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37signals Works Remotely [video] (37signals.com)
285 points by wlll on Oct 22, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 172 comments



I'm jealous. I have yearned for this type of work for years and I haven't been able to find it. I loathe the commute to an office. I don't want to pay the price of living in a "tech city". I'm even tired of wasting money on clothes for an office as I am a 41 year old jeans and t-shirt kind of guy. Some people just don't have the discipline of not being constantly supervised and have that "must be at the office to be productive" thought pattern. I am not a 9 to 5 person (and most companies have changed it to "you must be a 8 to 5 person"). There is just too much time and money wasted by going to someone's office if you don't need to. I was the only iOS developer at my previous employer. I barely had to collaborate with the business as much as you might think. Most of our communication was done via email, wikis and bug tracking tools. I couldn't understand why I had to be there. It was basically just an obstacle I had to overcome very damn day. I'm currently searching for new work and so many positions are downtown (Atlanta, in my case). I just won't deal with 1 hour commutes. Gridlock is just a horrible place to waste one's life.


Join us at Automattic: http://automattic.com/work-with-us/ We all work remotely -- all 200+ of us.

You may have heard of a few of our products: WordPress.com, Akismet, Gravatar, and likely the most relevant to you, the WordPress iOS app.


Nice. We also work remotely, but our product is a tool to help engineers work remotely (Floobits YC13). I started this job less than two weeks ago and I am finding myself to be more productive, and overall happier working from home. I have less time and energy and money spent on commuting and more time with family and work and I love both.


At my company we also work remote and we love Floobits.


Thanks! Let me know if you run into any issues or have any feedback! #floobits on freenode irc or info@floobits.com We reply right away, unless we are asleep. :)


Do you guys take Canadians?


We take pretty much everybody: http://automattic.com/map/

(There are 14 Canadian Automatticians as of this writing.)


Awesome thanks!


I know for a fact there are some (good looking) Canadians working for Automattic.


Confirmed; the Canadian contingent of Automattic is a good-looking bunch.


I was in your shoes, and I know your pain. It's the awful pain of knowing that you live in a time where you could work from everywhere, and yet, YOU are the person who is still stuck in an office almost the entire daylight of your week and when you're not in the office, you're sitting in traffic. You're living a near industrial era life in a post tech world. You know in 100 years they will write in the history books about the tech generation that sat at desks in front of a screen typing 8+ hours a day with no windows. You feel you're literally watching your short life wither away while other people are sitting on the beach in Thailand with a Macbook Air under their umbrella.

Let me explain how I personally got out of this situation: I became a software consultant. For sure, it's not something you can become overnight, because you need clients, but it's a good way to get out quickly versus the ivory tower of starting your own profitable product offering. Heck, 37 signals and Fog Creek started out as consulting firms.


How do you get started as a consultant? It's easy to find articles that explain how to choose better clients and things like that, but how do you get started?


I started to give a vague answer, but I realized you asked specifically how I got started, so I'll answer that:

I took any random job that came up. First it was updating the website for my friend's art gallery getting paid $20 an hour in trade out when I was in college. Next it was helping out a friend who was doing a larger contracting project, then I did a project for someone who I randomly met at a friend's party. Before I knew it, I'd been doing little contracting projects on the side for 10 years.

That's when I decided to make the jump into full time. I didn't have the client base to do that, but I had the experience and confidence that I could present a professional front. I had business cards and invoice systems, time trackers, etc. I then did a similar thing to what rfnslyr described doing when starving: Find a product that companies need and you can build with your skills. Then it's just a matter of knocking on doors. Last year I cold called a company with a proposal on how I could augment their business. A month later they signed a $40,000 contract with me to implement stage one. Since then, they followed on with two additional contracts and now I have an open ended contract with them to work "As many hours as I have time for." The important question is to ask yourself what you can offer that will add value to a company. There are opportunities all around you for that. You just have to think a little bit outside the box. The really traditional and obvious ones are SEO type stuff and building websites, so those will in most cases have the least rewards and the most competition, but there are so many more out there.


I did the same things. Loads of reading and asking to find that "golden path" or secret to make it click. "How do I consult?"

Well, find a job somewhere, preferably a large corporation. Lots of people run their own consulting gigs on the side. Talk to them.

I found out a few people, just around my cubicles, run a consultancy on the side with a few people hired.

I started working part time for their consultancies as we're always in the office together, then once my contract at the company finished, I knew abut 5-10 people that consulted so I got a few gigs with them. Boom, now you're a consultant.

Best way is in person. The easiest gigs I ever had was when I was nearly starving and needed money. I went out, went to every business I could find that could possibly use a website with a proper backend (so I can take more time and bill more, don't want to do just frontend work). I got about 20 gigs that day, only completed a few over the course of the next year.

Two ways: talk to people you work with, or really go out there and STOP Googling and reading. There is no magic path, just do it.

OR, find an existing consultancy and either try taking out employees to lunch and talking about it, or work for a consultancy for awhile and take notes on how everything operates. How clients are landed, billed, how talent is acquired, etc.


I like the example you gave about offering websites with a back end by going door to door because it's different than what most people say when this question is asked. You made a product to sell: Website for the business; then you went out and found the client. Most people talk about showing love to your current contacts and working through your existing network by referral which just isn't feasible for everyone. Plus, doing that route, you're not really picking your clients. You're just hoping good ones fall on your lap through your limited network.


It's easier going door to door. When I was marketing a small app, I went door to door to over 200 houses. I met lawyers, coders, bankers, and cool people that invited me out for coffee just because they're curious about my ventures.

It's also better if there is a back end. Usually means they will want some specific feature that you can charge to build and cash in on maintenance costs. A proper backend takes way more time than frontend too, and people like to be in control of their data ;)

Most of the time I'm just writing a custom WYSIWYG editor for custom written blog software. Reinventing the wheel every time.


One more thing.. don't be afraid to ask pressing questions. It's not your job to take care of their insecurities. If they feel uncomfortable answering a question, it's their job to say so. I ask things like "how much did you make last year from this gig?", "how did you get started initially?", "how much did you pull in your first few months?". It's all just nature of the business, money.


I've working in consulting-type roles for a long time. The biggest problem for solo-operators (or even with a couple employees) is that most clients require you to be in their offices...


When recruiters call me about contracting work that's always true, but when I find my own I find I can set the terms.


If you are a "senior-level" programmer (ie you have a bunch of experience and have shipped products) one possibility is to make contact with a SV consulting company for subcontracting to larger enterprises. Such is the dearth of talent that big, boring companies can't find anybody and end up hiring a lot of H1Bs and contractors. Going with a contracting company rather than contracting yourself directly has several advantages, like you don't have to buy your own insurance (can be very expensive) or incorporate, if you don't want to.

A caveat is that you'll almost certainly be working with Java rather than iOS, but not necessarily. Just get your name out there and talk to a few places.

I know this approach works because it's what I did. I don't even live in the US (western Canada) and it's worked out fine. I have to fly down and hang with the client once a quarter and that's about it.


Thanks for the info. I have been searching for the contract approach. I've been a Java developer since 2000. I have been an architect and lead. So, I am a senior developer. My latest job offer is also a senior position. "Architect" is not in my career path as I do not like that title. It brings about too much baggage and too little tech. So, I'll keep trying. I'd really like to move out to Fort Collins, Colorado to be with family out that way. But, they aren't a tech city and I need remote work to pull it off.


> But, they aren't a tech city and I need remote work to pull it off.

Hewlett Packard, Intel, AMD, Avago, National Semiconductor, LSI, and Wolf Robotics all have offices in Fort Collins.

Fort Collins-Loveland was rated 2nd in the "Top 10 Metro Areas for High-Tech Startup Density" in the United States (with Boulder at #1). [0]

We even have an incubator, Rocky Mountain Innosphere [1], if that tickles your fancy.

In short, I don't think you'd have a problem here despite it not being a "tech city".

[0] http://www.kauffman.org/newsroom/young-high-tech-firms-outpa... [1] http://www.rmi2.org/


Wow, Colorado has 4 entries on that top 10 list, with 3 beating Silicon Valley! Unexpected, to say the least.


Colorado feels really under-represented on HN for some reason. On Who's Hiring I've only ever seen at most 2-3 Colorado based companies hiring. However, Fort-collins/Boulder/Denver all have a very rich tech culture if you look hard enough for them.

disclaimer: I'm a senior at Colorado State and have no intention of leaving Colorado.


Apparently Portland Oregon lead the way on this - by focusing in the early 90's on new zoning, bicycle pathways and greener parks, they became a nicer place to live, so people who could move (young,professional) choose to move there - and young professional people attract companies who want to hire them (not it turns out so much the other way round)

this seemed to work so well for Portland it also arose in other nice places to live and work - Denver apparently being a winner in that respect internationally too.


I work in Fort Collins as a technical lead; I've never had trouble finding work here. That being said, there are many more opportunities in Boulder, Longmont and Denver. I've turned away lots of opportunities in order to stay in FC; many of my tech friends have moved further south.


>one possibility is to make contact with a SV consulting company for subcontracting to larger enterprises

Any particular companies you can recommend?


My team is 100% remote working, some of us get to meet up during the year but not everyone has met in person yet. A couple of the team would do better if we had a group office but it's also good experience for us to figure out how to solve these kinds of problems as it's not an option for us to hire an office for just one person in every city, and the kind of work we do doesn't translate to co-working spaces.

We make it work through solid communication, and I'm sure like us there are many opportunities for you to get a great remote position. Would the HN admin team consider adding a 3rd Who's Hiring entry, dedicated to remote positions?


I've been working remotely for most of the last 20 years. It has its tradeoffs (nobody says, "What a pretty new sweater!") but I would not consider anything else. (How _do_ people get work done without a cat on their lap?)

When it comes to looking for work, telecommute is a non-negotiable item for me. I am happy to visit the office, which to me means "go onsite for one week every quarter" (as in-person time _does_ matter, just not on a day to day basis). But if someone says they require me to work onsite, it's a reason to walk away, in the same way that a lot of other people say, "No way would I relocate."

Plus, I see a refusal to permit telecommuting (for appropriate work, especially creative/innovation) as a sign of the company culture... and not in a good way. Do you really trust your employees so little that you have to have them under your watchful eye?


If I can plug my company - http://www.surgeforward.com/

We're 100% remote, and work hard to keep things fun. I'd encourage you to apply.


I'll check it out, thanks!


I work in Atlanta for a multinational company with 20,000+ employees, almost daily I connect with people from the Midwest, West coast, India, and UK. We allow remote workers, have flex time (although 8-5 is considered the "norm"). Our dress code is relaxed (I prefer jeans + polo daily). I know that we are hiring because I am meeting new hires daily (along with new contractors). I just got hired in July.

Let me know if you would like to know more I saw you were in Atlanta (we are not downtown).


I live north of the city (Roswell). How does one communicate on hacker news? Is it poor form to throw out my email address?


Put an email address in your profile description.


Cool, already there. Thanks!


The email field in your account is not public information. You have to actually put it in the 'about' section. Your email is not there as of a few seconds ago.


Ahh, I wondered about that. Profile updated.


Sent you an email.


Cool. I made sure my email address is in my profile. Send me any info you have, if you want. Thanks!


I would be interested in being contacted as well. Please see my profile.


I took this journey from crappy commute and job to working for a boss 5000 miles away. http://www.mikadosoftware.com has a few notes, and it was partly luck and quite a lot of determination - I was out for two nearly three months and two years on the cost of that break is still hurting.

But it made a vast difference to my life - I went from a miserable commute eating three or four hours a day in a car, doing "management" work at a large company that did not get it to working in my own office twenty minutes walk from home hacking in open source code for Rice University in Texas.

It's not some over night, all is perfect now story, I have not treated myself as a proper business, I have not done the right things - but the big stuff, that's in place and I hope to stay the right side of the tax collector and produce not awful code for paying clients - it's a good road I am on. Join me. seriously, just start putting the word out and be prepared for some pain to start with.

jump :-)


Here's a job board I found dedicated to remote positions. Maybe you'll find something that suits you here: https://www.wfh.io/jobs/


Thanks!


We just launched a talent agency for startup founders who aren't interested in full-time office positions, but are willing to take on contract work that can be done part-time and remotely. We got over 400 signups in the first 5 weeks. It sounds like this could be a good fit for you. Check it out at http://getlambda.com


A large part of Mozilla works from home. And I don't know of any team in the company that have everyone in a single location. In other words, we've very distributed. Have a look at: http://careers.mozilla.org


Join us -- we're a tiny but growing team in Brooklyn, Albany and Buenos Aires, building software for activism: http://www.controlshiftlabs.com/careers/


DuckDuckGo is also >50% remote and we're actually in the book I believe! https://dukgo.com/help/en_US/company/hiring


Have you tried Sqwiggle yet? Would love for you to let us know your thoughts :)


Wow, so many responses! Thank you, everyone!


The merits of remote work aside, you have to hand it to 37signals for masterful marketing.

They have a set of beliefs that they tell powerful stories about, in various mediums, to people who already believe or want to believe these same beliefs.

And in this context they also offer products that make things like remote work collaboration easier. But you're not even bothered by that, because they are clearly experts at doing this well (they wrote a book about it and are doing it themselves) so it all just fits together.

It's thought-leadership in a very practical way. A lot of good lessons to be learnt.


If the book goes into useful and functioning ways to come to such a . However, there could be some caveats to take into account relating to the type of people who'd be attracted to work on the products that 37signals follows. I'm curious if having a distributed / de-centralized team is possible. I can understand the values and would love to see if it's possible within my own scope of plans - though it's a lot of directed effort and wasteful if it ends up not working.


In my experience remote work, works best when everyone is remote. That way all the remote worker issues have to be sorted out, or atleast thought of by day one.

When remote work starts to fall apart is when there is a dedicated office where 75% of the team works.

In these cases the remote workers miss the critical "Let's grab a room meetings" where decisions are made. I think the reason is that its much easier to make decisions with people when you can see them face to face rather than in group chat.


I would love to hear more about how various companies handle this logistically. Like how they allow access to company data and resources. I'm assuming simply using VPNs is the standard? Where I work they make it so unbelievably painful and difficult to work remotely. You have to jump through a million hoops. It's a financial company, and generally "compliance" gets the blame for this. But I wonder how much of it is just plain paranoia. Do a lot of companies worry about things like leaking source code? Or client/customer data? Or do most companies put much more trust in their employees?


100% of it is pure paranoia. Working over a VPN or any other sillyness really has no effect on an employees ability to take your data. All they need is 30 seconds with a flash drive (or a screwdriver when nobody is looking and remove an HDD) and your data is gone. Something like source code is even easier with only a few parts in the code that is really ever 'trade secret' and it can be photographed with a cellphone.

Rather work on making your employees loyal to the company by being loyal to them. A happy and well paid employee is not going to steal your data, ever. An unhappy and smart employee will steal your data regardless of any silly obstacles you try to put up.


VPNs are not "sillyness", and they have nothing whatsoever to do with preventing employees from stealing data. They are to allow authorized people to securely access the network.


I work remotely for a company in healthcare, so we have some compliance issues as well. That said, I think increasingly server resources are moving out of physical offices, especially for smaller companies. My setup today isn't that different from a previous position where I was in the physical office.. servers are still remote, internal resources behind VPN.

I do remember feeling a little squeamish about the idea of hosting our code on github when we made the decision a few years ago, but now that seems silly. The benefits have definitely outweighed the drawbacks by a very large margin.

The employee trust question is interesting. If anything, I think I could argue that my access to resources is more easily controlled and audited when I'm remote.. Everything requires a secure authenticated connection, as opposed to some of the office environments I've worked in where I suppose lots of assets could have walked off relatively easily.


My company handles clinical trials, so we run into HIPPA regulations.

We all work remotely. Every developer and QA tester has his own laptop, they have set up a VM to run the application locally, with a fake database.

No one ever goes into prod for anything.

Companies have to trust their employees - else they wouldn't hire any. You can't really blindfold a developer from the code he's creating, can you?


My current and previous company were both hardware companies (though we had firmware and software teams to go with it). So we have to have lab environments to simulate various types of data for the hardware. For that, remote employees have to VPN into the network.

Interestingly enough, my company's wifi in their office is just a normal public internet connection (does not go onto the corporate network), so if you are on Wifi, you still have to VPN in. Its their way of allowing visitors to get proper wifi access anywhere in the building (plus they trust VPN encryption more than Wifi security).

As far as leaking data: anyone with a laptop can leak data. You should have good IT practices to prevent this type of thing. All laptops should have their harddisks encrypted and password protected. Now if the employee is being malicious, a local employee could steal data just as easily (see NSA and Snowden).

Good IT practices when you have a lot of computers on your network: (1) don't trust any device on your network, so you should have an IDS/IPS for tracking activity. (2) for VPN people, you want all traffic going through your network, so you can monitor the users network traffic with your IDS/IPS. (3) try to log as much activity as you can in-case you need to do post-mortem analysis once you've been hacked. (there is a lot more, but that's what you hire a good IT person/team for).

If you are working for a startup of < 50 people, you probably won't be the target of hackers. But if you are a large company or have sensitive data, you are a target. Having sound IT practices are important for your company's data.


I have never felt so far that Snowden was "malicious" as far as what he did with the NSA was concerned. In fact I felt the opposite.


I'd agree, but to the organization (the NSA in this case), Snowden is using the NSA data in a way that the management of the NSA would consider to be malicious to them. It's matter of perspective.


The company I work for has 33 employees, 16 of which are developers. We have the choice to work remotely. We use GitHub for code, Google Docs/Drive for document storage, and email, IM or Google Hangouts for communication - haven't found a need for anything else. There is a small office in the company's "base city" where a handful of employees work full-time (by choice), but the rest are remote throughout the region. Most of us are within a 1 to 2 hour drive. We gather at our space once or twice a month to catch up, show off new ideas, and hangout over a few beers - it's not a mandate, just whoever can make it. I'd say there's a 95% participation rate. We've found it takes the right employee to handle this environment - someone with a lot of drive and accountability. Bad apples shake down pretty quickly. A new hire will drive (or fly) to the office and spend 2 - 3 days in town getting his machine set up, filling out paperwork, training, meeting the rest of the team, etc., then head back out and work from whenever and wherever he/she likes.

We have a policy that unless you declare you're "out of the office" (i.e., vacation), you should be generally available between the hours of 9-to-5, should someone need to contact you. In practice, though, to avoid being disturbed like that, we've found that we've all become excellent communicators and will set expectations appropriately for our co-workers. To date, not one of my co-workers has called me if I've been out during 9-to-5 because they needed me.


Don't most companies already anyway use web-based SaaS solutions, so no VPN's needed except for legacy systems?


Many large companies will not trust their data to an outside company under any circumstances. They will put the SaaS solution on their intranet only accessible locally or thru a VPN. If the SaaS company isn't willing to do this, then they won't sell to these companies. This can be a valid choice for the SaaS company as long as they can find enough other customers to make them profitable.


Or, the data is hosted externally, but you can only access it through your company's VPN.


VPN still comes up.. Things like test-environments, analytics databases, etc. It's easy enough to do in the cloud though.


For everything? Does no one save any files ever?

What about the support staff? Not too many people using a SaaS SSH instance, or SAAS RDP service.


I work for a VERY large financial company and we have space issues. In some areas people are required to work from home 1-2 days a week. Our legal department is very strict, so I don't think this would be happening if compliance was really an issue.


When it comes to finding the best way to organize a business, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. My own experience is that working remotely is a viable and even desirable option for many but not all businesses -- it depends on the nature of the work, and on the kinds of interactions people must have with others inside and outside the company for the business to be successful.

For example, individuals engaged in highly creative multi-disciplinary endeavors -- like the writers, artists, and technicians who together make a Pixar film -- seem to produce great results when they are regularly interacting with each other face-to-face. Steve Jobs, in fact, forced a redesign of Pixar's headquarters to promote face-to-face encounters and unplanned collaborations.[1]

--

[1] http://officesnapshots.com/2012/07/16/pixar-headquarters-and...


>>My own experience is that working remotely is a viable and even desirable option for many but not all businesses -- it depends on the nature of the work, and on the kinds of interactions people must have with others inside and outside the company for the business to be successful.

Of course. The problem is that many (most?) companies will not even consider the possibility that remote work would be suitable for their employees because they have a fundamental lack of trust for those employees. Furthermore, they are managed by baby boomers who still believe in outdated mantras like "show up early and leave late to show your dedication."

I'd say that 20 years from now remote work will have become the norm, at least in software.


Yes, of course it's a case by case thing. But for a lot of software development work, which is sort of the point of this story, working remotely is quite appropriate. Nobody likes to commute and happy programmers are productive programmers, in my experience.


I'm a remote worker at the moment. I love it.

I can take a break when I need to and be in my comfortable space. I don't have a commute. I can open my door and see my daughter when I go downstairs for a coffee. I can take a walk to the local coffee shop and sit down with the other freelancers and remote workers and catch up on local happenings. If I need a break or I'm done for the day I'm not just watching the clock and waiting for a few other people to leave first.

I contribute regularly to open source projects and so I know what it takes to collaborate remotely. We're experimenting with sqwiggle, screenhero, and use github and pivotal. We email each other constantly keeping the teams up to date. We have a VPN and use our ssh-keys for as much as we can. It works really well and I think the tools have come a long way.

It's good to see that the world we were promised in the 60's is finally coming to fruition.


I love it too! I think you hit on a really important point. Working from home drastically improves quality of life since you're able to interact more with people you care about. It also helps you develop more of a passion for your work when you're not being micromanaged. Helps you to feel more free and in control.

Great that you're trying out Sqwiggle. I'm actually one of the co-founders so please let me know if there's anything we can do to improve your experience. Also any feedback you have is super helpful!


I've already sent in a few suggestions! Sqwiggle is great. :)


Thanks to Yahoo's crackdown, I think working at home has gotten a bum rap lately. I work at home, and so do my 4 employees. It can let you build a great a lifestyle, and help small businesses hire talent where ever they can find it.

In my case, I traded the city for a modest home on a beautiful lake in rural Minnesota. It also lets me be near my autistic son who attends online public school (school at home is another digression, but off topic).

Yes, there are challenges, like deciding if today is a shave day or not.

All kidding aside, working at home is tool that great companies with great employees can wield effectively to obtain excellent results and acquire talent they can't find locally. Companies, like Yahoo, that don't understand this are not great companies and probably never will be.

Long live working at home!


It comes with downsides as well in the sense that it's a very rare privilege. If your company decides one day to let you go , cancel work-at-home privileges or simply goes under, your life is going to suddenly become much, much harder, especially in the case of people who, like you, took this opportunity to move to a very isolated area.


I live in an area with pretty much 0 worthwhile tech jobs. I've been working remote for a while now and done so with 3 very different organizations doing very different types of work (plain old software dev to machine learning research), and I've personally found this not to be a "very rare privilege" at all. Currently about 9% of the jobs on Stack overflow careers are remote, and if you look carefully you can find a very wide range of work.

I find the remote space is rapidly advancing and expanding. The tools are getting much better, and the diversity of companies offering remote work is as well. It's definitely sustainable to choose to work only remotely, and even if I were to move to a city with better tech jobs I would have a hard time going back to full-time working in an office.


Awesome, what kind of business do you run?


We shouldn't specifically criticize Yahoo, or read too much into it: It was (and may still be) a completely dysfunctional company where, it seems, a lot of employees had simply accepted the slow ride into obscurity, where relevance came only "by default" (I still can't believe that Yahoo is the most visited website). Mayer essentially hit the reset button to regroup and figure things out again, and she has specifically talked about her action having little to do with actual remote work, and more to do with trying to get the organization back on track. Sucks for the employees of Yahoo, but, to put it bluntly, they were the employees of Yahoo. So long as you work for someone else, they get to make those decisions.

And her action then kicked off many others to read way too much into it, usually to springboard off for their own interests. Mediocre managers who have no clue what their charges are doing, and can only manage suffering, for instance, all cheered and forwarded and linked.


In my experience, remote working is incredibly fulfilling and successful if you know and trust your co-workers. I ran a small software company for 8 years this way. We synced once a week, and performed seamless code merges because we respected API boundaries.

Once I entered Silicon Valley, I learned that the above is the exception rather than the rule. And I think that's where all the horror stories arise. For I no longer get to choose my co-workers, and there's all sorts of pointy-haired edicts that come down the pipe from various Peter Principals(tm) inflicting their view of reality upon the collective they oversee. Just forget trying to run a remote team this way - it's incurably broken - and from this perspective, I agree with Marissa Mayer's tough choice to eliminate telecommuting as an option. Sadly, this movement is wreaking havoc on the daily commutes of everyone here.

My own solution however has been to seek work where I'm an IC and I have someone immediately above me covering my back. That's hard to find, and you're going to be perceived as a job hopper during the hunt, but it's worth the temporary downside IMO.

Or even better, just start your own shop with people you trust...


> Or even better, just start your own shop with people you trust...

I really, really wish I could do this. I feel like there needs to be some sort of guild structure for programming that would enable this.


Hi guys, just wondering if anyone with remote work experience (either as employee or employer) can shed some light on these issues:

* How about same-time communication? E.g. I need to discuss things with my designer, oh wait, he's gardening at the moment, or he works at night.

* How do you know when to start/stop your day? E.g. In "normal" office, it's usually 9 to 5.

* How do you schedule projects? Fixed time simplifies scheduling ("This project is 5 man-days").

* Who pays for supporting equipments (desk, LCD, internet, nice coffee) if I work from home?

* Specific to 37signals: How did they make the video? Did the video guy traveled to each and every employee in the video to tape them?


I've been working (semi-)remotely for the last couple of years. My current schedule has me at home most of the week, and in the office with the rest of the team two days, however that varies depending on other factors.

> How about same-time communication? E.g. I need to discuss things with my designer, oh wait, he's gardening at the moment, or he works at night.

On the whole you avoid it. So much of what people think needs an immediate response really doesn't, and can be dealt with much more effectively with a well written email. If you really do need to speak to someone real time then you schedule a time which is convenient, rather than disrupting the other party by dropping by their desk.

> How do you know when to start/stop your day? E.g. In "normal" office, it's usually 9 to 5.

This was the hardest thing for me when I stopped working in an office, but eventually you get into a rhythm, much as you would in a "normal" job. Sometimes it might vary a bit, but in the end we're creatures of habit.

> How do you schedule projects? Fixed time simplifies scheduling ("This project is 5 man-days").

You still have an idea of how many productive hours you'll get in a typical day, you're just working in a different place. Knowing how much you actually work is a big win for estimation, since you're not playing the game of pretending everyone gets 8 hours a day every day.

> Who pays for supporting equipments (desk, LCD, internet, nice coffee) if I work from home?

In my case, I had it all set up from when I was contracting anyway, so the kit is mine, but it depends on the company. Any company worth their salt would pick up the tab for equipment you need for your job (although you may have to pay for your own coffee).


> Specific to 37signals: How did they make the video? Did the video guy traveled to each and every employee in the video to tape them?

He did! It was kind of cool to spend a day with a coworker in my town.


* Everyone has a calendar with blocked-out times (for other meetings, or whatever personal things they do). Pick an open time that all participants can join (I work in MST, my co-workers mostly are on EST).

* The expectation is to be available during business hours for the local time zone, unless something very weird is going on. However, I will generally block a couple hours in the afternoon so I can go work out or help my daughter with her math homework (whatever hours I take off are made up at some point later that evening or later that week)

* Project scheduling doesn't change. The expectation is still to work about 8 hours a day, unless there is vacation is in the mix, but that's no different than people who work in an office.

* My employer provides all the electronics (computer, LCD, etc). It is also company policy to pick up the cost of an IP phone and high-speed internet (50MB/s down/15MB/s up where I'm at). When I was negotiating my salary for the position I took into consideration that I would be paying for my own "perks" (coffee, etc). I have friends who work at companies like Palantir that are paid a stipend for "forward-deployed" engineers that covers the perks that other employees receive in the office (catered lunch, coffee, etc).


> How about same-time communication? E.g. I need to discuss things with my designer, oh wait, he's gardening at the moment, or he works at night.

I've just started working remotely at a new company. I asked my previous employer if I could, and they said no, which is why I am no longer with them. I think this was one of their biggest concerns to having a team working remotely - if you need to discuss something you can't just grab everyone in the team for half an hour to discuss it.

Personally this was one of my biggest gripes of working in an office, if someone wants to discuss something, instead of arranging it, they just disturb everyone else whenever it is convenient for them. Developers always talk about being in the zone, but when it comes to respecting others we don't seem bothered about it.

So in regards to your issue, I don't see it as a problem. If I really need to talk to someone I can pick up the phone and call them, but if it isn't urgent I just send them an IM or email and wait for them to get back to me.


A lot of that, especially points 1-3 depend on if you work with other people synchronously or asynchronously. At my current job we all try to work as much synchronously as possible, so there is no real difference from any other "office job", except everyone is in different location (we all are in roughly the same timezone), and we don't have to commute. We focus on trying to keep sanity, and keep working hours (my experience is that it helps a lot when working remotely)

For shops that allow/ or just work asynchronously, other arrangements need to be made to allow that. Usually more and more stuff is written and stored, so everyone can join and leave any moment.

There is a similar book being worked on by other ruby-remote working company: Arkency, http://blog.arkency.com/2013/09/arkency-survival-guide-to-ef...


Real-time communication - IRC and google hangouts

Start-stop: Whenever you feel like it. I start around 10, work until 4 or so, and usually run a couple hours later in the day (11-2 at night often)

Schedule projects: Stop thinking about hours on the clock, start thinking about iterations on a calendar. Look at past work, consider the difficulty, extrapolate to the future with a hedge factor.

Supporting equipment: I do, it's a tax writeoff and I get to pick what I want. I've worked at companies that paid for everything - that's fine too.


1. For us we're all in the same city, close enough to commute but don't - we just save 2hrs everyday :)

2. We do 9-6, 1hr lunch sometime between 11:30 and 1:30, releases after 6, which isn't too bad you're already home when it's done.

3. No different than regular, work breakdown structure, 6hrs/man of actual work in day (email, skype, etc. doesn't count)

4. I use my home computer, this way I don't have to set up two envs, but software is reimbursed, they would buy computer if I asked though.


same-time communication: you schedule a time to do it. send them an email, say i would like to discuss the following issues, when is good for you. at the very most you'll need to do something else for a few hours till then.

start/stop: if you find time a useful way to plan things, just set yourself a "work time" and stick to it. it might require a bit of self-discipline that office work doesn't, but after a while you'll get used to thinking of that block of time as work. the nice bit is that it can be, e.g. 7-12, siesta, 3-5 if you prefer that to a straight 9-5.

schedule: you can still plan things out in man-days. people are responsible for arranging their time so that they put in that much work; it just doesn't need to be 9-5 every day.

supporting equipment: there are companies that will let you expense some of your equipment and internet bills; others see providing your own equipment as a tradeoff for not having to come in to the office.


I find people doing remote work constantly missing big parts of information that is passed around verbally and doing extra work / being less efficient because of this.

We already use chat rooms, individual chats, tickets, video conferencing, email, dashboards, whatever.

But sometimes the bandwidth of just sitting with someone and looking at a problem together is so much higher that you can solve big issues in a very short time.

I think some psychologists could study this, it's right up their alley - what is lacking in remote co-operation devices. I personally think it's partly that you need to see what the other person is looking at and also you must be able to observe their body language. A way to do "Look here, this is important in about 0.1 seconds." But I have no evidence.


I can address first of the issues you have mentioned: I have worked both in situations when whole company is working remotely or only one/two people of out dozen were.

In the second case, those people were very often left out of the most communication that was happening in the office, and for them it must have been not very good situation to be in. There was no general plan for handling this situation and trying to include them in meetings and decision making process.

But when whole company is working remotely, the situation is completely different, everyone is at the same level, and you really can make it work.


Agree. Remote works well for teams of developers that can be heads-down for days working on one product or one component with few external dependencies to coordinate, but for teams that have many different responsilities and need to stay in pace with other teams then you can't beat being all in same physical location.


I've worked entirely remotely for multiple years in 2 separate cases. I prefer loosely coupled teams and remote structure works well for this.

My main problem is when I need to interact with office culture. People in large conference rooms with a shitty speaker in the middle of it. When more than one person talks at once, it all becomes totally inaudible. Accents also become much harder to discern under the fuzzy sound quality that this kind of environment produces. I never have these problems with predominantly remote teams.

How to bridge that culture gap? Does the office world just need better speaker phones?


We're a team that's partially remote, and partially in an office. One tactic that's worked well is instead of forcing the co-located members of a team around a conference phone, we have everyone join a google hangout from their individual computers. It puts everyone on the same footing, and helps deal with sound quality. You just have to sometimes ask people to upgrade their mics so they don't pick up too much room noise and cause echoes.


Video conferencing (whether it's Google Hangouts, WebRTC, or something fancier) malees a huge difference. Seeing the people you're talking with makes the conversation much more personal and gives you visual cues about what people are saying and when it's your turn to speak.


I'm kind of interested in the meta story around this remote campaign. Assuming 37 signals is doing this book at least partially for money, they're making a play relating to a trend using themselves as the model of what works.

Is the target audience employees who work remote or want to, or is the target market managers who need to understand remote employees?


I suspect they have a yet to be announced product which is targeted to teams working remotely. They are slowly building authority for why and how working remotely works.


This is a very interesting take. If true, the book is not the product. They don't care how well the book sells. They care that you and I know they wrote a book on the topic and so therefore, they are the authority.


Definitely possible... they also have a whole suite of products that are aligned with remote workers already though ;)


A lot of the tools they sell access to are extremely useful.. if you work remotely.


I second that interest. I'm guessing their target market is a little of both - employees and managers. They want more people to request to work remotely. As other comments here indicate, they did a good job on that count. They are also promoting a soft management style that would be ok with employees playing with their dogs and gardening during the day.

I'm usually an advocate for this kind of approach, but in my experience they are leaving out the part when you really need to get stuff done and work together, which can be really rough.

At the end when the one guy says "If you have the right tools, the right trust, and the right team, you can work wherever you want..." Those are huge caveats, and 37signals is secure and stable enough to have those in excess, which isn't the case with most businesses.


my intuition says that managers tend to not like remote employees, where as employees tend to like working remotely. or at the very least, having the option


I'm both - so I pre ordered the book a month ago.


I was impressed by the breadth of lovingly photographed coffee preparation methods. Chemex, standard pourovers, moka pots, espresso, the all-American drip machine.


I went from working in an office, to working remotely for the same company.

While there were certainly benefits, I experienced a few downsides that also drove me crazy.

As a product manager, I was in the sticky situation of needing to coordinate with a bunch of different people, and hit certain deadlines that the rest of the company may or may not have aligned with. I felt like I lost much my day-to-day ability to get-shit-done, especially as I was competing for time & resources with other projects.

I also found it easier to stop caring as much, since the emotions & passion weren't as readily communicated remotely.

Definitely some personal shortcoming in there as well, but, there's definitely issues to watch for if working remotely.


37signals is a black swan for a lot of things.

To be noted, but not as the basis for a new world order.

Anecdotal evidence of my own:

- Stop thinking about labor in a capital-intensive business

- I can't do a damn thing with collaboration without a real whiteboard

- I don't work well with too much technology.

- Time zones make things tricky: half of "our" team is in Europe, but deals with a different group of companies. FTSE vs NYSE trading hours make things difficult.

- The one work-from-home person on "our" team was let go due to inconsistent quality of output

- Living in a city is a part of work/life balance for pretty much anyone under age 30

--tslathrow


Here's a link to a previous HN discussion http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5145358 where I mentioned some of the research on the different efficiencies between co-located and distributed teams.

If anybody has links to research (rather than anecdote) around the topic I'd love to have additions Especially any that show distributed teams performing to the same levels (or better) than co-located ones. Thanks ;-)


I think working from home at will would be the best of both worlds. Come in when you want to collaborate in person, stay at home when you need to work undisturbed.


For the last ten years I've been working from home two days a week and commuting to the office for the other three. Works well for me.


What I don't understand about the working remote discussion ist, that it only goes half way. It seems to be a discussion like: Lets work remote but keep everything else the same. Lets keep the company, lets keep bosses, lets collegues, lets keep meetings lets keep the chat at the coffee machine.

Working remotely, as I understand it, means, that you have to transform the company employer relationship in a way that it works using rather abstract or technical infrastructure or interface. The company has to know or to learn, and define, what kind of services or deliverable it can expect from its employees. Also the employee has to learn how to present his service or deliverables in a way that they get noticed and impress someone very far away.

It is sort of an bidirectional API that both have to serve and use.

My question now is, what is the reason for a company to have employees if the service they need is so well defined and could be offered by anyone capeable of serving that API? Why have employes if you can have contractors? The same question holds for the employees, if capable of offering that service in such a well defined way, why not turn into a company themselves and offer that service to anyone willing to pay?


The effectiveness of remote working is directly connected to the office environment, company culture, and processes.

The initial transition to remote working is especially hard - you require infrastructural and organisational changes to accommodate remote workers, and there's an up-front cost (not just financial) to that that dissuades getting started.

I previously worked in an environment that had a culture of face-to-face meetings, informal chats and the like, and it really would have required a total change in culture to implement frequent remote working. By contrast, about 25% of my current engineering colleagues frequently work from home - we've got Google Hangouts and the appropriate equipment and infrastructure to pull it off.

There are real upsides and downsides though - obviously a remote worker saves on a commute, but they do tend to miss out on the more social aspects of an office. Like, "Let's go get lunch," or "It's Matt's birthday, let's all have some cake." Those are definitely some of the perks of working with pleasant colleagues.


I used to 100% believe in this, but came to appreciate people interacting face-to-face. There is a reason that great artists, philosophical circles, mathematicians etc. come in clusters of excellence. People feed off of each other. This can benefit start-ups as well. Facebook, drop-box, etc. and many other startups worked & lived in the same house in early days. I'm not saying this is a balanced lifestyle - won't be able to do drip coffee bike ride gardening and whatever other hipster stuff 37signals does as much perhaps.

I do a genomics start-up, with two offices, one in Europe, one on the East Coast. #1 wishlist item is only if there was a way the two offices could be physically together.

Remote works as well as a long-distance relationship. It may work in a mature environment, 5-10 years into your relationship. Not Day #1. Start-ups battle many odds, remote is not one you want to tackle from the get go.


As someone who has worked remotely for most of their career (which isn't very long since I am young) I can definitely say that working from home has a lot of negatives as well.

I've ended up thinking that remote working is for people who are traveling a lot or people with a family they would like to stay at home and spend time with.


One target that is overlooked very often are people who cannot relocate to another country, for example because his partner cannot/doesn't want to leave his/her job or lower their quality of life by going into a country away from family (e.g. children and availability of grand parents nearby, friends, connections, language, ...). It's not only you. For example, in today's equal opportunities world, is hard to ask a woman to leave everything to follow his partner, yet it was something we took for granted a few years back, and modeled our expectations of what you can expect from an employee.

I.e. not being able to move because of family doesn't necessarily equate to wanting to spend more time than normal with the family.

There is a huge market of highly talented people that are unwilling to move into the country (or part of the country) where you choose to set up your business. Remote working has it's costs, but it can be offset by a larger pool of experienced and enthusiast candidates.


Not really. I'm glad I get to see my daughter grow up while working at home, but it's so much more than that. I don't have to deal with office politics or anything like that. Last office I worked at had a somewhat dress code, I'm glad I can now wear shorts. There is no impromptu meetings, and no annoying coworker stopping by my office at horrible times. I set my own schedule around when I'm most productive. I've worked at home for 4 years now and wouldn't go back to an office job without at least a $20k raise.


* Not really. I'm glad I get to see my daughter grow up while working at home *

Have you tried working with home without a family? I'm getting good gigs but they are all remote. It's has been a rough time since I socialize really little.


Yep, my daughter is only 2 and my wife worked before she was born. So for 2 years I worked at home alone, though I have 2 dogs. It was weird being alone all day, but I got so much more accomplished. Getting out for lunch helped me a lot, and taking my dogs out. Even just a stroll around the block can help a ton.


Are there any co-working spaces near you?


Co-working is an absolute godsend for remote work. It's like an office, but better! You can pop-in and out without the pressure that your actual coworkers put on you to be visible during "office hours". Even if you only spend an hour or two a day at your co-working desk, being able to get out and interact with humans (on your terms) is an amazing thing.


No. There is no night life either.


I've been working remotely for a while now, after running a consultancy out of an office for a few years. Personally, I think it boils down to whether you trust the people you work with, and you create the necessary conditions for them to excel regardless of where they are. It really shouldn't matter where you are, even though face-to-face time is indeed important from time to time.

I'd love to know what pain-points you found.


I just saw DHH post this, http://37signals.com/svn/posts/3658-cabin-fever and it explains a bit. Sometimes motivation can be hard. Especially since you have no "real" coworkers and you're sitting around the house all day. Often times going out and working at a coffee shop can help but it's not always viable. It also doesn't help that I'm in a pretty isolated and mostly tourist area of Florida where there are seemingly no other developers or dev companies and most certainly no co-working spots here.


I have a full-time day job but took an offer working part-time remotely for a Joomla Extensions Developer named Joomlatools late last year and did that for a few months in my spare time.

The only bummer for me was that I was a contracted employee so basically I was paid for the hours I worked (my full-time job is salaried so it's nice to know I'm going to expect X dollars each month) and since I was doing it in my free time it started to get difficult to balance the extra work time with family time since I ended up no longer having much free time.

If a company offered a $90,000+/yr salary + health and retirement benefits to work remotely then I think a lot more people might be interested, but in some cases (when you're working simply as a remote contractor) that's definitely not nearly as good.


An overwhelming majority of the people in this thread seem to favor working from home. Does anybody miss face-to-face time? I work in an office, and not a day goes by without face-to-face discussions with my co-workers. I find these discussions really helpful, and often we end up drawing on a white-board.

I've worked with remote developers (via video) before, and it didn't come close to the interactions I have in-person with people at the office. Would be interesting to hear some comments from remote developers. Related (from a blog post of mine): http://henrikwarne.com/2013/04/02/programmer-productivity-in...


The correct amount of face time - both out of necessity and out of comfort - is a difficult problem. I worked for a while in a "Facebook style" office, where we were pair programming. No walls, no privacy, all of our desks faced forward except the lead, who faced us, like a schoolteacher. I found it extremely uncomfortable. And I'm a people person!

On the other hand, zero face time is problematic in other ways. Even 37signals has an all-employee get-together a couple of times a year (read back through svn, they describe this).


I've seen this about all-employee get-together too. But when only a couple of times a year it seems purely social, not for getting actual work done. For me, the in-person collaboration takes place pretty much every day.


This is a bit of a meta comment, but: I find it interesting how DHH's Danish accent has faded significantly. I remember watching the "rails video" years ago wherein he's got a pretty pronounced accent. He could almost pass for American in this remote working video.


I've never been able to find remote work. A lot of it might have to do with my various roles in engineering. But I think a lot of it is east-coast business culture.

But also, from talking to a lot of Silicon Valley friends, they don't have much work from home either....unless you're a sales rep, sales engineer, or a consultant who likely has to spend most of the time on-sight (away from corp office)...

One thing I'm hoping to accomplish at my new company is a culture of work-hard/play-hard remote workers. Those who want to live in say mountain towns, but who want a real career as they get older...I'd not even have a problem with the idea of a "Powder Day" and they don't login until noon. WIth the right happy workers...


I love that 37signals is doing this.

The big question is how much does this scale? I hope this is addressed in the new book.

Having less than 50 employees allows the flexibility of doing many things differently. I would argue that this is one of them.

I don't know what the magical number is for size of a company where working remotely becomes a negative investment.

The bias with 37signals is very strong. They actively seek talent and find people that are not only able to work remotely but enjoy doing so. It also works well to have staff that can work 24 hours across time zones.

How relevant is this to a company with 1000 employees that is not technology related? I can't really answer that definitely but to say that based on my experience, not too much.


MySQL AB worked this way with and it worked quite well (very well, imho). 70% of the staff worked remotely. IRC and company meetings helped a lot. I met my boss after 5 months in the company and that was not the record :) Mårten Mickos' interview about this: http://developers.slashdot.org/story/13/03/07/1826212/

BTW, if anoyone is looking for remote iOS/RoR developer drop me a line ;)


I might start working remotely full-time in a few months, so I would like to hear about some of its downsides. Can you share stories of remote working that didn't go as wonderfully as described in this (promotional) video?


I don't have any bad stories, but in retrospect (after three years remote) I do have some advice:

- Give yourself a dedicated space (very preferably behind a door that closes if you don't live alone)

- Give it a few weeks. It takes getting used to, so avoid entertaining "This just isn't working out" feelings for a while. Took me a bit to get used to the quiet for one thing!

- Be social! Visit the office when you can, don't be afraid to talk about not-work in chat rooms, etc. Office chit-chat and lunches together have value, they enrich your relationship with colleagues and keep humanity levels high in work debates. I find I can find myself with shorter patience if I haven't been "hanging out" with coworkers for a while.

- Work for a remote team. Being the one-remote-guy on a team is a challenge. Remote working works best when the team is committed to working asynchronously, when the chat-room is the office, etc.

The last bit is key. Most of the stories I've heard about it not working out had a lot more to do with the team not actually being committed to remote working than some fundamental flaw in remoteness.


>Give yourself a dedicated space (very preferably behind a door that closes if you don't live alone)

IMO, this is one of the best pieces of advice you can give. This is also one of the things that I got very wrong for a while.

Don't work where you decompress. Don't decompress where you work. Otherwise the two start blending together and both suffer.

If your living situation isn't suited for a dedicated workspace, don't fall in the trap of working from your couch or kitchen table every day. I've had days where I worked from a coffee shop in the morning, drove to a park and sat under a tree when I could work completely offline, and finished the evening at a pub typing over a pint or two. And I still accomplished more than the days I'd sit on my couch and "work" while marathoning Star Trek.


I have two remote workers in my team. The two downsides from what I've seen / heard:

* They miss the casual social interaction

* If, like us you're in an environment where some people home work but most don't you can find some ways of working can disadvantage home workers - standups are a good example - for remote workers to really be part of it you need the board to either be visible by camera (or virtualised) and you need good audio so they can hear and be heard

On the last point: home working requires the company to invest money and time in working out how to get the best from the home workers. Be wary about anyone who allows it having not done this.


The first time I tried to work remotely I was in college, living in a dorm. Work was not my priority, a dorm is not a good environment, and online collaboration tools weren't as good then (2003). I missed a big code deadline, and that was the end of that experiment.

I've been working remotely again for the past 3 years, with good success. It's been a boon to me since I've had to move twice, but was able to keep the same job.

I love working remotely for all the reasons 37signals hit on the their video, but there are some downsides:

1. loneliness - This may still be preferable to some office situations, but it can wear on you. Web chat, coffee shops, and coworking spaces combat this, but still.

2. distractions - You can also waste a whole day at work if you are in an office (and offices have their own distractions), but I still think greater self discipline is needed to stay on task working from home.

3. poor work/life division - Contradicting #2, it can be hard to STOP working. I find myself working while I eat dinner, on weekends, and late in to the night.

4. "out of the loop" - Especially if the whole company isn't remote, you can quickly become "out of the loop". Even if the company makes a big effort to have frequent virtual meetings and CC you on discussions, you will miss out on random office discussions/overheard phone conversations/etc.


I've been working from home (freelance developer) for about a year and a half now. It's obviously going to be dependent on the person, but so far I haven't found any real downside. Some people say they get lonely. I find that between my wife and occasionally going out with friends I have plenty of social interaction. Not having to spend any time commuting is great. I have my workspace setup exactly how I want it, without any compromises for any kind of company standards.

Also, while this may be a somewhat touchy subject, I can work when there is actually work to be done, and do something else when there isn't. I think that's the best part. There is actually incentive to get things done as quickly and efficiently as possible. I know when I get done what I need to I can stop for the day, but if I was in a typical office, I would need to be there all day regardless of how much work needed to be done that day.


There are a couple of downsides which can you fix if you are aware of them.

One is overwork, because you are remote it's easy to work more hours than necessary trying to fix a problem. To fix this set a convenient and flexible work schedule for yourself. Try to maintain those hours, so you know you are off work anytime after those hours. You can also mix it up, work long hours some days and less hours on other days.

Another downside is friends and family will think you have all the time in the world, even though they mean well, they will often try to fit some favor into your schedule, like pick up the niece, the friend from the airport, help me move etc. You need to know how much you can help your friends and still be productive.


A few things for me: 1. Social/group gatherings. Most of the team works in an office so it's hard to always read (we use chat to keep in touch) that they're off getting lunch or drinks.

2. It's hard to feel like I have the true freedom of working from home due to people being in an office. It's a lot harder for them to see I'm away from the desk. This may have been exaggerated a bit by the fact remote workers were all EST while officer workers were PST. In this video it's clear everyone is all over so stricter hours are harder to enforce.


I'm not sure I will play the absolute devil's advocate card here, but I do think that there is a downside to this idea. I live in a mid-sized, industry-legacy Canadian city, where tech has become part of the new economy. And these new tech companies hire locally - and eat locally, and invest their time into building a local tech scene. If remote working were to become a common theme in tech, would this not fly in the face of community building in its simplest terms? Would the Bay Area have the same community today if this brand of telecommuting were available in the 80s, 90s?


In my case it's also about location. I am a Spaniard working in the Netherlands for a few years now, paying high rents and being far from family and friends. I could live in Greece (where my wife is from and where we have a fully paid house) but unfortunately there are almost no tech-related jobs there. As a web developer almost 100% of what I do on a daily basis could be done remotely. I wonder if remote work could be the solution for thousands of people like me who have to leave their countries just to find a job.


How do you on-board new employees?


If you work remotely we're building a real-time communication app just for you in Sqwiggle (https://www.sqwiggle.com). Would love for anyone to try it and offer honest feedback, we'll listen to it all day long :)

If you're a developer and want to work remotely, we're backed by great investors and hiring! We also use the latest tech like WebRTC for our video conferencing.


I honestly don't know how this works. I mean it's really very difficult to get someone to work remotely with the same dedication and passion. I find collaboration extremely difficult. I mean if there are 5 rockstars working on a project, then sure, remote working will do fine. But if we talk about a decent workforce, there is a lot of handholding required. I don't know how it's possible remotely.


Dedication and passion are most definitely not tied to where you are. If you're unhappy with your job, you won't be passionate; you won't be dedicated. You'll be miserable, looking at the clock, regardless of where the clock is.

If you need handholding, you're hiring and working with B-players. Not everyone is going to be able to hold its own initially, but after a few weeks on a team, you should be independent enough that people don't need to look over your shoulder.


I disagree. Most new employees need some sort of on boarding. When you join a new project, you'll need some sort of on boarding. Usually there's one or maybe two tech leads, and then a handful of junior devs. It's part of the companies responsibility to train them up. This isn't to say they're not dedicated or passionate, but when you're putting in 60 hour weeks bug fixing or implementing small features here and there, you run out of time to go read some books about your development language of choice. New employees ask lots of questions their first 6 months or so. It's just the way it is.


I believe you need to re-read my comment.

And man, if your new employees need 6 months of hand-holding, you're hiring the wrong employees.


That's a good point. I'm not arguing against 37Signals' philosophy, I love a lot about what they espouse. However we have to keep in mind that they are only 37 employees, give or take, right? This doesn't necessarily work when you have 1000 employees.

I know we want every one of the 1000 employees to work 100% even when working remotely, but anecdotes don't necessarily translate into what actually works efficiently.


It's simple. Judge people by their results. Period.

"we want every one of the 1000 employees to work 100% "

What you're confused about is that you equate being at work with working. I hate to break it to you, but none of your 1000 employees are not working at 100 capacity, even if you can see that they are sitting in their ugly little cubicle. It doens't mean they're working, or that they're productive.


No I'm not confused about it. I agree 100% that even at the office you can't work at full capacity. But it's a matter of relative terms. I run ad campaigns seven days a week (I don't work at full capacity on weekends, but it's 5-12 hours of some focus) and I've experienced working full days remotely too. I'm not saying you can't have the motivation to work at similar capacity at home, I'm just saying it doesn't work for everyone and it's harder even for motivated people like me. Companies with thousands of people don't have all A-players, we can't pretend that's the case, and for many I'm sure there's a noticeable difference between productivity in the office (due to a variety of factors) vs. working from home.


>anecdotes don't necessarily translate into what actually works efficiently

>I'm just saying it doesn't work for everyone and it's harder even for motivated people like me

>for many I'm sure there's a noticeable difference between productivity in the office (due to a variety of factors) vs. working from home.

So the only anecdotes you'll entertain are the ones that support the decision you've already made. Got it.

Snark aside, I strongly believe the parent was right - people should be judged on the results they bring to the company, not how effective they are at turning the office's oxygen into carbon dioxide and their merit at weighing down their company assigned chair.

Even if a company with one thousand employees doesn't have all A-players, why should we assume that even the B or C players can't effectively bring their B or C game outside the office? Shouldn't we structure the companies policies around the assumption that your employees are trustworthy and deserving of flexibility, and if they aren't maybe they shouldn't be an employee?


I'm going to concede my points, as I think I was too one-sided in my arguments.

I often see great remote employees, I just think it's important to note that we often view things in too binary a way. As in remote = good and we should hate everyone who doesn't allow it. If someone's not pulling their weight then they shouldn't be on the team. But when I work in an office, there are conversations I have that would have never happened if I worked remotely.

Not everything is so black and white and I honestly think in tech there are many roles that would suffer without the collaboration of an office environment. That doesn't mean we shouldn't have remote employees when the context is right and it helps getting A players who don't want to work in an office, but I don't think we should put remote as the holy grail of things like I often see on HN.


>I often see great remote employees, I just think it's important to note that we often view things in too binary a way. As in remote = good and we should hate everyone who doesn't allow it.

I think this is a very fair point to make.

>Not everything is so black and white and I honestly think in tech there are many roles that would suffer without the collaboration of an office environment.

This one too, but I think there's a big caveat there - these are roles that would suffer if the company doesn't adapt.

I can't speak for every company, but the ones I've seen & have experience with that have adopted some form of pro-"work from home" policy all fall into two groups: companies that adopt the policy in order to save money on infrastructure, and companies that want to encourage employee flexibility.

I've never seen the first group try to adapt: meetings are still held in conference rooms between the hours of 9:30 and 4:30, most discussion happens in hallways, managers judge employees on presence...

I think it's very possible for companies to design roles to encourage collaboration outside of offices; that said it's not necessarily easy or inexpensive. There are absolutely trade-offs that must be made.

But I fear that if you look at remote work only through the lens of saving money on office space -- or attracting top talent -- your company probably won't be one of the ones that does it well.


It works great if everyone in the company is hugely accomplished and if the product of the company is in essentially permanent use by everyone who works there.


What is Shopify's policy on working remotely?


Depends on the kind of work. Engineers and Designers generally work as teams on location.


I work at Gridium (http://www.gridium.com). We're a 100% "virtual" company, meaning we have no central office. We work in several different timezones. Yet we've managed to build products that, by any measure, have been very successful. Good enough to see us named to this years Cleantech 100 (http://www.cleantech.com/global100/global-cleantech-100/)!

The point being, we are a successful startup that has made the lack of a central office a part of our culture. This is my first foray into a virtual company like this, and it's been eye-opening.

There are several efficiencies that come with remote work:

1. Our team members are thrilled. We have folks in basically every stage of their working lives. From fresh college graduates to parents of kids in college.. and everything in between. Everyone has expressed satisfaction with how our setup has given them the ability to easily balance their personal lives with work.

I know that for me, simply eliminating the commute I have an extra hour or two in my day to spend time with my family. That alone makes me intensely loyal to the company.

2. It's the best hiring hack ever. Did you know that there are insanely talented engineers living in Boise Idaho? Milwaukee? Conway Arkansas? It turns out that when you are allowed to cast a very wide hiring net, the level of talent available to you simply goes through the roof. Instead of sniping talent from local companies and participating in the hiring arms-race you're seeing in the valley and in other startup hubs, we get to hire amazing people that those companies simply never consider.

3. We save real money. Since we don't have an office, we save on one of the biggest expenses a company can have. We do pay for co-working spaces, but most of our employees choose to work at home. It leaves money in the budget for us to have amazing quarterly meet-ups. Every three months we get together and work on the company, but we get to have an amazing time while doing so.

4. Management efficiencies abound as well. You learn to really trust other people when you can't look over their shoulder all of the time. Which creates a brilliant culture of self-managing teams.

There are challenges. When do you have standup (DO you do standups)? How do you communicate? Thankfully tools like Google Hangouts, hipchat, and a variety of others help us cross that gap. I think the most surprising thing to me has been that our virtual company operates more like a traditional officed one than I would have thought. We still have meetings when necessary. We still collaborate. Hell we still whiteboard things out. Just the venue has changed and the manner in which we do things slightly altered.

tldr; It can most definitely work.


Some people enjoy working remotely, others enjoy going into a specific workplace. Not sure why this is such a contentious argument every time.


Here's one reason we recently experienced:

Many people in our company like the flexibility of choosing to work remotely or in the office. However, when we on-boarded a new hire recently, he struggled with this level of flexibility. He took advantage of it in unprofessional ways. When confronted, he indicated that he might do better if he was always working in the office with the rest of the team.

Management suddenly made it a requirement for everyone to come into the office. This had severe and immediate impacts on morale and on employees' focus on the mission.

Some people need to work in an office. Some people need to work remotely. Some people can be flexible. The reason it's so contentious is because it is hard to accommodate all 3 of those types. So far, the solution is to alienate at least 1 of those 3 types. Hopefully the contention will result in progress.


They seem to flip back and forth about remote working. Less than 3 years ago: http://37signals.com/svn/posts/2838-were-relocating-everyone...


Perhaps note the date and extreme sarcasm?

"Change is never easy. But we’re willing to do whatever it takes to be the most efficient company we can be. Now please excuse us, we’re off to get more productive. And secure. And dressed the same."


Check the date on that post. (it's an april fools joke)


That was an April Fool's joke (posted on April 1st). And even if the date wasn't the first...the whole article reads like an over-the-top satire.


I work remotely most days a week (and sometimes for a week at a time). I love it. I agree with everything in that video - the only problem I deal with these days is the constant fear of it coming to and end at some point :)


37Signals nailed it. I have been working remote for FormAssembly for almost a year and it is amazing in many respects.

We're hiring strong PHP dev's. www.veerwest.com/jobs <-- The Makers of FormAssembly.


One thing I was surprised by, I like pair programming better when it's remote. You get the code right in front of you and you talk to the voice in your head (phones).


Even when my fellow coworkers sitt next to me I skype with them instead of talking. Makes it much easier to not be interupted by talk all the time.


Work remotely it's good when also the big percentage of company people works remotely. Anyway, I buy the book


Agreed. Having a big percentage of company working remotely sets up a workflow among all team members that is conducive to remote work. Whereas, when some parts of a team are working remotely, including where teams get created/dismantled for short projects every couple of months coming up with a workflow becomes difficult. That said, I work remotely and I have been productive as ever.


I like how 37signals promotes a solid work life balance. They also do a really good job of telling stories.


Can we build a list of Companies that have more than 50% of their workforce working remotely ?


Kobo link to pre-order is giving 404. =(


look at you make me hate my job so much! :@




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