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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
I take 5k a day or so, Trader Joe’s has for $5.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
If my office was 10 min walk away I would not want to work at home, but it is 1h by car ...
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.
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...
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.
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.
Product and Design so far doesn't seems work well without close face to face collaboration.
(I'm pro WFH but pretending it's the same just seems foolish to me.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I think the biggest use case will be helping recreate the virtual water cooler.
(I WFH exclusively for 10+ years and still regularly miss the office for anything which isn't deep down coding, but requires communication)
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.
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?
The Google of today is different: multiple billion dollar business units, all well-staffed with managers.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are really good USB mics these days that are just plug and play. The Blue series for instance (Yeti, etc).
A $20 USB gaming headset with a mouth mic arm might work, too.
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.
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 dont think that is hard to replicate. Group chat / slack / teams is a common feature and can easily be used to fill this void.
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....
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.
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
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?
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
For people where there is only a handful of people with those skills in the world, they command ny/sf pay wherever they live.
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)
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.
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.
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?
But if this becomes widespread, they will be.
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:
As you can see, you're way better off anywhere outside the bay area even if the salaries are less.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
If UBI existed and no one "had" to work, then people would probably have to pay a janitor or a cook $200 per hour.
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.
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.
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).
Does relocating from San Francisco to San Jose also come with a pay cut? What about to Stockton? Modesto? Further out?
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.
So to be honest, moving to a cheaper area with the exact same COL might not be better because of other factors involved.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
You should pay for how GOOD an engineer is. Not for where (s)he lives.
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).
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".
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.
You don't pay a non-London salary because the employee lives outside, or a Euro-denominated one because they commute from Paris.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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
Why not you?
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?
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?
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.
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.
"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.
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'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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
Even with regional adjustments, the math usually works out in your favor to not be in the bay area.
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.
You're also now competing against a national talent pool vs locals only
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.
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?
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.
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.
Make no mistake - work from home means the salaries are going to regress to the midwest level of pay.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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?
And then tax issues aren't just the employees' income taxes but the company's tax regime.
It's definitely way more complicated than adding an employee in a new state.
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 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.
(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.)
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.
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.
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.)
I've worked remotely for 5 years and have only ever paid state income tax in my home state, not wherever my employer is.
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 isn't really a remote-only problem