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How to Pay Remote Workers (npf.io)
63 points by rusrushal13 41 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 76 comments



Salaries based on cost of living are always a mistery to me. If the company wants to have an honest relationship with the worker, the salary should be based on the value the employee is bringing, and that does not depend on where they live. Tying the salary to the cost of living looks like a way to cheat a worker out of the value they generate.


>Tying the salary to the cost of living looks like a way to cheat a worker out of the value they generate.

Where do you think profits come from? Profit is the difference between what you pay your workers and the value of their work.


That's not the point though. Having an honest relationship with your employees and treating everybody fairly doesn't prevent you from profiting.

It think this point is explained really well in the article: why should someone who lives in a city with a high cost of living be paid more than someone who lives in a low cost of living one? Effectively, what you are doing is giving the person in, say, SF, more money to be able to afford a better lifestyle than the person in rural Ohio (to use the same example of the article). Why is that fair? And also, if that is fair, then is me moving to live on a yacht in Montecarlo a reason for the company to pay me 500k a year to afford that lifestyle?

Workers should be paid fairly. And to do that you have to pay everybody the highest salary you are paying for that position. I think Stackoverflow does that now, I remember reading an article on their blog about it.


Workers should not be expected to be paid "fairly" or according to some broader social expectation. The company is not your friend and you are not the company's friend. They are paying you for sacrificing your time for their benefit. You are worth exactly the minimum that you're willing to accept in payment based on your individual circumstances.


"Expecting" is not the same as hoping that things would change.

> You are worth exactly the minimum that you're willing to accept in payment based on your individual circumstances

This is what I would like to change. There's an asymmetry of power in employment (if you lose an employee it's just a nuisance, if a person loses employment it can destroy their life) that is exploited by business and it can lead to terrible situations, such as people that are generating value for a company that posts heavy benefits but in return they don't even get a living wage.


> such as people that are generating value for a company

Attempting to quantify this is exactly why we're in the situation that we are. If it was easy to quantify a person's "value" to the company relative to other workers, perhaps we would live in a different world. But it's not as simple as "salesman X received Y sales this month, 20% of that is Z". Who determines the hidden value of the marketing effort? How much of that should be allocated to the engineers who build and maintain the product? What about the people who find the talent to hire? Who would want to clean the toilets if the janitor wasn't here?

After that kind of thought experiment it becomes abundantly clear that there's no meaningfully objective way to quantify a worker's value as a percentage of company profit. Each person's perspective will color their estimation of a particular worker's value. An objectively bad solution.

The present way of doing things is not a result of any attempt at fairness or idealogical belief in the equality of man, it's really just the simplest working solution to the problem that anyone has been able to demonstrate.


I agree that quantifying value brought by someone is extremely hard. I think market rate (when the demand of employees is high enough) works as the consensus of how much does a worker generate.

> it's really just the simplest working solution to the problem that anyone has been able to demonstrate.

'Working solution' is a stretch. There is a lot of people working below a living wage in companies that still post significant profits, where top executives receive salaries several orders of magnitude higher than those employees. That does not seem adjusted to me.

And don't get me wrong, solutions to this problem are hard and I know it, the system is complex. But situations like paying less to remote workers when they do the same work are incredibly clear and easy to solve, and they show that it's not only that it's difficult, it is that those business do not care at all about making things fair for their employees.


A reason I was told is that if you pay the same rate everywhere then someone in a 3rd world country could hate the job and be not very motivated but won't quit because it pays more than any other job.


I can tell you these unhappy unmotivated overpaid people are everywhere. It is fairly easy to overcompensate and it can be quite a problem.


But as an employer, why I should strive for honestness? Does it bring me more profit? To me it sounds like paying too much. I pay market rates which doesnt consider cost of living or value produced, but the the average salary for the skillset/experience.


> But as an employer, why I should strive for honestness?

In an ideal world, you would because you would care for people. If not everybody, at least the people around you. As an employer, you are hiring people who will spend the majority of their waking hours working for you, with you, at your company. In theory, you would care if they are happy or not, motivated or not, paid fairly or not. You would care if they can afford that visit to the doctor they need, if they are taking enough breaks, enough time off. Ideally, you would keep an eye on your employees to make sure nobody is overdoing, to watch out for for employees whose performance is going down and figure out if they are getting burnt out or what's actually going on. All those things would pay back in the end. Happy employees do better works. Burnt out employees don't. Recovering from that is hard, and even though you can say "who cares, I'll fire them and hire someone else", there's still the fact that the hiring process is expensive.

In an idea world though. But I guess I do understand that for many people the only thing that matters is squeezing as much money for their business out of society as they can get away with. Though, this becomes a somewhat philosophical discussion at this point, and I think that's beside the point.


If people were driven because they care about other/all people rather than about their own material benefit, we wouldn't have designed a system based on the profit motive in the first place. Because it wouldn't have motivated people.


Profits and caring about employees are not exclusive.


My point is that the entire reason why people say we need the profit motive to motivate people, is because caring for other people is not enough to motivate their behavior.


>But as an employer, why I should strive for honestness? To me it sounds like paying too much.

In my case honestness would have made several firms more profitable. I'm a high school drop out but lifelong programmer from a early age. As such I've had to work for well below market rates on my way up. Generally I do better than most of my college educated peers but since I lack the education I have been compensated much less. As a result I leave jobs every year or two, often around the time I'm really hitting my stride and providing significant value to the organization. As I tend to be above the median I end up on the projects that are critical to the company so what you end up with is someone building a quarter of your infrastructure and then leaving because "its corporate policy to max raises out at 5%" or some other nonsense. At that point you have to go back to the market (counter offers when you told me raises are warranted but impossible are an insult and I refuse to accept them) and likely pay at least market rate for a new employee then get him or her up to speed all as deadlines slip.

When I explain this to whomever I'm giving my notice to I am frequently asked "why would I pay you more than I need to" as a retort. I just shrug my shoulders and move on to the next job.


It brings value in the long run and makes retention easier. If I work for a company who pays differently based on location, I'll soon be searching for a company that pays the same based on level of seniority or other internal criteria.


I dont really buy that argument. Local developers are not going to quit because you are paying remote developers less. Location is substantial factor in salary, and almost everyone seems to understand that. Onsite developers are paid generally substantially more.


You should strive for honesty because otherwise you will not get the most out of your employees. If you don't pay them as described here or forgo raises, they will respond in kind by working less, taking more time, and doing lower quality work aka slacking off. You think you'll be able to tell, but you won't because from the outside it won't be obvious. So you'll get what you pay for instead of what you could get if you paid honestly.


Why indeed.

It kind of illuminates the whole system.

The fact that business shouldn't need to pay a fair, or even a living wage (in fact, they're kind of obligated not to, if possible, because, competition).

It works as long as there are people desperate enough to take any offer at all - which will always be the case because people need to eat, so they can't opt out because wages are too low. So not really a "free market" at all.


Where do you think profits come from? Profit is the difference between what you pay your workers and the value of their work.

I don't think the OP is refuting that. Paying someone 50% of the value they generate is fine. That's how businesses work. Paying someone 2% of the value they generate because they live in <place with a low cost of living> is much less easy to justify.


It's trivial to justify. Companies exist to maximize profit. You make more profit by paying your employees less.

Also, plenty of people in my responses are denying that this is what profit is.


It is still inhumane. There are other ways of running businesses, but rarely tried as they are typically squashed by bankers or VCs not providing financing.

Examples include directly hiring trade unions, cooperatives, associations...


Yes, a society organized around the profit motive is inhumane. That is the point I was making.


I am not that naive, thanks. One can understand that you generate X value in part due to your own skill and time, in part due to the company environment. You get a percentage of that value as a salary, the other part goes to the company as profit in a more or less fair partition. But if another developer receives less for the same work you're definitely making it unfair and taking advantage of the fact that the business has more negotiating power than the employee. That's why I say it's cheating and dishonest.


No value comes from many different reasons and one of those is a new value generated from the combination of efforts of many individual contributors. The individual value which someone brings doesn't equal the end value which is being delivered to a customer. The essence of a business is generating new value to end consumers which an individual couldn't do on their own.


The extra value generated from the combination of efforts is still generated by the workers who combined their effort to generate it. Why are the owners more deserving of that "extra value" than the workers?


The owners started the business, took the risk, etc. If an employee isnt happy with the salary, he can always ask for more, change employer, or start his own business. It is a fair game IMO.


So he can start his own business, with no capital of their own, so at an inherent disadvantage, or sell their work under value to someone else. This world view only works if you only see people as atomized units and have no sense of a concept of class. And even then it barely works.


>The owners started the business, took the risk, etc.

This does not seem like any kind of justification for continual reward, not to mention it doesn't apply at all in situations where the workers themselves take on a lot of risk day to day (e.g. construction). Furthermore, this would only work as a justification for when the owner really did take a risk, and companies where the current owner is the same as the person who started the business (i.e it's not clear that future CEOs shoulder the same risk). And of course, all of this is based on the idea that risk is an inherent good and worthy of reward and praise - I can see many cases where it's not, especially in very exploitative businesses.

>he can always ask for more

He can ask for it, but with the weakened power of collective bargaining it's unlikely he'll get it. It also depends on how replaceable the worker is. Did you see the article on HN today about how Kickstarter fired two union organizers?

>change employer

From the point of view of the worker this doesn't help much at all, since there would be no reason they'd necessarily get a better wage at other places.

>or start his own business

With what capital? Even if he had capital, why would a worker who is so disillusioned with the nature of wage work feel compelled to start a business? Unless he doesn't care for the plight of others against what he experienced while he was himself a wage worker.


indeed, in some ways 'profit' is tantamount to 'cheating the people who made that profit (employees) out of their fair share' - certainly when it comes to many big tech companies.


"the salary should be based on the value the employee is bringing"

This is really so vague as to be meaningless. A McDonalds can't operate without someone at the drive through. So isn't the value of the drive through worker incredibly high since they are essential to the operation of the business?

No. Labor Economics tells us that an employee will be paid at the market rate. They are paid based on how many other people are willing and capable of doing the job and what rate they will accept.


Not necessarily. The drive through employee is essential, but the cook is also essential, and the restaurant manager is also essential probably... The value is shared among them.

Also, Labor Economics tells us what happens, and I do not argue with that. I am saying that we should take more into account actual value and avoid extreme profit-driven views, such as reducing someone's salary for the exact same job just because they live in X country instead of Y.


What you are describing isn't how the free market works though. It is just a fantasy of yours.

In an efficient market your theoretical business would be driven into bankruptcy or bought out by the competition that is properly allocating capital.

Also the ceo answers to the shareholders who hired him with the job of maximizing returns. Unless this is a coop there is no reason for it to operate the way you are talking about.


I know that's not how the free market works now, precisely I'm arguing for changing that.

> In an efficient market your theoretical business would be driven into bankruptcy or bought out by the competition that is properly allocating capital.

And as a good theoretical exercise it's pretty useless. In reality most of the markets are not efficient, changing salaries is not 'free' (i.e., employees work differently depending on how you treat them, and replacing unhappy employees has a cost), and there's more to companies and employees than pure economics.

> Also the ceo answers to the shareholders who hired him with the job of maximizing returns

This is what I am criticising, the 'maximize returns over everything' philosophy. Any company already has a lot of power over any employee, and they abuse that position to the point of cheating people out of their fair share of what they produce just because they live in a different place. And in this case we're talking about a relatively benign situation, but the same philosophy pushes companies to lower wages below a living level, condemning people to poverty so that the company "maximizes profits".


not only that, the cost-of-living estimates are often wrong. sure, it is cheaper to live in some places, but then you spend a lot more traveling to other places to get things that your local place doesn't have. in some places the cost-of-living also depends on your life-style.

if i live in a country where the average cost-of-living is low, i find that it's because of a generally poorer living standard and i have to spend a lot more compared to the local average to get the same standard that i'd have elsewhere.


So, how do you calculate value for developer?


That's a whole different question and I don't think nobody has a definitive answer. Market rate seems to be a "consensus" of how much does a developer add to a company. But paying less to a developer just because they live in a different country throws that out of the window completely.


There isn't a deterministic formula that you can code, but the market generally does this.

A good backend python developer working for a London company here can get 80-100k GBP, if company X wont pay this, then company Y will. The developer goes to company Y.

If the job can be done remotely, and everyone is happy, then who the hell cares that this developer lives in an area with low cost of living? He's fulfilling the contract (quality work in exchange for money) and where they are physically located is irrelevant in determining their compensation.


You are talking about ongoing market rate, not the value output. Sometimes even skilled developer can produce negative value because of accident or smth.

Why would I pay remote worker the same as for local developer, if I can find remote developers willing to work for much less?


> Tying the salary to the cost of living looks like a way to cheat a worker out of the value they generate.

Seems like you solved your mistery after all! As abusiness you want to spend as little as possible.


Salaries are based on supply and demand. Think this one through with that in mind and it'll make more sense.


It still doesn't make sense, because the remote worker pool is global. If that were supposed to make sense then we would all be getting paid third world rates and cost of living would still have nothing to do with it.


then we would all be getting paid third world rates

That’s the end goal of large corporations, yes. Why are we so eager to help them? Developers already undermine their own value by crowing to everyone who will listen “anyone can be a developer and do what we do”.

What do you think your boss thinks when he or she hears you say all these things?

(Not you in particular, devs in general)


Not just large corporations, also small ones. I think it's a good thing - paying high wages in countries that need it most.

> their own value by crowing to everyone who will listen “anyone can be a developer and do what we do

I sincerely doubt developers believe that, or at least not experienced developers. Software is cutthroat: anything that can be automated is already automated. People who can't work beyond that are useless.


Well being onsite adds value to buyers. If you dont think so, the only way to proce that is by starting your own company with remote-only. Remote devs are cheap so you should be rich very quickly, if they provide the same value as locals.


There are some very big remote-only companies. Canonical and Trello are and they're unicorns. There's also Automaticc, Digital Ocean, Basecamp, etc..


Remote work is a skill like anything else. Your litmus test is a gross over simplification of workplace dynamics.


Then it makes even less sense, for a remote company.


As a remote worker, I think there is an assumption of 'necessary common suffering' which continues to make remote work a 'privilege' rather than a simple logistical alternative. So long as there are on-location cubicle-dwellers who might get disgruntled to know that other employees are living some kind of fantasy high life from home (working in PJs, etc., all the tropes), then providing any remote working options becomes a potentially destabilizing force for a company.

Making a remote worker's income less attractive is one way to redress that balance of perception.

I'm not sure how much progress we are ever going to make towards remote working as core practice, since the last decade has re-built a collapsed economy on the basis of hyper-inflated urban property values in 19thC-style urban conurbations such as NYC, SF, Tokyo, London, etc (and, increasingly, smaller satellite cities that had not benefited in this way until recent years, but have now become super-distant commuter communities).

The net-enabled, 'dispersed' society is probably further away than it has ever been because of these factors.


First: It's just horrible to build a company culture around assuming pettiness. I'm not saying that it isn't true that human beings are often petty. But you shouldn't optimize around being a great place for petty people to work at.

Second: Being forced into an onsite job in a city with high rents and bad traffic is bad. Being taken advantage of on salary for living in a low cost-of-living area is also bad. One badness doesn't cancel out the other. There are just so many instances I can think of of going to a manager and making some argument that's a variation on the theme "Can you please stop treating me badly?" and the response being "We treat all these other people badly, so if we stop treating you badly, that would be unfair to them!" Well, that's just not a valid argument! I don't want to be treated badly, and if not treating me badly implies not being able to treat these other people badly, then maybe that's the route you should be taking, goddammit!


> I'm not sure how much progress we are ever going to make towards remote working as core practice, since the last decade has re-built a collapsed economy on the basis of hyper-inflated urban property values in 19thC-style urban conurbations such as NYC, SF, Tokyo, London, etc

Tokyo’s rental prices and house prices have moved very little in the last twenty years while the population has gone up by half. If you let people build housing you can have huge increases in population without increases in property prices.

> The net-enabled, 'dispersed' society is probably further away than it has ever been because of these factors.

Fully remote companies exist and their numbers will only grow. There were very few of those ten years ago and there will be a lot more than double the current number ten years from now.


> Making a remote worker's income less attractive is one way to redress that balance of perception.

That sounds wrong, and there are now plenty of companies that are fully remote , for which it is the stationed-worker who are a burden


I think that one of the greatest structural deficiencies of our economy is that high salaries are tied to onsite jobs in a few cities and that, therefore, real estate owners in those cities get to participate in that wealth creation that they are not actually a part of. So they reap where they didn't sow, and that's just unfair.

By working remotely, companies and workers are working together in cutting those landlords out of the equation, and that leaves a huge pile of money on the table that landlords are now not taking away from companies or workers (depending on how you look at it).

The question is: Should it be the worker or the company getting that pile of money?

My feeling is: It should be shared as companies and workers have to work together to make it happen.

If the whole pile of money goes to the workers, then companies are not incentivized to do anything to drive forward the remote work revolution.

If the whole pile of money goes to the companies, then workers will have an incentive to continue to play the old game whereby, if they want to earn more, they have to move to the valley and take an onsite job.

If the pile of money is shared somehow, then both sides have the right incentives to drive forward a real change for the better, and it's a win-win situation for everybody involved (except the landlords).

I'm not saying the split has to be 50/50. Realistically, the split will be determined by market forces like supply and demand around the particular job role. We're already seeing this play out: For job roles that have low barriers of entry and for highly commoditized types of work, a greater proportion will go to the company, like what we are seeing on Upwork where everybody gets paid what an Indonesian freelancer gets paid. For jobs where it really matters to get the best people and where these people are hard to get, a greater proportion will go to the worker and you will see everybody around the world doing that kind of work earning as much as they would earn if they were doing that job onsite in the valley.


Used to work in Nicaragua for a US company with a local office. We were definitely being paid a lot less than our peers working directly in the US locations, at the same time we were being paid what was at the moment a lot more than the standard for other devs in the country.

There would have been no incentive for that company to open an office in Nicaragua if they would have had to pay similar salaries than what they were paying in USA, i mean, we have a lot more employee benefits and protections. Of course i would have loved to get more money out of it, and i feel we were delivering equal value than our peers, but if i think about it, the economics wouldn't have made sense.


If anything remote workers should be paid more for being environmentally friendly


They are, in a way, given that they'll spend less on tax than their commuting colleagues - assuming that taxes are used as a method for government to incentivise behaviour.


Mr Money Mustache (MMM) estimated that you saved something like $700 bucks per mile per year you don't drive.

I've been remote for ~5 years, haven't owned a car for ~3, and I've saved a bunch of money. Uber and public transit handle most of my needs, and even after monthly passes and uber surge rates I estimate I save close to $500-600 USD a month in car payment/insurance/maintenance.

The main downside is that I'm in Canada, and being carless in the winter can get ugly.


How does that add up? So if I don't drive 1000 miles in a year, I have an extra $700K?


Where will the extra money come from ?


There are costs associated with working in an office - consider rent, cleaning, furniture, power, a receptionist, maybe an entire facilities management department, security and so on. These costs are split amongst the revenue earned per worker in that office. But homeworkers provide all those things for the company “for free”. And even more the homeworker might even provide the PC, the phone line, any tech support they need, all “for free” from the perspective of the company beancounters. In a fair world homeworkers would be paid this differential.


Yes that is true. Except for the cases when workers already _start_ the job as remote. In such cases these costs are never created and therefore never avoided.

You should also consider that the costs you've outlined are not paid "per headcount" but rather collectively for the company / per company site. This means that often the company would need to completely disimss the office location or move to a smaller location.

I do not disagree with you, I'm just showing that money are not some magical points that you allocate with everything else falling into place.


Both remote employers I've had so far have paid me a monthly lump sum for my internet connection (covering more than the actual costs). And I've always had a company PC. You're right about rent etc. though.


Saved real estate cost for one less desk at the office, productivity gains [1].

That said, companies that are fully remote (e.g. Gitlab [2]) tend to actually adjust your wage for having similar purchasing power wherever you choose to live. This then encourages the company to hire from inexpensive countries, which has it's own pros and cons.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/abdullahimuhammed/2019/05/21/he...

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


they save the company a ton


I've been a fully remote worker for almost a decade. I appreciate the fact that my compensation is on a scale implicitly tied to a higher cost of living than where I am. Nonetheless...

Companies don't set pay to be fair. They set pay to attract and retain the talent they need. Otherwise, companies that employ people in India wouldn't have a 3x pay spread for people doing the same work (hi Red Hat). Software developers in general wouldn't make more than, say, plumbers. The potential employees' perception of fairness does come into the picture a bit, but that takes a distant back seat to good old supply and demand. If a company needs to pay more to attract and retain talent in area X, they pay more. If they need to pay less to attract and retain talent in area Y, they pay less. This is just basic business. Companies pay local prices for real estate or electricity, and they pay local prices for personnel.

The only thing different about remote workers is that there's no single local standard to measure against. So you have to tailor things more specifically to the individual. But if you think that you should pay remote workers more or less because they're more or less productive, or because you're saving money by not having to provide them an office, you're forgetting the purpose of pay. Attract and retain. Supply and demand. That's it.

P.S. I'm not trying to make a moral argument here. I'm certainly no laissez-fair "markets uber alles" greed funnel. Quite the contrary. Companies are free to make their decisions on some different basis and more power to them, but there's no escaping the fact that most will cut costs wherever they can. Of the places they might cut corners, geographic salary differences are far from the worst option. If and when salary fairness gets to the top of the list, I'd start with not paying women less.


One way that in-office workers can be more valuable is more accessible and a higher quality of communication.

Being able to discuss things face-to-face gives us more and higher quality (diagramming, eye contact) communication channels, in addition to avoiding things like bad audio, bad video, etc.

There is also lower friction in haphazard discussions; someone can overhear things and chime in a thought that could turn out to be useful. Sometimes, the effort of messaging or calling someone will cause us to not bother to include someone in the conversation for a chance that they could contribute.

If different timezones are involved, then a remote worker's value is lowered due to the higher friction in addition to the round trip time for communication.


As a remote contractor, I'm strongly against this idea.

Living in a country with the cost of living lower than in the US allows me to take a job of an equally qualified American programmer by working for a smaller salary which is still twice as big as the highest offer from a local company.

The downside is that an equally qualified programmer from Egypt or Bangladesh can easily take that job from me, but I can find solace in the fact that this reduces the global poverty :)


You might not need to compete with Google, but I see an opportunity there.

Pay average Bay Area salaries to full remote workers in low CoL areas. Most likely top tech companies have no offices there, and even if they do, chances are you pay more.


> Why on earth would it matter where your desk is?

It matters to product managers. Managing remote team is more difficult therefore PMs will always push against this.


Why is it more difficult? Do you have some data or anecdotes to back up your claim? I'm really interested.

I've been working remotely for years now, and my relationships with the various PMs I've had has always been: talk about what needs to be done, and then be left alone to actually do it, check back when I have progress or if I have outstanding questions that arose from better understanding the problem domain. Plus the daily stand up meetings that have always been optional to attend. Done, nothing else, nothing complicated.

Is this uncommon across the industry?


I've been working for a company where people optionally do remote work from home; the difference in communication and team cohesiveness is stark to me.

When people are colocated in an office (and I guess this is a generalization), there are more incidental chats, knowledge-sharing, status-updates, stress/challenge-sharing etc.

I do better work and get more done at home though, and from an environmental perspective it seems like an obvious choice.


There's a lot that can be written about the differences between remove vs on site work. Sure, remote does tend to feel more lonely. Sure, you are missing the whole water cooler effect (as I've seen it called) of running into a coworker at the office and just having a chat, and so forth. But I don't really see how that makes the job of a product manager any harder or how it makes managing remote workers harder.

Companies with offices still use work methodologies. They still use SCRUM, kanban boards, retrospectives, meetings, wikis/documentation, and above all tickets/issues/stories or whatever is the term your company prefers. And I'm sure they aren't writing their stories on pieces of paper, or their documentation in binders. Everything is done through a tool that saves everything online to make it available to everyone.

Your PM running into you at the office while you are taking a break and asking how the work is proceeding doesn't really add any value to neither the work you are doing nor the information they already have about it. Scheduling a weekly catch up meeting to discuss progress (depending on the size of the story of course and yadda yadda, just making an example here) makes more sense. And you can easily do that with a video call.


> Why is it more difficult?

First, I think it's important to point out that there's a difference between a fully distributed team and a mostly-local team with some remote members. A lot (not all) of the problems have to do with the disparity between the colocated and non-colocated workers. For example, the colocated majority in a mixed team will often cling to old habits wrt soliciting or providing feedback/approval on commits, conveying important news, etc. Just turn your head a bit and speak a bit louder; everyone will get the cue and listen in. Ditto for learning new tricks by hearing or seeing someone near you. There's no incentive for them to do anything but what works for them. On a fully distributed team people do develop alternatives because they have to.

Other things that are more difficult remote include anything involving a whiteboard, from design discussions to planning sessions. Online alternatives are never as good. Inability to participate in group social activities, or to detect nuance in conversation based on tone of voice (where a fully distributed team would come up with textual alternatives) can lead to a surprisingly quick erosion of mutual trust. This is why people who do work "full time" remotely - like me BTW - still benefit from frequent in-person visits.

> Is this uncommon across the industry?

I think your experience sounds a bit exceptional, but there's probably a lot of variance according to technical area and project characteristics. For me, working on a large codebase with lots of hidden coupling so that no individual project can be accomplished without tight collaboration at least across the dozen-person immediate team (if not the broader 40-person team), being remote is a real handicap. Can/should the codebase be fixed? Sure, but that project itself requires even tighter coordination until it's done. Were I to attempt it, I'd have to be on-site for months.

I think there are more bad codebases and weak teams than there are the opposite, so my guess would be that my experience (and this is not the first team in which I've been a remote minority) is not far from the norm.


Product manager feels like he/she needs to micromanage 9-5 standing next to your desk? Sounds like someone is trying to do or justify a job that is not really needed in 2019.

You could easily manage people in distributed teams and a lot of companies are doing that. How else you manage a team in a company that is operating in 5-10-20-30 countries? :-D


Even if this were true, the only reason to pay remote workers less would be if they directly paid the difference to the PM as compensation.


I know two product managers, both are remote.




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