it's so expensive to live there, and then how it's expensive to hire/retain "good talent".

Both sides of the fence are to blame for this ridiculous catch-22 of bullshit. But ultimately, thats what startups are all about isnt it? Burning through insane amounts of money for no real gain. Why am I so surprised the same logic applies to the salaries of their workers.

I love this post, and as someone who has worked remotely for a decade or so, and currently works for an all-remote company, I agree strongly with his points. I'd add that remote work offers us an opportunity to spread the economic benefit of working in tech into more areas that don't traditionally have a lot of tech employment. In the U.S. wealth is heavily concentrated in a few coastal and metropolitan regions. Encouraging the growth of remote work should help us spread it around, and I think that would be awesome.

But why spend $80k employing someone in Kentucky, when you could spent $20k employing someone in Khatmandu?

Some of the comments here criticizing the remote work concept are doing it on the following lines:

  1. It's bad for SF workers - pay is worse.

  2. No separation of home and work life.

  3. It's lower quality work.

  4. Regulations require local residents.
Then let's agree that remote work/process is to be the default, as long as

  1. the measure of quality is quantifiable.

  2. the work does is not for the government.

  3. work pays for a co-working seat/equivalent.
The above is close to 95% of the tech/startup industry. It's probably bad for SF engineering, but that's OK. They'll figure it out.

This is better for the world, and for the industry. Let's do this. Everyone has a birthright to opportunity of good life, not those that luck allows to move to SF.

Quote from the article "The first day in the hospital, I left a message to my colleagues in Slack and didn’t worry about work for another two months. When I did check in with my co-workers, there were no frantic demands for my time - in fact, there was nothing but support and people telling me to take it easy."

Not that the author attributed this to remote work, but companies respecting people taking time off is less about remote and just more about having a good manager and being in a company with a good culture with typically a positive cash flow. Gitlab will probably get some applicants based on this paragraph.

I had a remote job in the past where there was always an overwhelming amount of work. One time an amazing colleague needed some time off to handle a major personal issue, and was at 50% productivity for a few months after. I could see our manager and other folks resented them for this. There was simply no culture to support people who needed time for their personal lives. At the time I didn't have the sense to realize how toxic the work environment was. At least with "ass-in-seat" time you can sit in a conference room doing personal stuff and people will assume you are working.

That being said, I love remote work!

Interesting interview about the acquisition of the domain remote.com https://www.namepros.com/blog/inside-interview-why-this-comp...

I've been working remotely for the last few years. Here is my take on the arguments presented in the article:

> First, it becomes easier to focus on merit, actual work, rather than on how long people stay in the office. In other words: you don’t need to count hours to see whether someone is being productive. You can now allow people to work whenever they want.

Sure, working remotely boosts individual productivity, but it deteriorates group productivity due to the inherent inefficiency of online communication. It works better for more senior specialists and in scenarios where everyone is working more independently doing heads down work.

I've also noticed that because I could work whenever I wanted and because I was judged by my output only, I tended to work overtime and eventually became more and more burnt out. I'd argue that separating life from work when working remotely is a challenge in itself, and one has to have a very strong discipline to not work all the time.

> Third, you can now hire the best people on the planet in any particular function.

Not necessarily. Most of the time a mediocre developer would do just fine, and this essentially becomes a form of outsourcing labor to cut the costs down.

Then, there is an issue of trust online. Unless you have an established relationship with a professional, you'd probably use middlemen marketplaces like Upwork or Toptal to mitigate the risks of making a wrong hire. So even if it's true that there is a vast amount of talent available worldwide, it's still a challenge to tap into that talent not only due to trust issues but also because of the legal restrictions and international payments.

Most importantly, when working remotely you are making a sacrifice when it comes to your career development. Likely, the work you'll be doing wouldn't be as challenging as what you could do in top tech companies. It does allow for more flexibility to work from wherever and whenever you want, but personally, I didn't find that as valuable, as having meaningful work.

Again, this is just must experience, and I'm curious if anyone is happy with their career path working remotely.

The more you think about salary based on location the less it makes sense. I got an offer for FB London that is as half of offer for bay area. Where does that $$$ go? Maybe some tax, but then a bay area office is also more expensive. I'd be doing the exact same work.

Coming from a freelance perspective, the only equation should be 'how much value do I provide company X, how much of that do they give back'

I've generally stayed in the Phoenix area because the local pay for software development is far better than the average cost of living for the area. Just because the average person here doesn't make what I do, doesn't change the average for the industry in this area. That's why I wouldn't even interview for GitLab.

It's always good news to hear about people promoting remote work. I wonder how are interpersonal relationships for people who work in fully remote companies. Things like , are you friends with your coworkers, or do you share your personal lives and to what extent?

What do people here use to find remote work? Is remote.com a decent option?

Wow, that cool domain he has!

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