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Letting Employees Work Remotely Pays Off (inc.com)
91 points by czue on Sept 29, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 35 comments

This article's title should specify that by "work remotely," it means "live together with your coworkers in an exotic location remote from company headquarters."

Wait a minute, they went to Brazil and chose... São Paulo?

They chose a crowded traffic-clogged endless concrete jungle, over the airy, green, lush beachside tropical paradise of Rio?

At least it says they went to Rio on long weekends.

We had a free place to stay and connections in São Paulo, which was a huge reason. Also, after visiting Rio we all collectively agreed that if we had been there the whole time we wouldn't have been able to get any actual work done. Although we did have a great time while there.

I have only worked remotely in my career (as in by myself inside a home office), and I have worked in full remote as well as in mixed local/remote teams.

If you are in a position to choose/offer to work remotely, make sure that everyone you have to interact with is communicating in the same way, at least for work stuff. If half of your team is in an office and they aren't making an effort to communicate equally with the both local and remote team members, it will not work well. Having a remote team means an overhead in the communication for the local team.

Anyways, here is a great collection of resources on working remotely: http://www.wideteams.com/

Can we please not make programming with your shirt off in the workplace a trend? I've heard of brogrammers but this takes it to another level.

It's pretty hot in Brazil, and not common to have A/C in homes, outside of bedrooms. Men often don't wear shirts at home, or at friends' homes, and this is just someone's apartment.

When in Rome...

Pants were optional for the Reddit staff.

Sounds like a cool idea. But frankly, for me, I hate programming on a laptop (which I have to do when I travel.) I much prefer the 3 * 22" monitor setup I have in the office. Not to mention the comfy chair, office-with-a-door and so on.

I can see how it kinda makes sense, a bit of fun, and a bit of holiday, good team building and so on, but its not something that appeals to me. Maybe, probably, I'm just too old....

Edit - it also probably helps that I live in a town with good weather all year round.

Working remotely doesn't have to mean traveling while you work. You can live wherever you want and have an office at home. Being able to choose where you want to live based on factors other than your ability to find employment there greatly increases quality of life (and a happy programmer is a productive programmer).

I had that problem before getting a retina MBP. I've basically retired my desktop at this point, and when I need some quiet time with the monitors, I can drive three externals plus the onboard display.

(I'm getting rid of my 3x23" 1080p panels for two 27" 2560x1440 panels, because I want to be able to drive those and my Cintiq at the same time.)

Wow. I mean wow. Somehow they convinced a bunch of smart people that working remotely is like a vacation. And to brag to their friends about it! That's amazing.

For me, visiting foreign lands does not mean staying with my coworkers in an apartment all day long working and then maybe having a drink after work in a different climate. Call me crazy, but living with my coworkers for upwards of six weeks in paradise that I can't really spend real time in sounds kind of awful.

I'm in Australia right now, working remotely 3 days a week from Seattle. My family lives here, and working remotely means I can see my friends and family in the evenings and on weekends, and not use up my vacation time while they're at work anyway. A month is long enough that I can work around other people's schedules to catch up, go away for a weekend with someone, etc instead of being all 'drop everything, I'm visiting!'. It's inconvenient being 18 hours off the home timezone, but it's not that bad and I would (will) do it again. The restrictions on communication have caused some trouble but mostly exposed holes where people aren't using expected status tools to keep records up to date, which is good to know anyway. Some of my coworkers I have gone away with on real vacations, so sharing an apartment with them for a bit doesn't sound that bad at all.

For me, visiting foreign lands for a week of sightseeing is lame anyway - I'd much rather go live there for a month in a regular rhythm, going grocery shopping and maybe for a drink after work. Different strokes.

They didn't make it compulsory, different people enjoy different things. It sounds pretty good to me but I know that there would be others that would hate the idea.

Expensify sends the whole company somewhere remote for one month each year. Last year they did Vietname - initial discussion at http://blog.expensify.com/2011/10/25/expensify-offshore-2011... and full details at http://blog.expensify.com/tag/vietnam/

Thailand this year: http://blog.expensify.com/2012/09/28/expensify-offshore-2012...

I have no connection to Expensify other than reading their blog which I originally saw posted on HN. This adds a second datapoint showing the principle working for more than one company.

Another interesting approach is on Rand Fishkin's blog where Seomoz will reimburse employees up to $3,000 each in vacaction expenses.

The message is consistent - a change of scenery either as a group or individuals is benefical to the company.

Too bad while so many people think working remotely is cool- the majority of startups demand on-location presence.

What kind of hours do these guys work? If it's 60 hour weeks it sounds like a hellish lifestyle to have to deal with culture shock and long work weeks at the same time.

Most of the dev team works a very flexible 40 hrs. Some of the more senior folks work a bit more but its all because we want to. It would likely have been too much if we were pulling 60 hr work weeks.

We also travel extensively for our work anyway -- projects in Africa, India, Latin America -- so we're used to setting up shop pretty much anywhere. And definitely in less hospitable circumstances than Sao Paulo. So that helped mitigate the culture shock factor somewhat.

What kind of visas did they need? Does a tourist visa cover this activity?

Working remote is always a grey area. We reasoned that since we were not taking up employment in Brazil or being paid by a Brazilian entity, we didn't need work visas. The primary purpose of our trip arguably was tourism, so we all got tourist visas. I would probably not broach the subject with the embassy, though.

Whatever script inc.com uses for its bizarre mobile frame doesn't work well on Chrome Mobile. I can't get more than halfway through the story.

My experience with the contemporary mobile web leads me to believe that 90% (100% of mass-market sites) of front-end coders are doing their work on quad-core CPUs and calling it a day.

I can't contradict your claim (since I don't work on mass-market sites), but I test my work on a VM with 1 CPU and 1GB ram; if the site doesn't run well in that, it's not good enough. I wish more people tested their software that way. I often find myself performing optimizations that are generally best-practices under V8 (and also work well in Firefox) that most in this community would consider "premature optimizations," at least until you point out that the difference between the two are 20-50x, and something that once cost 40ms now costs under 1ms, meaning your UI is just that much more responsive. For some reason, "it works, I'm done" seems to be a pervasive mental model. How unfortunate.

My phone has a 600MHz CPU and major sites regularly take minutes to finish loading. I've even thought of starting a name-and-shame YouTube channel with videos of this state of affairs with different sites.

I often find myself performing optimizations that are generally best-practices under V8 (and also work well in Firefox) that most in this community would consider "premature optimizations," ...

Do you have any references you could point to? I'm really curious as to whether or not I'm doing something stupidly inefficient. :)

Our startup is thinking of doing this in a few months to get away from the Canadian winter for a few weeks. It also helps that our designer lives in Mexico, so that would be our first location choice. Any affordable location recommendations for a travelling startup?

Germany (read: Berlin) is surprisingly affordable, but hold off until the springtime, unless you're looking to better understand how your laptops perform in sub-zero temperatures. Berliners also pretty universally speak English, and there's a decent-sized startup community there as well.

You could come to Tokyo, where I live. Don't. It's ruinously expensive. But you could go to a lesser-visited part of Japan for a not-unreasonable amount of money, and while people's English skills are lacking here, the public infrastructure is fantastic.

Taiwan is like Japan, but with better food and cheaper living costs, but without as much infrastructure. Still one of my favorite countries in Asia, though. If you decide on Asia, avoid the summer at all costs, because the entire region turns into a gigantic sauna.

Brazil was (really) very expensive, possibly higher than Boston. So, don't recommend it as a cheap away location unless you have a good lodging option. If you can find good internet, Managua in Nicaragua is a fun city with lots of beaches, volcanoes, and old cities to explore on the weekends.

If you want something logistically easy, the Yucatan in Mexico has tons of options and is relatively cheap. Tulum is not too crowded, lodges have good internet in the commons areas.

Thailand is expensive to get to, but once you're there, it's the best travel value anywhere in the world, in my opinion.

Buenos Aires and Rio are pretty cheap

It really isn't. Rio is one of the most expensive cities in the world, and infrastructure such as Internet connection is very pricey (I believe Brazil's is the most expensive or second-most $/Mbit on the planet). It was cheap to foreigners years ago, but with the bigger economy and appreciation of the currency prices have sky-rocketed and the money is worth less.

Lima is cool, depending on your needs you should be able to survive on a grand a month.

We did something similar in Barcelona earlier this year: http://trigger.io/cross-platform-application-development-blo...

Money well spent!

Dimagi didn't pay for anything in this case, it was all self funded by the individuals on the trip. But I think they would all agree it was money very well spent.

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