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.
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.
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.
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.
Basecamp's founders have been working hard to hammer this point (lower expectations and treat humans like humans) home lately.
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.
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.
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.
Note: I thought I had it bad with my office, that has no door, but you have me beat pretty handily.
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.
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.
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.
I for one expect lower productivity from my staff whether or not they have kids, and am adjusting delivery dates to account for this.
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.
... 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.
Infant = stressed, but manageable
Toddler = worst case scenario
Young child = second worst case scenario
Teen = enjoyable
Brutal doesn’t begin to describe it.
This tends to work very well for about 30 minutes, and then they're in a fight.
I'm lucky that my software job is mostly conducive to this...
You have the life I want.
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.
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, 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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?
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'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.
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 just gave their topline reported results.
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.
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.
OK for a day or so a week. But that's a huge chunk out of your day if it's a daily thing.
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 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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
- 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.
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.
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? :-)
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.)
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".
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.
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.
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
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'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 ranted about this today . 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.
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.
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.
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.
But with FOMA out of the way - I'm happy as larry staying in and having those same conversations selectively and remotely.
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).
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.
When people are physically in a room, you can focus on body language, you can focus on emotions. On a voice call or email, its a little bit easier to focus on data and not who has the fancy watch on.
It sounds like there is a choice so hopefully this is a temporary situation for you.
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.
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 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.
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.
Thanks for your detailed response, though. I understand what you're saying more clearly.
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.
 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.
If they aren’t wage fixing!
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.
Good luck with all of that.
That said there’s probably a bunch of laws around faking residency for tax purposes which id imagine has some hefty consequences.
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.
Falsifying this, to my knowledge, is not only a bad idea, but could easily be a termination-level offense and could be illegal.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I think most companies fall under "what's the minimum we can get away with?"
>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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Yep, that's exactly what a Google recruiter told me - they try to pay at the upper end of the _local_ market.
For example, my paycheck literally has withholdings for California every two weeks.
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.
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?
Google made $65 billion in 2014, and had ~20k engineers, which puts the number per engineer at $3.5 million.
That's only the case if skilled engineers are fungible entities with a smooth supply/demand curve. That is absolutely not the case.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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 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.
Not every online conversation has to be a fight with winners and losers.
I'm not claiming they can't, but their intention isn't proof either way.
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.
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
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.
Yes. I have remote working friends who've been required to take a pay cut because they moved.
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.
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.
I guess the employer could have some contractual terms requiring your address to be at some location. I’ve never seen that though.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(I know it's not quite that simple, but I think it's interesting to think about.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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 employee's local cost-of-living will factor into the comp.
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?
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:
If it doesn't matter where you are to work for the company then why does it matter if you're even in America.
- Some anti-WFH person, probably
There are downsides to working from home, it's silly to dismiss them as mindlessness from the other camp.
I wonder how that effect virtualizes.
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.