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Twitter Will Allow Employees to Work at Home Forever (buzzfeednews.com)
2953 points by minimaxir on May 12, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 1339 comments

I always thought I enjoyed remote work as an engineer/architect, I did it for 6 months by my own volition before coming back. I am extremely unhappy. I really miss being in the office with my coworkers and friends. I've struggled deeply with overwhelming sadness at the idea of not going back anytime soon. My work has suffered from a lack of dynamic interactions. I get lots of focus time, just like I did at the office, but working in the same building I live in has been brutal. Maybe I'm different than the average HN reader, but I'm a social butterfly and not going in to the office has been devastating to my mental health, my appetite, my motivation, and my overall interest in work. I exercise the same amount, I eat just as healthy (just less), but something is missing. If this field goes primarily remote, I will leave.

I have worked from home for the last couple of years. Prior to the Covid shutdown, I had generally enjoyed it. Once my children's school closed and my wife's work switched to work from home, my productivity has plummeted. I find it impossible to focus as every 10 minutes I have a young child running into my office, or have to listen to them yelling at each other (as all kids do). My wife has had a hard time adjusting and she is equally distracted by the kids and her frustration feeds mine. She is forced to be on conference calls for most of the day (I am actually surprised at how many there are, they are all calls with executive level people so she cant opt out. Almost all income producing departments have to pass through her team and they laid off her support staff) but is still expected to complete real work as well which she cant do now until the calls stop after 5. I have been able to get very little deep work done and find myself working until 2 / 3 am to accomplish the same work I used to do in a normal shift.

I feel very bad for my kids as all they want is to be able to play with their friends and do all the things they could before so I do my very best to not show them my frustration. Its a depressing situation all around but I am very grateful to actually still have a job while so many others have lost theirs. My kids ask me why I have to work so much all the time, as all they want to do is spend time with me.

I guess what I am trying to say is the current situation is not optimal.

My company (large-ish un-sexy software company you've never heard of) gave the software managers clear direction on this: "It's not realistic for people with school-aged children to be fully productive right now. Do not demand they take PTO or ask them to work at night. If they can only work five hours a day, that's what they can do."

I suspect it's unusual that my boss actually said that out loud, but I hope everyone is thinking it. This is a temporary situation none of us planned for, and it ought to be reasonable and expected to lower your standards until schools and childcare are around again.

We might work at the same company!

I lead one of our teams and that's pretty much the explicit directions my VP gave us. Actually, the entire leadership team gave those directions. It's made me glad I switched jobs 18 months ago.

Somehow I'm the only one on our team with kids but some of my team has had a difficult time managing the change from an emotional standpoint and I just treat it the same way. I don't expect them to somehow magically "power through it". They're normally very productive and I know this will pass.

By this attitude you can recognise reasonable employers that care about their employees, and are not merely looking to exploit them.

My company (large consulting firm you have probably heard of) gave us essentially the same guidance from the top. The culture was already one that discouraged micromanaging, but they flat out said they don't expect us to be as productive. Most of my team is realistically working 15-20 hours a week, and that's ok because our clients are doing the same and understand when we miss milestones.

I've actually been impressed at the amount of empathy that's been going around, at least when it comes to adjusting expectations. Hopefully it sticks around.

Exactly the right response. Sounds like management may be a bit sexy though, stable companies that treat their employees well are rare.

Basecamp's founders have been working hard to hammer this point (lower expectations and treat humans like humans) home lately.

Exactly the same thing at Arm.

We had an all-hands and one of the questions was "are we expected to do our contractual hours" and the answer was to do what you can.

Honestly very impressed by how they are handling this, at every turn they repeat that they understand that everyone's situation is different.

"If they can only work five hours a day"

I appreciate the sentiment, but five hours?! That's your example of an acceptable low level of performance for someone working from home with a child with no possibility of childcare?

I'm splitting card of my toddler with my spouse, and on my BEST days, I get 3 hours of actual work done. 1.5 is more typical, and that's only because the toddler takes 2 hour naps.

One of the reasons we built Squawk, a push-to-talk group chat platform, was for this very reason. Many of our team have young kids at home, and current chat tools require too much work to ensure you're muted and not spamming your background noise all over the place. Might be worth a click - https://www.squawk.to

Thanks for sharing. Three kids spanning elementary and middle; one is neurotypical, other two have different strengths and needs. My work space is a single car unconditioned garage, atop a stack of boxes. Yesterday I was inside between meetings for a total of 4 minutes between meetings and had reduced two of them to tears. Today I had to cut off my 1st grader, who was in middle of excitedly presenting me a LEGO she completed, because it was :59 after and I needed to get on a call. Granted, most days are a little more even, but it's hard to not feel like there's a choice between damaging relationships/reputation at work or damaging relationship with kids. They're of course not mutually exclusive, and kids are clear priority if it were.

Having work and home contexts now collapsed into single environment has had the surprising effect where each interaction with the family during my work day triggers the subconscious thought of whether I just made a tradeoff between work and home -- and if so, was it the right one. In isolation the amount of energy each thought takes is negligible, but add up each interaction throughout the day, and day after day, it's been incredibly draining.

I dunno, my thoughts change daily on this topic. But this is my venting of for whatever day it is. usually I type these replies and never submit, but cathartic, if nothing else, to vent and post this one today.

p.s. agree, while not optional, still incredibly grateful to still have a job.

Yeah, not a day goes by during this compression of work and home life that I don't wonder at least a couple of times if I am a bad parent. Kind of (I hesitate to use the word) good to hear others going through the exact same thing. Kids just want to spend time with me but after the 4th time of them just coming to say hi in 10 minutes and the cursor still just blinking on an empty line on the screen I sometimes, regretfully snap and feel bad about it. My productivity is 25% of what it was and now I'm not worried about being laid off but rather fired for lack of production.

Note: I thought I had it bad with my office, that has no door, but you have me beat pretty handily.

I work from home and since about February my productivity nose-dived. It suffered before they closed the schools because of worry and constant news checking, etc. Then when the schools closed here in March I have been near useless. I have started to claw back some routines and some short spells of focused work lately but as the main carer for the kids, I have constant homeschooling, cooking, peace-making, MacGuyvering, Wikipediaing, Joe Wicksing to do for them. Closing my home office door last about on average 3 minutes, probably.

The other problem is the confusion of what day it is and that since I got not much work done during the weekdays I also work at the weekend, which before was a complete no-no. Over the long term, this lack of time off for them and me probably is not good.

Cut and paste. I have three kids and they span a broad range of ages. I feel lucky to have a dedicated home office with a door that closes, but that doesn’t stop the constant interruptions from my kids. I can only imagine the global destruction of productivity that is happening right under our noses.

It's been estimated by economists that we've now lost every production gain made since the end of WWII.

Do you have a source for this? I suspected that the loss in productivity has been enormous, but that's a shocking assertion!

Exact same boat here, we can't complain because we still have our jobs, we feel terrible because our kids are getting bored out of their minds and all they want is our attention, i don't know how long we can go on like this.

I haven't figured out how to be as productive as night as I would be in the morning, which used to be my best hours.

You simply can't WFH with young children at home and no full-time caretaker. My wife and I tried alternating 6-hour shifts of work and childcare, 6 days/week, and finally gave up and hired a nanny.

Your comment has converted me from a lurker to a first time poster. I'm in the exact same boat as you and just wanted to tell you to keep on plugging away and doing the best you can. Its all we can really do.

I got stressed out just reading your comment. I hope you're able to return to normalcy soon. :(

3 devs with kids I know all implemented shifts - since they only need to be in meetings occasionally they will watch the kids and work after that.

You mean, they will watch the kids or mutually exclusive work?

This is really interesting, and rings a lot of bells for myself as well. Are you in the US?

I think it is time for a lot of people for a relocation to somewhere with better-larger living arrangements, and better access to childcare (private or public).

And it also should give rise to gig economy around private tutors/babysitters/nannys - which is very useful, and actually could be fun for a lot of people.

Thanks for this comment, I'm empathetic and am in a similar boat. I'm curious if there are managers/companies out there that are expecting the same level of productivity from their staff during these times?

I for one expect lower productivity from my staff whether or not they have kids, and am adjusting delivery dates to account for this.

Other than having not worked from home for many years now (which I am very happy to do when it works out), your experience is highly relatable. For the kids, I'm sad and wish I could do something more for them. But work abounds.

In the exact same situation -- take it for what it is and have faith that being there for your kids is somewhat of a silver lining I say

Hang in there <3

> I really miss being in the office with my coworkers and friends.

Are you young, single, and live in an apartment? I have noticed a divide along those lines with WFH. As an older, married person, living in a house with a yard, I haven't worked in an office for any length of time for last 10 years.

None of my close friends are related to work. I like having lunch with my wife and going out back with the dogs when I need a break. I also have an actual office with a door in my house. The time I save commuting means there is more time to workout and cook healthy meals every day. And, if I really want to 'get out' the local coffee shop is 5 minutes away. The owner and her 2 employees are awesome along with great coffee and great internet.

Of course I may think differently if I was back in my 600 sqft apartment and single with few friends.

I think it is expected that we will see the full spectrum of reactions to this new work environment. Everything from : - whether you are living single or with a significant other - happily married or have your relationship just scraping by (As an aside, I read that China has seen a spike in divorces after their lockdown) - have kids or no kids, have teenagers or toddlers - have a comfortable home office or are working from your kitchen table and sitting on a dining chair - are introverted or extroverted - have great co-workers in a great workplace environment or if you dislike your office and/or co-workers - if you have a long commute or live a relaxing 10 minute walk from the office

... the list goes on and on.

It is not surprising that you will have every variation of the above. But my guess is that for the majority of the people, once they setup a proper home office, the would likely find working from home to be somewhere in the "mildly positive" to "really positive" side of things. Even if some disagree with that, at the very least, I imagine that most would agree that they would like to have the _option_ to work from home whenever they choose.

Speaking as a young, single and lives in an apartment person. As an introvert I've often relied on being present among people to kind of substitute for my social life. With that not being present, it really puts focus on the presence or lack of social network. I'm actually grateful in a way that it has forced me to reach out to people in my network, that I otherwise wouldn't have..

I might be some kind of extreme introvert, because I don't miss people in my office at all. In fact it feels like a relief, for professional reasons I've had to be more outgoing that I'd like to and that feels extremely tiring after a while.

As much as your boss might want it, your coworkers don't have to be your friends if you don't want to. The greatest advantage of working remotely is that you can choose who you want to spend your working time, lunches, etc, with. Maybe it's just yourself.

Age of children is also factor. I suspect people enjoy the escape an office provides when they have toddlers. I really enjoy having lunch with my teenage kids everyday thanks to Covid. Working from home has been a blessing.

Kids are a spectrum. The lockdown is so different depending on how old your kids are:

Infant = stressed, but manageable

Toddler = worst case scenario

Young child = second worst case scenario

Teen = enjoyable

As someone with an infant and a toddler, working from home, this hits the nail on the head. I have been working remotely my whole career, and I love it, but working at home _with_ children there is about 5x harder.

I have four kids under age 8, including a two-year-old.

Brutal doesn’t begin to describe it.

I've got an 11 year old and a 5 year old. Sometimes I tell the oldest to go play with his brother, so they both won't bother us.

This tends to work very well for about 30 minutes, and then they're in a fight.

So essentially: Kids are annoying. Babies are sweet though.

More or less. Young kids want your attention and don't have the capacity to understand why you can't give it and have to focus on something else for 8 hours, so they'll just keep interrupting you. Babies require your attention periodically for basic-life needs or general fussiness but nothing beyond that (which is stressful, but not intellectually taxing). Teenagers are likely a bag of contradictions, but at least they understand the concept of working all day and needing space to concentrate. You can reason with a 15 year old, but not a 5 year old.

I'm mostly solving this issue with my 3-year old by playing with her all day (save for an hour or two of meetings) and then catching up on work at night, at the expense of a bunch of sleep.

I'm lucky that my software job is mostly conducive to this...

Twin three year olds and a seven year old here...

My and my spouses co-workers seem to be split on whether or not they have young kids at home that they're supposed to be watching while they work. My spouse and I are lucky enough to have help watching our kids and seeing them more as well as getting those prep and commute hours back is such a blessing.

I ignored kids because that should not be typical of a long-term WFH situation. All of my WFH coworkers still use day cares, etc...

My kids are 1 and 3, going to work at the office was definitely the easier part of my day before WFH started! I consider it a good week now if I'm mostly attentive in all the meetings I have and get a modicum of actual work done.

> I like having lunch with my wife and going out back with the dogs when I need a break. I also have an actual office with a door in my house. The time I save commuting means there is more time to workout and cook healthy meals every day.

You have the life I want.

My 200 sq ft. microstudio has been absolute torture these last few weeks. I thought I was being smart and saving money - I'd pay much more now to be sheltered anywhere else. A house with a yard would be amazing.

Wow... I've seen larger prison cells.

>Are you young, single, and live in an apartment?

Not parent comment, but yes.

However, I do have friends outside of work. Obviously right now I'm rarely if ever seeing them, and certainly not all. Very occasionally we decide on a small coffee shop to go support at the same time and talk from a couple car spaces away for a few minutes just to engage in some kind of social behavior. It helps momentarily, but not consistently.

Going to work and making friends there, while not "IRL" friends, really helps work become a more fluid environment where you don't need to stress out all the time on structure. It gives breathing room. Some jokes lighten the mood. I personally feel like it's easier to discuss important topics when I have "friends" on my team or other teams who have a respect for my train of thought.

Also, while I do have a desk and monitor now, I work in the same room as my entertainment space (living room). So I'm literally in the same room all day. And no, I don't want to setup a workspace in my bedroom, that'd be even worse.

If I had a dedicated office room that'd be nice. If I had a more normal house where I had space to walk between areas like the kitchen, dining room/area, living room that would help.

But I do not.

No, I am married, with a house and a yard, and 2 dogs.

This is a very American way of looking at things. In many countries singles live with their parents and families live in apartments and the country is not so vast and big so your social circle can go with you all the way from school just because they still live around. So the level of isolation and space can vary and not necessary depends on the parameters you have mentioned, however in the individual level it is pretty correct, the level of isolation and convenience will dictate how happy a remote worker is. Personally I have found that a mix of 2 days at the office and 3 at home works the best for me.

The current situation has unfortunately eliminated some options like co-working spaces that might otherwise alleviate this issue for you.

I'm optimistic about a "work wherever works for you" future. That might mean the company's office, or your home office, or your living room couch, or a coworking space, or a beach, or your parents' house, or a friend's place. It might mean all of those at different times. The current situation has made it clear that remote work is pretty viable, but it's destroyed the element of choice that is so important to mental health for many people.

I think it's good for you to realize this is how you feel.

I, on the other hand, get a lot more focus time here, at home, than in the office. Every little 'ding' sound, every little 'hey, when did you get home last night' conversation, every time someone turns on or off the lights, all of that and much more just rips me out of my concentration.

I've been able to focus _a lot_ more from home. It's good for me to realize this as well.

Feel free to stay in the office when you're finally able to, and I'll work towards staying at home, if I'm able to. That way, we're both happy.

I'm not sure I enjoy this argument. Why is getting distracted by a friendly face so bad?

Nothing wrong with a friendly face, its more that it can throw you out of your flow, especially when trying to debug some code. This describes it best:


This for me is why WFH suits me so well. In my morning I get around 4 hours of pure uninterrupted coding (as long as I stay off here or reddit).

Nice comic! I think I face this trouble less because I document everything extensively. It costs a bit of time, but every bug I investigate will have notes on my notepad/a google doc to go along with.

Some of us are more likely to worry about work not getting done than others. When those same people also have less general need for social interaction, that 'friendly interruption' feels like a selfish demand to meet your greater need for social interaction at the cost of my own need for lack of worry about the thing I get paid to do.

My case is similar to BossingAround, sometimes I wonder if I have https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misophonia, every little sound irritates me.

EDIT: I didn't really drive my point home. It's not the friendly face that bothers me, in fact if it was a friendly face then it would hurt me less. But it still hurts regardless.

It’s selfish on behalf of the distractor.

When using async communication the person can wait until they’re out of the flow and respond. This is one of the great things about email, and the worst thing about Slack.

I was using Slack a few years ago and I didn't have this issue. Everyone who chose to use it had IRC experience, and so immediately treated it as a fancier IRC. That includes a lack of expecting an immediate response.

But I can definitely see how people who didn't grow up on freenode et al might come in with different expectations around Slack responsiveness.

for me slack is an async function. its on silent, the entire time. And my time slices are large (2±1 hours)

I try to do this too but Slack updates the favicon when in do not disturb. It’s like catnip, plenty of dark patterns

There's an option in the Preferences to "Show a badge on Slack's icon to indicate new activity" which, when unchecked, may stop the behaviour you're describing.

Well, how about doing just the work and working less hours a day, because of fewer distractions and see your friends after or before work?

Sounds more sane that forcing an office environment, where I understand that everyone wants to socialise, but why spent more hours for work than necessary?

Because flow...

My social life does not intersect much with my work life.

Do you perhaps live alone in a small apartment? I can see how working from home could be tough on a situation like that. I live with my family, in a house, with a garden, and I absolute abhor the idea of resuming a daily commute. I hate our office, and I love my home.

I am definitely no “social butterfly”, though.

I live in a small apartment with my dog. I don't get out enough, it does make you depressed after a while. Luckily I have a some friends that work from home in the area. We take turns going to each other's house for the work day. Gives you a change of scenery while you work, and someone to interact with while working. Although a lot of it is sitting in silence in the same room, just having another human around can boost your mood. At least for me this does wonders.

I think I overall enjoy WFH, that said, my quality of life would be greatly improved if I lived in a larger home rather than my one bedroom apartment.

I've seen some people predict that a surge in home buying may follow the pandemic because people will realize how much better off they would have been in a larger space.

I will go ahead and move into a 2 bedroom in the next few months to allow me to have a more private office space.

I suspect that a fair number of people will be rethinking downtown all I need is somewhere to sleep housing choices when their lease renewals come up.

My office is a wework so it's literally like 1000 times better than my shitty apartment. I just have to worry about so much less at the office. Free barista coffee, washing up and cleaning done for you so you're not messing up your workspace. I miss it a lot.

isn't wework an unsustainable business that will shutdown pretty soon?

That isn't clear yet. Money in/out this month was about 80%/target, so they may pull a rabbit out of a hat.

> Money in/out this month was about 80%/target, so they may pull a rabbit out of a hat.

During the middle of a worldwide lockdown? The only explanation I can imagine is a substantial decrease in operating costs due to disuse, but that doesn't strike me as enough to offset the cost of rent.

What am I missing here?

I don't know!

I just gave their topline reported results.

EDIT: https://www.bisnow.com/national/news/office/wework-says-its-...

I have the same feelings and I think a part of it comes from the fact that it's not exactly possible to meet with people after work (not counting Zoom/Skype/Whatsapp with friends). It's not the remote working that is depriving us of our joy of socializing - it's having to stay home after.

Absolutely. My work has been better than ever due to not being in the office and not having to do a horrible commute (min. 45 mins each way, usually more). The evenings are pretty dull, though - no jam sessions or martial arts classes can run, so my hobbies are on hold.

I fully agree with you. Although office interactions play a big part in socialization, I think most of the uneasiness I feel right now is due to the fact that I can't even socialize outside of work, or with non-coworkers. Not caused by remote work per se.

You are not alone. We often under estimate the value of workplace bonding. Planning a dinner for the team when we have been through a tough development cycle for a couple months for instance is incredibly rewarding. It vastly improves the quality of collaboration and the way people engage with each other. Helping them communicate in an informal settings and find better ways to connect with each other even on an emotional level.

Remote work takes all of it away and adds this invisible burden to navigate through your teams thought process. That alone is a huge factor for me to make sure there is a balance between remote work and office visits.

Like you, I don't think it can be done away with entirely. But, seemingly, I don't see this quite as binary as many here do. This doesn't have to be an all remote or no remote proposition. This could easily be a three or four day a week, remote position, with one day set aside to come in and have meetings/Agile development, what have you, team spirit a awards, maybe lunch. The days could be scheduled out so the real estate needs would be smaller than the company is, as a whole, making it beneficial for the company on a cost level and it helps with traffic congestion levels (assuming there were mass adoption).

Because that still means you have to live near where you work and that gives you a small home (at least if you live in a large metro area) due to the real estate being scarce and expensive.

But having 2 people work from home increases your required footprint and yet you live in the same area as before. If i need an additional 20sqm in or near London, that is going to be expensive.

True, but if you're only travelling one day a week you could probably stomach a longer commute on that one day than if you were doing it 5 days a week. I guess ideally there would be some variety in the way jobs offer home working, then people could choose for themselves and hopefully that would take some pressure off housing markets in metro areas as well as giving a sense of connection to employees/employers who particularly desire that.

My official office (which I rarely go into) is about a 30 minute drive away. But to your point, we have another office in the city. It's not really that big a deal for me to take commuter rail in now and then (or drive in early). But it's still about 90 minutes each way.

OK for a day or so a week. But that's a huge chunk out of your day if it's a daily thing.

True, but this also prevents the problem of (or worry of) excessive outsourcing. The company I work for has been actively trying to outsource my department's jobs for coming on two years now, with quite a few vendors, moving about 20 percent of us to managerial positions but the work quality is not of a high enough standard. So with that and the time difference, I'm not overly concerned, but this would at least put away such concerns. Plus, as noted above, there is something to be said from some face to face interaction.

I worked freelance for a number of years and I found that I am the same as you; I miss the social interactions.

Since I had no options to work in an office - I didn't have one - I decided to start working in a co-working space.

The co-working space cost me money I would otherwise not have spent but the impact on my mental health was great. I got a regular group of "colleagues" and it clearly divided my home life and work life.

I would definitely recommend it once we're all out of lockdown.

I'm surprised nobody has really pointed out - living through a lockdown and global pandemic is a hugely stressful, scary, and isolating experience. Especially if you're living alone, or with roommates that you're not very close with. I'm pretty introverted and I still feel that way, don't be too hard on yourself for having those feelings.

I would be cautious about overfitting too much to this exact scenario though. Normally even if you were working from home, you could still have a very active social life, get lunch with nearby friends who also work from home, do activities after work, go out on the weekends, etc. I know people that are extroverted and have really enjoyed working from home.

And even if it's really not for you, as other comments have pointed out, there will still certainly be co-located workplaces in the future. Even if almost every company were to go remote, you're definitely not the only one that likes being around other people and I'm sure companies will accomodate this (whether it's a small optional company office, or paying for employees to use a co-working space like a We Work, etc.)

I don't mean anything against you personally but I am strongly disapprove of people who socialize excessively at work. It is distracting, annoying, and worst of all passive-aggressive because you can't stop someone from socializing with you without making yourself seem unchill, throwing your career in the trash. You also can't take a break from socialization or else you make yourself a target.

In sum, the social aspect really is the worst part of engineering in Silicon Valley, and I have half a mind to do something on my own so I no longer have to entertain mediocre engineers with terrible interests.

So, I would love to work for a place that was fully remote. It would be paradise to me.

I work at an agency where this is understood. It's headphones on all day. Socialising happens at lunch and if you don't want to join in you can have your lunch early or late. Socialising also happens after work and you can go home if you don't want to join in.

Part of the reason this happens is because every task is estimated and timed. Over time the estimates have become fairly accurate so you can't get away with dossing the whole day.

I'm no social butterfly but I feel the same way. Working in an office gives me regular light social contact that would be very tiring to get otherwise.

I never liked working from home before this whole covid situation when the office had a lot of interactions.

But with the whole office working remotely, virtual hang out sessions, asynchronous communications, everyone joining remotely for office updates etc etc. I hate to admit it but I quite enjoy it now. I feel more productive. If a company sets up the right culture for remote work, it's not that bad.

Working from home is a challenge, there’s no doubt about that, but assuming some return to normalcy, you don’t have to work from your house or apartment.

Remote work means you can work wherever you want, you can go to a coffee shop for a few hours, you can head to your town’s local library, a coworking space. You can take an extended trip and live out of a van.

Once starlink is up, if you can get away with high latency, you can work from the middle of Greenland if you wanted to.

Working from home, which is really working from wherever you want, is about the flexibility and control to work how, when and where you want.

I do hope that large tech companies like twitter leave their offices open, because that’s also a piece of the remote work puzzle. Just like when we switched from cubicles to open offices, it would be nice to be more thoughtful about remote work AND an in office hybrid situation.

> Once starlink is up, if you can get away with high latency

Off topic but, the latency will be better than cable. They're low altitude satellites. There was even talk of using Starlink for New York / London HFT, because signals travel faster in space than they do in fiber optic (some fraction of the speed of light).

I am sorry to hear this.

It sounds as if you are like one of my sons.

I miss the "buzz" of human interaction that TV in the background never gives, but I can usually get that from Starbucks.

I'm an introvert, and I've been doing independent consulting over the phone for clients for, gosh, 7-or-so years now, and I love talking to my clients, but I don't want to be in the office with them.

One of my sons is about to go bat-shit crazy. The other loves his ability to get tasks in the morning and focus.

I guess we are all wired different.

I was in the process of putting together a "Remote First" business plan, for my next venture, where -- there simply was no home office.

But reading comments like yours really brings home how bad an idea that might be, because I'd be losing out on incredible talent by doing so.

BTW: My current main client has an office (mostly shut down), but I've made it a point to take out a different engineer for lunch (of something similar, depending on the lockdown harshness), 3 times a week (we're small, so I tend to take out everybody for lunch, including my boss) about every six weeks. That's not enough ... but it's the little things that make you feel connected, right? We had a young (28 y.o.?) superstar that was about to lose his shorts release week about two weeks ago and simply bringing to my place with pizze and Netflix and Nintendo (we got shitfaced and he beat my ass at Super Mario Cart), it was good. He felt better, I felt better, nobody got laid, and we both woke up refreshed...

I think you have a solid point that people need people. But, my question is: Can this be done virtually?

I'm a USian, but I lived in Japan for over 10 years, and my mother always wanted to see me, but I never understood why, when I could read her voice better over the phone than in person. She wanted to see me because she could read my body language better in person than over the phone (which I did not like, actually), but is there a way via which you can feel connected without being in the same room? My girlfriend (I live in Texas) is in Taiwan and we have pretty engaging conversations every day and she comes to see me (or vice versa) about 10 times/year. Would that kind of work satisfy you, or do you literally need to see people every day? (As an introvert, I guess I don't know how extraverts work).

Anyway - A bit more disclosure than I usually do - but I am sincerely interested in your perspective.

Some others have already mentioned it but you should give some co-workings a try. These are some of the benefits I've found:

- I chose a co-working space that was more aligned to the type of person I am in terms of the people there, style, philosophy, etc.

- I've met a lot of people from outside my industry which I quite enjoy.

- I get to socialize with people I don't work with, so conversations are not about work gossip which is also great.

- There's tons of activities organised in the space. Work/career talks, informal art talks, hikes, beer fridays, concerts, food sharing, etc.

- It's a 5min walk from my house.

Of course, this is all covid-pending.

Many comments that I have read here take one side or the other. Maybe we need to realize that it is just the right thing for some and doesn't work for others. Realities in life are often complex.

I hear you.

WFH without a choice to come to office is pure suffering. I really miss the interactions with my coworkers before COVID. I also miss time I can grab a book from the shared book-self and find an empty office and just do reading for one hour.

If I have a choice to go back to office, I will take it anytime.

This time is not a great example of Remote working, it would be as sad and stressful (maybe more) if you were forced to live in the actual office and share the same space with all your coworkers every day without being able to leave. on top of the actual stress given by just looking at the current state of the world.

We're not just working from home, we're working from home while there is a pandemic

I keep reading your comment because it seems intense and sincere, and ... I don't know what you mean. What's the difference?

I mean, like being under rubble in Battery Park after 9-11, waiting 3 days for the people to dig you out as your batteries die is stressful, but that's not really the same as hiding from a virus that won't kill you, is it?

EDIT: Re-reading my comment, that 2nd paragraph sounds snarky. It wasn't intended to be. I guess I just don't understand your comment. Would you be kind enough to clarify my mind? :-)

My wife always worked from home.

But now, she works from home and then can't socialize after hours, except virtually. She can't go anywhere or do anything. Shopping is the only time she gets out, but she didn't like it before and now it's even more stressful.

The difference (unless you have kids or a noisy house) isn't the home bit, it's the not-home bit. For people who aren't introverts, this is a very, very tough time. Their basic needs aren't being met.

I'm lucky that I'm an introvert. This has been a pretty good experience for me. I have no commute, I get more done in the same 8 hours, and all my socializing can be done in my own home. I miss going places a tiny bit, but only the places that have things I can't do at home. (I'm talking Disney World here.)


The difference, at least for me, it's that I'm more worried for several other things than work and I cannot be as productive as I was before.

Also some people have kids at home because schools are closed; my SO for instance is also at home, while usually she's not, and the apartment is not bigger now that we're two; sometimes I need to go to the grocery at specific time because otherwise is crowded...

And even worse, as other comment mentioned, some people would have sick family and / or friends.

There are many things that make this situation different than a "regular day working from home".

Thank you!


You said: "I'm more worried for several other things than work and I cannot be as productive as I was before."

This makes sense - I have some acquaintances who have parents locked up in long-term care facilities that they haven't seen since February - and this is taxing both the parents and the kids/grandkids that can't see them.

You (also)said: "There are many things that make this situation different than a "regular day working from home"."

You bring up several good points. I was focused on the "working from home" part, I've actually been more concerned about the funemployment people, for which I do food-bank work (Whole Foods, HEB (it's a grocery store in Texas) and Bank of America (who would have thunk?) have all been very very generous), but there are other "factions" of people with other concerns that my brain was kind of glossing over somehow.

I already said "Thank You", but I really do appreciate your clarification. It broke open some blocked thinking pathways for me.

No problem ;)

it might very well kill the person you were responding to, or their loved one were they to bring it home.

supposing that's not a concern, and you're not emotionally impacted by the possibility of hundreds of thousands of additional deaths from this, most folks will be stressed out by having their routines disrupted.

so now multiply that stuff happening to you, by a factor of it happening to your boss and all of your coworkers, and now everything else is just a bit tougher.

Of course, I am. I have parents and children and neighbors and grandparents and the like. It's not that I don't care - it's that I simply didn't understand the upstream comment. I was asking for clarification on the intended meaning.

Please, if you need help, there is the PTSD hotline for people who are having problems dealing with this new-new situation we are going through: 1-800-985-5990

Just commenting to say that I feel similarly to you, and I seem to be the only one among my coworkers that feels it to this extent. Good to know that there are others out there.

It might be due to your home sitation as well. I have my wife and kids, so I have the opportunity to go and chat with them or grab some lunch. I remember when I WFH'ed on my own as a singleton and I did not like it as much, as I was on my own for a good 8 hours a day. We are very social creatures. You only have to look a prisons. You're surrounded by criminals, quite a few who are manipulative / hostile or just hard work from untreated mental conditions, yet the form of punishment is to place you on your own into Solitary confinement.

If you were working from home under normal circumstances you could still be a "social butterfly" after work. But anyway, you have the right attitude when you say you'll leave if it goes remote and you don't like that. That's exactly what people should do. Fixing your problems usually starts with yourself.

As someone on the more extroverted side, I see office work as an easy source of meaningful social stimulation / bonding (well, assuming I like my coworkers) with little personal setup required on my end. Although the in-person component can be a distraction, I mostly saw it as a source of energy and creativity. I met some of my best friends at work.

I've been working from home for about 2 years, a legacy consequence of a few acquisitions. Despite its perks, I don't think that I would've stayed with it past the first year if not for 1) a local set of friends that I could still take breaks / lunches with 2) going to the corporate office once a month for about a week which allowed me to form a nice social network in the mothership city.

But covid-19 stopped both, and I'm stuck with this ennui that's been hard to shake.

I've been very interested in remote work, like you said you were, and I'm worried about the same issues you discuss here. However, one of the things I've seen that I hope will mitigate these issues is the idea of not working at home, but still working remote. For example, getting work done at a coffee shop or public library, instead of home.

I'm worried that mixing my work and personal life too much will be a big strain on my mental health, but I plan to work at home as little as possible in the future, while still trying to work remote to avoid having to commute and enjoy a more flexible schedule. I hope this idea will help you!

I love the flexibility of WFH but worry about people's mental health in the long term if too many did it too much for too long. (Once the pandemic is over)

I ranted about this today [1]. For many the separation of home and office is healthy. Different people, different social interactions, etc.

And for many, an office is where they make new friends, meet their partner etc.

[1] https://twitter.com/flurdy/status/1260602214038593536

Long ago, I thought remote working was awesome. Then I learned to appreciate working in a team, and I thought remote working was overrated. When the COVID crisis hit and we were forced to work from home, I was surprised how much more productive I became. But that was the first couple of weeks. The focus is wearing off, and I miss my team and the office environment. It helps that I've got a really cool team.

I totally gree with you.

I think the best case (for me personally) is both... 2-3 days per week from the office, and 3-2 days from home. You talk with people, socialize, hear all the gossip (from non-work related, to work related - eg. aout someone who's working on some interesting new project, etc.), but still don't have to drive to work 3 times a week, and can work in your underwear.

What I do is to treat work as work only, while cultivating a rich social life outside of it.

I still have some friends at work, but to be honest: I never really did well with random people, usually those that I consider friends I chose since we have similar interests/vibe/philosophy.

As counterpoint, I love working from home. Pre-COVID I'd usually work from home 4-5 days a week. My focus at home is always way better than in the office (though a noisy open-plan office and a culture of interruptions is a factor as well). One nice benefit around focus is that when I'm having trouble focusing at home, I don't feel as guilty (or try to cover it with make-work) as I do when I'm at the office in the same situation.

I'm also a very social person, but my non-work time is my social outlet (though I still get some "lower-quality" social time over Slack and Zoom during work hours). When the company was smaller (a couple hundred people, now we're over 3k), I certainly spent more social time at the office. But these days I prefer to just work hard during work hours, and meet up with friends (who are often also co-workers) after work.

But at the same time, I love that working at home gives me the flexibility to cook lunch with my girlfriend or take a break for a walk or even just stare out the window in the middle of the afternoon. While my commute isn't bad (25 min transit ride or 45 min walk), I don't mind getting that time back, either. Instead I can get up and go for a 30 minute run, and start work at the same time.

So the COVID rules have left me in roughly the same situation as I was before, at least work-wise (I miss seeing my friends like crazy). Fortunately I don't have kids; nearly everyone I know with kids is finding it impossible to juggle them being home all the time with getting their work done.

It's really interesting though to see how this sort of thing affects people differently (and I'm genuinely sorry you're having such a bad time!). I expect the incidence of work-from-home will increase a lot even after we've stopped social distancing, but there will still be a strong (but newly-flexible) office culture.

There are only 5 days a week anyway - so you used to be a remote worker pre covid. This is not a counter point.

The original discussion is about whether or not remote work is enjoyable. I too find it enjoyable and have done it, generally, for about 4-5 days a week for years now.

I'd like to say that I'm enjoying it too. If my coworking space was open I'd feel compelling to go because otherwise I'd miss out on interesting conversations and connections.

But with FOMA out of the way - I'm happy as larry staying in and having those same conversations selectively and remotely.

Have you tried a co-working space, even if just part-time? You get the social interactions but can work at the "office" or home as you wish. And if conversing with a co-tenant, you have no concern that you're dragging down your own business by distracting a colleague!

I'm the opposite. I think it's just a personality trait. I'm more introverted and socially anxious so I feel much more comfortable at home by myself. I've been remote for 8 years now and I hope I never have to go back to an office.

I'm an extreme introvert and I've found WFH to be very challenging. Part of the problem is that the engineering team at my startup is still figuring out what to build and design sessions over Zoom feel incredibly frustrating and unproductive compared to a shared office with a whiteboard.

I can't imagine forced remote for all employees would ever become the norm. It feels like likely that companies would move from dedicated offices to leasing co-working spaces for those that want it.

I love working from home the last couple of months, but then I hate people, and I really hate not being in control of my time.

Most social butterflies aren’t going to experience the extreme symptoms you describe, but it sucks and I’m sorry.

I invite you now to consider that a much milder version of these is what introverts deal with almost all the time due to the norms of society (which are biased toward social butterflies). We have to learn to overcome and adapt to these difficulties early in life, and for some of us that struggle is real (and life-long).

Push past the initial hurdle, after 2-3 years when you completely break with reality you will dematerialize into a ball of light and become a God.

My counterpoint: From day #1 I always hated office jobs. I hated that management cared so much what time we showed up at the office (they'd all pretend to not care, but then use it against you). I hated being locked there until 5:30pm or whatever was the "appropriate" time to leave even if I'd finished my work by 3pm and no longer had the mental energy to be productive (I remember one time during my first job getting a lot of work done all morning/afternoon, and leaving at 3pm. A couple hours later I get a text asking where I was, and I said I left, and they're like "you just left? lol you're not supposed to do that". I'm think wtf? So I can sit there for 2 hours with some code on my screen doing nothing and that's fine, but I'm not allowed to leave after a 4-5 hour focused coding session? Nobody's really productive after ~4 hours of deep focus anyways).

I hated daily standups, where every morning we have to justify our existence and repeat what's already on the Jira board to some product manager who for whatever reason isn't obliged to give us their status update. I hated all the other numerous pointless agile meetings - backlog refinement, backlog grooming (once got accused of not appearing attentive enough in meetings). I hate open offices, where you have no privacy, have to listen to other peoples' conversations, and constantly feel like you're being watched and paranoid that somebody might catch a glance at your monitor the second you took a 5 minute break from work. I hate having to be surrounded by boring co-workers with no personality all day, in offices where most people eat alone at their desks in front of their computer screens (I never understood this, are people actually working when they eat in front of their computer monitors? You're sitting there for 8 hours and you're so busy you can't take 30 minutes to eat your lunch without being glued to the screen?)

I've been working remotely since last year and I am significantly happier. 98% of that "office bullsh!t" vanished overnight. No commuting. No daily standups. Less pointless meetings (it's like remote workers don't need meetings to bullsh!t meetings to rationalize being stuck in an office for 8 hours). I've traveled the world. At ~$200k/yr I make less than I would in SF, but it's a very comfortable living practically anywhere else in the world since my expenses are a fraction what they were before, and I don't need to be locked in to a lease. When it's 2pm and I'm not feeling productive, I just close my laptop and do something else (instead of trying to figure out how to blow the next 3 hours at the office). When I need to go to the grocery store or gym, I go. If I want to spend a month in Hawaii, I do it.

Remote work certainly has its challenges - you need to be disciplined, have a comfortable workspace ideally separate from your home so you're not stuck in the same place all day (I like coffee shops), do other activities that get you outside the harm (a little more difficult now with COVID), you can't just walk over to someone's desk so people need to be available (not necessarily on a second's notice, but within some acceptable range such that time isn't wasted being blocked), and you have to know when to turn off and go offline. You can't rely on co-workers for your social life anymore, though I don't think I ever had more than 2-3 real friends at any office job in terms of anyone I still keep in contact with.

So it's funny to me seeing occasional comments on remote work posts talking about how much they like working in an office. Personally offices have always been the bane of my existence, and there are few thoughts more repulsing then being trapped in some office for 8 hours/day. To be fair I once worked out of the office of a company I was working remotely for and really enjoyed it because it was a tiny startup with cool people who didn't care when or what time I showed up since I had been hired on purely remote terms and was only at the office voluntarily. So the problem is not the office itself, but the idea of being locked inside for designated hours, and the other bullsh!t management practices generally prevalent in office jobs especially at bigger companies.

I thought only companies trying to get cheaper software engineers would allow 100% remote. How the f* are you making ~$200k/year?!

It's cheaper for the company than hiring locally in SF/NYC. But to be fair I'm a contractor.

That is cheaper.

TLDR: social butterfly finds it hard to work remotely.

It sounds like there is a choice so hopefully this is a temporary situation for you.

I beg and plead with people who like going into work to not ruin it for the rest of us. please.

I think this is the hugest news yet. It suddenly opens the pool of candidates to all across the country.

I expect other tech giants will follow suit.

Those who previously can't afford or don't want to live in big cities like NYC/Seattle/SF because they are older, have families, or various other reasons now are included in the candidate pool.

This can go two ways: either the local software business will have to compete with FAANG salaries, or there will be jumps from senior developers, experienced developers, and many smarter/more capable developers from smaller software business to FAANG due to salary/perks attraction. Whatever the case is, suddenly fresh graduates, mid level developers, senior developers, are now competing on the same pool. It is getting even more real to compete in the high FAANG salary job openings now.

This serves as a reminder for us, whether fresh graduates, mid level, or even seniors, to always to keep your edge. DS&A grinding, system design, etc, do whatever you can to not lose your edge.

As a matter of fact, I think almost all knowledge workers will find themselves in this situation. If you are a knowledge/office worker, huge competition looms over the horizon. Never lose your edge.

I think you are overestimating the size of the eligible labor supply increase. Just for Google, for 2017-2019 the number of H1B workers sponsored was 22k. For the same period the increase in number of full time employees was 40k (couldn’t find the figure for US only but fair to assume majority is US-based). So more than half of the new employers are supplied internationally. Does the geo-unlocked US supply pose a substantial competition to that? I don’t see how. FAANG salary is a pretty damn strong incentive to overcome that geo-friction to begin with.

If anything, if the twitter trend follows, FAANG salaries will lose heat. For the majority of the employees, a good chunk of the paycheck goes to housing costs. Wider WFH adoption will ease the overly localized housing demand, even with several days of WFO, longer commutes will be much more tolerable and the housing spread will increase. That would mean acceptance of lower salaries and lowering of housing costs over time.

One competing factor; as the seniority increases, the say on WFH policies increases, also the possibility of housing ownership increases (whether as primary residence or also with rental properties). That creates a perverse incentive to not let people go away in aggregate. Not saying individual managers will think this way explicitly, but might have an indirect influence.


- Previously I stated 22k as H1B + green card numbers. In reality 22k was H1B only and 6k was green card. Source: https://www.myvisajobs.com/Visa-Sponsor/Google/225093.htm

I'm curious - you seem to be saying that FAANG companies can't find enough employees, but your support for the point is that Google hired a significant amount of H1B workers. However, I've read/seen that many H1B workers work for significantly less, and under more pressure, because they are trying to become citizens in the US. Is it possible that the reason for FAANG companies hiring so many H1B workers isn't due to shortage of qualified new employees, but instead because they are more efficient workers, due to the pressures and lower salary?

I went studied CS in Idaho and know many of my peers took significantly lower paying jobs than they are qualified for so they could remain in the area. I'm certain at least some of them would rather work for larger companies with higher salaries and better benefits (and more prestige), if it didn't mean moving into the BIG CITY and leaving their friends/family behind.

In reality, it's probably a mix of both.

My main point was, a globally distributed labor pool is already accessible to FAANG and is being utilized despite higher transition costs both for the employer and the employee. The H1B hires for FAANG is the global top talent for which companies compete for, hence an upward pressure for compensation, not downward. In fact you can check the H1B salary information yourself from the website I linked, to see that salaries are at par with US levels. I admit there might be some difference is non-salary compensation such as signing bonuses and inital stock grants, but I would attribute that to lack/difficulty of deploying local negotiation tactics (e.g get several offers and pit them to each other). In general price of the labor is not a driving factor at all. Besides, most of these companies will happily pay for a law firm to help with the green card application process of their employees, and H1B is transferable to a new employer, possibly to another FAANG company. Yes, all of these pose transition costs, but it is far from the desparate overworked underpaid foreign worker image painted.

For your second point, the delta of the “higher salary” is important. US ranks the highest in sofware engineer salaries globally, which means for most countries coming to US as a software engineer will mean a much higher increase in salary than within US. If that delta offsets the perceived cost of leaving friends and family behind, they it is rational to take the offer. In other words, non-US candidates need to be hurting much more than US candidates to lose access to friends and family to not take the offer. In fact they already do, they lose access to their culture and their language unless they are from anglosphere. They still take the offers, so the income differential must be more than adequate to make the transition. Additionally, individual cost function of losing access to these things will differ. Many people will actively seek a challenge away from their friends and families to take up new opportunities and experiences. Your friends seems to have not.

Actually, I think is misrepresented what I was trying to ask by including salary. I don't think or have any evidence to suggest H1B salaries are lower, only that pressure on H1B employees is higher to perform, as they are working for more than just the salary, but also the visa.

Thanks for your detailed response, though. I understand what you're saying more clearly.

It is actually very difficult to get an initial H-1B worker, since the worker has to get selected in a lottery, and the company has to wait 7 months.[1] The odds of getting picked in the H1B lottery is around 32% as of 2020. The 7-month wait time itself massively disincentivizes employers from hiring non-US workers. The end result is that most of H1B sponsorships go to people already in the US on a student visa who are working for the company using a status called "F-1 OPT". It's quite difficult to get hired from abroad. Many larger companies still do it, and are willing to wait 7 months, but the wait 7-month time and uncertain nature of the lottery are significant factors that discourage companies from hiring non-US workers.

For out-of-US hires, Facebook will actually get you a Canadian work visa, and have you work in Canada for the 7 month wait, and potentially for year if you don't get picked in the lottery. The strategy for multiple large firms is to bring non-US workers to Canada first, and then try to move them over to the US, since US immigration law is extraordinarily restrictive compared to most countries.

[1] The company applies for the worker in March of the year, and if the individual is picked in the lottery, they get to start working for them in October.

> The H1B hires for FAANG is the global top talent for which companies compete for

If they aren’t wage fixing!

H1B in tech companies are not paid significantly less, and they can easily find alternative employers willing to help with the transfer in Silicon Valley. It's H1B in non-tech companies that manipulate job postings to massively underpay their workers, and whose geographically-limited set of alternative employers are already small and also generally less willing to offer legal support dealing with the H1B transfer issues.

What's stopping someone from moving to SF for higher comp on hiring, then getting a P.O. box or friend's mailing address in SF and moving back to work from lower cost area after some time?

Is your employer really going to decrease your salary after the fact? Can you file taxes in your lower cost of living state after you lock in your high SF comp package and never notify your employer but still pay your taxes in the state you moved back to?

Note: I don't condone illegal behavior just thinking of edge cases that benefit us tech workers.

If your employer thinks you're in California, they'll tell the California tax authorities that you are. CA will use that as evidence that you owe them a big chunk of your income. If you don't pay, you'll have to fight. To win, you'll probably have to prove that you misled your employer, which will probably result in your getting fired for it. If you lose, CA can force your employer to take the tax out of your salary, so you'll pay California anyway plus you'll probably have to pay the place you actually live if you've done anything to establish residence. Along the way, any number of other unpredictable problems can arise (bad credit rating, legal threats, ongoing disputes with entities that don't understand or care that you've surrendered, etc.)

Good luck with all of that.

I think it’s gonna get really weird. If a company pays the same in seattle as SF (or near), and A person lives in SF, I’d rather pay a friend in WA state a few hundred a month to “rent a room” than 10% of my income to California.

That said there’s probably a bunch of laws around faking residency for tax purposes which id imagine has some hefty consequences.

Many faang companies pay the same 'higher' salaries at the same rates across seattle, sf, and nyc. The fangs used to do that when i worked there, but i wonder if they pay more in sf now? I'm sure some companies will want to pay you less if they can get away with it. But twitter will probably have to pay almost as much to keep their devs if they move. that's the key, keeping your workforce.

Patently untrue -- there are fixed ratios for each band v city. With all due respect such a bold claim deserves a link.

It used to be that way 3 years ago when I worked at Google. I don't have a link, it was personal knowledge. I'm 100% sure of it. They actually paid more for the zurich office cause taxes were so high.

> They actually paid more for the zurich office cause taxes were so high.

Google pays for cost of labor, not cost of living. While related, it isn't the same: for example, Google London pays much less than NYC, and Tokyo even less than that; yet Pittsburgh pays only slightly less than NYC despite being far and away the cheapest of the 4.

I believe Google's competitors tend to follow this model more than cost of living, especially internationally.

There are lowcost areas of CA.

So you'll make 4.5x a local salary instead of 5x.

You and your employer need to know where you actually live to pay state and local income taxes.

Falsifying this, to my knowledge, is not only a bad idea, but could easily be a termination-level offense and could be illegal.

I’m guessing you’re being downvoted by those who think your comment is encouraging unethical behavior.

While I certainly don’t think it’s ethical to do so, I did wonder the same thing - would companies start putting measures in place to verify you’re working from the same general area as your initially provided address? Eg, sifting through VPN log files to geo locate IP addresses etc.

They don't care as long as you show up to critical work meetings and are available when you need them for high-profile projects. I had a coworker (while at Google) who moved to Uganda without telling his manager, because he felt like it. His manager called a meeting for the next day, he hopped on a plane that night, showed up for the meeting, flew back to Uganda afterwards until he got bored there, and his manager was never the wiser, except for it being a great story for friends to tell.

What's stopping people is largely that

a.) if you aren't in the office, you miss out on critical opportunities, and if you aren't in the office too much, your boss may decide you're not worth keeping. (Officially, Google has a "if you don't show up for 3 days in a row without telling anyone you're considered to have voluntarily resigned". Unofficially this gets bent by high-performers all the time, but legally they can do it.) This is also why ambitious people at the satellite offices - NYC, Pittsburg, Seattle - move to Mountain View, because the high-priority projects require facetime and rarely go to remote employees.

b.) Hopping on a plane to make a meeting gets old really quickly, and also pretty expensive if you aren't pre-IPO. I know people who would commute from LA -> MTV, Uganda -> MTV, Seattle -> MTV, or do frequent business trips from Zurich or Sydney -> MTV. They hated it. You think the commute on 101 sucks, try adding the TSA to it.

Note that that comment is identical to a different one posted by that user: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23162716

Location should not affect salary since when it comes to remote work it is completely irrelevant.

Until you and a remote candidate in Idaho are equally qualified but the Idaho candidate is willing to take 2/3 of the pay and live like royalty.

Should it be a race to the bottom? Also, I think it's pretty rare in tech to have multiple qualified candidates to choose from. Typically the candidates have multiple offers, not the other way around.

Compensation is not based on the value provided to the company. Compensation is based on "market rate" as in, the lowest amount of money a candidate is willing to accept to do the job. The information asymmetry is such that candidates accept offers for far less than the company is willing to pay.

That's not what market rate means. Market rate is a surveyed bell curve for the job across multiple companies.

Yes, the rate the market pays. That’s different than the value a candidate can bring to the company.

Good for the Idaho candidate, living in SF shouldn't warrant some kind of salary privilege (much of which just gets funneled to landlords and increasing housing prices).

Is it good for the Idaho candidate to get paid less for the same work? If a company is willing to pay $x for a role because it will give them $y benefit where $y > $x why should any candidate accept less than $x? How much of a delta between $y and $x is even acceptable? Why should we celebrate companies playing candidates against each other for the benefit of the few?

This realistically isn't a major concern because the pool of qualified software engineers in a state like Idaho is far too small to make a noticeable dent in market salary levels.

You're assuming the availability of mobile tech work will not enable more people to move to places with low cost of living, such as Idaho. I believe that it will.

A few people will do that, yes, but there are a couple million software developers in the US, and most of them are not going to suddenly move to sparsely populated interior states. They'll spread out from the SF bay area a bit.

Actually, there is good reason to be within 30ms ping (99th percentile). Half that, plus the 5ms algorithmic delay from Opus (in CELT-only-restricted-low-latency mode) gives 20ms, which is the lower end of uncanny valley for real-time interactive audio (certainly for musicians in a band, but I'll presume relevance for verbal communication to set in at the same psychoacoustic threshold).

If you introduce any amount of latency by executing the encoder/decoder pair, you'll have to subtract double the latency from your ping-allowance.

If you try to have correctly-lipsynced audio in a video call, I only know of one setup to offer similarly-low video latency: a rolling-shutter in the camera, a line-by-line display (CRT should do well), and up-to a few lines algorithmic delay for e.g. running non-buffering JPEG (8x8 DCT and an online entropy coder (no pre-analysis for optimal Huffman tables or such) to save like 80-90% bandwidth). Analog TV camera+screen hardware should also work, but it's really inefficient and not easy to emulate with digital hardware.

Some companies agree with that and some don’t. For companies that disagree with you statement, the rationale is really simple: the company is ready to pay top $ because cost of life is high. They know that the rent you’ll pay is high hence the money. They’re reducing their net profit (ebitda) to lay the high salary you need to pay your rent. They do that because your rent in SF is what it is. But for those companies, there’s no way they reduce their ebitda for you to profit off that.

The other companies, who pay on value of output, will agree with that statement. As far as I know, most companies fall under cost of life approach rather than value of output.

> most companies fall under cost of life approach rather than value of output.

I think most companies fall under "what's the minimum we can get away with?"

I would think that most companies pay based on what is needed to retain employees and keep churn rates down to acceptable rates. Location should not matter beyond what the manager in charge or salaries think it matters for the employee willingness to stay at the company, and as such it depends.

Managers, probably. Companies + investors = less likely.

>what is needed to retain employees and keep churn rates down to acceptable rates

Ultimately, this value depends on the location. Assuming identical salaries, it is more expensive to retain someone for 5 years in NY than in Nebraska, because the person in Nebraska making $200k+ lives like royalty, and whereas NY would be a different story.

Google files 6.5k H1-B applications per yr which includes transfers (https://www.myvisajobs.com/Reports/2019-H1B-Visa-Sponsor.asp...). To assume all of this goes to new employees is misleading since Google has attrition too. So assuming 10% attrition, Google needs to fill in that 10% and add more employees. Your argument conveniently assumes that H1s are only going to net new employees vs. those that fill the gap too.

> Your argument conveniently assumes that H1s are only going to net new employees vs. those that fill the gap too.

I also conveniently assumed that global 40k headcount increase was sufficiently representative of the US headcount increase, even though it inflates the denominator. It's the nature of back-of-the-envelope calculations to be convenient.

H1B and GC sponsorships come from the same pool. In other words, a Green Card application is sponsored for H1 candidates. You are double counting your numbers.

I do agree that this expectation that one sitting in Ohio will command the same salary working for a FAANG company is just wrong. Very likely, the companies will adjust their salaries based on where the person is.

Actually that's not strictly true. Green cards can be sponsored for non-H1B workers (eg E3, L1).

My understanding is that sponsorship on at least the E-3 is difficult or impossible; that visa is not "immigrant intent", which ostensibly means something in the statute with respect to paths to permanent residence.

Just because a visa isn't dual intent doesn't mean you can't apply for a Green Card. TN, E-3 etc can all lead to a Green Card but you have to time it right.

Speaking as a successful E3->GC sponsoree I can tell you it’s not impossible (proof by counterexample FTW).

For L1 there's no issue.

Yeah - but vast majority of GC applications will be from H1-B pool

FAANG-tier companies have set ratios based on band and city. The notion that they're going to ditch these suddenly feels bizarre.

You're right. I double checked the numbers and 22k is H1B only and green card is a separate 6k. Edited the comment to reflect this.

> FAANG salary is a pretty damn strong incentive to overcome that geo-friction to begin with.

This is really only true for certain segments of the population. In my early to mid 20s, I moved cross country numerous times. Now I hope I never have to move again. And if I did, it wouldn't be to the Bay Area or Seattle.

That 22K number includes renewals FYI.

So I'm not sure your statement that "more than half of new employers[sic] are supplied internationally" is true, because the H-1B numbers include renewals.

If anything I suspect a large number of remote jobs will lower demand for visa sponsorship since the candidate pool is no longer localized. One huge advantage of visa employees is that they tend to be more mobile, as in moving to where the jobs are, which is important when there is a divide between candidate selection and geographic availability.

FAANG companies have already been trying to hire in US cities outside of Silicon Valley and Seattle in order to cut costs. Austin in particular comes to mind.

It turns out to be fairly difficult to recruit engineering talent in the United States outside of major metropolitan areas. It also turns out that when tech companies start to hire people in a new city, the cost of living in that city rises substantially -- again, Austin in particular comes to mind.

In the end, if tech compensation decreases substantially I don't think it will be because of remote work, but rather because the recession will kill a lot of startups and the same amount of engineering talent will be chasing a smaller number of jobs, thereby giving employers more leverage.

> It also turns out that when tech companies start to hire people in a new city, the cost of living in that city rises substantially -- again, Austin in particular comes to mind.

That is inevitable if more housing is not built. If demand rises and supply doesn’t, or rises slower than demand rents and house prices rise. Or you could be like Tokyo with population growing 50% over the last twenty years and flat housing costs.

Do you know anything about Austin? There are cranes all over downtown, mid-rise apartment buildings sprouting up everywhere, etc. We’re certainly not perfect in terms of housing, could use more “missing middle” housing such as duplexes/triplexes/etc., but the idea we are not allowing new housing is crazy. Costs are still going up, definitely the most expensive big city in Texas at this point, but obviously nowhere near Bay Area levels.

The parent, responding to a comment that mentions Austin, never suggested new housing wasn’t allowed—you seem to have inserted that thought yourself. They simply observed that housing supply—and how well it matches (and avoids lagging behind) demand—has an impact on cost of living. They don’t even make a point about Austin specifically—Tokyo is the place they call specific attention to as a point of comparison to the GP’s thoughts.

I find it interesting you chose to defend Austin against an attack that wasn’t made.

Of course, I also think there may be more than housing supply at work to explain why cost of living increases in a place that starts to see a new uptick in tech hiring. I’m not sure if anyone has studied and documented the extent to which increased tech hiring in a new location leads to a surge of new people trying to live in that area before cost of living begins to increase. If that isn’t the case, and cost of living and goods starts increasing before population does, it seems likely there’s more than housing supply to blame— perhaps all the existing property and business owners start raising prices to get some of those sweet tech dollars in their pockets?

You are reading too much in to my psyche here, and I am not defending Austin. Like I said it has a lot more work to do, and it’s arguable whether much of the housing being built even constitutes a net social good or not, given the issues around gentrification and running minorities out of town, etc., etc.

My point was, responding to a comment that “housing costs are rising in Austin” by explaining it as “price rises are inevitable if you don’t build enough housing” is a very misleading statement. Maybe that is a true statement, but Austin does not satisfy the antecedent so it says nothing about the situation here. Unlike in many places, the housing is being built here, yet the prices are still rising significantly and forcing many out or into homelessness.

So clearly development is not a sufficient condition for keeping housing prices in check. Like you say, it could instead be totally driven by the job market. Or maybe development is a necessary condition, along with other things such as subsidized/public housing, job programs, etc. We have to move beyond armchair economist statements that are basically “har har har it’s supply and demand duh”, that don’t even capture all the straightforward/first order economics of all the various buyers and sellers of housing (demand for what type of housing? What type of housing supply is allowed to be built? etc.), much less the second order effects tangential to the economics. Your speculations are on the mark here, and we do need good studies that look at exogenous shocks to try to tease out cause and effect, along with lots of small-scale experimentation by governments.

Finally, I don’t know enough about Tokyo to comment in any way on that part of the post, so I did not.

I assure you I wasn’t reading into your psyche. Just observing a single curious point: you specifically called out and disputed that the idea Austin wasn’t allowing new housing supply was crazy—and yet neither the parent or GP had suggested such an idea. You suggested and responded to that idea yourself.

I think it’s interesting that we both seem to have read the parent and GP posts quite differently. You read that the parent was responding to a post that said housing prices are rising in Austin. I read that the parent was responding to a post that said FAANG companies are hiring in new areas to cut costs, and cost of living seems to increase wherever tech starts hiring (and Austin was just a city that came to the GP’s mind as an example of this phenomenon). Yes, the parent’s comment about housing supply was a rather shallow retort that I think we both agree provides little insight and comes up too often as if it possesses sufficient explanatory power on its own—but they weren’t quite suggesting what you responded to.

To put it into a different space, what I found interesting and pointed out was that your comment read like others we’ve probably both seen where Programmer A says Erlang has a great concurrency model that enables developers to easily build fault-tolerant distributed systems, and Programmer B comes along to argue that the idea that Java doesn’t allow you to build fault-tolerant distributed systems is crazy. The idea was never suggested by A in the first place, so B’s response stands out.

Anyway, this has been fun. Thanks. Apologies for my original response coming off the wrong way.

That’s a great example of why restricting to offices doesn’t work for expanding your labor pool significantly.

If a company starts a new office in Austin and they had one in the bay, now they are realistically only tapping the additional talent in Austin. There isn’t a huge chunk of people willing to relocate to Austin that wouldn’t relocate to the bay.

Removing location restrictions all-together is a completely different ballgame because it opens the entire country up, not just one city.

I think most of the best tech workers are already living in major cities. Before the virus lockdowns started, those people were required to work in offices just like everyone else, so they had to move to where there employers were located.

I don’t really buy the argument that there is a major untapped pool of talent living outside major cities — if there is, what have those people been doing for work until now? It hasn’t been easy to have a good career in tech in rural areas, for example.

There are definitely markets which attract strong tech talent that have been largely ignored by the tech industry proper as a source for recruiting. A sibling mentions oil & gas, I have personally worked with two former Schlumberger engineers who had been employed in rural areas and were excellent software and systems talent. At least one I know only left the position because he wanted to move to a city due to family, Schlumberger had been paying him a rate that was hard to match in the city though. Subjectively, too, I think both people had a certain oil-field scrappiness, the tech industry might call it "bias to action," that is a great value in any environment.

I would add, though, the defense industry. My city has a huge talent pool of engineers, software and not, employed in the defense industry. Many have top academic qualifications and long experience. The tech industry struggles to recruit them mainly because the tech employers in the area offer more or less equivalent pay and significantly inferior benefits (leave, retirement, etc). On a cost-of-living basis, at least at entry level, I would say the FAANG companies offer inferior pay and benefits - coming from someone who left San Francisco to work in this area and make, cost of living adjusted, twice what I made in SF, with significantly more paid leave.

My point is that it feels like part of the tech industry's recruiting problem is that there is a tendency to look, for recruiting, only within the tech industry and within its established centers. I have had offers from Bay Area and NYC companies for remote work which I have declined because their pay was actually below what I can get from local companies here, I think because they viewed this area as advantageous primarily due to low cost of labor. The cost of labor actually isn't as low as they think, and I suspect in part because their salary analysis did not incorporate what I can make in 'adjacent' fields like cybersecurity R&D and fundamental CS R&D, which are major sectors here compared even to the bay area in terms of per capita employment.

Or let me put it this way: this city is considered to have a total dearth of the tech industry, defined as startups and explicitly software companies, and it is largely ignored by tech recruiting. Yet, the third largest employer in the city is a science and engineering R&D institution with extensive software divisions, the second largest employer has large software and engineering sections although their employment numbers also include general labor, and the second largest employing industry in the area after services is defense, and the primary defense work in the area is currently shifting from aerospace engineering to software and systems engineering.

I left that industry and have actually been working for various startups in the area. I am often asked for recommendations to fill openings, and I have plenty, but the startups generally do not offer sufficient pay and benefits to dislodge them from a very comfortable career with a level of benefits, not to mention job security, rarely seen in the tech industry.

Oil and gas? Academia?

You are wrong that FAANG companies will pay the same salary as you make in SF if you are in a low cost state like Indiana. I have a friend at one of those companies and they were running a survey to gauge employee's keenness for permanent wfh - and they were very clear that employee's salary will be adjusted based on which city they are based in. So, while this is still healthy, since FAANG pays pretty well, but don't expect half a million dollar working from your house in Indiana.

Just want to point out that there's no rational basis for this argument unless the employee in SF is much more productive.

To put it another way, do you currently see pay adjustments based on housing costs for employees living in SF? Have you ever heard of differences across employees simply because one of them has a more expensive house?

"Cost of Living" adjustments are a red herring, what they really are is really "competition density".

There are plenty of tech companies paying great salaries in the bay because they have to, otherwise they would just go work for someone else. On the other hand, if you lived in Oklahoma you aren't going to say no to $LOCAL_OFFER+10k just because bay area salaries are $LOCAL_OFFER+90k.

As long as this disparity exists, I forsee bay area salaries and CoL still being high. Until companies move headquarters out of the bay, the trend will continue.

FAANG doesn't determine salaries based on cost of living, but cost of labor, which maps to your concept of "competition density".

There is no rational reason for Google to pay bay area salaries for Indiana employees - will they really say no if Google offers 300K instead of the 500K they would get in the bay area? Sure, the person could reject it to make a statement, but most people would gladly take a salary that would buy them a small castle.

All FAANG needs to do is to beat local salaries by a significant margin to get well qualified employees - that would still make these people WAY cheaper than bay area employees.

> FAANG doesn't determine salaries based on cost of living, but cost of labor, which maps to your concept of "competition density".

Yep, that's exactly what a Google recruiter told me - they try to pay at the upper end of the _local_ market.

the rational reason would be they want to hire those people. Hiring top talent is a very competitive thing. Your avg dev at a small company in a small town might or might not be as good as that person who made it in sf. If 100k people leave sf and a good number of them keep their high salaries (or almost) then guess what, those companies will hire people from the other companies that cut pay too much.

If you're working remotely, then you just tell <big tech company> you live in NYC/SF. If they still offer a subpar salary, then you get an offer at <big tech company #2> and bid them against each other. Salary negotiation is a two-way street. Companies that hire remote workers care more about results, which has nothing to do with the cost of living in your location.

Are you implying to lie about where you actually live?

If they're doing something as absurd as using it as a negotiating tactic to pay you less, then yes.

But companies report your salary and withhold income for local taxes. How would that work?

For example, my paycheck literally has withholdings for California every two weeks.

Doesn't matter. An employee in Google London is paid lesser than the employee in Google SF. So while you can cry about injustices and rationality, salaries will likely be paid based on cost of living and even geography (based on London example).

> So while you can cry about injustices and rationality

Strange reply. I'm not talking about injustices. I'm saying a company would be pretty dumb to pay someone more just because of where they chose to live. Profit maximization and all that.

They'll pay more to people living in SF because those people have better alternatives and can negotiate harder, and the factors that cause that are the same factors that make housing in SF expensive.

You would have to pay me more if competing employers are willing to pay me more. Right now that depends on which job market I live in. Remote wages seem relatively lower, which isn't surprising when few companies have embraced remote yet.

You should ask yourself: do I want to hire people who decide relocating to Silicon Valley would be good for their career, or those who can't or won't?

Yeah. Google makes like a million dollars per engineer, so it's either "make less money on this engineer than you'd like" or "don't hire this engineer and make nothing". It would be stupid if they were doing it for no reason, but competition is higher for engineers in SF.

Got a link for your ‘Google earnings per engineer’ $1 million figure?

Not OP but the $1m figure doesn't really matter. Their point is google makes $x per engineer, you can make $x - (large number) or $0. Whether it's $1m or $10m, it doesn't change the fact.

Google made $65 billion in 2014[0], and had ~20k engineers[1], which puts the number per engineer at $3.5 million. [0] https://www.macrotrends.net/stocks/charts/GOOG/alphabet/reve... [1]https://www.quora.com/How-many-software-engineers-does-Googl...

> I'm saying a company would be pretty dumb to pay someone more just because of where they chose to live. Profit maximization and all that.

That's only the case if skilled engineers are fungible entities with a smooth supply/demand curve. That is absolutely not the case.

No but they will pay them less.

Paying person A less than person B means paying person B more than person A.

if a lot of top companies let people work remotely, then it will be a new competitive world for remote workers too. that hasn't happened yet, but it could.

> do you currently see pay adjustments based on housing costs

Yes, it's commonly referred to as "cost of living adjustment."

The rational basis is that the employer sees strategic value in having a physical presence in a given locale, and are willing to pay a premium to have employees actually located there.

Note that I've been working remotely full-time for years, and never plan to go back. I am, however, under no illusions that my salary is a permanent thing.

> Yes, it's commonly referred to as "cost of living adjustment."

I think you missed the point I was making. Have you seen two employees living in the same city, with one paid more because he decided to buy a more expensive house?

I'm aware that there are regional differences, but they can be explained by factors like different productivity levels. This discussion is different - it's about the same employee living in two different locations.

The employees are in a different negotiating position. Google pays them as little as they can get away with.

If living in a nicer house caused engineers to have more job opportunities at higher salaries, then Google probably would pay you more for living in a nicer house.

Yes. All the time. Its standard practice to pay more at high cost of living areas. I've not worked at a company with offices in different cost of living areas that did not do this.

Dude in SF is more likely to bump into other dudes in SF and talk about system design, math or AI or competition or best practices or stacks.

Dude in Indiana doesn't have that opportunity. You'd say but Internet, but things like motivation, inspiration, innovation comes from a certain external factors (which we still haven't figured out).

That's why even with massive internet penetration, it's the tech hubs that keep pumping winners and hits

> Just want to point out that there's no rational basis for this argument

The argument is that people in lower cost-of-living areas are willing to work for less, a public company's main motivation is profit, and companies lower their profit by paying employees more than is required to hire and retain them.

Google pay varies by office (quite a lot) and they're upfront about it but it has nothing to do with housing costs. It's based on the cost of hiring in the local market.

I am voluntarily transferring from Google SF to Google London and I am taking a significant salary cut. London isn't really any cheaper to live in, but you can hire good developers for much less in Europe.

I'd be really interested in how they plan to implement this. I'd certainly hope it would be more sophisticated than a linear adjustment of salary based on differences in the cost of living.

I live and work out of St. Louis at the moment, and I've spent a bit of time evaluating FAANG salaries in relation to the cost of living in their relevant areas. While in most cases it seemed I could maybe get 1.5x to 2x my St. Louis salary, I was looking at around a 5x increase in housing costs alone. It never made any sort of financial sense to make the move (as much as I would've liked to).

Of course the most sensible approach would be to offer just above market rate in whatever the local market is. That can be awfully hard to determine though. It's much more a function of local supply and demand than anything that correlates to cost of living.

They didn't say that though, so the whole "you're wrong" is unwarranted.

They said local companies will have to compete with FANG salaries. To your point these would likely be cost of living adjusted, but would almost certainly be higher than the current average in most Midwestern cities.

Lol - let us see. You must me dreaming if you are expecting no significant cost of living adjustments on salaries.

You are again completely misreading what I said, which clearly states that there will be cost of living adjustments, but that the salaries are still likely to be higher than non-tech hub averages.

Not every online conversation has to be a fight with winners and losers.

You are right. I was reacting based on your first sentence. Sorry about that!

So they were running a survey gauging whether it's possible to pay people less to work from home, but do we know the result of that survey? Maybe they find out that they cannot hire the same talent for less money in Indiana.

No - they were running a survey to figure out employee's interests in wfh permanently across US - but at the same time being very clear that the salary will be adjusted based on where they are.

Right but their ability to actually do that is subject to market forces. To me it's not a given they could do it.

I'm not claiming they can't, but their intention isn't proof either way.

Why don't you try living in Ohio and then demand $500k salaries which big-tech pays to software engineers and see if it works out?

1. I'm sure there are software engineers in Ohio working remotely making 500k and more, but no it's not the norm.

2. That's not the point: we're talking about a hypothetical shift where top software engineering talent is fleeing the bay area. If that talent moves to Ohio, and there is no cheaper alternative of similar quality, Google might not have a choice.

Again, not pretending like I know what's going to happen. My point is that big-tech doesn't have total power in setting prices. If at any point in the last 20 years they could have hired qualified engineers in Ohio for $100k they would have already done it.

I think you are thinking about this too much. I know you would like to earn these big packages in Ohio. But honestly, what is more likely to happen is that companies will optimize for themselves too and if they are able to find good talent at cheaper prices (since cost of living expenses for employees are down significantly), they will do that. So on average SV salaries will go down as employees spread over US.

Can't have it both ways. SV pays top $$ because of 1) top notch skills and 2) cost of living. Now you are taking #2 away - so things will ease a bit

I'd never want to live in Ohio. "You are thinking about it too much" is a weak argument.

Again, if companies could find good talent at cheaper prices in Ohio they would. Existing talent moving around does not increase the amount. It's not a given that market rate will decrease.

You don't get it. It is fine. Logic is hard sometimes.

Abandoning the discussion and resorting to personal attacks, great post.

What's stopping someone from moving to SF for higher comp on hiring, then getting a P.O. box or friend's mailing address in SF and moving back to work from lower cost area after some time?

Is your employer really going to decrease your salary after the fact? Can you file taxes in your lower cost of living state after you lock in your high SF comp package and never notify your employer but still pay your taxes in the state you moved back to?

Note: I don't condone illegal behavior just thinking of edge cases that benefit us tech workers.

Aka tax evasion? Your local government probably wouldn’t be thrilled about that.


> Is your employer really going to decrease your salary after the fact?

Yes. I have remote working friends who've been required to take a pay cut because they moved.

That's the most interesting part to me which will play the major role in how WFH situation will evolve. I 100% understand the logic in such situations, but:

1) If company like Twitter is saying: "From tomorrow our default is work from home, but you all get 20% salary cut". This will be essentially a salary cut, nothing more. If let's say Facebook says WFH=on-site developers from Twitter will be flowing to Facebook because of 20% salary cut

2) In order for everyone in FAANG to say simultaneously that we have to cut salaries 20% simply because it is WFH now - there should be a strong evidence that productivity in remote workers is 20% less and they will need to hire 20% more engineers to have the same amount of work done. If it is not correct then companies have incentive to drive this number down to 10% or 0%

3) FAANG and overall Valley residents must also consider the long term effect on their community. I doubt that Silicon Valley will survive going 100% virtual and concentration of innovation can be lost if people go 100% remote. So they might impose 10-20% cut on a premise that they want to create a community on-site. Not sure how C-suits evaluate such factor.

Overall I suppose if companies go WFH by default they will need to reevaluate their incentives structures to be competitive.

You are making some questionable assumptions about our economy. It doesn’t really matter what incentives theoretically exist if there isn’t money to, say, maintain your current staffing levels at their current pay.

Perhaps Twitter is leading the pack in an industry-wide pay cut? I hope not, but that seems to be what the rest of the workforce has experienced in recent months.

My full time job is producing video for YouTube. My revenue from ads is a straightforward calculation: I get 55% of whatever advertisers pay YouTube/Google to run ads on my channel.

Despite having posted record growth in every other positive metric, overall revenue (read: advertiser spending) has tanked in recent months.

Facebook. Google. Twitter. YouTube.

They are all internet advertising companies. And if my personal observations are any indication, I suspect they may be hurting for cash right about now.

Mostly the tax fraud parts of your statement. However I'm sure it happens

Would it be tax fraud if you’re still in California? You record your address when you file with the state, I don’t think the state cares where you get your mail.

I guess the employer could have some contractual terms requiring your address to be at some location. I’ve never seen that though.

I think you just change your address if you move within the state. I don’t think companies track your address as long as you’re the same for taxation. That’s why people do insane 2 hour commutes.

What if you create some business entity in that state?

Yup. Salaries are based on the local market.

This is true but salaries aren't based on cost of living exclusively they are based on demand as well. If more companies shift to remote work that will spread demand across the US driving up salaries in low cost of living areas and reducing them in high cost of living areas.

True, but I'd argue that remote working exists in a market of its own, somewhere between sf rates and local market rates.

Most FAANG have a high cost of living band and a regular band. The high cost of living band pays 15-30% extra for living in the Bay Area/NYC. Everywhere else pays the same whether it's Boston, Detroit, or the middle of the desert.

The Bay Area can mean Pacific Heights, or Concord. Probably half or 2/3 the cost of living in the latter.

Yeah - just that FAANG don't hire people outside top cities. So your middle of desert point is misleading.

most faang don't hire remote - but they do allow people to work remote in certain circumstances, they also tend to maintain smaller engineering offices all over the country so transferring isn't as difficult once your in.

Maybe it's the other way around: due to increased supply, total package of FAANG engineers will drop. That's not necessarily a bad thing though. We've been enjoying unprecedented packages for many years. It may be a good time to distribute some of the wealth to other parts of the country.

There's no wealth there. All Google employees get something like 25 billions a year. The US budget is measured in trillions and to cover up just this recession alone, Fed created 6 trillions, or 240 years worth of wages for those employees. Do I need to say that in ten years there will be another recession, where Fed will create 20 trillions?

FAANG total comp -- today -- is at a record high and well outpacing every other vertical.

The pool of qualified software engineers outside of high-cost urban areas is pretty shallow. I run a 100% remote company in the midst of staffing up. We're looking for database internals people. There are not a lot of qualified candidates in, say, Oklahoma.

If COVID-19 really helped people to work from the Ouachitas at reasonable salaries, it would be completely awesome. But we're a long way from that. I love remote work and would like to see more people do it. But the past history of epidemics (e.g., 1918, the 1665 London plague, etc.) indicates people will go back to previous behavior--favoring urban areas--once the crisis passes.

I have fantasies about a homestead in the shadow of Cavanal Hill. If I could raise chickens and goats, and maybe a family, all while working remote, I'd truly have the best our age has to offer.

There are a lot of us out here in the middle who want that.

I get your skepticism, but I'm going to hope against hope that telepresence technology will continue to improve and make that possible.

I really hope I'm wrong, because working remotely is great.

Pandemics historically have not had a big impact on the political economy unless they kill an enormous number of people. The Black Plague in the 1300s is an example.

That assumes they restrict remote work to America for work that was done previously in the states. If this picks up, and there are no legal restrictions on what country a remote employee must be in, then the low end might just go much lower than what it currently is in small cities.

> there are no legal restrictions on what country a remote employee must be in

Working remotely from another country is easy. Paying somebody in another country is not easy at all. Even with specialized providers it is a substantial hassle. Without it you pretty much better give up - the chances you get all the payments, taxes and paperwork right is minimal, and that country's tax/regulatory authorities would be more than happy to fine you and/or your workers if you don't. In the best case, in worse case they might just seize your money intended for payroll and keep it until you figure things out.

This is one of the reasons why, in my somewhat radical opinion, all taxes should be some form of sales tax. No income tax, etc. If you live in a country, you spend money in that country, and so you pay taxes in that country. No workarounds, no loopholes, no tax returns, no cognitive load, just extremely simple tax law.

(I know it's not quite that simple, but I think it's interesting to think about.)

The unfortunate reality of only using sales tax is that it's entirely regressive.

I couldn't reply to null0pointer directly. Sales tax is considered regressive because it is a flat percentage X% of spend. Poor people spend close to 100% of their income, so it is basically an X% tax. Rich people might spend closer to 10% of their income so it is an X/10% tax on rich people.

That's why basic, necessary goods are not taxed, only luxury items. We have a GST in Australia and poor people effectively do not pay any tax on purchases.

The definition of basic, necessary goods is extremely narrow in the US. Poor people still pay plenty of sales tax.

Unfortunately that's not the case everywhere. I live in a state in the US where even groceries have sales tax.

Most sales tax proposals I've seen will exempt food and other "necessities" for exactly this reason. With how complex income taxes are, I'd love to get a serious discussion going about a sales ax replacing it.

Or a wealth tax.

It's not as regressive if you charge sales tax on housing.

In point of fact, the US mortgage interest deduction is highly regressive. It favors those who can afford a down payment on a house over those who can't, who by definition will be poorer.

If the sales tax applied to buying a house, it would be quite progressive. It could even only apply to the cost of the house less some amount (say, $100k) which would make it even more progressive.

Property tax already does this, right? China has a sales tax on housing but no property tax, which seems to exacerbate wealth inequality there as people can speculate on property without penalty for not putting it to use.

Could you elaborate please? Not looking for a debate, just want to understand what you mean by "entirely regressive".

Compare the person earning $10,000 and the person earning $1,000,000. If they both consume $10,000 worth of goods and there's a 20% sales tax included in that, the poor person's effective tax rate is 20%, while the rich person's effective tax is 0.2%. Even if the rich person consumes 10x more, they're only paying 2% of their income.

Then again, if you stuff 98%+ of your income into a mattress are you really advantaged over the person making $10,000 to justify paying more tax?

One you exchange the money - where an advantage can be gained - then it can be considered a sale and thus taxed. A sale does not necessarily need to be towards consumption.

I see what you're saying -- money isn't useful until it's spent. But I think the argument is that a wealthy person doesn't put that extra 98% of their money under a mattress, they invest it. Now they have passive income on top of their previous income, and their effective tax rate from sales tax is even lower. Until eventually they have so much well that they don't have to work at all, and neither do their descendants, and you have an aristocracy.

> they invest it.

But, if such a system was in place, the money would be taxed during the purchase of the investment vehicle. A sale is a sale. Unless the money is literally stuck in a mattress, it is going to be taxed upon doing anything useful with it. If it is simply stuck in a mattress for all of eternity, one is really no further ahead. Money only has value when you can use it to facilitate a sale; and when there is a sale there would be a tax.

Poor people spend a larger fraction of their income on things that get taxed. Ergo a constant tax rate on consumption is regressive. This could be paired with UBI though.

While some hassle of paying someone in another country is real, this level of pain seems to be pretty extreme. I am sure it depends on the country (good luck hiring in North Korea :) ), but for most countries there are enough options, from the employer opening a subsidiary to hiring employee as a contractor and everything in between (e.g., a local organization handling paperwork for a small salary cut which is a lot less than US recruiters would charge). My 2c.

Sanctions, securities, those can be a sinkhole.

It should still be strictly easier than opening up a branch in another country, which large tech companies are already doing a lot. When the gate of remote working opens, you no longer need to fix a head count with a particular location, and that opens up tons of possibilities.

And just to make your point explicit, if everyone moves to local-remote, then the move to hiring cheap and top-notch Bulgarian or Romanian programmers is even easier.

This is further in the future, and labor laws will likely stifle this first, especially in today's climate.

Language and time zone barriers still may be a problem though.

Time zones are a huge problem! I can't connect. It's so taxing to find a time that works!

Yes, though work gets less efficient +/- 3 time zones or so.

If you hire in the Americas, you keep the same time zone. There's a whole world of English speaking programmers, core contributors to node, to ruby, ML engineers, data engineers south of the border. All the same time zone.

Not often. I’m Pacific and work for a company in the Eastern timezone. At 2pm I can no longer get answers until the next day.

Yes this assumption is remote work to America only.

> This can go two ways: either the local software business will have to compete with FAANG salaries, or there will be jumps from senior developers, experienced developers, and many smarter/more capable developers from smaller software business to FAANG due to salary/perks attraction.

I think if it's widespread it would be a little of both with some extra effects to consider. Not only will FAANG organizations get a wider pool of applicants which will drive down salaries for FAANG orgs, AND other businesses will how have to deal with the fact that their technology workers are part of a much larger market than they were previously, which will drive up salaries for those workers remotes, but there could be some very interesting delayed effects. How many FAANG workers now would opt to move farther away and keep their position, which will depress (that is, realign with reality to some small degree) the real estate market in areas like Seattle and San Francisco? What does that do to salaries later (likely a much smaller effect, but maybe non-negligible)?

Telecommuting has been hailed as one aspect of saving the suburban and rural life for a long time. Maybe we'll actually see some of it now.

What happens if there's a net reduction in people living in San Francisco and surrounds over 10 years, say 10%? I mean, it sounds unlikely, but so didthe idea of so many people staying inside for months at a time, and everyone switching to telecommuting so fast. All these things are related, and with major changes in one, relatively rapid change in things that related to it can be expected. At this point I'm actually thinking it's possible we could shift to UBI of some sort, and just a few months ago I didn't see any way that could happen without a major economic disruption, but hey, we've already got that.

Personally I would not move away from west coast. Mediterranean weather is gift from god. Plus it's so close to many good ski resorts. Being able to enjoy outdoors throughout the year and being able to go out to ski every week is priceless.

There's a lot of area on the west coast a couple hours from the major metro areas that's much more affordable. I was born, raised, and have worked all my life in Sonoma county an hour north of SF, and even that is expensive. If I could move another hour away for significantly reduced cost of living while still having the security I enjoy now (where I know likely at worst I have to deal with a commute to SF for some other job if something happens to my current local job), that would be real tempting. I already live an hour away from SF, what's two hours, if all I'm doing is going there for special occasions? And that's still a very minor change compared to what this might allow.

Nah, I never get city life anyway, especially the culture of frequenting bars. But the bay area is wonderful. Yes, commute is horrible there, but being able to find many people who are passionate about CS, engineering, math, startups, and geeky stuff in general, that's hard to get anywhere else.

I live about an hour from Seattle, and while our rural area is beautiful and much cheaper than the city, it's as red as Eastern WA around here.

Imagine how one of your red neighbors might feel if they were required to work somewhere blue.

There’s a lot of areas that are cheap on the west coast but there isn’t much there. I guess Humboldt is an option if you want to grow as a side gig.

Rural California is also pretty red and not as friendly to outsiders. I have a friend who grew up on the rural coast. He basically drove around on trails and shot guns for fun.

If that’s your thing more power to you but most tech workers I’ve met aren’t into that.

That's fine. And I get it notwithstanding a lot of the issues with SF and much of the South Bay. But you may be increasingly expected to pay a premium for your preferences which employers won't compensate for.

It will be the opposite. People who are wfh from other cities will likely see their salaries adjusted based on their cost of living. SF overtime will get less heated as people move out, so it makes sense for the salary to reflect that too.

I mean you could also you know live in the Mediterranean...

4 hours is close? I could probably get to a Colorado ski area in less time via air.

We will see how things play out, but WFH success is not guaranteed. Managing remote workers requires different skills which most managers today do not have.

For now, most big companies have enough cash and are primarily focusing on making sure workers are not going crazy rather than on turning out new software. Give it another 3-4 months though and those companies will have to pivot back to real development which may be harder than they expect if WFH is still practiced en masse. My 2c.

What are the skills that are different managing remote vs onsite devs?

Planning-related. Onsite teams allow first line of management to muddle through many issues in an ad-hoc way: walk over to see if A is stuck, if so go and ask B to help A, etc. This is not good: most engineers hate constant interruptions and best engineers' most productive time can get decimated. But this type of management mostly keeps the ship afloat.

This does not work with remote teams. There, a manager needs to have a longer-term plan, parcel work in a larger chunks, clearly write the tasks and minimal thresholds ("this task is done when you can confirm X"). The manager then sees when someone is blocked, what tasks are getting behind, etc.

This setup is actually better for the worker bees, too, who get clearly identifiable tasks and are not tracked on how they spend their time as long as their task is completed on time.

Everyone is thinking about picking talent from across the country. We should be thinking from across the world. Get ready for high salaries to start going down once everything starts to get stable.

This is so absurd. We struggle to hire even remote work around the country. There just aren't enough qualified people for some of these more senior positions.

"Never lose your edge."

How about, enjoy your free time. Enjoy your friends and family. Work hard at your job, but maintain the division.

This hyper-productivity porn is a net negative. There is competition in this industry, but nowhere near enough to leave talented engineers fearing for anything. Not on a near time-horizon, at least.

The FAANGs are not likely to pay HCOL compensation to LCOL employees.

The employee's local cost-of-living will factor into the comp.

At the end of the day there’s a pay band in HR and while COL may be 3x in SF than Oklahoma, but either it’s 600k in San Fran or 250k in Oklahoma, which is nearing physician’s pay in many smaller states. Pay will go up in smaller states and pay will come down in SF/SV areas. People in LCOL areas will make top end salaries in their respective geographic areas and will see the best quality of life improvement. $250k in Oklahoma is going to be much better quality of life than $600k in San Jose for some people who have a spouse and 2 kids. And then over time they can hire a lot more people at 200-250k rather than 600k.

And of course all of this assumes a traditional W2 employment agreement.

If the person in Oklahoma pays $1k per month for a 3,000 sq ft home with a 1Gbps fiber connection.... why work full-time at all, or exclusively for one employer?

I just don't see why from a company's perspective you would pay two equally qualified/titled people massively different salaries based on the city they choose to live (which is completely irrelevant to the company). If I were an employer and one person wanted 125k and the other 400k, that seems like a no-brainer to me when they are both remote workers and equally qualified.

If they offer to raise the person getting 125k to 400k if they move to an expensive area, then at least it's fair :shrug:

Companies do not pay based on CoL. The 400k guy is going to be looking at competing offers in that range. If Google decided they would only pay based on Kansas salaries, and Apple only hired local, why would you ever consider a Google offer when Apple pays 3x as much?

By that logic why would either of you be paid 6 figures when someone the other side of the world can do the same for 5 figures?

If it doesn't matter where you are to work for the company then why does it matter if you're even in America.

That's a great point, although from my experience working with teams on the other side of the world, the language barriers (and even time zones) are enough to make it so the work is not equivalent. Theoretically though it could be. It's more difficult in practice however and may end up costing the company more, so could be cheaper to pay someone more who is local to headquarters and the target market, than less on the other side of the world.

It seems likely local salaries in smaller cities will go up, since they already have in response to the first wave of remote friendly startups and companies. Now, most of them can't offer public company compensation options but can compete in other areas.

I'm not so sure about that, mainly because CA offers the best laws in terms of employee competitiveness - no non-competes, mainly.

Why not all across the world? At least those that can communicate in the same language

But what about hanging around the water cooler so I can colab on some random ideas I overheard!!! my whole go to market and product strategy depends on this!!!!

- Some anti-WFH person, probably

Losing those serendipitous meetings is frequently mentioned by people bullish about working from home as one of the things they find difficult.

There are downsides to working from home, it's silly to dismiss them as mindlessness from the other camp.

I'm having trouble finding it now, but there's a paper that studied white collar promotions as a factor of how physically close the promoted subordinate sat to their manager. It was pretty correlated.

I wonder how that effect virtualizes.

> Losing those serendipitous meetings

In a remote-first culture, those meetings still happen, even though it needs some more effort to facilitate those situations. It's when the team is split between onsite and remote that remote contributors have a disadvantage and might even miss out on important things going on.

Alternatively, one might unionize to help prevent the vagaries of capitalist competition from messing with your individual life.

It would be good if more tech companies embraced this. I bet if they need tools for themselves we’ll see a lot of progress in remote collaboration tools.

To make this work I wonder how executives will adapt. In my company the higher you go up the chain, the more they want face to face communication. I guess most top executives are people persons so not seeing things like body language or using body language takes away an important skill set of theirs.

Maybe, but it would also be good if more (tech) companies offered a decent working environment.

That's coming from personal experience btw, where most jobs / assignments I've had, it was usually open plan, flexible seat arrangements.

I have a new job now where I have a fixed desk with a set of drawers. It's a breath of fresh air and honestly it sounds so stupid and trivial. But employers don't have their employees' best interest in mind.

My cynical take on this move is that the company doesn't have to pay as much for office space + worker transport anymore.

I'm an ardent supporter of remote work, and I wouldn't go back to non-remote work without a hefty pay raise, but I think I probably would have considered office jobs during my last search if the offices I'd worked in previously had actually been pleasant.

Open office plans, low cubicle walls, cubicle sharing, frequent noise and disrespect of focus, flimsy banged up office chairs and equipment, no budget for standing desks, the lack of real employee lounges and couches to both work and chill out at, strict clocking in and out, and insufficient meeting space are chasing away good employees, especially now that we're all forced to work remotely. More people won't be willing to go back if they can help it.

Notice I mentioned nothing about free snacks, foosball tables, beer on tap, etc. I'd trade all of that for some semblance of serenity in the office.

>Notice I mentioned nothing about free snacks, foosball tables, beer on tap, etc. I'd trade all of that for some semblance of serenity in the office.


Free snacks & beer are an anti-perk if you want to maintain a healthy BMI, and a healthy body. Alcohol is a drug with side effects (even if you don't have a hangover), but most people don't think of it that way.

It always bugs me that "Free snacks" rarely includes fruit, nuts or other things that aren't processed.

Yes, almost always corporate carbs, which I like to call carbage.

That's strange. The offices at Bloomberg, Microsoft, Walmart Labs, etc., all had healthy options when I've been there.

Define healthy... For me, fresh fruit, nuts, even low sugar jerky are healthy. Anything with modern wheat and refined carbs tends to be problematic.

>Free snacks & beer are an anti-perk if you want to maintain a healthy BMI, and a healthy body.

or it turns into a perk again if you think of it as a way to train yourself against temptation.

This mentality is weird to me.

"employee stock options are an anti-perk if you want to maintain a gambling-free lifestyle."

"airbnb travel stipends are an anti-perk if you want to maintain a body free of traveler's diseases."

"free on-site dry-cleaning is an anti-perk when they lose a button on your jacket."

everything good in life can be viewed from a dark angle, but it gets pretty tiring to do so.

false equivalency - there aren't slot machines in the office kitchen.

> disrespect of focus

This right here is my beef in a nutshell. My attention should be under my control. For example, I can't believe that leaving audible cell phone notifications on is becoming normalized.

Yeah, that's the worst thing for me. Whenever I've brought this issue up to employers, I usually get a blank stare. To me, it's just self evident that I can get more done with fewer distractions, but a lot of people seem unwilling to imagine a workplace without chaos.

Granted, remote work isn't free from distraction. Far from it, in fact. At least I can control the noise level and close Slack and email, if need be.

Nothing makes me rage more than people who leave audible cell phone notifications and ring tones on in places that are supposed to be quiet (offices, library). It's one of the most selfish and disrespectful things I can think of. Especially if you are getting 20 messages in a row...the phone is right there you don't need the sound!

The people who I’ve seen leave their ringtones on are usually the most self-centered people I’ve known.

> My cynical take on this move is that the company doesn't have to pay as much for office space + worker transport anymore.

Don't forget it removes the work/home barrier. Now you are at work 24/7 and on call at all hours. Work and productivity has consumed most of modern life. The last bastion of freedom from work/productivity was the home. Now people are celebrating the loss of that precious personal space. Strange.

Hmmm. I work a little less than before due to fewer distractions. I shut my laptop and don't keep any work apps on my phone. Take a stand and hold it.

If you’re working enough extra hours to overcome commute and prep time, you’re doing it wrong. :D Step away when shift over.

I won't go near an open office after COVID19 and I doubt I'm alone, I think things will change greatly.

with an outlook like this why would you go anywhere? an office you have at least a chance of professionalism which is far different than what you can encounter in the open

Offices are great places to spread infection. I'm not sure how to quantify how much it matters to me that I become diseased in a respectful manner, but it isn't very much.

Here is an well-documented analysis of a specific outbreak in an office:


"We described the epidemiologic characteristics of a COVID-19 outbreak centered in a call center in South Korea. We identified 97 confirmed COVID-19 case-patients in building X, indicating an attack rate of 8.5%. However, if we restrict our results the 11th floor, the attack rate was as high as 43.5%."

I'm not sure that I understand this sentiment. Is the worry about COVID specifically (and hence would be abated by a vaccine or herd immunity), or is it about increased awareness of all infectious diseases? My lack of understanding stems from a (perhaps naive) assumption that social distancing will eventually go away along with the threat. I'd be glad to hear others' opinions on the matter.

I was already sick of getting sick 3-5 times a year just being in an open office, the fact that I'm more aware now that I can get something that will do more than knock me out of being able to code for a week is a huge deterrent to me ever wanting to work in a hamster cage surrounded by hundreds of other people with hundreds interactions with whoever.

I mean, I'm not a germophobe or something but I already thought it was gross how often I got sick and I'm 100% certain it was from my office environment, now I have a real reason that "suck it up stupid" doesn't just brush away. Every winter someones kid gets sick then it just blasts through the open office. Then it happens 3 weeks later, then again, then again..I'm pretty sure I got sick 3 times earlier this year, maybe 4.

Sounds like you’re vitamin D deficient. After a good workout, your immune system should be getting stronger, not weaker.

I take 5k a day or so, Trader Joe’s has for $5.

Wait, do people in your office not take sick days when they get ill or something?

Do they in yours? Every office I've ever worked in has offered unlimited sick days, and in every one there was a segment of people who just insisted on coming in sick anyway. When coronavirus was ramping up, the executives at my current place sent out series of increasingly severe messages that you must not come into work sick.

And if you don't have unlimited sick days, it's much worse because people refuse to stay home so as not to use up their allotted time off. My wife used to work at a place that lumped PTO and sick days together, and it definitely created a culture of coming into work no matter how sick you are (especially if you already have plans to use your PTO).

What difference does it make if you did the "right" thing by using up all of your sick days by September and then have to go into work with a cold in November?

You don't know if you will or won't use sick days in the future, so IMO, you should use them as soon as you get sick, instead of "banking" them and hoping you need them later. But either way, I was arguing more against companies that don't offer unlimited sick days than employees who don't take them. I think having a limited number (or worse, lumping them in with PTO) actively encourages people to come into work sick.

Sick days aren't a real solution because people only take the days that they are the most sick off. But will happily work while contagious and 'just starting' to feel sick.

That's a culture and policy thing. A business could easily say "if you're feeling a bit under the weather and not sure, you are instructed for the good of the people around you to work from home those days just in case". In fact, I would be intensely surprised if businesses did not, in the present situation. It'll take a long time for people to stop being "evacuate the room" level jumpy about even minor symptoms.

>A business could easily say "if you're feeling a bit under the weather and not sure, you are instructed for the good of the people around you to work from home those days just in case".

In my personal experience companies have always said something like that, in particular in email or other forms of recordable communications, but then don't really back it up. Employees come in obviously sick their boss says "are you sure you should be here today?" but subtly indicates their approval for being in the office.

Companies need to move to actively disciplining employees who come in sick instead of either working from home or taking paid sick days.

I'm going to make a guess that the attitude is going to change when "someone came in with a temperature" means everyone gets sent to quarantine and the office gets deep cleaned by a team in hazmat suits.

In my 20+ year career I only recall working at one place that provided paid sick leave, and that company only provided two weeks of annual vacation. Even if everyone worked from home the full 2-3 weeks they were feeling the least bit off from a cold, the office would be a ghost town for at least 2-3 months out of the year. Which maybe it should be, but that would clearly defy the common expectations of the world pre-COVID.

Few jobs ago I had "desk neighbour" that no matter how sick he was (seasonal flu and so on), he was coming to work. One time I've asked him why he wouldn't take sick leave (which is paid leave, 80% but still) and he said, that he's not staying home so he wouldn't infect his kids... Of course every time he was sick, I was getting sick. Which is natural consequence of sitting 1.5m from someone sneezing/coughing for a week.

I could take off about three months of vacation right now, but I don’t because I’m so busy that I know that taking time off and then playing catch up is worse than not taking time off at all.

It will go away. I'm in Europe where things are closer to normal already. I meet friends, people go shopping (with hygiene measures and masks), schools and gyms are opening.

Also keep in mind that there was always a threat of infectious diseases. And it will persist until we find a universal cure for all viruses. Being somewhat of a germophobe myself, I was always aware of it.

Hopefully, people will stay at home when they are sick, though.

Europe tech has always been different than US tech scene.

The societies are very different. Here, the armed protesters demand haircuts and tattoos. In Europe, the French are flooding Spanish border towns in search of cheaper booze and smokes.

Yes, hyperbole, but a lot of Americans have legit apprehension about cramming into elevators to ride up office towers to work. It's seen as glamourous in the UK to work in a Canary Wharf office tower with a view. In the US, notsomuch.

Edit: I know people who still won't go into tall buildings post 9/11. Something that Europeans don't have in their psyche.

It is unlikely the vaccine will be perfect. Strains mutate. Plenty of people still get the flu despite a flu vaccine.

My even more cynical take is that companies are finding employees are way more productive working from home. I think part of it could be that with COVID-19, a lot of us are looking for an outlet for our energies, and so are working harder than normal.

Where I work we have been moving at 150% pace over the last month. I suspect its related to working from home not actually slowing anyone down and everyone not wanting to look like they are slacking while not in the office. Personally I have been starting work 40 minutes sooner than I normally do since it just takes me 40 less minutes to get to my desk.

With COVID-19 it depends on your family situation though. People without kids are probably working more, but people with kids (and who don't have a live-in nanny) are really struggling to juggle their work with child care. I imagine many people in that situation are less productive.

It doesn't depend only on your family situation. I am a PhD student working for the last 6 weeks from home without kids. And and also without a good income. I never expected my makeshift desk with the cheapest IKEA chair to become my work environment for 8+ hours per day, and I seriously worry about long-term injury resulting from this.

This isn't meant to diminish the difficulties of people who need to look after their children. But I work in a laboratory where the senior people blithely complain about how hard it is to manage shared child-raring duties in a well-equipped home office, while junior employees are more or less expected to magically have a productive home office in a shared flats, often in less-than-ideal environment (e.g. with noisy room-mates or building sites next door), with RSI staring us down.

The second-hand market for office items might help.

Right, good point there. People without kids definitely have way more time and energy to devote to work than those with.

> Right, good point there. People without kids definitely have way more time and energy to devote to work than those with.

Definitely? I have no kids and live with and fully support my father who had a brain tumor the size of a walnut in his head a couple years ago. Just because someone doesn't have kids doesn't mean they don't have responsibilities (goodness so many negatives in one sentence!).

I feel your pain, currently taking care of both parents I'm fortunate to still have around in mid 70's, one had a bad hemorrhagic stroke and is still recovering and can't walk, other has cancer and is completing chemo with a positive outlook after radiation. We have aides but with Covid-19, I am beyond paranoid they will infect my parents and send them to an early grave so I run this place like a high security compound and check temp and have a scrub in protocol I'm enforcing. I'm in my late 20's, no kids, no siblings. I feel blessed to have my parents around who had their mobility and independence snatched away from illness in the span of a year and I will never put them in a nursing home to die.

Dependents is the more general word.

Maybe it's different for me because my organization is one of the last holdouts where everyone at least has there own assigned cubicle and many have full offices, but every single person in my team has complained about getting far less done than normal. Most of us had a tremendous amount of time and money invested in making our workspace productive, and it's very hard to replicate that at home.

I think it is safe to say that a proper office is always best. It can be at home of course, but it need to be proper. (Desk, chair, shelf, door, flower).

If my office was 10 min walk away I would not want to work at home, but it is 1h by car ...

The evidence is not in favor of long term WFH though.

The evidence shows that WFH work creep is a thing - you get people who dont know how to turn off, and bosses who think they can get more out of you since you are a few feet away from your laptop.

There is also a decrease in creativity and networking - evidence again shows that a good team has someone who is very tuned to the emotional and mental states of the people around them doing a lot of bridging.

Finally - the people who work at office get more money over time, unless the firm takes active measures to combat these biases.

As an executive (Product and Technology specifically) at a mostly work from home company: I find that engineers can do a pretty good job of effectively collaborating thanks to PR's, Slack, JIRA, and a host of other asynchronous tools.

It's on the product side that things are tougher. Great product work is often about finding meaningful insights in the data available to you, and that often involves long conversations between people with lots of different viewpoints. There's something about doing that in person that is just really hard to replicate remotely.

Even getting the environment exactly right only goes so far. I find that over Zoom people are just a little bit less engaged and that means getting to those really important insights takes a lot longer.

Previous to covid we had solved this by colocating our product team and then bringing the engineering team together once a quarter with product folks to engage them in those conversations. Now we're just sort of feeling our way though it...

It sounds like the product people are sitting in long meetings. Have you considered the idea that people were already disengaged in those meetings, they were just putting up a better front because they could tell everyone was watching them closely in person?

And now that they are at home, they are not trying as hard to pretend they are listening closely, and since they are more comfortable, they are staying in the meetings and saying what they want? Whereas before they would let the most assertive person talk, and after a few minutes could not tolerate the in person meeting anymore and so pretended that they were all in agreement so you would let them go, knowing they would work out the actual details amongst themselves later?

And now they don't have the option of working things out after the meeting, which is another reason the meetings are taking longer.

The biggest issue for you is probably that you have a lot of wasted time where only a part of the team is working together in the meeting but other people who are not involved in that part are just waiting for them to finish.

Do some research on the tools that engineers use to work asynchronously and train your product team. Also consider smaller video chat meetings, and chat rooms, etc.

He is correct - the evidence overlaps with his experience.

Creativity is better face to face.

WFH works perfectly for routine non random event related work.

When you need to communicate fast, need to come up with insights - essentially when you need that high bandwidth node to node interaction of working together - then face to face is significantly superior.

We are designed to work with other humans - chunks of grey matter exist only to interpret non verbal cues. Heck we actually suck at symbol manipulation and math, those are learned skills we force our species to pick up.

It should not be surprising that when working face to face, we end up using those default programs installed in us to get more work done.

Just being able to clarify something is faster if done in person because you have access to body language, eye direction, and tone.

Video goes only so far, and is still not as immediate and in person as physical presence.



There's some kind of work that's best done by individuals (writing a novel). There's some kind of work that's best done by teams (planning an invasion). The work that's best done by teams is currently much better performed in meatspace than over any kind of digital communications channel.

Yes, Engineering especially coding could work whether you it is Remote, WFH or anything else.

Product and Design so far doesn't seems work well without close face to face collaboration.

As you move up the chain in global companies such as Twitter, it becomes more likely that you'll have a superior or direct report based in a different location than you, and this has been true for years. The "people person" executive theory only holds for companies that do not already have a substantial number of teams that are not all located in the same place.

I'm not sure how your conclusion follows - it's undoubtedly true that more and more folks are involved in teams that at least partly remote. However, the skills needed to manage these effectively are mostly the same as co-located teams. To whatever degree "people person" was needed, it seems mostly the same to me.

If a coworker or employee comes in to work distraught for some reason, it's far easier to reach out in person and find out that their dog got ran over/relationship broke up/parent is in the hospital. It's not impossible remote, but it's harder, on all levels. A manager that has strong in-person skills but is weaker on digital communication skills may result in poorer outcomes all around.

(I'm pro WFH but pretending it's the same just seems foolish to me.)

I guess I don't buy the idea that there is such a strong dichotomy between in-person communication skills and digital communication skills.

Sure, there are adjustments to new needs and technologies. But fundamentally, that's the easy part, I think. Communication skills are needed, and they mostly transition well. I find it plausible there are some people who don't make the transition well (in either direction) but that hardly points to a paradigm change.

Do you really think there is a big pool of people who would be effective at these roles if they just didn't need to communicate in person? Doesn't match my experience at all. Certainly agree that people are stronger or weaker on various types of communication, but in my experience that is definitely a 2nd order effect, compared to whether or not they are skilled communicators at all.

I totally agree that all of this stuff is harder remote, but if anything that leans harder on communication skills.

We are an adaptive species ... just because some folks are strong in-person (due to years of experience at it), doesn't mean they won't adapt to have better digital communication skills when it becomes a more prevalent practice. I think people will be fine ... even if there's an adjustment period :)

you have to fly a lot though, live in hotels for weeks here and there. and compensation is aligned to performance in a much deeper way than at IC level

We are a small SAAS startup that is funded by a slightly larger architectural services firm. My partner was staunchly against WFH until he saw productivity rise and employee satisfaction go through the roof when the business was forced into WFH. While he will continue to come to the office (because he is an old dog), everyone else is WFH forever. He owns the building so i'm sure he'll attempt to rent out the vacated office space. When he realizes nobody is going to want his office space due to severe oversupply, I wouldn't be surprised if he sells the building or converts the land into something more profitable. You might ask, what changed? He assumed that people who work from home won't be effective. He lacked trust. The employees proved to be trustworthy.

Frankly, I dread the situation where working from home is the norm and suddenly a core part of my job is building remote working relationships that I find easy to build in person.

People are underestimating the issues which need to be overcome with WFH

Infrastructure: Do homes have chargers, desks, screens? If not people will soon get carpal tunnel or lose productivity.

Internet/VPN security costs are real.

Productivity creep : Some of the main issues with WFH have been work hour creep. Managers and other employees feel its easier to make requests for more time given that you are now a few feet from your laptop. Lack of discipline also means that people now work longer.

Rewards and promotions I can't find it right now, but I recall WFH resulting in lower pay relative to people with the same qualifications who went to office.

Mental costs: One of the main issues with WFH has been loneliness. Fixing this requires immense effort to recreate physical proximity.

Creativity is also lost when you cant engage in banter and catching up with people.

I work from home as a software engineer at a major tech company.

Infrastructure: my company provides money to setup your workspace. Buying a desk is the most expensive part here but really you can get a solid setup for < $500.

Internet costs: I was already paying ~$120/mo and I get some of that reimbursed. This seems like a standard living cost though, not something unique to working remotely.

Productivity creep: I define my schedule based on my deliverables. At least with my team, no one expects me to be available 24/7. I work a full day but if I need to run an errand or take care of something during work hours it is no big deal. As long as I am getting my work done, everyone is happy.

Rewards/promotions: who knows - anecdotal evidence doesn't mean much here.

Mental costs: if you live alone, this could definitely be very lonely. I am lucky enough to have a wife, kid, and dog so loneliness isn't an issue. But this really depends on a case-by-case basis.

Personally I love working from home. It is more comfortable, I am paid incredibly well despite be scaled for a low COL area, and the work is super interesting. The most important part of this is now we can move wherever we need to for my wife's career. This flexibility is hard to put a price on.

Anecdotally I'm not really sure how much of people persons higher ups are, at least in engineering. Pretty much all of the SVPs / CTOs at the medium to large (but not huge) companies I've worked were not really people people. They've been somewhat socially awkward and naturally introverted. They can stand in front of a crowd and speak of course, and present in relatively high pressure situations, but I don't think they actually enjoy dealing with people all that much.

> I guess most top executives are people persons so not seeing things like body language or using body language takes away an important skill set of theirs.

This might also be a trust thing. Studies have found that in-person social interaction leads to increased levels of trust among the group, but remote social interaction doesn't have this affect. The higher you go up the management chain, the more trust is required to perform your job effectively. ICs usually work under well-defined, measurable conditions: you can determine from their work product whether an engineer, salesperson, or designer is being productive. Executives do not work under these conditions, and arguably the job of an executive is to define those metrics. To get everyone rowing in the same direction requires an immense amount of trust and collaboration amongst the high-level leadership of the company, and it seems like it'd be challenging to achieve that virtually.

A potential compromise I am hoping for would be an increased willingness of companies to open satellite or smaller offices in secondary or tertiary real estate markets.

That would be great and healthy for the whole country if things were more spread out.

Maybe even for the whole world. There surely is talent some places you dont expect, that cannot move to bay area but would love (and could do) a top it job and cannot move out. In ok countries, with few salary differences from USA, even.

I live in Wyoming. A few years ago, I was debating about trying to build up some decent 'tech spaces/small campuses' in some of the more remote/less populated and desirable area's.

Some of my thoughts were: - Make sure there is good high speed internet - Good conferencing - Good office / working conditions - Great outdoor activities nearby

For a flat rate per month, a person could have a furnished apartment, a working space nearby, and access to the great outdoors. If I had multiple locations, you could switch locations after a week or two.

Why wouldn't someone in the Bay area want to go live in Sheridan, wyo for a few weeks, then possibly Laramie, Wyo. Maybe some Zion in Utah for a bit. Royal Gorge in Colorado.

Every few weeks, you just pack up your laptop, clothes, bikes, and go to the next spot.

I guess its office/lifestyle timeshare space.

I never pursued it beyond thinking about it.

That sounds like what WeWork should have promised.

The pressure to use energy less and thus drive less may be another factor for this. No more megapoles.. more distribution (git cities)

I would love for more companies to embrace this just to open up the candidate pool for positions.

There are so many positions at Microsoft, for example, that I would have loved to apply for, but they require you to be in Redmond, and I'm just not in a position to relocate.

Just so you're aware, it is possible in Microsoft to some extent, just not very publicly visible (the careers site doesn't help you find these jobs).

I started working in one team and switched to another team internally because they are pro-remote and I plan on moving back to Australia. Broadly across Microsoft there are also about ~30 other engineers already working from Australia for Redmond-based teams.

> switched to another team internally because they are pro-remote and I plan on moving back to Australia

I don't know about Microsoft in particular, but from what I've seen it's much easier to find a remote position while you're already at a company working onsite than it is before you get hired.

Completely agree - I've tried and failed many times to move from Orlando to Bay area. FAANG (finance work) wasnt willing to pay to relocate so they always went with local candidates over me. There are little to no interesting companies in my area. I want to work and help build the future. I was willing to take a paycut from MCOL to HCOL area for jobs and willing to go down in seniority for a chance to work at a big company in the Bay area. It would be nice if they finally start opening the applicant pool to those in other cities.

If you are willing to take a pay and level cut, why not just pay your relocation yourself? It's not expensive long term if you think you will do well and be rewarded at the new company.

If you can relocate temporarily, most of Microsoft will let you go remote if you're a top performer (Top 10% roughly) after about 2 years.

It's more about being effective managers. There's tons of writing and proper follow up and prep work necessary to make remote work happen and most people aren't just that diligent to do it regularly.

Most managers especially at the top are also not the most diligent people, they have employees to do the stuff that they dislike doing so when they are faced with having to do more prep work and move at what they consider a slower speed (they are wrong, all that prep work and due diligence pays off, Bezos and Amazon are a great example of that) they recoil.

Collaboration tools are already pretty solid. What else do you really need other than a remote desktop + video conferencing?

I think the biggest use case will be helping recreate the virtual water cooler.

There's lots of communication which is hard to do remote. The water cooler is o e thing. But even in a meeting when presenting something the feedback is limited. When sitting in a room it's simpler to see whether people are following and one should go faster or iterate on a point. Also one can simpler intercept with a question or comment. The text based back channel is limited for that.

(I WFH exclusively for 10+ years and still regularly miss the office for anything which isn't deep down coding, but requires communication)

Presentations always seemed to me like one of those things that can be done without a meeting at all.

If it's unidirectional, true. If it's supposed to be a discussion it's different.

Why do I need either of those things? If I'm going to work from home permanently then whatever computers I need can come with me. Face-to-face meetings are a justification for middle management to exist; remote work due to pandemic is going to lay bare the stupidity of managers and their ranks will be greatly reduced. I predict that the written word is going to make a big comeback.

Yes, in my experience the key to a highly functional remote environment is async collaboration.

By this I mean written roundtables/stand-ups (with a focus on putting the detail in the tickets and just bringing up blockers), written RFCs and review periods for larger initiatives, comprehensive action logs (admin logs, etc), detailed documentation, detailed commit messages, etc etc.

Deadlines are fine, but people need to be able to be aware of the timeline up front and have autonomy to work within their own schedule to meet it.

This becomes especially important when multiple time zones come into play.

Essentially it's a matter of replacing as many meetings as possible with recored (written and/or multimedia) versions that convey the same content, focusing on maximizing transparency and collaboration.

The hostility that many programmers have towards managers is short-sighted.

If you’ve ever worked somewhere where the manager has way too many direct reports, you know it’s usually a shitshow.

Can you name some companies of more than a few people that don’t have managers? If you think they’re all a waste and a drag, what’s your explanation for why manager-less competitors don’t rise up and eat their lunch? Better yet, why don’t you start your own company staffed with only ICs and take over the world?

I hate to tell you but one of the reasons why google ate the world was their hands-off management and peer-to-peer project management and feedback schemes, which are efficient and effective. I know experiences at large organizations can vary, but for years at that company I had managers who existed, yes, but never showed their faces and were there chiefly to make sure that everybody had desks and chairs and computers. This style scales extremely well. I also had managers who were just other ICs to whom I reported, because there had to be a path from Larry to everyone in the org chart, but who were otherwise peers. Not every large organization is choked with weekly/daily meetings and org charts full of useless functionaries.

I hate to tell you, but the only reason Google “ate the world” during the times you describe (which I’m skeptical of, but that’s a separate discussion) was that they figured out they could sell ads against their search results. Almost everything else seemed exactly like what you’re describing: a bunch of ICs with no managers building cool stuff that didn’t affect the bottom line, had bad usability, didn’t have a clear use case, overlapped the work of other teams, or all of the above.

The Google of today is different: multiple billion dollar business units, all well-staffed with managers.

"Face-to-face meetings are a justification for middle management to exist; "

Communicating is 1/2 of business; it's really odd that so many people have difficulty with this.

I think because as Engineers, we measure value in 'code' then we tend to diminish all the other aspects of the business or process.

Meetings can obviously be a waste but they are also critically important.

Meaningful communication happens between your ICs. The weekly hour-long team meeting where the manager polls the room and nobody has anything to say is just a waste of everyone's time. Reducing what you have to say to an email has the effect of distilling and refining it, and in many cases leads to the realization that it was wrong to begin with, or doesn't warrant saying.

Sounds like you need a new manager.

Judging by the sheer level of resentment the poster holds for management, as a whole, it sounds more like it could easily be a case of their manager needing to replace a report.


IC = Individual Contributor (worker who does not have a team under them)

Individual Contributors. In this case, the engineers.

I actually think the ranks of middle managers will increase as more people work from home. Especially on the engineering side. The whole point of managers is to facilitate communication between people and teams. WFH certainly doesn't help communication problems. HR should pretty much drop to 0 though.

How exactly does it help to pass communications through a person (the manager) that, for the most part, does not understand the technical details of which they are speaking? We literally pay for slack for communication. No one needs an arbitrary human to act as a gatekeeping communication conduit.

Maybe at tiny companies. At larger companies, you can't scale communication as a fully connected graph.

I guess that's why you have multiple slack channels instead of one. You're trying to justify paying someone over 100 grand a year to be a worse form of communication than the software you're already paying for to communicate.

I don't think I'm trying to justify any San Francisco salaries, lol. The point I'm trying to make is that a single person can only have so much organizational knowledge overhead. Facilitating communication between the right people without spamming the wrong people is tough.

The github corporate move from a flat structure to a hierarchical is probably a good case study to read if you're interested: https://github.com/holman/ama/issues/800

What are the functions of HR that you imagine them doing such that they’ll all be made obsolete by WFH?

Pretty much anything related to the work environment. This can include maintaining a safe work environment, accommodations for specific employee needs, handling employee disputes.

That's a fraction of what HR does. Compensation, benefits, hiring, wellness, training, performance reviews, etc, etc. I doubt that even 10% of what HR does is tightly related to a physical space.

I don't see how this isn't still necessary.

Do you see how these problems greatly diminish if people cannot interact physically?

You don't see why maintaining a work environment wouldn't be necessary if the entire company were allowed to work from home?

The work environment remains, it just shifts location.

Reminds of that Office Space clip, "What is it exactly, that you DO here?".

I think there is still a lack of things like white boarding tools. I haven’t seen anything that could replace a big whiteboard.

Also webcam images generally look horrible. I am sure something could be done about that.

Better microphones and speakers in laptops would help. Better suppression of background noises like kids would help.

I think there are a lot of little things that could improve tools a lot.

If you plan on working from home full time then invest in a decent camera/microphone. I already had focusrite audio interface for guitar, an XLR mic gives amazing sound, decent interface and will probably get a usb camera (is there an action cam like GoPro that can double as a webcam ?)

You can buy a video capture device that lets you plug a GoPro or DSLR 's esque HDMI output to your computer.

How are you using the xlr mic? I have one but am using the USB output because I don't have a xlr port on my laptop.

I have Focusrite Solo [1] audio interface - I got it for guitar capture initially - then I plugged in my headphones in it and the DAC/AMP in it is amazing - this motivated me to go for studio headphones (beyerdynamic dt 990 pro) and now because of this crisis I went for AT 2020 condenser mic

[1] https://focusrite.com/en/usb-audio-interface/scarlett/scarle...

This setup costs ~400$ so if you are just in to calls I'm not sure if it's worth it - but for me it was just getting a mic and now I sound like a radio host on calls :D

I don't own a GoPro so if there is a clone that has this functionality out-of-the-box it would be ideal.

Problem is the camera has to be sitting in the middle of your screen or it will be looking like you are looking away. Even the built in camera on the bottom left of my dell xps looks stupid. And then video conferencing tools compress the video to shit anyway. Also most of us don't have fancy looking home offices. I'm currently working from a desk in my bedroom so a video call would have my bed and an unpainted drywall covered in plaster lines/patches.

My setup is a Shure SM7B, Cloudlifter (necessary for SM7B), and Focusrite Scarlett. It sounds really good.

Do you also commute by Ferrari? :)

USB mics like Rode NT-USB (or NT-USB mini) or Blue Yeti are fine, too. They are the equivalent of a very nice sedan.

The scarlet focusrites entry level are pretty cheap you can get the solo for £100 less than a nice mechanical keyboard and a decent mouse.

I went for the next level up the Clarret 2pre but I do use that for my dnd streams and want to process my voice and to mix in audio.

Main problem with entry level class compliant usb is your at the mercy of Apple and Microsoft making your interface obsolete and you cant change your microphone to suit.

It is not just the soundcard; but the entire solution.

When I looked it, it was for the microphone (400 EUR) + focusrite 2i2 (150, yeah, I looked at dual) + cloudlifter (150) + boom arm (75) + cables (let's say 25) => 800 EUR. I tried not to think about GoXLR...

Compared to that, NT-USB + boom arm (PSA1) was only 200. Plus the space saved on the desk.

I don't really understand, what you mean with being at mercy of Apple and Microsoft. The only problem with USB mics that I'm aware of might be timing/lag, if you need it to be precise. That could be problem for singers singing to instruments, but not for spoken word.

MS depreciated something in a fall update that stopped my £50 alesis core 1 working and both apple and mac no longer support my TASCAM which is why I needed a new sound card

If your in the uk the SZ-MB1 was only 17.99 compared to 150 for a cloud lifter and for mics I use some 10 year old entry level sure dynamics which where £25.

Depending upon your needs you plug the XLR mic into a converter with USB out or into a mixer.

You cant find good video capture adapters anywhere. Ie, any elgato camlink

Doesn't even need to be that complex.

There are really good USB mics these days that are just plug and play. The Blue series for instance (Yeti, etc).

It seems silly, but I think one of the biggest reasons to have an all-MacBook shop is the microphones built into the laptops. Their far-field noise cancelling just beats the pants off of any alternative I’ve tried.

You can also just issue $200 AirPods to each user that doesn't already have them (which will pair to anything that speaks Bluetooth), which may be a simpler/cheaper solution to this problem.

A $20 USB gaming headset with a mouth mic arm might work, too.

Still doesn't come close to a dedicated microphone

Dialing in a iPad to the zoom w/ the notes/whiteboard app is a good substitute I think a lot about for this.

I love this online free self-hostable open source collaborative whiteboard: https://wbo.ophir.dev/ Unlike many others, this one is nice and lean and hence works smoothly even on old hardware.

If you have an nVidia GPU, look into RTX voice- you can install it on any CUDA-enabled GPU with a simple tweak, and it's good enough to kill dryer noise and keep your screaming children from being heard.

Video conferencing is pretty bad IME. I think that all too many companies view Slack as an acceptable option for communication most of the time, and I think that's an extremely inhibiting factor for most remote work. I think some innovation around the tools we use for remote work would be great, fwiw.

For example Teams and Outlook have terrible search. Documents basically go into a black hole to never be seen again. We need the same search quality we have for web searches.

that's why you shouldn't use _either_ of those as repositories of information ... they're great for the ephemeral discussions, but once consensus is reached, you should have other ways of tracking that, whether it's: github/devops/jira issues and tickets, or some kanban board somewhere, or design documents, or a wiki. The discussion itself shouldn't be the artifact that records the decision.

Debian uses something called Meetbot. It seems like it would be sort of be what you are asking for.


Good suggestions for improvement, but I don't think they fit this context. Face-to-face communications are extremely unsearchable.


[edit: lost context after parent edited]

What I can think of is a smartphone app that's always listening and transcribing, best-effort, all it listens. This can capture in person speech and make it searchable.

Also, are any of the current videoconferencing options offering machine transcribing out of the box? I know users could always hand-feed recorded video to a separate tool, but ease-of-use matters.

Emulating face-to-face-ness remotely is precisely the hard problem. As pg once said, the real world is incredibly high-bandwidth.

There are tools like automatic captions + manual tagging that can make search much better. The tools are out there, just not well adopted at this point.

Training people, both workers and management, how to work in such environments. Plus for many companies expanding the bandwidth and security for their entry points for the corporate network. This can include locking down connected equipment to block high data volume sites and activities; you cannot believe the number of people who try to stream across their vpn connection.

Not everyone wants to be remote, where I work they asked for volunteers for the first wave and had to turn people down for some groups. For these the separation of work and home is line they don't like to cross.

>>I think the biggest use case will be helping recreate the virtual water cooler.

I dont think that is hard to replicate. Group chat / slack / teams is a common feature and can easily be used to fill this void.

It's hard to force WFH people to create non-job related relationships. Like if your jobs don't overlap, you'll probably never talk in a WFH setting. In an office setting, forming relationships is both personal and functional. Maybe some of this communication isn't efficient but it probably has value.

That's recreating a water cooler with an HR drone sitting there spying.

There are ways to do it with out "HR Drone" spying

and further if you are saying things that would get you in hot water with HR then it is unlikely that a verbal conversation is better, in fact in many of these instances having a record of the conversation can be helpful....

Yeah, it is harder to be friends with your coworkers when you are remote. You do end up developing relationships though. My mom, for 30 years, spent so many years on the phone with other people, when they finally met up, it always ended up in friendship.

I work from home exclusively. I am in the same boat.

Earlier in my career, it was easy to make friends at work. I miss that. Lets go golf! Lets go drink! Lets go do this... etc.

I do think that ended up creating 'cliques' inside the groups though. Its probably better in the long run to try to establish a more professional relationship with coworkers. Just my opinion - and i'm likely wrong.

I've always wondered if that was a side effect of them being slow/bad at typing. Higher ups usually don't end up having to type a lot themselves, and many are bad at it.

That’s mainly because they have better things to do. Where do you think more money is to be made? Worry about your typing or be very good at meeting people?

It is generally an oversight to assume that people have ideal work conditions at home and could be more productive. Going to a reliable and steady office is absolutely salutary for many people. There are trade-offs, yes, but no one-size-fits-all. Physical work location and conditions is one potential issue, and emotional/relational conditions are another. Would we want to overlook these issues while still searching for the best talent for our companies?

The body language thing is important. I think it helps to position the camera and your hands in a way that lets people see your gestures.

The higher you go up the older they get. It is a culture shift and lets be honest no one wants to leave their comfort zone.

Lots of companies are followers. I appreciate Twitter taking the lead here.

It would be good if AWS and GCE were leveraged by workers at home as generic data centers to store their private data

Working on a UI and server for just that. Plug an API key for a cloud provider into the UI which will help users move data from their laptop to a private bucket for example, or spinup basic infra, enable sharing with other users accounts for opt-in data collection

Sell or donate access to specific data in your account on your terms.

The web is dead. With the right tools anyone can leverage the cloud to regain a ton of privacy and control of their data. Maybe we can dismantle through free market effort, the technocracy middleman now that building such software is trivial

Yeah, I get what you mean. Native applications store your data locally, which is privacy-friendly, but sharing is hard. SaaS brought easy sharing of data, but it also brought data mining. So the goal is to have data in the cloud, but isolated, rather than in a big shared database in some SaaS provider.

If you trust the privacy of cloud providers, you can spin up a server and use https://sandstorm.io/, which is designed around that: private infra, with granular sharing of data.

If you don't, you need local compute and encryption. Keybase would be a decent example - while you can't use your own cloud account, they only see encrypted data.

That said, there's a reason a lot of people deleted their Keybase accounts when they got acquired by Zoom. Data mining is very enticing, so outside of projects ran by idealist volunteers - which will always have a hard time competing with funded companies -, how do you keep developers from adding mining abilities even to the native/self-hosted applications?

What about https://blockstack.org/? With this approach you own the data

Wasm and weed is a powerful drug.

I work at a large tech company on a young team (average age is late twenties). In my experience many don't view working from home regularly as a benefit. I understand that must change drastically when you're middle aged, have a family to live around and a spacious house in the suburbs. But most younger people want to live in the middle of the city (i.e. small, often shared apartments but a short commute) and have no responsibilities outside of work, in this situation WFH loses a lot of its lustre.

If I could keep my current compensation and move to the low cost of living area where my family is located, I would reach financial independence 10-15 years ahead of my current trajectory with Bay Area rents/costs. I'll settle for the minor inconveniences of WFH any day in order to get a decade of my life to spend with family or to work on my own projects.

I couldn't agree more. If I could work from home permanently I would move far far away from where I am currently living. I would get myself a nice condo or small house, and settle in. Currently, where I live, despite the fact that I make almost 30k/year more than the medium average income I still can only just afford a one bedroom apartment spending the suggested 30% of my income. Imagine being able to buy a house!!!! What a world that would be!!!

What's the guarantee that say your San Francisco/NYC employer will keep paying you city rates when you are living in a small town in mid-west. At some point they will catch up and start saving money this way. Everyone at a tech company is not a crucial employee. Don't get me wrong, I am all in for getting paid SF rates while living in a cheap Texas suburb.

Bingo. As a director of a team at a mid-sized tech company who had conversations with employees making decisions like this, I can tell you that it is standard practice to adjust salary for the cost of living and the availability of talent in a particular market.

I work for a very pro remote work company, but that’s still how we did things. You want to move to the Midwest and work remotely, or apply for a transfer to a different regional office? Happy to let you do it, but know that the market rate for your skills there is X, which means an adjustment in salary for a voluntary move. People usually weren’t jazzed about it but understood.

Just because it's standard practice doesn't make it right. Is the employee contributing less to the company based on their location in a cheaper market? I think not. So why should we as workers allow a company to extract more profit from our labor based solely on our physical location?

Markets never pay you what you contribute, they pay you some number between "what you contribute" and "what you can earn working elsewhere". Your contribution sets a ceiling on your compensation; your opportunity cost sets a floor. What you actually make is whatever you can negotiate in between.

When you work in an area with fewer jobs in your field, it's far less likely that you'll have a competing offer that'll jeopardize the company's ability to keep you. That means your opportunity cost is much less, which means that the floor on what they can pay you is less.

(A similar dynamic on the investor side is why startups end up starting in the Bay Area to begin with. In most other regions of the company, there are very few investors willing to invest in high-risk tech startups. That means that a prospective startup needs to take the only financing option they can get, which means that the investor ends up owning the majority of the company. The Bay Area has a liquid and competitive market for funding, which means that there's a real chance of a VC firm losing the deal, which is what allows startups to raise capital on fair terms.)

It does feel quite bizzaro doesn’t it? The manager here says

Happy to let you do it, but know that the market rate for your skills there is X, which means an adjustment in salary for a voluntary move.

my question is: in this hypothetical, did my skills somehow lose monetary value to the company because I left the west coast and bought a house in Indiana? What’s the calculation on that one? Let’s talk numbers.

I’d love to sit down to coffee with a hiring budget manager one day and get into the weeds on CoL against present value and just do all of the math until the cafe closes or one of us has to take the first coffee induced “bio break”.

Or at least, this is how it would go if my company tried to sell me on this. Hell, I might even be amenable to the pay cut if the company was otherwise doing right by our relationship as employer and employee and I felt sufficiently invested in continuing that relationship, but we’re going to get real mechanical and be VERY thorough about it.

I mean CoL is a thing. There are some talent asymmetries in DevOps and InfoSec, that could command high salaries/remote work. Remote work in security vs. salaries support this.

But for your run of the mil developer -> senior developer, a large chunk of that $150k Bay Area pay for non-FAANG is COLA, no way around it.

> my question is: in this hypothetical, did my skills somehow lose monetary value to the company because I left the west coast and bought a house in Indiana? What’s the calculation on that one? Let’s talk numbers.

It doesn't have anything to do with your skills. It's just that they believe they can replace you in Indiana with a lower salary.

I'm not saying it makes a lot of sense, just that they're probably thinking about it in that way.

Or that there is less demand for those skills in Indiana so the market for those skills in Indiana pays less than the market for those skills in a separate location. This raises the question of if "remote" is its own "virtual location" in terms of market. Unfortunately, there is not yet enough remote work for there to be an established "remote" market distinction.

For people where there is only a handful of people with those skills in the world, they command ny/sf pay wherever they live.

This is an interesting take. I am a remote worker (technically in Chicago), but my employer is headquartered elsewhere. We have offices in Chicago. But I live in Indiana.

What's my 'demand market', as it were? Is it Cali where my parent company lives? Is it Chicago where the subsidiary division I support operates? Or is it Indy?

How does one negotiate salary taking in all that when negotiating a permanent full remote transition?

(This is just for the sake of the hypothetical, I’m very satisfied with my current actual arrangement, but we’ve crossed into a new working world and consider me a career “prepper” or something)

i think there are reasonable arguments for each permutation of answers!

Ultimately, every negotiation comes down to BATNA (best alternative to negotiated agreement.) You have to demand from the company you think can/will pay the most the amount of compensation you are confident (but perhaps not sure) that you can get from the second-expected-highest company. This is similar to a Vickery auction -- the winner is the person who is willing to pay the most but they pay the price the second-highest bidder put forward.

In tech labor, the distribution of compensation for the same work is much wider than almost any market participant realizes.

To your last point, what would be the closest comparison? Is there even one? I’m sympathetic to the reality that there are lots of variables at play here between work sectors, but do you think a reasonable analogue exists in another industry, and could any actionable models be taken from, iterated upon and applied to tech labor with the effects of equalizing the demand curve and negotiating change through all of this?*

Appreciate the back and forth on this, it’s an interesting set of conditions we’re wading through as a society and I enjoy the thought experiment.


* there may be a better way to phrase this question, unable to figure how to put it, at the moment-if you’ll accept the pleasantry as far as the hypothetical will warrant it.

> I'm not saying it makes a lot of sense,

It makes all the sense. If you can get an apple for $1 from seller A and the same quality apple for $5 from seller B, why would you buy from seller B?

Since we are here, people not only will buy for $1 from seller A they will also show a faux outrage about bad treatment of workers at Seller A.

They can now, because top tier companies aren't competing for employees in small town Indiana.

But if this becomes widespread, they will be.

Question, to build on your second line there. Does tech hiring becomes more or less competitive if this becomes widespread, in your opinion?

yes, your skills did loose monetary value. That's because it costs X less to hire in that location. The reason people are will to accept X less is because there's a lower COL.

But, the crucial thing to remember is that people's calculation of ROI of compensation to COL is way off. And so they're being under compensated in places like the bay area relative to other areas. Bay area is 50% more than the rest of the country but the COL is x4 to x8 (heck even day care is x4 more in SF than houston).

i've posted this before: https://skilldime.com/blog/see-which-cities-pay-the-highest-...

As you can see, you're way better off anywhere outside the bay area even if the salaries are less.

> yes, your skills did loose monetary value. That's because it costs X less to hire in that location.

I disagree. Your skills didn’t drop. Your value didn’t drop. They weren’t going to hire anyone in <location> anyways, they’ll hire <local> if you quit. So you’re negotiating between them wasting time & money hiring for someone of equal value locally

That chart is completely ridiculous. I moved from one of the cities at the top of that list to SF. My pay went up by 3x, my living expenses went up by 4x and my overall savings increased by 3x.

the compensation numbers I put up are averages based on Stackoverflow salary postings.

You're pay going up by x3 could have many reasons. If you're in the early part of your career, that's very much possible but it's not typical of an average SE in SF vs an average SE in the rest of the nation.

> my question is: in this hypothetical, did my skills somehow lose monetary value to the company because I left the west coast and bought a house in Indiana? What’s the calculation on that one? Let’s talk numbers.

It’s a bad idea for a company to pay you significantly more than you could earn at a different job. Because then you’ll never quit even if you’re miserable. You’ll stick around and be a toxic presence.

This framing is merely convenient. I work in a company that has workers in several countries, and an equally valid framing is "Those in poorer countries are as productive as the Bay Area folks, it is unfair they get paid less. Therefore we will pay everyone equally".

The outcome is that Bay Area folks will get paid less than their current pay, and those in India get paid more than their current pay. Because there's no way my company can afford to pay all their developers Bay Area rates.

That would be using exactly the same rationale as your comment: Equal pay for equal productivity.

I agree that workers in other countries deserve to get paid the same high wages I get paid for doing the same labor I do. If a company can afford to pay me those wages just because of the passport I carry then they can afford to pay, for instance, my Indian colleagues the same fair wage.

Let's not pretend that all companies are cash-strapped startups. The FAANGs of the world and the Fortune $x companies and the multinationals can absolutely afford to pay their global workforce uniform wages, but they choose not to because it's not maximally profitable to do so.

> Let's not pretend that all companies are cash-strapped startups. The FAANGs of the world and the Fortune $x companies and the multinationals can absolutely afford to pay their global workforce uniform wages,

I'll contest that. FAANGs are extreme outliers. I can assure you my company, while it certainly can pay everyone an extra, say, 10%, definitely cannot pay all its SW engineers Bay Area salaries. And then Non-SW engineering companies - even the top ones - rarely have that much money. Their operating expenses and capital costs are a lot more than a SW company's is.

> Those in poorer countries are as productive as the Bay Area folks, it is unfair they get paid less.

That does not really make sense. Work does not have some inherent value, its value is based on market situation, and different markets have different price equilibriums.

Tell that to the developers in India.

Honestly, if you go 100% remote, you are now competing with a much, much larger pool of developers. You are not going to command Silicon Valley prices.

i don't think morality is really useful here: right or wrong, it doesn't matter. labor is labor; that software engineers are a talented, "woke" (or at least perceived as such) group of labor doesn't change anything. you trade your time for money, which you use to buy stuff and then continue to trade your time for money. that's the game.

software engineers have it pretty good, anyway. this manager's example is perfect: sure, people grumble, but they typically eventually accept a reduced salary. why is that? even at a reduced salary, most laborers will be OK with a non-physically-straining, intellectually decent job that lets them live where they want to live and largely earn enough to not worry too much.

Prices aren't set (solely) by value provided. If that were the case, toilet paper and other essentials would cost 10-100x more than it does today.

Prices are set by supply-and-demand. More to the point, companies will pay you the least amount of money they can, while still retaining you. Just like you pay the toilet paper company the least amount of money you can get away with, even if you get vastly more value out of it.

You're welcome to reject the above on principle. But then you'll have to settle for the next best alternative. And if the company's done its homework right, your next best alternative wouldn't be any better.

This is something I've debated for quite sometime prior to the pandemic.

Why do janitors, and wait staff get paid so little? Two of the most important jobs in the world are to clean things and feed people.

I guess anyone can clean a toilet or cook a burger, but to what level?

What about teaching?

Our world is definitely out of balance. I don't know to what degree, or as to why.

I mean really you already nailed it on the "anyone can clean a toilet or cook a burger". This is only from my own experience working in a chain restaurant kitchen, but to a pretty high level. You don't need to be a great chef or anything to be a standard line cook, even if you don't know how to cook they can teach you in one or two training days, everything is timed to the second and all the equipment beeps to let you know when it's done. I was 18 at the time with no experience, my interview was "what days can you work, and are you comfortable staying until the bar closes" and for every one of me there were 30 people ready to take over when someone quit, including high school kids and people fresh out of jail without many other options.

What is there to debate? As the person you responded to explained, people don't want to pay $10 for a roll of toilet paper because people can buy one for $0.50. People don't pay a janitor or cook $200 per hour because people can buy one at $15 per hour.

If UBI existed and no one "had" to work, then people would probably have to pay a janitor or a cook $200 per hour.

Employee compensation has very little to do with contribution. It has to do with labor competition. The only way to capture more compensation is shut out workers willing to work for less.

Because software developers are reluctant to form unions and show solidarity with their coworkers.

People need to understand that salaries are set based on cost of labor, not cost of living. Companies will pay what it takes, but that value is preset by what employees are willing to accept in any given market.

Because the value you provide is more fungible than you think, and it becomes an equation of supply and demand.

> You want to move to the Midwest and work remotely, or apply for a transfer to a different regional office? Happy to let you do it, but know that the market rate for your skills there is X, which means an adjustment in salary for a voluntary move.

It seems like nobody wins in this situation. If my goal is to maximize savings, I'd move to the Bay Area to get the maximum salary from you and find the cheapest housing in the area. I'd be miserable because I'm living in a place I don't like in a shitty apartment. On the other hand, if you offered to pay the same amount while I live in the midwest, I'd be happier with my living situation and be pocketing more cash. This would make me more productive and make me stay at the company longer, with no additional cost to you.

>"As a director of a team at a mid-sized tech company who had conversations with employees making decisions like this, I can tell you that it is standard practice to adjust salary for the cost of living and the availability of talent in a particular market."

It's standard practice for your company maybe. This hasn't been my experience at all. I have had three jobs where this was not the case. I've had colleagues who have experienced similar as well. People should be paid for their time. I can't even believe a company would want to engage in salary reduction negotiations with employees they value.

That doesn't make sense though, 'the market' isn't wherever they decide to move to, it's 'remote'. And yes, that will be less than SF rates, but it may well be more than non-remote rates wherever the employee happens to live.

It's not paying less that's silly, it's paying an artificial amount less. The only way in which location should come into it is restricting candidates to those located in (or willing to work to) a particular time zone(s).

Doesn't this just create an incentive for people to work remotely from high-COL areas, while living frugally?

Does relocating from San Francisco to San Jose also come with a pay cut? What about to Stockton? Modesto? Further out?

Generally speaking, CoL adjustments don't really make you whole. You may make more if you're in SF but housing is still going to take a significantly bigger chunk of your paycheck and you may or may not come out ahead at the end of the day.

Being on the periphery of a high cost area is probably the best deal. For most companies, for example, I imagine that Boston/Cambridge will be considered the same as Boston suburbs--even though within an hour drive you can get to vastly cheaper housing than in the city proper.

I wanted to add: If you live in SF and make $150k/yr and are able to put away 10% on investments that's $15k/yr. If you work somewhere else and take a move and make $75k/yr and are able to invest 20%, you haven't made a financial change. But a pay cut that big likely means you're somewhere that has less going on, less access to food, less for different types of activities, lower quality schools (that are funded less because property tax is lower), lower quality hospitals (big cities can afford all the fancy equipment and big time doctors), etc.

So to be honest, moving to a cheaper area with the exact same COL might not be better because of other factors involved.

Price, as it turns out, is a signal of value. Some of the value might be access to jobs which you may now be able to access from elsewhere, but certainly not all of it.

How many places in the United States have the immigrant communities of the Bay Area, for example? And how do you recreate such communities in cheap places without making them expensive?

> Generally speaking, CoL adjustments don't really make you whole.

Only if you don't live frugally, or if you aren't a senior engineer.

If you do, a lot of the high costs of a high-CoL area can be avoided.

If you are a senior engineer, that XY% raise over a junior is free money... Applied to a larger starting salary.

Oddly enough, high-CoL areas have the same, or higher % raises, when you are promoted, than low-CoL areas. In the mid-west, the wage difference between a senior and a junior may be $30,000. In the bay area, it can be $150,000. Your CoL doesn't go up just because you have a better job title.

It creates an incentive to establish legal domicile in a high-rent neighborhood and then always be somewhere else, "traveling", and taking care of all your business over the network.

So you can own/lease a broom closet or pied-a-terre in Expensiveton, maybe rent it out intermittently or to a "roommate", and actually work and sleep in Cheapsville.

If home address has an impact on take-home pay, it will be gamed just as hard as all the other metrics.

Do you pay them more if they want to work remotely and move to an expensive market like New York or London?

Yes, on the flipside, it works exactly the same way in reverse if someone is moving to a higher cost market. We benchmark against data from Radford & Comtrix (salary/pricing data providers) and adjust upwards on a regular basis too.

I'm a little confused by this.

To simplify, it seems like either you want developers that are physically present in London, in which case you have to find some and pay them London rates, or you don't particularly care if they are physically present, in which case I don't understand why you would pay someone working remotely from London differently from someone working remotely from Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

Presumably in both cases your company is getting the same value out of the employee. So why not hire only people working out of the Welsh countryside and refuse raises to anyone who wants to move to a higher COL area?

In other words, it seems like if I decide to work remote and lie about where I physically spend most of my time, it would make no difference to the company but might make one to my compensation, which, ignoring any moral judgement, just seems strange for the company.

>So why not hire only people working out of the Welsh countryside and refuse raises to anyone who wants to move to a higher COL area?

Companies do this to a certain degree. My anecdotal observation is that a lot of tech companies that aren't in the Bay Area or only have a small presence there don't in fact try particularly hard to be competitive with the big Bay Area employers--unless there's someone they really really want. People may still join for various reasons.

Because not everyone wants to work out of the Welsh countryside and the number of developers available there is limited. Which is a factor because developers still have some power. Because the market isn't completely flooded with developers.

Exploitative crap you can only pull because of lack of unions and power asymmetry. Bleh

If you're in a union, you're usually stuck in pay bands based on seniority.

Market rates are such a weird idea. The whole concept is.

You should pay for how GOOD an engineer is. Not for where (s)he lives.

This is a simplistic view of the situation.

Define "GOOD".

For a business a "GOOD" engineer is one who is able to deliver business value at minimal cost. If by "GOOD" you mean talented then you have to realize that the US doesn't have a monopoly on talented coders.

The greenback goes far in many places within your timezone. If borders are opened up via remote work companies will be forced to re-evalute the axes by which they quantify "GOOD" (talent, cost).

As an employee it is. As an employer it’s not.

>Happy to let you do it, but know that the market rate for your skills there is X

This seems logical, but determining X is still in your authority, so let's not pretend this is fair. It's usually not a granular break down of skills either, or worse, it's calculated by job title plus a single primary skill, e.g. "Senior C#/.NET Developer".

Doesn't seem logical to me. Unless they are also offering to increase salaries if you decide to move to a higher col area.

Make remote protected. Substitute your argument for any protected class and see how silly it becomes[1]. Just because the market (actually people) [2] can discriminate against group X it does not make it right.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_employment_opportunity

[2] https://elsajohansson.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/what-does-a-w...

Do these transitions actually work? I can't imagine taking a massive pay cut because I need to be closer to ailing parents. That is going to generate a lot of bitterness. What is the turnover like at your company?

If I deliver enough value to receive salary X, I don't see how my personal living arrangements factor in. There are stories of Google engineers vandwelling in company parking, by that standard they should have their salaries reduced.

I'm sure that if one of your directs asked for a raise because they moved in to a more expensive apartment you would politely refuse.


CoL adjustments have always seemed like a bit of a foreign idea to me, as someone who has been a freelancer for 20 years (WfH for 15). I'm not sure I would be able to sell my customers on the idea that I should get paid more because I live in X county. (Since my value proposition would be the same, assuming the customer wasn't in/near X.) On the other hand, if I lived in an area with a weaker tech scene, maybe my ability to negotiate would be weakened if they knew I didn't have a wealth of local options to fall back on?

So, as a director of a big team, you also offer to increase the salary of employees who want to move to higher col areas like, say London or Tokyo right? I mean, it's only fair. You pay what the market rate for the talent in that area is.

All places I've worked that have multiple locations adjust salary both up and down when employees move to different markets. It's all about the prevailing rate for labor where you are located, and not some measurement of the "value you provide".

Yes, but I assume these are all markets where these companies have physical presence. I doubt many are adjusting up because you want to move to London because you like the fog.

Sure, but 'remote' is the 'location', not home town.

You don't pay a non-London salary because the employee lives outside, or a Euro-denominated one because they commute from Paris.

If Twitter’s move is a sign of things to come, the “potential market” you’re talking about can become quite large.

I'm mixed on the cost of living to salary argument. If I provide X value to a company. Say I complete a project that generates Y revenue. Why am I now docked on pay, because I'm choosing to live in a lower cost of area. Have I contributed less to compete this business item that now generates revenue. I find I'm more productive working remotely. So I'm doing more to drive that revenue line for the company.

I think this comes down, we're not paid based on revenue we generate. But to keep us out of the talent pool. Or how much an adjacent firm may be willing to pay us. I don't believe it's based on what I can offer.

The next argument is on market salary demand. I live locally in a market that makes no use of my technical skill set. If I need to keep cash flowing I find any three month contract to keep the lights on. But then I go back to being remote, and compete on a remote pool.

Now we're on a remote pool set. America, or another cheaper to live country. If it's an external firm, do we have a middle company that can handle that tax implications. So we can hire a developer in Southern Asia or Europe. That role can now be filled for a drastic monetary reduction. But at the cost of management over head. Time zone difference, communication lag, better remote processes / documentation, etc. I've helped a few teams acclimate to these off shore changes.

As an aside I always found it odd companies that outsource a majority of their development to an off shore firm. That will never be on site. But if a full time, on site, employee asked for a wfh to watch a sick kid, they had to burn a PTO day.

Compared to an off shore developer there is one thing a country local developer may offer. Better communication with stake holders. Working in the same time zone. Communication especially remote is a big deal. I've seen a number of teams not be able to adapt to the time zone difference or communication differences.

I went to work for a FAANG company several years ago. I took a 35% pay cut off my last local job, while my rent increased by about 60%. I did it for the experience. I've never seen the high FAANG salaries people talk about, but that's just me. I'm also horrible at leet code / hacker rank so there's that, and I studied for over a year on hacker rank to get that job.

As to my experience with cost of living adjustment frankly they've been border line insulting. Locally, on site, if I find a role that uses most of my skills I'm looking 150/180(full time / w2 contract). I had a fully remote contract role, that used all my skills and challenged me. That paid me 245. I always look at my rate as what is the given task and job duties, because I generally work medium to long term contracts. Senior Software, vs Dev Ops, vs SRE, vs Product manager all have different salary bands. I don't have a blanket salary, it's always what's the role you're asking me to do.

When I first got a COL adjustment rate, I laughed. Then I became frustrated, and then I ignored COL adjusted salaries. Coming off a local contract role at 165, I was in talks for a more senior position, full time remote. A company out of a high cost of living area no less, started at 95. I'm not against being paid a bit less, but that drastic of a pay cut is insulting to senior staff. If you're going to pay me less, I want to know why.

Regardless of locale, I'm incurring more costs. I pay for better internet, stocking of coffee/pantry, electricity, and the big expense space. I still live in a city. Getting a second bed room can help a lot ensure a better work from home environment.

Globalization is going to become very interesting. I moved from New York for about a 10% salary reduction, while halving my rent. The determining factor is politics, and how people can adapt to working remotely.

It cuts both ways, right?

Companies: "I don't have to pay you $big_city rates because you live in $small_town and nobody there will offer you $big_city rates."

Candidates: "I don't have to accept $small_town rates because I work remotely and can work for a company in $big_city."

> But if a company is fully remote, why should it adjust for costs of living at all? Candidate A lives in an expensive place and Candidate B has an expensive hobby. Neither is the company's concern, is it? The bottom line is that each is worth $X to the company and wants $Y in compensation.

Because if it wants to hire workers that live in SF, it has to pay SF wages. It doesn't have to pay SF wages to workers living in Tulsa.

Think about it flipped around a bit. Let's say that instead of hiring employees, you're buying candy bars. Someone running a bodega in NYC isn't gonna give you a discount just because you're going to have the candy bar mailed to Oklahoma.

The bottom line is not the $X value and the $Y compensation. It's a lot more complicated than that. Just like the company's bargaining position is a complex mixture of the value that different employees provide and the opportunity cost of leaving a position unfilled, the employee's bargaining position is affected by the salary the company is willing to provide and the opportunity cost of accepting this job offer instead of another.

> It doesn't have to pay SF wages to workers living in Tulsa.

Not yet. When Tulsa engineers wake up to their value, they hold the cards.

I’ve been on the hiring side for good senior engineers. They’re hard to hire, period.

They take a ton of time to properly screen and by the end of the interview process, the company has wasted so many resources that could have been used for development if they don’t land that person.

I work for a company based in a major west coast city from a non-major city in the southeast. My employer has different buckets it puts cities in and then limits your base pay based on those buckets. Even with that limitation, my compensation is much higher than what I would make at a local company but not the rate I would get in a 'premium' market.

The most impactful benefit for me is I get to work on $big_city problems with $big_city talent. $Small_town problems and the $small_town talent are mind-numbing and deeply frustrating to work with

Strangely, you could be getting paid from the premium bucket. They have that budget. It’s there. You provide the same value as Adam from SF.

Why not you?

Short reason is because the market is driven not only by what value you provide, but how strong your negotiating position is.

As an analogy, imagine someone from NYC traveling to Mexico City to get tacos from a cart on the street at 9 pesos a pop (about 50¢ US). Those tacos are better than the tacos in New York, so why aren’t they paying $4 each?

The market is / will be self-balancing in this case. If companies can't hire people they'll have to come up with more than you're offering. If you're unemployed, you'll have to accept less than you're asking.

Yeah, it won't last forever. If remote work becomes more popular, salaries will become more harmonized, as well costs of living.

Unfortunately a lot of folks are going to find out that 'harmonized' means lower, and maybe a lot lower. Cost of living may not adjust fast enough.

It depends. Many engineers will run elsewhere once they start getting paid less than they deserve, and the company is cutting paychecks for profits. The more extreme the difference, the crazier it will get.

Not forever, but it'll be longer than most people think.

We've tried to make a vaccine for the original SARS. It's been 12 years now and there's still no successful, safe vaccine for it. For COVID-19, if a vaccine is released within the optimistic 18 months, how safe will it be compared to vaccines that went through all the trials normally?

I believe rconti was not talking about the duration of COVID19 issues, nor the duration of WFH. Rather, the evolution of economic norms given the assumption of sustained normalization of remote work.

I think you're mistaken, since WFH gained massive adoption due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It's also what I believe he's referring to by, "Yeah, it won't last forever." I don't appreciate the downvote either for a reasonable comment.

The same reason they didn’t hire someone from the Texas suburbs rate in the first place.

An employee’s rate depends on how much they would be going for in the market, and living costs are part of the employee’s expenses—not that of the company’s.

Suddenly the market becomes really large, including India, China and Eastern Europe in addition to the mid-west.

There's a bit of a spectrum. Companies have learned to have employees working from home, but they're all in the timezone they were in before, they already got to work together in-person before being in this situation, and entire teams were put into the same situation at once. That's a step toward full support of remote people all over the globe, but the further you get the more you have to factor in legal overhead, cultural and situational differences, time zone difference, etc.

To be clear - I'm a big fan of remote work, I'm just saying that companies have been forced to solve only a subset of the problem they face before the market really can scale to be that large for everyone.

"Remote work" is globalization of white collar jobs. It is baffling to me highly paid tech workers do not see it.

"Work from home" is the first step. If a company embraces work from home, it embraces completely asynchronous communication. As soon as that becomes an acceptable way of solving problems, Vlad making $50k/year in Ukraine who will do 65 hours a week will become a contender to replace Jackson in SF, who is making $250k/year and refuses to work more than 40 hours a week because of work/life balance.

I do not know if its my non traditional background (no degree in computer science, big emphasis in history and philosophy since middle school) but I'm baffled by how politically naive many people in software can be. I understand why you might not like it but in pretending politics do not matter or won't affect you, you are letting other people decide and most importantly, think for you.

How many people think tech companies are just completely well-intentioned in everything they do? Curb your enthusiasm, a healthy chug of skepticism is needed.

I chose CS as my major in 2001. Yeah, during the dotcom crash and the outsourcing frenzy. I was told I would never have a job.

I'm not saying it will never pass. But history has shown it's much harder than you're making it out to be. We already had a great outsourcing attempt 20 years ago which had questionable results. And now pay is higher than ever.

Maybe they will be successful this time. But I'm not going to lose sleep over it. I haven't based my life around earning an SF bay area salary. My retirement is already paid for. My house is 80% paid for. College funds for children are mostly paid for.

> And now pay is higher than ever.

I think this is, as usual, specific to the Bay Area and maybe NYC, and also limited to the top 10% of developers at tech companies.

I don't think tech salaries are all that great even in other big cities like DC or Denver, especially as home prices have also passed their 2007 highs, while salaries were stagnant and bonuses or equity are nothing like in FAANG companies. This is especially true when non-managers salary cap at about 40, which is when many professionals in other industries are just getting started making good money.

A lot of small cities might have no real tech companies and only a few large Fortune 500 companies that employ half the software engineers in the whole city. All it takes is one or two of them to decide to offshore half the IT department to Bangalore while signing a big deal with Cognizant or Infosys for the other half in house (i.e. H1Bs brought in from India). If you're stuck in that city, you're looking at wage stagnation for a long while.

It's still okay if you're a good developer - top 25% - at age 27 making $90K in a low COL city, while most of your peers are barely out of grad school. But it's not when you're 40 making $120K and all your peers - nurses, government workers, sales, lawyers, entrepreneurs - have caught up, often with far more stability and better working conditions. I think software engineering has gotten to be a dead-end career for a lot of us not working at tech companies in big cities, and globalization and H1Bs have continued eating away at the industry for the majority of us working as contractors and at big corps.

> I'm not saying it will never pass. But history has shown it's much harder than you're making it out to be. We already had a great outsourcing attempt 20 years ago which had questionable results. And now pay is higher than ever.

The technological barriers in the last 20 years prevented effective outsourcing of tech jobs. Since the technology did not work, the cultural acceptance of it did not matter.

I did one of the first live streaming events over the internet in 1995. It involved a convert venue, a dedicated T1 line to the data center hosting the web server, a Cisco 2501, a computer camera that i rigged to a frame grabber, and a "beefy" web server running on Sparc10. After we got the telco to install the line it took about 2 days to do the rest. The "broadcast" lasted between 11pm and 3am. I think it had about 9 concurrent viewers at its peak and 12 total. The promoter of the venue paid ~$4k to do it. That's the accessible "telepresence" at the time.

I was at a company that had offices on the West Coast, NYC, DC and UK in 2000 or so. We had a video conference system and IP phones. It was possible to do a "meeting" with the other offices and it worked pretty well -- sound was fine video a bit jerky. It helped that we had our own network. Someone tried to take a headend home and use the his at home cable connection. It sucked. The video barely did 5-10 frames a second.

Today I can walk into most of random coffee shops and do a professional quality video call. The technology is here. The only blocker for leveling playing field is cultural. The circumstances are forcing companies to remote the cultural barrier. Would they put it back when the lock downs are over? I seriously doubt, especially if they save $200k/year per high paid employee.

Markets are still going to be separated by time zones.

There are US traders that trade in HK. They maintain HK hours. Money apparently is good.

And an employee in the Texas suburbs will generally be "going for" less, given it's a different market. Sure, as more people are working remotely, the gaps will close more, but someone living in a cheaper area is generally going to be willing to accept less pay. As such, the going rate in the cheaper area will generally be lower.

That is a conflation of cause and effect. Employees in general may be paid less in Texas, but that doesn’t mean the location is the cause.

As companies go remote, they will depress salaries as a side effect of no longer having a locality-sensitive hiring constraint. But again the cause is the hiring constraint—not the location the employee is in.

A straightforward legal fix is to make location one of the things you can't ask about during hiring, like age, marital status, or disability.

All they should be able to ask is what fraction of their work hours you're available for. It could be that everyone must be online 9-5 PST, or there're a few hours of overlap, or there's no expectation of common work hours as long as you "get your work done."

If that really happens, the next order effect will be cheaper rents in the bay area.

Even now, there are some good rent deals. I moved to a new apartment a couple weeks ago (mainly because I needed a better WFH space to work effectively) and got 6 weeks free on my lease, which isn't normally seen in the bay area.

When the pandemic passes though I do hope to be able to return to working from an office, if just because it's less lonely and there is usually better sunlight in business spaces than what I get at home. Maybe 2-3 days a week in the office and 2-3 days from home would be a nice balance, when it is safe to do so. Employers may also see the value in at least providing some additional financial incentive for living closer to the office and being willing to come to the office (if safe), although enabling full remote work for those who choose it is something I also fully agree with.

At a certain point people will move to the bay area for the higher paycheck, so that keeps it adjusted pretty high. Companies are not competing against local-to-the-employee employers, they are competing with all employers globally.

Even with regional adjustments, the math usually works out in your favor to not be in the bay area.

"What's the guarantee" - There is no guarantee. Then again, there is no guarantee that the person who bought my drink didn't spike it with molly either...

I'd be fine with that. Even 30% reduction in pay would still be much better in an affordable city like Chicago or Houston.

Hey, as someone from a cheap Texas suburb... why did we get singled out for this example specifically?

They don’t need to pay SF rates. 100K in Indianapolis buys you a way better standard of living than 200K in SF.

The problem is that I've seen the pay difference be far larger than that. I worked in the midwest and people getting paid $100k moved to the bay area for $300k+

No, it doesn't. Or, rather, it doesn't while also leaving the same amount of money for savings and discretionary spending: which is the same thing. It may get you a bigger house, but you pay for that in terms of opportunity (not just jobs, but savings, culture and recreation).

Only if you disregard things like weather, things to do, proximity to great nature, and maybe not even then.

Maybe Indianopolis isn't the perfect example for everyone. Portland, perhaps. Better proximity to great nature, still a lot of things to do, great weather (and getting better every year thanks to climate change, while California gets drier and drier), somewhat lower cost of living, etc.

Portland sees the same cost of living trends as the Bay Area, so enjoy the arbitrage while it lasts I suppose. (For what it’s worth, so does every similarly desirable metro area in the USA outside of Houston.)

Agreed. We jokingly (and sometimes not jokingly) talk smack to Californians moving north to Portland in hopes they won't come, because along with the steady influx of people comes steadily increasing housing prices. As much as I have said for years I never want to live some place like Seattle, I have to admit that Portland isn't really that far behind.

If you do that you also have to disregard the other myriad ways in which Indianapolis is a better place to live than SF.

The weather in Indianapolis is tolerable most of the year.

Their biggest problem is that they are on Eastern time, despite being way too far west for it, observe DST, and start public schools way too early.

Also, they have developed traffic circle cancer all over their north side.

Culture embracing remote work would help disperse the wealth geographically. It would hurt some property owners in urban meccas I suppose

I doubt you'd be able to keep that current compensation, though. Most people I've talked with who have moved out of the bay area (or another HCOL area) to somewhere with a lower cost of living have either gotten an immediate pay cut, or their company has told them that they won't be getting pay raises until their pay is in-line with their new local market.

Companies don't do this. They will adjust your salary down based on your city of residence. Square is one example of this. You're not compensated for the value you provide, you're compensated for the cost of living near the office.

You're also now competing against a national talent pool vs locals only

> Companies don't do this.

Some do. I've gotten this deal in the past personally and know others that have as well. Always for employees with tenure that they want to keep around. Remote salaries in tech are typically well-above "local" rates, either way.

So you're considering Candidate A, who lives in SF, and B, who lives in a small town.

You decide that B has to compete with A on talent, but A doesn't have to compete with B on price.

Does that make strategic sense?

Yes. Stripe and Gitlab follow that model for their remote workforce.

If you want to hire A, you have to compete with local SF company that pay high wages.

If you want to hire B, you have to compete with local small town companies which pay low wages, plus a very small number of remote companies which are in the same position as you from a game-theoretical perspective.

I think it's obvious that in the long term, if remote work becomes widespread, wages (and thus cost of living) will level out, but in the short term if few enough companies do it they can beat the prisoner's dilemma and keep remote wages lower than the ones in Silicon Valley.

Candidate A probably wouldn't live in SF if he didn't have to

That's the whole point though. You're not going to be able to "keep your current compensation" if companies embrace this in earnest.

Top talent will. The trick is to be good enough to be top talent.

Top talent from Canada is less than one third the price of the US top talent though.

From Canada or in Canada? A lot of the "Top Talent" in Canada simply couldn't make it to the US due to stricter visa requirements.

The difference between "in" and "from" is not material when you don't even have to show up to sit in a cubicle.

I meant that a lot of the top talent in Canada is already working in the US. There's a skill gap between top talent in the US and top talent in Canada.

Well, they may lose their jobs to folks still in Canada then. You can get a seasoned dev in Canada for less money than a fresh grad in San Francisco. If the company switches to be distributed a-la GitLab, there's no reason not to do it. The reason why offshoring nearly always failed in the past is because teams weren't fully distributed/remote. If a company re-tools around distributed, it can operate just fine as long as there aren't any "hallway conversations" remote workers don't have access to.

>The reason why offshoring nearly always failed in the past is because teams weren't fully distributed/remote

That's an interesting theory. It doesn't match what I've observed where the offshore team almost always had a skill gap with the on-site team.

Remember that in this case it'd be "offshoring", not "offshore outsourcing". That is, the company would be able to maintain the hiring bar at that reduced cost.

Spent 20 years WFH on various personal projects, earning money on my own, and now I am hired and working from office. Too much freedom can be hard to cope with. A little bit of structure can be great.

Or even have the funds to start your own company rather than spend it on rent / housing.

Largely the compensation in SV and NYC was high because those were the cultural centers, it is expensive to live there but "everyone" wanted to be there.

Make no mistake - work from home means the salaries are going to regress to the midwest level of pay.

I would imagine salaries might dip because your new "competition" would be anyone in the same timezone (with the requisite skills). However I'd also imagine, if you are good, the offset would be well in your favour.

I got covid and was (and still am) as sick as hell. I'm going to live (not sure if I will get back to 100% yet), and I never thought this kind of sorely needed decentralization would happen in my lifetime. It almost feels like a fair swap, as this is going to be so, so good for humanity. If we can get a decent handle on covid, I'm actually feeling optimistic for my children, for the first time in years.

I want to live in a city with an abundance of arts organizations; but it does seem a bit odd to live in a place that has those things, but can't be accessed.

What with the virus and how it played out in nyc I wouldn't be surprised to see a large migration out of cities in the coming years.

My understanding is that this has big tax implications (since presumably said low cost of living areas are outside of California). I would love to understand better what sorts of complications WFH bring to the table for those cases (and how they can be mitigated).

The company needs to do payroll in a different state and you, as an individual, now pay taxes in your state of residence which isn't where company HQ is.

From a tax perspective it's mostly no different than if they had a small office in that state.

For big companies, in particular, it's not that big a deal as they're probably using a payroll service like ADP anyway. There may be some paperwork--and certainly more so if other countries are involved.

You’re vastly underestimating the work of “setting up an office” in a new state. Every state has a bunch of paperwork, like setting up your company as a foreign corporation in that state. Then there is state licensing. Also every state has its own worker’s compensation requirements and some have other requirements too.

Your payroll provider generally tells you that you’re on your own for all that stuff.

For every additional state there is a ton of overhead.

I’ve had employees in California, Washington, and New York. It took two years to unwind Washington after the one employee there left, and it took a year and 20 hours of lawyer time to unwind New York, who was trying to charge us $5,000 as a penalty for missing paperwork we didn’t think we had to file (we ended up being right after paying the lawyer).

Payroll companies handle all the workers comp and payroll related duties for all different states and they do it for near nothing.

The only thing you are on your own for is tax filings and registration as a foreign entity. And that is only in some cases in some states. In most states, having a few remote employees is not enough to even trigger a filing requirement. In CA, which is probably one of the most draconian, we had to register as a foreign entity and then we have to file corporate taxes there and allocate taxes proportionally according to percentage of revenue that comes from CA, I believe.

And actually, they want your corporate income tax even if you don't have employees there, just because you sell to Californians. But they have had a hard time collecting for those that have no employees or other presence in the state.

> Payroll companies handle all the workers comp and payroll related duties for all different states and they do it for near nothing.

I know for a fact this is wrong. Payroll companies don’t do worker’s compensation in Washington because the state runs the insurance program. You have to register with the state.

The state runs most workers comp programs as far as I know. How is Washington any different than say California? I may have had to follow some one time instructions to initially setup a workers comp account in California, but I haven't touched it since. And my $50/month payroll service handles all of the payments and filings for me.

Here is Gusto’s page on worker’s compensation:


All 50 states have a different process. Many require you to get a private policy but some have state run funds.

As an example, I have to deal with my insurance agent annually for my worker’s compensation in California and then deal with Washington separately for their scheme.

Oh yes, you are right about workers comp. My mind just went to unemploent insurance everytime I read workers comp.

Sounds like a startup opportunity!

Honestly I’m surprised Gusto doesn’t handle more of the work of setting up in a new state. Seems like it would be in their wheelhouse.

I admit to having been naive on the issue. I know that bureaucracies are involved but it still seems as if at least the 90% case would be pretty cookie-cutter/repeatable even if there are a lot of steps and potential gotchas.

Unemployment insurance, family/medical leave, workers comp, and health insurance are all different by state. That can be a lot of overhead for the first employee in a new state, but then the second is trivial.

I had two different scenarios in mind: one happened to an acquaintance, where they negotiated a pay cut (because presumably the company doesn't want to pay Bay Area salary to a remote worker in a location in an area w/ lower salary base), and there was the question of taxes involving part of the year in one state and part in another (plus the math for RSUs and options, of which the person had vested both in both states).

The other scenario involves visa workers. The I-140 is predicated on not being able to find local candidates that match a criteria. More broadly, the H1-B visa grant pertains to foreigners being able to work in the US at all in the first place. I'd imagine that if you had everything setup to be remote from the beginning it'd probably be fine to keep things humming along, but I imagine that switching surely must pose some sort of logistic challenge?

Wow so if I work for a company with an office in Chicago, but I work in their SF office - I could potentially relocate without a salary adjustment?

I was just talking about taxes. Whether the company adjusts salaries based on your home address is orthogonal.

For big companies, this is an international problem!

And then tax issues aren't just the employees' income taxes but the company's tax regime.

mitchellh discusses some of the international complexities here:


It's definitely way more complicated than adding an employee in a new state.

Absolutely! In that long comment, mitchellh briefly talks about the impact of employing folks in different states on potential corporate tax.

Now imagine you ran one of the big billion+ USD revenue tech companies, and you're not talking about different states in the same country but a distributed workforce in many countries and the political pressures on taxation of e-commerce or similar business models involving intangible goods. One of the key arguments in many a tech company's tax/legal toolbox (usually for arguing they should pay taxes on one jurisdiction instead of another) is in which countries their engineering efforts reside and to what extent.

It's really no wonder that employment legal & finance wins out on totally flexible work arrangements in that situation, for better or worse. Politicians aren't taking any hostages in this context, see eg. France.

To provide an example from sufficient years back: I had to represent the stance of a past employer on compliance with Russian privacy laws to Roskomnadzor[1] in their HQ in Moscow. Through a carefully planted trick they tried to get us to commit to establish just the right kind of representation to be able to tax our revenue from Russian customers. In many countries, the narrative would've been "you have engineers here, you therefore build your products here, you should pay income tax here". Curiously, there isn't really obvious right or wrong in all this since the goods are intangible.

[1] https://www.google.com/search?q=roskomnadzor

(Disclaimer: experience entirely from prior to my current employment at Google, I don't speak for Google in any way and have no insight into these matters at Google.)

> The company needs to do payroll in a different state and you, as an individual, now pay taxes in your state of residence which isn't where company HQ is.

This is not always true.

I'm remote. I pay my state and CA taxes for my CA based company even though I have never set foot in CA for this job.

I've unfortunately become a payroll tax-witholding specialist.

You're required to withold taxes in the state that work is performed. If you're working from home, that's your work location.

You should get refunded for your CA taxes at the end of the year if they are being withheld.

Like others have said, check with an accountant, I have worked remotely for the past 11 years in NC, for companies in GA, CT and NY, but because I'm 100% remote, I only have to pay NC taxes. None of them ever had an office in NC

I confess I don't know what the laws are then. Presumably you don't pay both your state and CA taxes on your whole salary?

I confess I've never been in the position of being officially completely remote. I certainly don't pay taxes to the state where my company's HQ is but then I'm officially in an office in my state of residence. (And maybe the existence of that office would make a difference even if I weren't actually assigned there.)

Is that something specific to CA?

I've worked remotely for 5 years and have only ever paid state income tax in my home state, not wherever my employer is.

You may want to talk to a CPA or tax specialist. You’re most likely violating your state law as well as overpaying on your taxes.

I've also heard of stories of people getting in trouble for "moving residence" to Incline Village (Nevada) and doing taxes in Nevada while working in CA.

I can imagine more companies adopting a cost of living adjustment. There’s also a non trivial tax burden complexity with an employee base spread around the country/world.

Hey! I'd love to hear more about this. Want to chat? My email is alex.kantrowitz at Gmail dot com

Obviously your salary would diminish similarly.

If you have great skills you can do that today. If you don't have great skills and a company has made itself amenable to remote work, then why would they hire you at a Bay Area salary instead of firing you and hiring someone already in that location for half your salary?

This makes sense. In my team it’s the same: the young guys like going out together after work and also often don’t have the space at home to set up a good workplace. They also need the most handholding. I remember some discussions a while ago where the conclusion was that it’s hard to onboard juniors remotely and remote is more suitable for experienced people.

This was my experience as well.

When I started as a developer, my team was fully remote (I was the only developer in NYC, most of the rest were in Portugal or elsewhere in the US.) I found it very difficult to ask questions remotely for several reasons: I never knew if I was intruding on somebody else's time, and explaining things over Slack isn't as effective (in retrospect, I should have made more use of video and voice chat). YMMV: some people are probably more bold in asking questions remotely. For newer developers, this is important.

You really can't overstate how useful it is to just plunk your laptop down in front of another developer and ask questions while staring at the same screen.

At my current company, I'm usually co-located with our other developer, which made the process of clarifying things for both of us a lot easier. As I've gained experience, I've found it a lot easier to ask questions remotely: we've made great use of various voice/video/screensharing functionality for this purpose.

This is why assigning an "onboarding buddy" is so important (even on-site) ... a new team member isn't going to feel empowered to ask questions and interrupt people right off the bat usually. Their more-senior onboarding buddy can make the introductions and get their questions answered by the right person without feeling awkward about it.

This isn't really a remote-only problem

I'm sure people will respond with the obvious need for an onboarding guide or helper, but even this is harder to do remote. When I onboard in-person I can watch the new hire, judge their mental state or know if they're busy, check in with them often - at the right time and get to know them personally. All do-able remote but much harder.

It's only harder if you have a 20th century notion of privacy and aren't willing to be on videoconference all day to emulate copresennce.