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My Experience as a Remote Worker (joshwcomeau.com)
191 points by joshwcomeau 5 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 140 comments

Any company that openly advertises remote work as a benefit is going to discount your salary.

Imagine delivering a million dollar feature, working nights and weekends, but somehow it's discounted because of where you live?

Across the river from where I live the cost of living is 5% lower - if I happen to work from there, are the features I'm delivering magically worth 5% less?

According to companies like Buffer, Gitlab, Stichfix, the answer is yes.

Push back on these salary discounts and double down on the value you provide.

P.S. The are more remote opportunities out there than you realize. If there's a job that's a good fit for you, regardless of city, find the CTO or VP of Engineering on Linkedin, find their email on Hunter.io and directly ask if remote is a possibility. Sometimes they will say YES even though it wasn't openly advertised.

It's basic supply and demand: if hiring remote, you're drawing from a larger talent pool, and therefore increasing supply.

In theory, this works the other direction (remote workers have access to more employers), but the reality is that the supply/demand ratio for devs is radically distorted in the Bay Area (and other tech hubs relative to the rest of the US, and the US relative to worldwide), so it isn't symmetric.

To flip it around: if I'm purchasing labor, why should I pay a 200% premium because the employee is located in SF rather than Nebraska?

If you're trying to hire top talent, one has to consider SF salaries (offset by high cost of living) as BATNA. But if you find someone willing to do the job at lower cost (factoring in lower cost of living, and location/schedule flexibility as a form of compensation), what's the problem?

I understand the business's motives.

I've been on both sides of the hiring process and to get a solid candidate into advanced stages of the interview process isn't trivial. Time is always an issue - time to screen resumes, engineering time for phone screens, for online interviews, engineering time for onsite interviews all the while continuing to release new features.

While the pool of candidates is virtually infinite, time isn't.

And so for a solid engineering candidate, that works to your advantage. So yes, push back on discounted salary requirements.

Or reach a middle-ground - offer a short term contract up front to ensure "you're a good fit for each other" and so that you can properly demonstrate your skillet. And then kill every task you're assigned.

Protect your value.

BATNA - Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement

(for others like me in the TIL camp)

Coming from a relatively cheap country... It does work the other direction. That's why dev salaries across the world are much more similar than in other sectors.

Doesn’t your country experience the same lack of quality engineering talent?

Even in SV, we could interview 100 candidates but maybe one or two really knew the stack and one of those was a great coder.

That scarcity and high standards pushes the qualified candidate in to a pretty small pool, hence the high salaries.

Scarcity (and resulting wages increase) wouldn't be as big if there were no foreign companies coming in. Either hiring fully remotely or opening up dev offices.

Purely local scarcity would have had similar effect but I believe it'd be much much much slower and with lower ceiling. Local companies paying 2x average wage seemed fine. You're making good money compared to your neighbours and feels sort of wrong to ask for more than your boss makes. Then foreign money come in and pay 4x average wage light it was nothing. Suddenly all the social stigma is removed.

That's literally what happened when a major bank's back-office was opened. They were willing to pay 1.5x-2x local market salaries and hire lots of people (compared to market size). Pretty much everybody in the industry had to follow, raising salaries effectively overnight.

"Any company that openly advertises remote work as a benefit is going to discount your salary."

I have been working and hiring remotely for years, and that is generally false.

First, if I have a perk, I will list it. It is a competitive market for talent. This is just another tool at my disposal. Would you say that about "unlimited time off" or "generous benefits" being advertised in job posting? The same pool of money pays salaries as team outings and office beer taps, catered lunches, and other perks. On a basic level everything is zero sum.

Second, as for your "across the river" example, to the extent that actually happens, that view is a bit SV-centric. For talent that wants to avoid overpriced homes and soul destroying commutes, their frame of reference is local salaries that are guided by local costs of living. As a prospective remote, I don't care if you pay +20% in SFC. I am in another place, and if you can outbid my next best offer by 10% I win.

Definitely everyone should negotiate and be aware of salaries in NYC, SFC, Seattle, and DC.

A bit of a tangent, but I don't consider "unlimited time off" a perk, at least not automatically.

A guaranteed amount of time off means the company has to pay me for unused vacation if and when I depart. So for those of you who are offered unlimited time off, get a guaranteed and generous minimum, in writing.

After all, if it's unlimited, they shouldn't mind putting "a minimum of four weeks a year" in writing, should they? If they won't, they're probably going to shame you into working all the time and then won't pay you for the vacation you didn't take.

Where I work, we are given a generous amount of annual leave, and it's great. It ensures that you can essentially take a holiday whenever you want, and I find myself with days left towards the end of the year. The company also hardly refuses time off requests.

Compare that to the startup I used to work which had an "unlimited time off" perk, it was always a struggle to get actual time off, we were always rushing to get things done, or it was a difficult time, or another engineer was already on leave, it caused more stress than anything else.

I'm all for just giving a generous amount of annual leave, in my contract, with remaining days paid out.

I completely agree with you. It is a ploy to keep accrued vacation pay off the books and keep capital efficiency high. You obviously can't take 100% vacation time, so it's not unlimited.

It's nice not to stress about PTO balances, though.


> You obviously can't take 100% vacation time, so it's not unlimited.

This is the part that gets me. Everyone knows that it is limited, you just don't know what the limit is until you hit it.

If vacation were truly unlimited, sure, it would be a perk. Absent that, knowing what the limit is is a perk.

Companies where vacation time is close to zero will also say they have "unlimited." Always ask the interviewers how much vacation time they took specifically. In my experience they'll try to tell you how "someone" took 4 months of vacation but then omit the fact that no one else has taken more than 4 days and median is 0.

> A guaranteed amount of time off means the company has to pay me for unused vacation if and when I depart.

This must be a California thing. It's not generally true in most states.

And in a lot of companies, even when they specify an amount, it is a "recommended" amount. My company, for example, says 3 weeks, and many managers follow this religiously. But when you read the actual rules, it says that 3 weeks is the guideline, and not a promise. This is also used as an argument against giving 4 weeks: "3 weeks is just a guideline. You can work out more if the manager agrees."

Yeah, and most companies only let you accrue a certain number of hours of time off, typically somewhere between 100-200 hours from what I've seen. Once you hit that limit you simply don't get any more time off. Your boss won't let you take a vacation until next month? Too bad, sucks to be you.

Thankfully the way my current company handles this is about as good as you can get - they cash out balances that are too high a couple times a year at prespecified dates.

>As a prospective remote, I don't care if you pay +20% in SFC. I am in another place, and if you can outbid my next best offer by 10% I win.

No you don't win. If you leave 100K on table, you lose.

I don't want "a good salary for my area". If I'm entrusted to deliver a million dollar feature for a Bay Area company, I want the max payout for that responsibility regardless of whether I delivered it from Iowa or Vietnam.

I want to have options for my family, for myself. We want to travel the world, own a home in a great neighborhood with great schools, have experiences that few others get. And you don't get those options in life with being content with "a good salary for my area" and then denying yourself coffee from Starbucks because you're still living on a budget.

Well, I started out by agreeing with you. For lots of reasons I won't go into, local cost of living adjustments are a bad idea and employee comp should be as flat as possible. International complications can make that tough but I'm ignoring that.

But in a very fundamental way, I disagree with you. The reality is that you as a job-seeker have options and constraints when you are looking for a job. If a company isn't willing to pay you what you'd get if you were in Boston, but you aren't willing to move, then you have an impasse. If another company is will to pay that, then you take that offer. You have a set of offers and you take the best one available - not one that measures up to a hypothetical ideal.

You may want things, but that is totally immaterial to an employer. It depends on how valuable your skills are and how rare they are, regardless of location.

If you want to participate in profit, then you need to become capital, not labor. Labor sells itself in a competitive market. Prices will be determined by what other, comparable labor is offering itself for, not the value created for the company.

You need to read this:


If you are calling yourself and marketing yourself as "labor", you have already lost the game.

Last I checked, patio11 is now working as a regular employee with standard salary and benefits.

I'm constrained in my ability to talk about particular negotiations but, to the limited extent that HNers are taking direction from my life decisions, I'd advise you to assume that my negotiations do not frequently include "I consider myself basically a commodity fungible with a few hundred people you could source today and so I guess I'll take whatever the standard offer is."

I have followed a lot of your work. But I cant agree with all of your advice. I have been earning several 100Ks of salary since many years at FANG companies, possibly more than you. The biggest leverage for me has been from having multiple offers and performing well enough in the technical interviews to get an offer at an appropriate level. Me thinking of myself as a unicorn/laborer played no part in it. I just don't see you highlight any aspect of this in your advice.

Hey Patio11, huge fan of your work :)

If you don't mind me asking, how did you learn to negotiate?

Any resources you could recommend?

He doesn't negotiate. He generates unreasonably large amounts of leverage and uses it against his opponents.

You might be thinking "hey, wait a minute, that sounds like negotiating!". Well... You have to have something to negotiate with.

So the question is how can you generate leverage?

Lucky for you he has written an entire blog post on the subject: https://www.kalzumeus.com/2012/01/23/salary-negotiation/

I am familiar with patio11. I would classify the lead gen system he's set up with his website as capital, not labor.

Also, FWIW: of the vast multitude of ways in which programming creates value for companies, probably only a tiny minority of them lend themselves to the kind of contracting arrangement that he describes. All other programming gets done by labor. Which means that most programmers are labor. How you decide to describe yourself doesn't change that.

i don't have time to read this article to get to what i infer is some discussion about capital vs. labor - it hasn't shown up a few pages into the article - so i'll just reply to what you said outside of the link.

the idea that "woke labor" is non-labor is hilarious. first, this isn't possible for the vast majority of people who actually provide value to capital - you know, the people pouring coffee, or stocking shelves, etc. try being "woke" about your value at a grocery store and let me know how it goes.

second, once enough of your class is "woke" you're back at square 1, trying to beat up people below you to pander to capital. (aside: this sort of "get yours and get out" is emblematic of america generally, and not flattering imo)

that the game is stacked against those who labor is more of a pathological outcome of labor not being very powerful. this is a feature of capitalism, not a bug. it's a bandaid over cancer.

fix the system: organize.

It does work that way long term. Local employers start raising salaries to outbid remote employers. Then remote employers have to raise their offers. Rinse and repeat.

Source: remote worker for over a decade residing in a relatively cheap country

Unlimited time off just means no guaranteed time off. It discounts the benefits provided because it's bullshit. All time off is at the discretion of the employer so literally it's bullshit. But figuratively or symbolically it's also bullshit. Say I want to take 5 weeks off a year. It's hardly unusual or a massive amount. I bet most companies with unlimited time off would not let me. It's a ploy to hire people who are too naive to know any better. So yeah, anyone who understands this scam would say that unlimited time off is a net negative for benefits. Absolutely.

Indeed, this has always rubbed me the wrong way. As another commenter mentioned, there are supply & demand issues at play. However, even considering that, there is still a widely held attitude amongst companies that you should feel grateful that they are "letting you" work remote, and that it is a benefit, and that remote working is something that will be offered to you in lieu of the salary you are owed.

In fact, it should be the opposite. Companies are saving money by not having to spend money on office space and overhead. Why then should I not be getting a higher salary?

> Companies are saving money by not having to spend money on office space and overhead.

Well, in a lot of cases they likely already have office space that they're already paying for for all the non-remote folks, and the increased cost of having you there too is negligible. It only becomes an opportunity for savings when they have enough remoters that they've actually foregone space -- avoided an expansion or downsized.

This sounds like the "well they've already killed the cow" argument for eating meat. Conversely, by your logic, if you're the new hire that is the one person too much for the current office and they have to move to one twice as big for twice the price, they should pay you the entire price of the office to work remotely instead.

What they do for one person doesn't matter, the point is that if everyone were remote they wouldn't need to pay for the space.

That's right, it's bimodal. Be all on-site or all-remote. Every exception incurs a cost.

The worst cases are the 90%/10% splits. I have seen the one remote join the meeting from his hot tub (fucker). I have been the one remote fighting with the VC while the rest of the team patiently humors me. The one exception drags the rest of the team down.

I'm in a weird middle-ground.

~40 software/dev folks. Around 18 are 'remote'. There is a primary office, and most of the 'remote' are within driving distance, and we're expected to be onsite (or available to be onsite) 1 day per week - collaboration/f2f/etc. And it works for most of those 18 - they work together on some teams, and most of their colleagues are also at the main office. My 'team' is me and another guy, but we work on independent projects, and everyone we deal with is in other states - not drivable. It's hard to get support from anyone internal - they're mostly on a couple of large teams. Even when we get together f2f, no one understands the particulars of the projects we're on, so there's not as much value as for most of the rest of the teams.

I enjoy most of the setup, but it's still a bit challenging being the 'exception' at times.

Sure push back. But I don't think these companies should be getting so much heat. A Bay Area company offering remote work to non-Bay Area employees but at a discount is doing more to increase non-Bay Area wages than a Bay Area company that won't employ non-Bay Area workers.

Yes, they should get heat.

I would deliver the same value whether I'm sitting in SF or Cambodia.

Their salary formula's are flawed. And insulting.

> According to companies like Buffer, Gitlab, Stichfix, the answer is yes.

> Push back on these salary discounts and double down on the value you provide.

Another way to deal with this is to take advantage of the arbitrage and move to higher COL cities, yourself. You will be relieved of carrying the cost, while reaping the rewards that apparently make this place worth paying so much for. Whatever that is.

Doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s far less frustrating to deal with injustice when you can take advantage of it.

If enough people do it, companies will wise up, or get outcompeted by those who do. Until then, happy arbitrage!

I consult for Bay Area startups. The perception of risk with a remote worker is still there. I battle that.

Offer up an initial short term contract to mitigate risk. Make it a liberal termination clause for both parties - if either is unhappy you just walk away.

It'll put your client/employer's mind at ease.

And it allows you to demonstrate your value without having to discount upfront.

This is how I do it as well, although I'm only mostly remote. My initial contract is usually 520 hours (3 months of full time, longer in wall-time, as I prefer to work with 2 clients at any given time) with a 10 day no-fault termination for either party. I've yet to have a client which didn't extend after the first 3 months.

This is purely a matter of negotiating power. In fact you can see with eg offshoring factories it's exactly what happens. The shoes they make aren't different, but the locals in the cheaper place cannot talk their salaries up to the western rate.

> Imagine delivering a million dollar feature, working nights and weekends, but somehow it's discounted because of where you live?

Companies pay the least they can get away with on salaries. The real question is not why they "discount" work done in less expensive areas. The question is why are they paying a premium for work done in an expensive area? At some level they must believe that programmers in expensive areas provide greater value. Either that or they are just throwing away money buy hiring programmers at a cost higher than they could get away with.

>Any company that openly advertises remote work as a benefit is going to discount your salary.

>Imagine delivering a million dollar feature, working nights and weekends, but somehow it's discounted because of where you live?

>Push back on these salary discounts and double down on the value you provide.

Companies have been outsourcing development labour across the world for quite some time now, specifically to reduce costs and amplify margins, but I haven't see many taking issue with it until it's now affecting Westerners?

If we accept that Bay Area salaries are provided in part because of Bay Area costs of living, why wouldn't it be discounted for those who aren't affected by costs of living pressure to the same extent?

If we accept that Bay Area salaries are also provided in part because of demand exceeding supply, why wouldn't the price drop when supply is increased significantly?

I understand the recent demand for remote work - offices are really becoming a toil to be in 40+ hours a week, commutes are worsening, the modern trend to discuss politics at work is ostracizing people, etc. That said, those demanding more remote availability should be aware that in doing so, in making companies more remote-friendly or remote-first, they are opening up the talent pool significantly more widely, and will be competing with people with lower costs of living who will happily accept less money for the same output.

Iterating on and improving remote collaboration processes, tools, asynchronous work, performance measurement, management and more will lead to remote being favoured as a means to reducing costs. It's simply good business. Why would a Bay Area company pay someone on the East Coast a Bay Area salary, when they could pay an excellent Polish dev dramatically less for the same work?

I'm all for remote personally. I adore the idea of being free to not live in a metropolis, to work on somewhat my own schedule, have more time for my friends and family, etc. but I'm not going to delude myself that a dramatic increase in work that offers this will not be met with downward pressure on financial remuneration for that work.

Whether that's a trade-off one is personally happy to make is up to the individual. Or, if one wants to "have ones cake and eat it too", to to speak, they could attempt to unionize across the new geographically displaced market - counties, states, countries, etc. - for collective bargaining to protect said salaries. All the best to whoever attempts that endeavour.

> discounted because of where you live?

OTOH this acts as a market valuation of the increased value that that location's workers provide. Of course, if down the road the worker doesn't prove to hold up to this standard, i see a massive wave of SF remote workers being fired (there is plenty of remote talent online). I don't see job hubs like SF surviving a tech world where > 50% of jobs are remote.

It also acts as an indirect measure of the value dumped from VCs to landlords.

> Imagine delivering a million dollar feature, working nights and weekends, but somehow it's discounted because of where you live?

Imagine delivering that feature and expecting to get a larger salary because of where you live? COL is either a thing or it isn't. Job markets are localized because of physical presence. Once you take that limitation away, the artificial inflation of Bay area salaries fades a bit.

totally false; I run a fully remote company with ~20 employees and we pay our devs more than what they would make at a comparable office job. That being said (this is going to sound bad), the lack of a personal relationship off the top allows us to fire quickly. So we tend to pay more for but only hold on to very competent devs.

Generally it's harder to effectively manage a remote team than a colocated one. Most employers, if there were the same pool of talent, available at the same price locally as remotely, would choose to to have a local team.

In order for remote to be attractive to employers, remote employees simply have to charge less than the local alternative.

Yes, ultimately you're paid for the value you provide. If you want to work from the beach in Thailand from your laptop, fine, but I'm not going to pay as much, because I have to deal with you not being available on the same schedule as me, that you have a crappy internet connection that makes video calls more difficult, that it's harder to pay you, and that it costs more to fly you to the office periodically.

Obviously remote vs local is different. But Thailand vs Paris, for a company that is based in San Diego, is not that different - both are remote. So why would you pay differently?

Anyone can pay as much/little as they want, and get paid as much/little as they are willing to accept, obviously. But IMO it is worth remembering that ultimately what matters is the value added. If you live in a cheap location, negotiate hard, because you're adding as much value as someone that lives in an expensive location.

It comes down to who wants it more. If you have some kind of rare special experience that would be hard for them to find locally, then your location doesn't matter because they will be happy to have you on board. If you are replaceable then expect to be paid accordingly.

All desirable properties of a job are either going to come at the cost of fewer desirable properties elsewhere (including lower salary) or at the cost of making the job more desirable and harder to get (both because more people are applying, and because people are slower to leave the job if they like it).

> Any company that openly advertises remote work as a benefit is going to discount your salary.

Even if that was true, the employee is saving on fuel, time wasted sitting in traffic, vehicle wear and tear, the dangers and liabilities involved with driving, etc.

And incurring the cost of needing space at home to work, appropriate equipment, more utility usage (internet, electricity, heating), reduced potential for socializing and exercising. Assuming that "remote" == "at home", which it might not.

> And incurring the cost of needing space at home to work

It depends. As a software engineer, all I need is my kitchen table, or the couch, or the cafe down the street.

> more utility usage (internet, electricity, heating)

Totally worth it for thermostat control and to not freeze my ass off in November.

> reduced potential for socializing

If you're dependent on work for socializing, well, that's rather sad. I get that because I used to be that way until I realized that 99% of coworkers go along to get along and aren't good friends. They're out of your life as soon as they change jobs. But with extra time from not commuting, it becomes easier to find real friends IRL outside of work.

> and exercising

Uh, did you mean to type that? Because there can only be more time and opportunities to exercise when working remote.

> reduced potential for socializing and exercising

This is partially balanced by not having to commute. The time your colleagues spend in a car every day, you can spend exercising or with your friends. Also, you could set up a timer, and take each hour a 5-minute break to exercise, while your colleagues at work are taking breaks to smoke or drink coffee.

I know a guy who works from home, and he codes while walking on a treadmill. Has more exercise during his 8 hours of coding than many employed people get during their entire day.

Reduced potential for socializing and exercising? I think you mean increased. I have way more time for those things working remotely than I've ever had in my life and it's improved my quality of life immeasurably because of it. It's one of the reasons I'd never go back given a choice. Also, the employer should provide all equipment (mine does) and ideally, even internet subsidies, etc.

- Any company that openly advertises remote work as a benefit is going to discount your salary.

?? Not sure what you're talking about. My company has a flat structure and you're free to live wherever ( within the US, for now). We're remote by default as well, meaning there's no office.

But sure, if people try to pay you less work that out with them. Don't get angry about nothing though.

> Imagine delivering a million dollar feature, working nights and weekends, but somehow it's discounted because of where you live?

There is a flaw in going down this path of logic.

For a number of years after I started working, I tried to make sense of two things?

1. How is the value of what I provide to my employer correlated with my salary?

2. What exactly am I getting paid for? Presumably if I do this better/more I can get paid even more (e.g. working hard? delivering something? You can come up with many ideas here).

And the more I observed, the more I realized something:

In a decently sized company, it is very hard to figure out how much value (in $) your work contributes to the company's revenue. There are always exceptions (e.g. sales, etc). But generally your work is so intertwined with others that it's a lost cause trying to figure this out. You could do everything perfect and some other department down the road completely screws up thus negating all your contributions (not unusual).[1]

Because of this, almost no employer tries to determine your value to the company. They may have vague ideas that you're a critical employee, etc and give you nice bonuses/salary increases, but they're not going to even try to see if someone in another unrelated department's contributions are more or less than yours, and adjust salaries because of it.

So the answers to my questions above:

1. Fairly uncorrelated. A lot closer to 0 than to 1.

2. No one knows what you're getting paid for. Almost every company/boss will list some items, but they are either lying or deluding themselves: No matter what they tell you, you'll find no shortage of counterexamples in the company that proves them wrong. They say role X pays more because it deals with more complexity than your job? Likely it won't be hard for you to find jobs in the company with less complexity than your role (or role X) that pays more. Person is paid more because he puts in nights and weekends? Same thing - easy to find someone who puts in less and gets paid more. Role X gets paid more because it requires specialized knowledge and an advanced degree? Trivial to find counterexamples. Role X is critical for the company and if the person screws up it would be very expensive? To be frank, in every case of this being invoked I've noticed that people fulfilling role X get paid less. I happily moved from a role where my screwup would be very expensive to one where it wasn't, had fewer hours, a heck of a lot less complexity involved, and required almost no specialized knowledge, and quickly got a promotion with higher pay that way.

Because of all this, the reality of salaries are simple: They'll just invoke the market. It doesn't matter whether you made the company a million dollars or something close to your salary. If you happen to have special skills that are hard to find and that are in demand, that's your bargaining advantage.

There is almost no reason for a company not to save the effort and just go with the market. To the point that it's not even immoral to behave this way unless taken to some extreme.

Getting back to:

> Imagine delivering a million dollar feature

You'll almost never show that you did this. And if you did, you'll rarely be able to show that they needed you to do this vs the guy who'll take 10% less pay.

If you want higher pay, don't appeal to moral/ethical arguments - they will simply demonstrate your admission of a disadvantage. Instead, demonstrate you have skills they need that they won't find easily. Until you can find a way to differentiate yourself, you are not worth more than a remote worker in a low COL area (including those in other countries).

[1] As an aside, one of the perks of having a salary is that you are immune from these events - you'll still get paid even if your contributions amounted to nothing for the company. As such, there's also a reason your salary will be lower than investors - you're not taking on the risk they are. But this is a separate topic.

I would never go back to commuting to the same place every day. It's cool that he does the coworking thing, but I've been working remotely for 6+ years fulltime (and I have other periods of 2-3 years at a time working remotely interspersed through my 20+ year career in software), and I would not give it up for anything less than a C-level role at this point. Most of the benefit to me is the lack of routine. Routine stifles my creativity. I don't want to go to the same place or do the same thing every day.

>Most of the benefit to me is the lack of routine.

Wow, this is literally the exact reason I loathe remote working! I've been working remotely for almost 5 years now and I'm about to jump ship at my current job specifically so I can find a job that has a physical office to go to. I find that the lack of a routine causes a significant increase in stress in my life. It's an actual dream of mine to go back to a 'normal' job where I go into an office and sit at a normal desk with a normal work schedule, and then can just go home or to the gym at 6pm and enjoy my non-work life.

Personally, I find having a space dedicated to work helps tremendously with this. When I am in my "office" at home, I am working. When I leave the office, I am not working.

Having that separation helps me "leave work" when it is technically at the same location. It does also require a good bit of discipline because it is easy to slip back into work at any point in the day.

Many argue that you should "work when you feel like it" but I personally find that leads to burn out. If I can keep a regiment that I don't deviate much/at all from, I am mentally healthier.

> work when you feel like it == burnout city

yes because most of us don't know how to turn that off!

Mental health must become a priority when working remote. Separation is a key way to stay ahead of the degradation. Even if you're not a person who tends to go outside, you HAVE TO when you work remote. Lack of face to face interaction will eat you very slowly over the years.

It can't just be with your usual people either. You need to have a level of unexpected interactions with other humans to stay a happy person. I'm not a psychologist, but I've had this happen to me and any other colleague I know who worked remote. It's a very real thing – respect it.

My experience is that a work laptop is enough.

All the work code, emails, tickets etc. are on it and once it's closed for the day I it needs to fired up again to do any additional work, which surprisingly serves enough as a barrier.

I have a third option, work time. I have specific, inviolable times when I get on and off work. Past 8, I am off work and all work-related notifications shut off automatically. I've found this helps perfectly isolate work from life.

Working whenever you feel like it is hell, I agree.

That’s how I currently work too. It helps that the company has to follow strict compliance rules, so the work equipment is strictly for work.

> Wow, this is literally the exact reason I loathe remote working!

I've been remote working for years and I now find that my most productive times are "in-the-zone bursts" of work. What used to take a whole day I can now get done in a couple of hours.

So, now I find less of an imperative to keep a structure. My new rule is to just be very vigilant about when my brain wants to do the work... and when I get the feeling jump right in.

It's weird but it seems to work well in my case!

I have been working remotely for the past 4 years and every day has been routine. Walk into my my home office at 8, work until 12, take an hour lunch and work until 5. For the first couple of years I had issues with overworking myself not being sure of my productivity, but after setting hard limits to never stay in my office after 5 and to stop worrying about my productivity my stress levels normalized and nobody reported negatively on my productivity. It was all in my head.

My experience working remotely is almost the same as working in an office. My only added benefits are a lack of commute and job opportunities that aren't available to me in the small remote town I'm in. If it wasn't for remote work I wouldn't even be a software developer. This allows me to be a software developer and raise my kids in the same town as their grandparents. In fact living in the same town I was raised in may aid in the social isolation a lot of people feel. I could see working remotely in a town you have no/small amount of friends being very isolating.

I’m the exact opposite. My general perspective on life is to be able to do what I want, when I want to do it and remote work with a flexible schedule enables me to do that. I absolutely hate being told I have to sit at a desk and be somewhere between some prespecified hours.

I work remotely and have a very consistent schedule / routine. I have a family so that helps in terms of company in the house reminding me to leave the office.

When I leave my office (a dedicated space), I'm done for the day, but that's also due to the culture at my workplace. It's possible to have both, is all I'm saying. Remote doesn't mean no routine.

More power to you! Everyone should find his own preferences and strengths and lean into them, imo.

Were you sociable before going remote? - My biggest issue when I have periods of work from home from my job is getting very lonely from not speaking to anyone in person all day. But I imagine if I was a fully remote worker I would make active changes in my life to see more people every day.

“But I imagine if I was a fully remote worker I would make active changes in my life to see more people every day.”

That’s one of the biggest improvements in quality of life when I work remotely. I find working in an office (especially open space or cubes) very exhausting due to noise and lack of privacy. So I come home at night totally exhausted and do nothing. When I work from home I naturally feel motivated to do something after work which I find very positive.

It will force you to find social outside of work, but that's a good thing to do in general. Once you start getting out the house at what is normally work hours you'll start to meet other people who work remote.

But, and this can be hard for people, you have to make an effort to be social. The default that someone works with you they will likely have to talk to you is no longer an option.

I am a very extroverted person and require social interaction to not become depressed. My job is a little different in that I'm customer-facing and have to travel to customer sites from time to time. I also have a family (wife and 2 young daughters), and I enjoy the opportunity to interact with them throughout the day. I have a separate area of the house that is mine, and they know not to disturb me while I'm working (which is often, but on my own schedule). To clarify: Wife is a SAHM. I also work for a Bay Area startup, which has perks in terms of flexible schedule and unlimited PTO.

That is the harshest adjustment. I had to make accommodations as my mood plummeted immediately. I work every morning at the coffee shop which gives me some social exposure and pseudo interaction. Merely being around others, and bright light, helps. I don't have to rely on meetups much anymore, but that's a very useful tool. I particularly enjoyed pick-up sports, non-fiction discussion, etc.

You have to integrate more socializing into your life or you will not make it in the long run. If a remote worker tells you this doesn't bother them... ask them how long they've been remote. If it's less than 5 years, it's slowly eating at them and they don't realize it yet. Even the most introverted homebodies need to do this for remote jobs IME.

I've been remote for 10 years and I agree. I was traveling around Asia for the first year or so and now am married and have a son.

I need socialization at least once/week or I start getting depressed.

+1 for this. Been remote ~5 years or so now and it's lonely. There are weeks where, outside of work calls, the only people I talk to are clerks at a checkout counter.

I've found that getting involved in some type of group activity is super helpful for that.

I'm into music, so I joined our local community choir. It's not necessarily the style of music I listen to on my own or like to play/perform (I'm more into guitar and folk music), but its a very social activity that gets me out of the house once a week, with people that I have some things in common. I've made some great friends and got to know a lot of people in my community that I would not have otherwise.

I really start to miss it when we're off-season (long summer break), because of that feeling you get when you haven't left the house for a week or so. :)

I would have periods of becoming unsociable if I was heads down all the time. Practice makes perfect, you know?

Becoming remote didn't change that. But traveling while being remote did. It's hard not to walk into great wall of socializing to balance out all the abstract work we do day today.

Personally, I kicked started it by putting all my stuff in storage. I also started slowly by traveling within the US and moving month to month. My boss does it cool, important to note that not all remote work environments will be okay with you traveling.

I work from home, a bar or coworking and I mix this with work trips abroad lasting 3 to 10 days where I get my share of social interaction.

It also makes me appreciate time with my family more.

Balance is the key.

It's very subjective and varies but I find it not too hard to attain.

P.s. I've been working remotely for 18 years now.

I've been working remotely the same amount of time. I used to work remote for a local Chicago company and there were plenty of opportunities for social interaction. Now I'm working remote for a Bay Area company and it's pretty isolating. My wife's Christmas party is a highlight of the year.

When the spouse work-related social meetups become the highlight of the year, something is wrong.

Some parts of the world can be isolating. You may want to talk to your wife about moving back to a more civilized place.

Chicago is a pretty civilized place.

Exactly my point. A place where people can easily socialize, regardless of job or social status.

OP, talk to your spouse and try to go back there!

We live in Chicago. I work remote for a Bay Area company.

This post has some great points about remote work that make sense based on what I've learned from speaking with remote workers . I would love to find a remote engineering job but I have run into 2 obstacles:

First, I believe some remote companies like to see some remote experience to know that you can be successful on a distributed team. This is a tough catch-22! I have asked my manager at my normal office job for opportunities to work remotely 1/5 days but I am not sure if this is adequate experience.

Second, it is much harder to find remote work for embedded/hardware engineering (my background). Obviously it is different when actual hardware is involved as it is more convenient to be in the same physical location, but the advantages of a remote hardware team should be the same as a remote software team!

If anyone knows of remote friendly hardware companies I would love to know!

Hardware is tricky. I work in medical devices and just went remote due to my partner's new job and move. There are a lot of things I can't do anymore. I used to be able to walk over to another desk and borrow $20000 test equipment for a day. Not anymore. I am sure you can do hardware dev remotely to some degree but there is a limit if you need expensive equipment. You can't just build a $500000 lab for every dev.

Software is much easier that way. I am lucky that most of my work always has been pure software so I will probably try to minimize tasks that need special hardware.

Thanks for sharing your experience! Obviously with specialized hardware remote work isn't feasible, but I think with a lot of things (like smart home, iot, etc) the focus is on the firmware and not so much the hardware.

I do think it may be necessary to switch over to software development but that would be a tough transition!

It's not hardware, but if operating systems-level programming is an interesting compromise, we're hiring remote workers for the Wine project :-) It occasionally dives down to stuff like HID, USB, Linux kernel, and X11/Wayland programming.

This sounds like an interesting area to work ok. I think I would enjoy it more than the medical stuff.

Luckily that's been the case for me. I work primarily on-site, but can work from home pretty easily since the hardware I test on is easily reachable from VMs I can remote into.

We may be looking to hire some remote embedded/hardware engineers soon. Shoot me an email.

The important thing about working from home for me is that I get to spend more time with my 2 year old. Both from not having to commute and also by getting to see him every time I get up to take a break. If I worked 9-6 at an office with an hour commute each way I’d only see him for an hour every day.

Not to diminish your experience, but a lot of your "calculation" seems to exists because of assumptions you have made. Isn't 9-5 the typical working day? Why does your commute need to be 1 hour each way?

I work a 9-5 with a 40 minute commute each way. That 40 minutes includes 20 minutes of walking which lessens my need for other exercise. I get plenty of time with my 17-month old. 6-8 in the morning and 5:30-7:30 at night.

On the flip side, my wife works from home and loves her breaks when she can spend time with our child. She is also often lamenting a lack of time for exercise and social activities.

Not the original poster, but it's easy for a commute to be 1 hour each way even if you live very close to work. I'm about 18 minutes away from the office by car, but by bus, it takes about 1 hour or more, and monthly parking costs are insane. (several hundreds of dollars per month)

As for your wife, I may be misunderstanding if she works from home as a Mom or remotely, but my wife works from home as a stay-at-home-mom and exercises almost every day with two young ones. She takes long walks with the children, one in a stroller and the other in a front pack.

The other thing she does is a variety of workout videos. Our oldest actually does some of the workout with her and encourages her with the same phrases the people on the workout video use. (ex. "train your body!") It's cute.

I appreciate your exercise / decompression time. It's something I miss occasionally being remote. 8:30-5:30 with an hour on each end for a commute is definitely more of a typical workday I'd say for somebody in an office.

That said, imagine if you could do 40 minutes of walking with your child instead (or do the walk / ride / sport you wanted during that time), lose nothing, and still work the same hours?

Lamenting the lack of time for exercise and social activities is a problem of having children, not remote work. Working at an office, however, means you'll likely get first crack at that stuff because it's "on your way home" or "just a thing after work" but if you were working from home you could easily trade this time back and forth with your partner and they could do the same thing. That said, those interactions definitely require a bit more work than the social scene that's "built-in" at the office.

> I get plenty of time with my 17-month old. 6-8 in the morning and 5:30-7:30 at night.

Kids vary a lot in how much sleep they need. Sleeping 7:30pm to 6:00am is 10.5hr, while many 17-month olds need more like 12hr at night.

I had a 10 minute commute before I started working from home. The big thing that lets me see my kids more is that I am _already home_ when they get back from school in the afternoon. Previously, I only would see them when I got back home from the office, right at dinner time.

I tried working from home with 2 year old. Impossible. I actually sometimes work from home on days she is at child care.

That is great you can prioritize spending time with your son!

When I had an hour+ commute we ended up pushing our kid's bedtime to 11 which was nice to spend more time with him but then made it harder for me to get enough sleep! Now he is in school so 11pm bedtime obviously is too late.

I work from home one day a week, and honestly, I'm not sure I'd want to do more than a day or two each week. It's my most productive day by far, but the isolation feels unsustainable for me.

Working from home one day a week likely means that your company / colleagues are not set up to actually behave and interact with you normally during that day.

Alternatively, if you're set up to work remotely every day, you come to work the same way you would in an office and you don't "wait until so-and-so is back in person" to get stuff done. One day a week might be a good experiment, but it's definitely not an indication of the way you would be working if it were full time and it's definitely not the same thing as remote work in my experience.

Until everyone you work with works remotely (or "like they are remote") it is difficult to simulate what that work can look like when it gets going well.

Having the right culture at the company is hugely important. Also, one day per week is extremely challenging.

I just started a new role where video calling is engrained in communication. If you're going to be hashing things out on Slack for 10+ minutes, you might as well get on a video call for half the time.

I completely agree, and I think it's the right balance for me.

Speaking of one day per week, I've been thinking that I want to start that if just to do something for the climate strikes (even if it's to just one day to not be commuting).

I've been remote for only 3 months but I'm totally sure it's for me. In my case the alternative was two hours a day on BART. Now I get to see my kids way more.

I guess I kind of understand single people who like being at the office all day but at the same time many of them seem to act like work is most of their social life. That seems bad to me, So your whole social life is at the mercy of your employer? What happens when you get laid off?

In any case just like that guy I have options if I want to be more social. I got a house a short bike ride away from some co working spaces so it's an option.

Totally agree about it being about choice which is a breath of fresh air. Companies in big cities like SF seem like they are run with single college grads in mind.

Parents often seem to be the most ardent proponents of remote work, This makes sense, because someone in a relationship with kids spends significant amounts of time with the people they love every day by default. Going to an office just takes away from that.

Single people spend time alone for most of the day by default, so I don't think it's surprising at all that they would prefer to be around people most of the day before going back to an empty home. Most of us crave social interaction. All of the suggested alternatives to the office for socializing (coffee shops, coworking spaces, bars) are in general just worse, more expensive versions of a company-provided office.

Office gives you an environment where you can meet people that you can be friends with. Something a bar/coffee shop..etc, cannot provide easily. My dearest friends are my coworkers. I have been working remotely for two months now and even though it's a great experience, I miss the occasional chit-chat or coffee. I still do that after work, it's just harder.

Why can't you make friends at a bar or coffee shop? If you're working 40 hours in the same place as people, I doubt it matters if it's an office or a cafe, you're bound to get to know people unless you're very shy.

Private life gives you an environment where you can meet people that you can be friends with too, maybe more than the office where you have to do several other things too. Like work.

One thing I rarely see in these discussions is how I feel: I don't WANT to be friends with my co-workers. I don't want my social circle to consist of people with whom I'm interdependent for my livelihood and who share a very similar educational and professional background. I LIKE keeping the "professional" folks at arms reach, neatly contained by a screen in one room of my house.

I wouldn't mind having co-workers as friends, but truth to be told, I've never been able to form meaningful relationships with them. They're just people I get along with and that's all. Past work hours, I've never really interacted with colleagues. And whatever limited interaction I had always ended when I changed jobs, so yeah...

I need to find my friends elsewhere. Simply working at a place where I'm surrounded by people is no solution to loneliness.

Agreed. Although I am not keeping arms length I am not reliant on office life either, not in the need of office relationships beyond professional, if it comes then it comes, if not then not. Most of my friends happen to be from other places than my actual job and I do not feel I miss anything. Friendships depends on personalities not on my occupation.

Interestingly I feel a weird insistence towards location based software development in Europe, at least in the area I am active in (engineering design software for desktop). In the past 6 months while looking for a new place - partly because of the obsession of our COO on lengthy and tedious daily commuting regardless of actual needs, just for the sake of it, but for other reasons too - whenever I found a position in an other city/country that was matching my capabilities, experience and interest very well after the first very enthusiastic round from the recruiter when the request of remote (or even remote dominant) work emerged they took a U turn saying on site presence is paramount so I will not fit. Reasons span legal through organizational to company tradition.

I do not get it.

Is the geographic location of making a software sooo much important? It is that very allocated desk and chair that will ensure a good product delivery so relocation of family, searching for accommodation and accepting a specific allocated city to live in and daily commuting in the overcrowded transportation systems must be mandated for a new workforce?

I am ok that managers have own style and some can only function face to face but to find zero number of those willing to accept remote workers because they are agile or what not is very strange to me.

Oh, btw, I worked remotely for many years earlier in total, successfully, was that just a one of experience then?

Imho the most important line in the article is:

"If you're providing Bay Area value, you deserve Bay Area dollars!"

Every other kind of corporate propaganda (cost of living adjustment or whatever) is BS.

I'd like to see if the companies accept less money for their products or services from people based in lower-earning parts of the world. Or less VC capital.

Actually it is quite common practice having diversified cost model for the different geographic regions, which is a controversial practice on its own. Just like several other aspects of commerce.

I have worked remotely everyday for the past three years. It has been a horrible experience for me. I am horribly depressed and feel stuck in my current position. I moved to a town with no tech work but I cannot leave because of my spouse's job and I don't want to move my kids yet again. I miss my 45 minute commute and my cubicle.

Could you walk/run/bike around the neighborhood before going to work to simulate your commute ? Can you create an good work space in your house or nearby ?

Can you occasionally head to the office for a few days? Work trips? Coworking space once a week? Seems you'd benefit from mixing it up.

Niiice CSS styling for a personal blog! Really a pleasure to look at.

Mind if I ask: Is it completely homebrewed or based on some theme out there?

Afraid it's built from scratch, no theme available =(

It's open-source if you're curious about anything! Though it's quite messy. https://github.com/joshwcomeau/blog

Why the web font though? I would have liked to read your article in a standard font already built into my system. Something that I'm used to reading in, ex. Helvetica, Arial, Georgia, etc. Instead, I get this slightly-off font that isn't that widely used, and have to switch to Reader mode to get a nicer built-in font.

I work remotely as a contractor. Its both similar and very different from the OPs observations. For one, we're all senior so mentors and contacts with other groups are far less important. Communication remains key however.

Often if you're senior, contacts with other people can actually be more important. But, in that case, with a large organization they're often going to be pretty spread out physically. That's sort of my situation. I do a lot of individual contributor work that's both solo and working with others. But those others are largely either in other offices or working remotely.

Interesting article. I will start working full remote starting next year and I had some of the misconceptions mentioned. Can't wait for the next article!

Just started working remote in Tel Aviv and I must say it's a life challenging. Without a boss so to say everything comes down to your decision.

The first paragraph is my experience pretty much exactly. I haven't rented an office yet, but it's only a matter of time, I feel.

People really talk about careers after three years in a field?

If I recall correctly, he said 3 years on site, then 3 years remote, so six years total. But I do admit I was taken aback that he would call himself a "senior dev" after only six years out of school. Admittedly, however, after six years at one company, he's probably considered a senior contributor.

I think it's worth mentioning that not all years and all people are equal.

For example this is the author speaking at ReactEurope over a year ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2d9rw9RwyE

I would argue he's probably more "senior" then a lot of people with twice the "years" he has.

Any pointers on how to go about looking for a remote job?

You could look for any job. If you have a skillset some employer really wants, they will think about it if you let them know that you'd be interested in working for them, remote. Of course you risk running into a company that isn't very remote friendly (and the experience can be painful e.g. due to poor communication), but it's surprising how many companies that don't really advertise themselves as remote companies have or have had remote employees.

I have landed my previous and current job, both remote, via Stack Overflow Careers. On the first one I was approached by a recruiter, for the second I have applied myself after narrowing down some search results.

Nice yoyos!

Thanks! :D

Unsolicited collection shot: https://i.imgur.com/H1x5k9Y.jpg

You would have been the coolest kid at my middle school! Yoyos were huge back in the late 90s, I do miss them sometimes. Way cooler than pogs.

Oh nice! Never got too far into Yoyo-ing but always wanted to! Are some of those from One Drop?

It's a fun hobby =) works great as a software dev as well, to keep your hands busy while your brain works through a problem.

A few of them are OneDrop, including a Kuntosh near the front, and a Summit a bit further back :D

Yeah, I tried to get in it for a bit, but ultimately started getting more serious about Speedcubing (Rubik's cubes). Even easier (or at least lazier) way to keep your hands busy :)

I do have a couple of "serious" Yoyos, including a OneDrop, that I pick up once in a while, maybe one day I'll get back into it for real.

Kuhn or bust!:)

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