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Things to plan for when hiring remote employees (getlighthouse.com)
85 points by andygcook on July 31, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 26 comments

Video calls are absolutely useless. They add absolutely nothing and make many people uncomfortable. Not to mention the extra preparation needed by the participants to look good. This isn't a beauty pageant. I've been working remotely for over half a decade and never needed a video call or found a single meeting it would not have detracted from. This isn't management 101. Frankly, it's stupidity. It's what idiot managers think is management 101 along with micromanagement and never giving raises. I stopped reading after that. What a stupid thing to add to the list.

I totally disagree-- having video on a conference call is really helpful to me. When you can see the people you're talking to, you can tell if they're nodding along or if you're boring them, or if they want to jump in and say something, and so on. If you're only talking over audio, it's much harder to use those nonverbal cues to guide the conversation.

We also use whiteboards while on calls pretty frequently, which wouldn't be possible if we were audio-only.

Agree with those thoughts and would add that especially for things like 1 on 1s, you need to see someone's reaction to questions you ask.

For instance, I talk about feedback from a team member for you...are you defensive? are you surprised? upset? It's hard to tell all that just from someone's voice or the silence on the other end of the phone line.

As for appearance, that really isn't that important:

1) Skype is now giving you the option to blur the background when on video, which hopefully becomes a common feature in the market

2) Zoom and Google both have "visual correction" which makes everyone look better on the call

3) Most important, as a manager I don't care if you look like a model or Gary Busey...it's just about reading your reactions and being able to create a connection. I'm sorry if you've had bad managers who treat that like an inquisition, but for good managers, those that care (and read 6,000 word essays so they get better) really benefit from this because they use it from a position of trying to help.

Other than the background (which apparently can be blurred in some software) this is another main reason for audio-only calls. I should be able to be judged by my words and actions not by what you think my reaction is. That's a huge advantage of working remotely. Most meetings are boring/unnecessary and don't even pertain to most participants. I should be able to work through those or do other things without being negatively judged. Just because some manage decided I should be in a 30-45 minute meeting daily where I participate in about 1-2 minutes max doesn't mean I should have to feign attention the rest of the time. I should be able to take the meeting in bed without lights. Because that is all you're going to get from participants: feigning the emotions that they think they should be having. If you think otherwise, you don't understand human nature and the nature of the master/slave relationship involved in employment. When you as a manager hold someone's livelihood in their hand, thinking that you know what they think about you or about a project or situation based on body language or even speech is naive. My point is to do away with this charade. Employees shouldn't have to act for their managers as they do on-site. That's one of the advantages of being remote. You get the work done and that's all that matters. There are no drinks after work and little non-work bullshit chit chat. People who are into that can save that for their meetup gatherings, actual friends, and maybe a few times a year when the company meets in person (if ever). No wonder there are so many terrible managers if managers think their employees are their friends and that they will get honest reactions out of them. That's so ridiculous.

As for whiteboards, there are plenty of better tools than an actual physical whiteboard and in over half a decade of working remotely, I've never had to or had anyone else in the company use an actual physical, primitive whiteboard.

In my experience there are several overlooked aspects of the remote work situation:

1. Extroverts need lots of interaction, etc. Introverts are more inclined to focus on their work. Naturally the latter are going to do a lot more comfortable with remote work and lower levels of interaction.

2. There are many talented people with disabilities who find it difficult to commute, etc. For them, working from an environment that is set up to accommodate them well, is far more productive.

3. There is the ever present danger of micro-managers. They are the ones that constantly interrupt and need to see people working under them to feel "useful".

4. Employing people is not always the best option. Consider sub-contracting, i.e. work is performed to agreed specifications, timeframes and costs.

5. Much of technical work is "Deep Work" (cf Cal Newport's book, etc) so reducing interruptions leads to greater productivity. I once worked in an office where the norm was to email co-workers 6 feet away so as to not interrupt their being in the flow.

6. Many multinational consulting firms have their staff work on client sites all week and then bring them back to their local office for Friday afternoon debrief and drinks. The managers travel around the different client sites to manage relationships with clients and check-in with their staff.

> 1) Managing time zones for your remote employees

A good rule of thumb is no more than nine time zone span across the company. Anything more than that becomes unbearably difficult to manage.

> Your remote employees may experience severe loneliness

One way my fully remote team tries to solve this is that each meeting starts with each person getting a chance to talk about something not work related. It takes up time, but it's worth it. It can be anything, like a TV show they just saw, or asking for advice on how to fix their broken car.

Each one-on-one starts with asking what they did over the weekend or since the last one-on-one. If the answer I hear is "worked the whole weekend", I made a point of encouraging them to do something other than work. I also try to set a good example by always having something that I did that wasn't work.

> Thank you, Texas, for $2000 in late fees for a business tax I had no way of knowing even existed.

Yep, I feel that one. We got hit at one point with a $5,000 fine from the State of New York for not getting insurance that we didn't know we had to get. Luckily we were able to prove that it wasn't necessary since our employee in NY was a co-founder, and the rule didn't apply to business owners.

> A good rule of thumb is no more than nine time zone span across the company. Anything more than that becomes unbearably difficult to manage.

Why an upper limit of 9? What is that based on?

Because if you go up to ten you reach the second thumb. It's a rule of thumb not of thumbs.

But what if we count in hexadecimal?

then it's a maximum of 8192 time zones

Because if you want to have a meeting during working hours, the work day is about 9 hours long. So at worst someone may have to stay an hour longer than usual or come in an hour early. Anything beyond that means that someone is working well outside normal working hours.

It's a rule of thumb, not a hard limit. If you have someone in a time zone 12 hours away who likes to work at odd hours all the time, then great, go for it!

SF -> "Western" Europe and SF -> China I believe.

It has nothing to do with SF. The rule applies just as well if you are based in Eastern Europe. You can work with the US East Coast and you can work with India and South/East Asia, but don't expect to have people in the US West Coast and Australia at the same time.

In my experience you want overlap - don't go over 5 timezone spans if you want people to be able to communicate with each other in any synchronous form (e.g. Slack)

I'm just looking now for my first full-time remote working job. I have worked remotely in the past as a contractor a few times in the workation tourist / digital backpacker category but never as a full-time employee. What I'd like now is to buy a home with super-fast internet in a small town and work from home.

I agree with the article that this category of work is likely to expand. Ideally I can get some remote-manager managing remote-employees experience under my belt. Then I would like to start my own business entirely with remote workers.

As a first timer one question I have is salary. Most recently I have been working in New York, and San Francisco before that. My perception of salary might be skewed by those bubbles. For that reason I'm not sure what my salary request should be. I have 15+ years development experience (most recently full-stack Java/Node.js/React) and 5+ years experience as team-lead/management.

I've seen this work one of two ways:

A) If you're already in remote place X then they'll look up salary data on your area and offer to pay that amount or a small premium above it based on your title/experience level.

B) The most clever people I know will take a job in SF or NYC, get some wins under their belt so the company loves them, then say they need to move but would love to still work here. When that happens, the company usually would rather keep you than have to find a replacement, so they accept, and most importantly your salary is unchanged.

Both have serious risks: With A) just check Twitter and you'll see that remote work job posts are getting hundreds of applications...so no guarantee you can find a job fast.

With B) the company may not go along with it, and then what?

I can tell you from personal experience that super fast internet and small town is more of a unicorn than finding a 100% remote work gig.

As someone who has worked at numerous remote first organizations I felt this list captured a lot of the challenges for remote workers. I wish they'd gone into the 4 different types in more depth, because knowing which type of worker someone is colors the issues/challenges/opportunities which will arise.

Hi -

I helped write the article...would love to hear the nuance, either as a comment here or you can DM me on Twitter @evanish to speak more on it.

Thanks Jason

Hiya,I was referring to the contents of the tweet mentioned at the start of the article:

– digital backpackers

– workation tourists

– digital staymads

– remote workers

The article starts with talking about "work from home", then start talking about distributed teams.

Where I am a bit puzzled is that there are already hundred of thousands of people working in global companies where colleagues are already in different time zones, with different cultural norms, etc.

So apart from the loneliness aspect, I feel it is not that a novel idea, and feels like recycled content.

Glad you think this is obvious to you. For many, it's not, which is why we wrote the article...so more people see it as clearly as you do.

This is good content and imo remote work is not the same as distributed teams, clustered in offices around the world. Usually these work autonomously and resemble a company within a company. Remote work on the other hand is work in isolation, and the points you raised are valid.

As someone who works remote, i would stress that some, if not all, go both ways. Personally, I try and adjust my work hours to my client’s, and where not possible, I make sure there at least a generous overlap, so that ignorance is reduced and communication and clarity increased. Same for cultural communication differences - i make sure i understand the other side and adapt to an organisation’s predominant style, to reduce frustration. From my experience as a remote office manager, i know communication is pretty much the root of all evil.

Well said. Communication is really at the core of most of the issues...it comes from the question un asked or all the little times you would have seen/heard/said something that doesn't happen when remote.

Sorry my comment was unnecessarily harsh, the content itself is OK, I only feel it blurs two different phenomenon, globalization and "work from home".

All good. As we describe in the post, tone can be easy to read too much into since it lacks visual and audio signs to go off of, so I gave you the benefit of the doubt :)

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