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Ask HN: Good Remote Work Literature?
255 points by anacleto on Sept 5, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 50 comments
I've been working remotely for the last 4 years of my life. In my latest company, I just realized how little literature has been written on the topic of remote working. I've been seeing some forms of reports on the status of remote working [0], but I couldn't find any in-depth materials (whether blogs, essays, papers or even books) with some qualitative thinking on remote work and the future of work. We have been flooded with solutions and tools without a deep understand of our working flow and caveats.

Ie: why are things happening in a certain way? What are the school of thoughts? What are the best practices (synchronous vs. asynchronous, remote vs distributed)? What is the Keynes vs. Hayek of the subject? What are the implications of remote working on organizational structures (eg. functional vs. divisional)? What can and cannot work? What's the tool stack one should adapt depending on the org configuration?(Slack + Zoom for sync, etc) How does this should adapt as the org changes over time?

Do you have specific resources you could recommend me to read on the topic?

This write-up I just published on the blog is the closest example to what I'm looking for: https://sametab.com/blog/future-remote-working/

[0] https://buffer.com/state-of-remote-work-2019

GitLab is one of the most successful remote companies. Their handbook is free to read. https://about.gitlab.com/handbook/

But what you are looking for is this one: https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/

They pay salaries based on the location of the employees, which kinda sucks.

Yeah but it also makes a lot of sense from a talent attraction side. People in cheap areas need less pay to be attracted to work at a company and someone living in a large city will require more to want to work at your company. It sucks a bit from the remote work dream of getting FAANG West Coast salaries while living in the middle of nowhere but that was always a bit of a pipe dream for most people, they can pay you less and still far out pay the local competition, the only way to really get that would be for everyone to adopt remote work as a completely normal thing. Even then though I'd expect salaries to track somewhat with local cost of living.

They go great lengths to justify why salaries are paid location based: https://about.gitlab.com/2019/02/28/why-we-pay-local-rates/

I think that's a wise decision because it allows you to stay where you are without pushing you into another country just to benefit from lower living costs while having a comparatively high income.

Shouldn't they also price they product according to location of buyer?

Yeah, to attract people already living in high COL areas you have to pay them well otherwise they'll work local which will track to the living expenses.

But why not move to a higher COL area if you can get the same living style. If you're putting x% of your savings away (this is what COL does) then the person in the higher COL nets more savings.

Thanks very much! We're building out the all-remote section with new pages on a regular basis. Just added dedicated sections for people, jobs, meetings, compensation, hiring, etc.

Echoing the recommendation for Remote elsewhere in this thread. I also recommend Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace.

Cubed does not address remote work per se, but it does help explain the history of the office and how that became the de facto workplace for cognitive labor. It also discusses the history of the theory of management, which is a relatively young scientific subject, maybe 130 years old, which is predicated on one assumption: everyone is in the same building!

As a proponent of remote work, I believe what is happening right now is practice is outstripping science. It’ll take several years before science catches up to study what entrepreneurs and companies have already figured out through trial and error.

I've not read Cubed. It sounds interesting. But the topics you mention brought to mind similar themes in Peopleware by DiMarco and Lister. I'd add that to the list, though not related to remote working.

Distributed.blog is a new podcast series by Matt Mullenweg (co-creator of WordPress and CEO of Automattic, a fully-distributed company of nearly a thousand folks). The podcast explores distributed work, the future of business, and what it means for the global economy. https://distributed.blog/

Great resource, thanks

The team at Doist (creators of Todoist, Twist) just released long-form guides on remote work (e.g. asynchronous communication, taxes, product design, management, hiring, project management, etc.)


I'm also interested in how to RUN a remote company as i've found myself in that position without previous experience. I've found most material online to be related to how to work remotely as a person but not how to actually run the comapny.

Shameless self-plug, but I wrote about my decade long experience of remote work here[0], and included some further reading material that I've personally found useful. There are some books dedicated to this. I am actually toying with the idea of writing a book on this and would love to get your thoughts. Ping me at @vpetersson if you wanna chat.

[0] https://blog.viktorpetersson.com/remote-work/2019/05/18/a-de...

I wrote two free books specifically on productized services.

The first book discuss how to productize your services and hire and manage remote workers (and it covers the tools and techniques to work remotely). The second book is mostly about value proposition and marketing.

1) http://www.productizebook.co 2) http://www.productizemarketing.co

Table of Contents > Humor > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IW3lhfVpLL4

Related question: how do you manage payroll in all the different countries? I noticed Gitlab hires as contractors but curious if anyone is using international PEO or other solutions

Edit: Looks like Gitlab uses CXC and Safeguard Global as employers of record

We're working on something at Remote. While working at GitLab, I saw the issues they were having, so we're building an alternative to CXC and Safeguard.

Launching a little launch page later today, but feel free to email me if you're in need of some help: job at remote dot com.

Is the launch related to Employ? https://remote.com/employ

Have not come across remote.com previously; a focused job board is useful, but Employ looks game-changing. (Note: I do not know what exists in this space already - if anything.)

It is!

Happy to chat about it in detail if you're interested.

Not easy... our company is based in the US and we had to open a subsidiary in Israel in order to grant option plans. There are some companies that can serve as an intermediary but they are limited in aspects such as this one.

https://papayaglobal.com/ is one option for example.

Easiest way is to pay them as contractors. It's simply an expense then.

You should read: The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work

Its a real treat.

Seconding this!

Edit: I have not seen anything coming from the economic literature about remote work. Sadly economists are focused on bigCorps and VCs who are not remote-friendly.

Some of the best articles from remote workers i saw recently:



More links like this here: https://reworkin.com/

The ones who come to mind are Zapier and Basecamp, which has been mentioned earlier.


I read this years ago and remember nothing about it, but it's a start: Remote by Jason Fried and DHH - https://basecamp.com/books/remote

+1 for REMOTE for having at least some perceived authority (authored by successful / well-known business owners who practice what they preach), and for explicitly addressing each of several audiences. It's not particularly deep, but it might be useful.

I second this. It's an interesting and good read but it is more a sell on the philosophy of remote work and its benefits than a practical guide that goes into specifics.

No remote work literature review would be complete without it, but it might potentially be less interesting for a reader who has already been working remotely for 4 years, other than to mostly validate what they probably already know.

I also found this book quite useful:

"REMOTE shows both employers and employees how they can work together, remotely, from any desk, in any space, in any place, anytime, anywhere."

There is a lot of academic work on this subject among researchers on teams/virtual teams, see e.g. the work of Pam Hines and Melissa Valentine at Stanford, Mark Mortensen at Insead. There is also a whole literature in 'Computer Supported Collaborative Work' in CS depts.

I recommend the book "Work Together Anywhere" by Lisette Sutherland and her other contributions (i.e. talks). She talks on many aspects of remote work: starting from benefits and how to convince your boss, through team dynamics, to what tools to use.

In this context: Does anyone have experiences with Tandem, especially this feature where you can see what your peers are doing (showing the app name of your focused window, I think)?

No experience with it, but I struggle to imagine it being useful where the viewed person is a programmer. A day is split between, what, a browser and a terminal emulator? And an IDE if used?

I agree but this might be already useful. The biggest challenge for most when they work from home is lacking social pressure leading to procrastination. When I read about Tandem's take on this, I thought that’s a smart, subtle solution. You could still game the system by just using your phone but still: Any cheating results in odd behavior on Tandem and probably to more discipline. Maybe I am wrong but I need just people who tried Tandem and share their experiences.

Isn't this really an incentive problem? I find it hard to believe that snoopware will foster a high trust environment.

The real usefulness that I’ve found has been in having a pointer during screen share, and being able to more fluidly hop in an out of voice calls (think discord).

Read my book - The Remote Project Manager - on Amazon. It covers the challenges of managing teams remotely as well as how to best use the available Technology. Gren Gale

I've been collecting remote work material (books, articles, discussions, talks) here — https://www.notion.so/scenery/Remote-Work-2c76a8c189f248c2b9... whilst working on my own remote tool — https://www.scenery.app

I found the book 'Work together anywhere' by Lisette Sutherland extremely helpful. You can skip past the first five chapters if you already are in this situation.

It's really helped me work with a remote team. The book has tons of good recommendations as well, so it's practical as well as helpful.

This is by no means an in-depth research on the topic - just a remarkably well-written chronicle related to remote work.


Not quite what you asked for, but I'm finding it enlightening:


Related: Is there a dedicated HR tool for remote companies?

It's been quite burdensome figuring out payroll, benefits, employment forms, etc. for int'l employees (contractors and full-time). I'd love a slim version of TriNet/BambooHR/etc that makes all of this easy for us.

> remote vs distributed)?

Matt Mullenweg on why he prefers distributed > https://www.ted.com/talks/matt_mullenweg_why_working_from_ho...

I recently joined GitLab to lead its all-remote initiatives. I've lived and worked remotely in a variety of settings (all-remote, remote-first, part-remote, etc.) and I'm building out pages within GitLab's publicly accessible All-Remote section to hopefully answer questions like these. The hub is here (as mentioned by langitbiru — thank you!): https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/

We're sharing what we've learned scaling the company to over 800 people across nearly 60 countries, 100% remote with no offices. The goal is to share this knowledge and see other organizations replicate, iterate, and evolve.

Some of the more recent ones are below.

People: https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/people/

Jobs: https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/jobs/

Hiring: https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/hiring/

Compensation: https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/compensa...

Learning and Development: https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/learning...

Informal Communication: https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/informal...

Meetings: https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/meetings...

Part-remote: https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/part-rem...

Remote work conferences, summits, and events: https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/events/

Advantages and benefits: https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/benefits...

Disadvantages: https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/drawback...

More to come! If you have questions on making all-remote work, hiring all-remote workers, or managing/communicating in an all-remote environment, leave a comment! We're always looking for challenges happening across the space, so we can ideally find and document solutions.

I quite liked the book 'Remote: Office Not Required' from the founders of 37signals.com

curious for things like this more explicitly from workers' perspective, rather than like running a company in general.

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