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Ask HN: Why is it so hard to find remote jobs in Europe?
101 points by soroso on May 25, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 93 comments
I read a lot about remote work - either sourcing from Hacker News and other media. However, what I see in practice, at least in Benelux Area, is that companies are far more interest in on-site positions than remote positions.

Why is it so? If the advantages of remote working are so clear - why companies still hire only on-site positions?

I am one of these managers in Amsterdam with an international team of 10 people from 8 different countries who still writes code. My desire is to have a team that gets the job done. The most effective way for them to do this IMO is to have them sit together so that they can discuss issues they have immediately.

We are seeing effects of less effective communication of teams sitting just a few desks apart.

Remote work has great benefits for the remote worker - and having been one I know them as well. The downside is that when you're building something complex the communication overhead is too big.

Another thing is that remote workers in vastly different timezones provide a time window for architectural discussions which can be too short. So they are never there when you need them and can only work alone.

I prefer to give my team members flexibility to run their personal errands and family issues but to have them on-site to have the shortest group communication paths possible.

I have been doing remote work for 10 years now. Github and Gitlab (if you want to host privately) are the answers for me. Concerning communication and sitting together, my question remains: What exactly is it that you are able to say but incapable of writing? Over the years, I have become suspicious of someone who cannot write something but insists that he wants to say it, because when he is finally sitting there, guess what, he can still not say it. The more complex the project, the less you want to collaborate with that person, if only because his claims that he can say the things that he is incapable of writing, are not true.

But then you can help him put in words what is worrying him, even if he is incapable of saying. That's communication, dialogue. It is interaction in different levels, not just exchange of sequential, defined messages.

When you limit the dimensions of a face-to-face communication to the dimenions of a written communication, it is tautological to say the are the same. But the advantage of face-to-face is exactly having more communication dimensions.

I doubt there are many things in the area of software development that a competent professional can legitimately be incapable of putting in words.

It is obvious that face-to-face communication can be richer. But it does not follow that internet or just written communication is significantly deficient in an overwhelming majority of situations in our field.

Good to hear that GitLab is helping you work remotely. All our engineers (10+) are distributed and they love it! https://about.gitlab.com/2015/04/08/the-remote-manifesto/

Having to put it in writing is still an extra hurdle. When someone is sitting next to you, it's easy to nudge him and ask "what do you make of this?". When he's somewhere else, you may have to paste or point to the code, possibly include screen shots, figure out how to give him access to the code running locally on your machine, etc. These are significant hurdles for really quick, short interactions.

Also: pair programming.

I'm of this opinion as well. I've had to design some complex architectures, and there was nothing that an (admittedly long) phonecall couldn't iron out.

Linux is built by tens of thousands of people, usually around 1,000 of them contributing to each minor release, with hundreds of maintainers of individual subsystem. These people are all over the world, and talk to each other by nothing more than e-mail, and "get the job done"; quite successfully I would say.

I've only worked remotely the past 12 years, people communicate in writing just fine, as long as they care about the job.

All the companies I've worked for remotely, insisted that occasionally we get together to have some face-to-face time. I've never complained because I know these meetings makes management happy, and I also got to travel around the world, but purely from the perspective of doing work, all of these have been a waste of time and money. The only purpose of these meetings is social.

Yep I think the Linux Kernel and most any open source project is a perfect example of how remote work does work. The people that say you need to be "in the same room" seem to never give it a real chance and it's a convenient excuse for general communication failures these days.

I would also point out that working from home means significantly fewer disruptions (with the exception of kids in some cases -- I have a closed off office for work). I worked at a physical office and the number of "hey I have a quick question" scenarios was really frustrating when they could have googled it, yet it takes me out of my flow to stop and answer it and I lose focus. And this is not even counting the number of environment level interruptions you can't control in an office -- phone calls, people walking around, people laughing, chatting too loud, etc.

At least with communication mechanisms like HipChat/Slack it's more passive when people ask you questions. You can reach a stopping point and then answer them at your convenience.

I agree with you about the need to an efficient communcation, but the tools are there to enable it in a remote scenario :

- slack . - skype / hangout, - shared screen, shared editing sessions - code review.

add regular meetups and you're ok.

At this level, other aspect of the project management are likely better target for optimisation.

Well, the communication should be easy part. We are living in digital world, where you talk to your friends online more than you see them face-2-face. The communication between colleagues is pretty much the same.

Europe does not have so many timezones, but if you decided to go farther east, that's different issue.

I don't think everyone in the team should be involved in the architectural decisions of your product. That's why there are different type of seniority and roles in the team. Then you just have to "manage" the execution.

Most anyone in sales will tell you there is absolutely no substitute for in-person, face-to-face (not face-to-face-on-screen) meetings. It establishes trust. There is more to conversation than words (and our brains are built to pick up on it). Not everyone is an architect, but even sharing knowledge, code review reviews, and so on - all better in person in general.

Remote isn't bad, per-se, but having worked remote, managed remote workers, and now owning a business, it is my anecdotal experience that things generally run smoother, more efficiently, and with deeper levels of trust and involvement between people in the same room.

The less the product matters, the more the salesman does. So, yes, in order to sell something that the other side has no interest in buying, you should go face-to-face. Google, on the other hand, has never sent out even a single salesman to talk people into using their search engine or to bid for ads on it.

Therefore, for me, it works the other way around. If a company has salesmen, their product must be totally unimportant. They are probably competing on cost with China, and busy going under, because anybody who could innovate their way out of that trouble, has left already, or never came over in the first place.

Can someone explain why this comment is being down voted? I think the author makes a valid point.

When I choose my iPhone, my MacBook Air, my Martin acoustic guitar, etc, I didn't need a salesman to explain to me how great these products were. I went into the store and tried them out for myself. No one ever had to convince me to purchase the product. The product did that by itself.

On the other hand, if someone has to convince me to purchase a product I was never looking to purchase, or over a competitors, the product probably wasn't that great in the first place.

I think gizi's point is pretty good (I upvoted it), but he misses the case where a company has to do some heavily customization on its product to satisfy the customer's needs, which is often the case in enterprise sales. In this case, especially if the user is not technical, it's better to have face to face meetings to understand what the customer needs.

Digital communication still has a long way to go. If I'm in a room with two people, I can tell what they're looking at. If I'm in a video conference, I can only tell that they're looking at something on their screen. Humans are one of the few animals with a visible sclera, and I don't think that this is some kind of coincidence.

Use a pointer.

Missing the point... it's not about what they're looking at on screen, it's who they're looking at.

I see, but you used the word 'what' in your post :) I would propose that people can adapt the wa they communicate to overcome these obstacles. Or in the near future when good VR headsets become reasonable, we could meet in VR conference rooms!

Well, one of the mantras of remote working is that you need to share at least 6 hours between all devs. It doesn't limit your timezone: I love working at night, so even if I am in Europe, my timezone is basically the north American.

That being said, I still don't get what's wrong with videocall: share screen, facial expression and microphone and you are good to go. It's like a booster: I was stuck in an ugly bug for 2 days, we made videocall and took care of it, works great.

The theory that remote working is advantageous has the unstated premise that the thing being optimized for is wealth. In that theory, it makes sense to use methods that let people get their jobs done with minimum cost and distraction.

In reality, money is a weaker motive than power. When workers are on site, particularly in an open plan office, the boss's brain receives reminders every hour of every day that he is wielding power over underlings. That's not what everyone cares about most - but it's the people who do care about that, who become bosses in the first place.

(In the West, it's customary to maintain the fiction that it's about money. Apparently in places like Japan and South Korea, they don't bother with that fiction; you can spend your time in the office browsing Hacker News if you like, but if your boss is in the office seventy hours a week, you've got to be there eighty hours a week.)

As for what to do about it, as I see it the main strategies, in increasing order of difficulty and potential value, are:

1. Remember that remote work is not sensitive to location, and search the whole world for remote working jobs.

2. Become a contractor and look for clients who want goods and services rather than bosses who want underlings.

3. Start your own company and try to fix the problem for other people as well as yourself.

My very first employer didn't have a consistent quantity of work for me to do and often made me sit in the office with just a chair and not even a desk.

I proposed to the manager that I would rather be on call (even unpaid) in the library next-door than sit in the office paid with nothing to do.

The manager agreed that there was nothing for me to do and agreed that there was nothing wrong with what I was proposing in principle, but it was necessary for me to sit in the office during working hours. There were exactly zero occasions when I was urgently required to be there.

This comment, about power being a stronger motivation for money, reminded me of that situation and put it into perspective: thanks.

My Dad worked for Marconi in Liverpool fixing radar and radios for ships late fifties and early 60s before they became a large multi-national. Certain kinds of staff were not always needed in the workshop e.g. radio officers signing off on repairs.

They hung out in a Dock Road pub. The techies wired up a loudspeaker to the pub (not radio, I suspect they hacked the Reddifusion cable radio) and called the staff when needed. I was quite impressed as a small boy (and, no, we as a country were not big on efficiency in those days).

There a few classics like this from the 70's when the unions had immense power in the UK and there was lots of over employment in what was then public companies. Examples I remember were a false wall in the back of a British Steel factory which was setup with rows of bunk beds on the quiet so that only 1 in 3 had to do any work. The rest were paid to sleep. Also had employees on the books with the rather blatant names of D. Duck and M. Mouse.

The chaps in the pub could be sailing with a ship as relief radio officer at a moment's notice so not quite the bunk bed thing.

Iain Sinclair has written about Trueman's Brewery round that time as well.

You won't agree with this but: is paying people to sleep in bunks any worse than subsidising low paid jobs using the benefit system as we do now? Typical commercial rents £600 to £750 a month and minimum wage £6.50 per hour.

If you are a boss looking to play power games then I can think of better subjects than developers - there is a reason that managing developers is equated with herding cats.

More seriously I think a lot of the reluctance to hire remote workers revolves around communication. Managing developers requires great communication which is very hard to do remotely. Of course on the positive side if you are willing to make the effort there are some really, really good European developers out there who want to work remotely.

"When workers are on site, particularly in an open plan office, the boss's brain receives reminders every hour of every day that he is wielding power over underlings."

Teaching: you have to trust people. You can't be the 'pit boss'. Might be why I stayed in teaching I suppose - management has to support performance, not wield power.

I am entrepreneur (also studied engineering) in Europe. I have only worked remotely most of my life.

Main problem is bureaucracy. The US is a big place and it is United from West to East Coast.

In Europe, once you start making lots of money, every country you touch wants your money. So if you hire a French guy the French gobertment will love to tax YOUR ENTIRE business based on their socialistic views of the world, even when you are located in other country. Rinse and repeat with any country you touch.

Instead of focusing on the tech side of things you have to make an incredible effort with bureaucracy alone.

The advantages of remote working are very clear, but so are the disadvantages: People can goof all day or do the laundry, take care of the kids at the employer expense. The employer could also abuse taking extra hours of the employee for free.

For neither the employer or the employee to abuse each other or just being productive when nobody is watching you(directly, of course I know what my people are doing even when I am not in front of them)a series of techniques has been developed . It takes practice, effort and time for people to get used to it.

But yes, once you try it you will never want to go back. You can never eliminate the need to meet your coworkers from time to time(once a week or month) though.

Most business in Europe are old and big, they do what has been proved to work(in a pre Internet world) for decades. They move slowly, but they move.

Big companies operate over the principle of "nobody ever got fired for doing what used to work". When they see success examples of other big companies doing remote working, they will follow. But today only a few jobs, like programming or personal assistants could be completely done remotely.

My advice is to create your own company and to take advantage of this problem, you know in the business world we call them "opportunities". As remote communications improve this is going to explode.

Always-on audiovisual communication tools can fix the problem of employees not being on the job during work hours.

And the multiple taxation is not an issue anymore - your company and you are taxed by location within the EU (assuming you're a citizen of the EU). Hell, you can even take advantage of it by establishing a residence in a cheap country but actually living elsewhere. Your company is taxed where it's founded, but there are some issues with legally operating in other EU countries.

Taxation is not the only legal hurdle, though: Which social deductions apply? Which labor laws apply to you if you work in your country but are employed in another country? Which rules will apply to you if you become ill or get pregnant? Who has to pay your retirement benefits and where do they go? At what age will you be allowed to retire? Will hiring you mean that the company might inadvertently establish a permanent establishment abroad at your home for legal and tax purposes? etc. pp.

There are answers to most (if not all) of these questions out there, but finding the right answer can be tricky and takes a lot of time (which, for a company, translates to a lot of money being spent on lawyers). So, as a company, do you spend all that time and money and take the risk that you made a mistake somewhere and the employment contract will be governed by rules you did not expect - or do you rather hire someone who will move to your place?

Not really true. Most countries have a residency rule (for personal income) that if you live more than 165 days (or something to that effect) you will be taxed as a resident of that country. Even if you register a company in another country within the EU, you may still be liable to pay corporate tax on your residence country as some countries also have conditions on that (if you own more than X (usually around 70%) of a company, and the company country is considered a low tax jurisdiction (this can depend for some countries where some have lists, others have a corporate threshold and others have countries corporate tax < owner resident country corporate tax - 10% is also a tax haven) they will want to tax that company as a resident.

As others mentioned, while more common, intra-community workers are a bureaucracy nightmare if you don't register a subsidiary in the employee's country, which if you do, then you have tax/social security+other stuff you need to take care in the employee's country.

Best way to do it is for employee to setup it's own company in country of residence and play by the rules, and then just be paid for services rendered and be responsible for all taxes/other.

But be aware that many European countries know laws against quasi-self-employment ("Scheinselbständigkeit" in German) to avoid people becoming self-employed to avoid social security taxes. So, even if you set-up your own company but this company only serves one client (your de-facto "employer"), you and/or your employer might be liable for social security payments neither of you did expect. So even such a set-up might be too risky for some companies to consider.

In Germany itself, that would indeed be a major issue. Imagine, however, a company from Canada employing a German in France? Which country would manage to get in a position that they could collect social security payments? Germany would not see any part of that situation under its eyes. Canada just sees invoices coming in from abroad. France has no clue as to what that German does or with whom. This situation could last for decades and no government would be able to even ask relevant questions. You see, that German is not a resident of Germany. I cannot imagine the German administration sending questionnaires overseas. The French may want to collect local taxes, but they would have no serious basis, or even information, for collecting income tax or social security contributions. Where exactly would they be verifying anything? In other words, if you confuse the situation sufficiently, not one of those slow and bureaucratic government administrations could ever deal with it. Not in our lifetime.

Portugal has the same issue, if 70%+ of your company income is from a single entity, the company is taxed as a self employed person and not a company. So technically, the paying company doesn't have to pay nothing, but the receiving company will be responsible for those contributions. But there are ways around it and limitations, for example, in PT doesn't apply if you have employees or if the volume of business if over a certain amount or if ownership is divided by two (or more) people (if you are married, you can name your partner as a shareholder when you create the company and get around it easily)

That German would be paying French income tax, since he's a resident. Unless he's listed as a resident in Germany and living in France without registering.

The other taxes, well, it's up to the person. If he wants a pension, he'll pay them in some country.

But what do I know, everyone I know is breaking some law in regards to taxes, so I might not be the best person to listen to...

The solution is to incorporate in the member state where you live (and perform the services), and invoice your clients for your services as a company.

If you want to hire a French employee, you can incorporate a French subsidiary, and you invoice his wages (+ some operating expenses) from your main company to the subsidiary. Doesn't cost much. Clean and simple.

How is this a problem at all?

I have been speaking to a French lawyer about this exact scenario (UK company employing a French resident).

I've been quoted a cost of around 8% of salary to be retained by this subsidiary- hardly insubstantial.

Alternatively they can put a framework in place so that the UK company can directly employ in France. Here the costs are lower but coming in at at least 3000 euros is by no means small change.

I suppose the cheapest option (I haven't investigated) would be for the French employee to incorporate themselves and deal on a corp/corp basis. However the admin cost is then incurred by them and they wouldn't be covered by us on French employment terms.

The admin for employing a UK person is vastly easier and cheaper. We already have the contracts and accounting in place. I have been very surprised that cross-border hiring is so difficult/messy/costly in Europe.

That's the problem.

> My advice is to create your own company and to take advantage of this problem, you know in the business world we call them "opportunities". As remote communications improve this is going to explode.

Any advice on where to start? How to find customers? Is there a good lecture about this topic?

I have asked myself the same question some time ago. I believe it comes down to (as some commenters below have already mentioned) the following, ordered by decreasing importance:

1. Legal issues: Hiring people across borders is a nightmare for both the employer and the employee when it comes to social deductions, taxes, health insurance, applicable labor laws, etc. And if you hire people within borders, many European countries are small enough that they could just as well commute to your office (maybe that's also the reason why more remote work is available in Germany and the UK, being larger countries, as has been stated below).

2. No Silicon Valley: Let's face it - most American companies will expect you to show up at the office every day just as they do in Europe. The exception are primarily the tech startups, and in the United States there simply are a lot more of them than in Europe.

3. Worker protection: I think hiring remote workers is inherently more risky than hiring on-site staff. You will have less control over your employees, you might even have less control over the hiring process (no on-site meeting), etc. In the United States, you can just try it - hire someone to work remotely, see if he or she can deliver and if not, just terminate the employment and go back to hiring on-site staff. In many European countries, getting rid of employees once you have hired them can be quite challenging and requires solid proof that they are not delivering what they should - and to make matters worse, getting that proof will also be much more difficult if they are working remote with less oversight.

4. Language issues: Yes, many people in Europe speak English (more or less fluently). Nevertheless, following conference calls in a language that is not your native language will be more challenging than following a face-to-face meeting, so language barriers become more pronounced when interacting remotely (at least in my experience).

My opinion based on my experience in France is that the workplace is more about appearing to be working than to actually do something useful.

So if nobody can see you working because you're not in the building you're not contributing to this illusion of work being done.

Where I 'work' I have a manager that has to invent some crazy projects just to keep me occupied. If he didn't do that I could work half a day every week and be done with it.

In my Visual Studio projects folder I have a bit less than 100 projects. Maybe 3 or 4 are actually needed by the company, 20 are test or toy projects and the rest nobody has ever used these programs past their presentation (not because they're not good but just because they're not needed).

I find it hard to stay motivated (and this is quite an understatement !)

Well, sounds like you either have to switch jobs or you have to work 14 times slower.

Neither option is really optimal for either party though.

The correct solution would be for him to work half days and continue with job rewards to be identical: he gets more free time and a better life, while the company gets a more loyal employee who is more relaxed and would be more willing to go that extra mile on projects which actually are important.

It's really just one of those cases where human nature and the desire for him not to get 'paid for doing nothing' is actually hurting everyone involved. Humorous and very sad.

First of all not everyone is suited for remote work. Remote work often means working from home (co-working space maybe) which makes it rather difficult to engage in social activities. While co-working spaces might make it easier it's still more difficult. Also not everyone has the self-discipline and while you might argue that people also go to the office and browse HN all day others feel more motivated working in an office. Additionally the communication is way different. Emotions get lost in Chats and Skype calls. Last also due to bad audio quality.

Yes remote work can be good and advantageous for some, but it can also be bad.

I think any answer to this question will be speculative and opinionated. People have their experience and they have their preferences. The interpretation of one is based on the other. It's like the open plan vs offices debate that springs up on HN every so often. Mostly what we have is personal preferences justified with "facts." In reality I don't think we have that kind of understanding of what makes people work well. Reality is complicated with short term and long term effects, feedback effects and adaption.

Those qualifications aside, I think (A) coding is uniquely well suited to remote work and (B) transitioning to remote work as a major way of working is a long cultural transition that companies will need to grow around. They'll only do that if it's advantageous enough and the process could take a generation.

Coding is well suited to remote work because it can be parceled effectively with clear responsibilities and deliverables. It's like journalism in that sense. If you need to produce 2 articles a week and the articles are the output of your work, then it's easy for everyone to understand that you did in fact contribute two articles and form an opinion of their quality.

The parts that are hard about remote working is structuring a culture that is able to cooperate without physical presence. Physical presence is a key feature of how we interact. Online discussions are different to face-t-face discussions. People travel international at great expense and inconvenience in order to do business face to face. It's subtle buts adds up to a lot.

Maybe we are getting better at remote communication and collaboration. Maybe the ways we work can adapt to the environment of remote working. But, it's a cultural shift.

Remote work is strange in the same way that remote parenting, remote dating or remote friendship is. At the end of the day, the relationship that will come out of a remote marriage will not be the same as a regular marriage. That may be OK for remote working. I am sure that some companies are making it their advantage, but it's not a simple matter.

TLDR: If a company that exists in a building today decided to transition over two years to a company where people work from home, the company would probably fail. The transition is hard.

"Remote work is strange in the same way that"

Don't forget non-strange remote business relationships like remote retail (buy from amazon), remote entertainment (Hollywood movie not a stage show or play, or recorded music not a live band), or remote manufacturing (imported from China not the now abandoned factory down the road), or remote software (believe it or not, companies used to write their own OS 50 years ago instead of buying a microsoft/apple product) or remote senior management (for a long time, its pretty unusual for most megacorporation employees to work at the same office as their CEO, even if they work at the same office as their boss). With increased specialization on a very long term all business has trended toward ever more remote "business interaction"... the only part that's new, is the very long term trend is starting to finally impact the lowest organizational levels of white collar general office labor.

Another hidden assumption is that physical presence or um, excessive face to face communication is necessarily a productive useful activity, combined with a heavy dose of "its popular and/or traditional therefore that means its inherently better" and/or "cultural shift is bad or unnecessary". I'm unconvinced that "mind work" is best done with enormous amounts of interpersonal coordination. That means the architecture is a poor match. By analogy its possible for a very bad general contractor to try to make the painter, plumber, electrican, and carpenter all work at the same time in the same corner of a little closet, and maybe, by heroic levels of effort and incredible professionalism and cooperation it can somehow be accomplished, but its a kind of dumb non-profitable goal. Also if you design for scalability you've just lost the game when you tightly coupled, what do you intend to do next year when "it" goes viral and the database is a department of 50 people on the other side of the country, not one dude at a conference table with the other one dude departments?

I think you're misunderstanding me. I'm not saying that remote work is impossible, or undesrable. I'm saying that it is a big change. Big changes take time. Time for the culture to change and time for the structure of organizations to change. If the advantages are big enough, that change can happen forcefully and quickly.

Online commerce is not a bad analogy. Barnes & Noble didn't become Amazon, Amazon did. IE, the advantages of online commerce where big enough to invent a new kind of company to do it. Remote working might be a bigger challenge than that on the kind of scale proponents seem to hope for.

Maybe we will see large companies go all, part or mostly remote. I don't really know. It's clear that remote collaboration can work (plenty of examples), but whether or not it works with existing structures is hard to know.

Face to face interaction between people is different from remote interaction in ways that are fairly fundamental to how we worked. Communication & collaboration is really our speciality as a species, and we have a lot of inbuilt faculties to help. Some need physical presence. I think the internet is full of examples of remote communication failing in ways it wouldn't have in person. We may even be demonstrating this now.

Excellent comment.

Isn't the point of having a remote job to not care where the company is registered? Assuming you are in Benelux Area, what's the point of looking for remote company from Benelux Area?

In general, if it's a long term gig, you will still need to come into the office now and then. Once a week, one week every month or two months, whatever. So my assumption is that it must be somewhere accessible.

It is not only the "remote" feature, but the physical absence from the office that matters. Even regular employees are usually not allowed to work from home frequently.

Last time I saw someone working from home for 1 day, his manager sent him 2 screens email, how it should be an exception, not a practice, etc.

Exactly what I was thinking. It would be a problem is companies outside Europe wouldn't let you do remote work from Europe but that doesn't seem to be the case.

My guess would be time zone and language.

There's quite a few more countries that are in the exact same time zone. Language should not be a problem for most in the Benelux either as pretty much everyone under 50 has intermediate to good English language skills.

You're most likely looking in the wrong place. The usual customary recruiting channels are setup to be usual and customary.

You need to find the remote job boards. Oh, and networking, networking, networking.

This repo maintains curated list of all resources - https://github.com/lukasz-madon/awesome-remote-job

I compiled a list a few month a ago on my blog: http://blog.remoteworknewsletter.com/2015/03/23/best-sources...

Recruiters too (they aren't all evil!). I spoke to one about this and he said remote contracts in London usually get filled in hours vs weeks for onsite.

Are there similar job boards for international relocation? E.g. companies that will sponsor your visa at minimum, and maybe even help pay for the move.

That would be a great opportunity to question your premises.

If nobody does what you have identified as the clearly superior way, either everyone is an idiot. Or you may be wrong.

Or he works in a technologically conservative area that is slow to adopt new trends, even useful ones.

Take a look at the HN Who is Hiring threads over the past 2 years, and count up the total remote jobs. It's increasing at an impressive rate. Companies are discovering that they can still hire talented developers for average salaries (particularly those devs living in economically depressed areas).

There are thousands of devs who don't have the option to up and move to N. California or NYC. Some of them are very talented. It's not hard to figure out, and I'm sure the same dynamics are at work in Europe.

Are these the only possibilities you can think of?

I couldn't agree more with jmnicolas - the situation is pretty similar in France, Switzerland, Belgium and Austria. There is some "hope" in UK and Germany, where they really expect to have something done.

There was a guy (can't remember his name) who said that US is the only place where you can put US guys, Mexican, Chinese and ... (whoever) and make them work together. In Europe this is not the case, probably because of historical reasons and as a result of the last 30 years of immigration policy (especially the french-speaking countries).

My other theory is that Europe is left behind US in the technical area. If something is top-notch in USA, it will "come" in mainland Europe in 10 or more years. For e.g. now the MBA is hot trend.

Disclaimer: I've been working remotely for the last 4 years.

>There was a guy (can't remember his name) who said that US is the only place where you can put US guys, Mexican, Chinese and ... (whoever) and make them work together.

As someone working in a company in London with about 25 engineers from 15 different countries I have to disagree with this statement.

Same here; second company in the UK (not exactly London though) and did work with people from several different countries in my team.

I couldn't agree more with jmnicolas - the situation is pretty similar in France, Switzerland, Belgium and Austria. There is some "hope" in UK and Germany, where they really expect to have something done.

Yet according to some (and it is open to interpretation) the UK has a lower productivity than France, by a pretty huge margin. It seems that the UK, while it might expect to have something done, by comparison actually gets a lot less done.


There's UK, and then there's London. Could easily be a different country.

> My other theory is that Europe is left behind US in the technical area. If something is top-notch in USA, it will "come" in mainland Europe in 10 or more years.

This is ridiculous. There are a ton of amazing engineers/designers/etc in Europe, who are just as able as their US counterparts and deliver work at the same quality level.

Plenty of them work remotely, either for EU or US companies.

That's correct. There are very skilled/talented individuals in EU, I have no doubts in that.

My point is that on company/organization level the EU companies are more ... how to say it... conservative and full of bureaucracy that their US counterparts. They pay for an employee and it they don't see him at his desk - there is a problem. The "communication" habits are also quite different IMHO.

probably because of historical reasons and as a result of the last 30 years of immigration policy (especially the french-speaking countries)

Could you elaborate on this one? I worked for an international company in France, and even though engineering was pretty diverse, most of the management was French.

I'll give some reasons from personal experience (and I think it's a global thing, not just European).

I pitched a partially remote team to a previous employer in Singapore and they were reluctant to try it initially.

First, they didn't know what remote meant (except for that time they outsourced something to a cheap country and it was a costly disaster). So, had to spend some time explaining that. Not rocking the boat is quite valuable when you're busy and worried - just keep doing what you know.

Second, a contractor is not an employee - contractors are services you buy piece by piece, whilst you "own" an employee (not pretty terminology but unfortunately often true) and you can milk that employee with a potentially infinite return on your finite investment. Is this a stupid thing to think, yes, but nevertheless I encountered it.

Third, it's about control. It's possible, but harder to micro-manage remotely (and in practice no sane contractor will accept it without extreme compensation).

Fourth, it's also a hell of a lot easier for a "consultant" to "end the contract" when he's fed up with bad management, than for an employee to move his entire life yet again (metaphorically if not physically). A consultant benefits from having had many "clients", an employee is hurt by too many moves. These "traps" make an employee more pliable and invested emotionally (at least in managers' eyes) so the managers prefer employees.

Fifth, IP. Employee contracts usually sign over everything. Remote contracts, being for services, have more opaque IP agreements. This also applies to a lesser extent to security - that remote dude is working on a foreign network, foreign machine, etc.

I'm not saying these are desirable things, but these were my conclusions from experience. YMMV, different businesses have different cultures, etc. If you want to change your internal culture, I think these are the issues/fears to address.

We ended up getting remote jobs because the test we put up for the job ended up not getting a single application locally, but dozens from all over the world. About half the folks who passed relocated, the rest stayed on remotely.

I'm now running my company completely remotely. We have a mailing address in London and Hong Kong and work from home. I see almost no reason to get an office. Unfortunately we're also not hiring because we have a long waitlist of nice candidates that we will hire (remotely) as soon as we clear enough revenue. Maybe that's the case for the other remote businesses.

Based on working in the Benelux this is what I see:

- Requirements are often given on a very high level, you will need to be aligning with business owners and other teams on a daily basis, communication is easier with all these people in the same building. (i.e. you won't be given a clear package to go off and work on on your own).

- If there is an existing team that you will be joining then the other team members will start asking why they are not allowed to work from home. (The reason for that is that in any large org they are needed for communications with other teams on a daily basis)

- If you are a contractor what is to say you are not working for another client? Much easier to keep an eye on you in-house.

I've had the discussion several times in the past with different managers, and it keeps coming back to "person in chair" as a metric for whether work is being done or not. It's always a matter of trust, or lack of it, that an out of sight employee is getting work done. I don't think that argument has any validity. If you don't trust your staff to actually do their job you have bigger issues, and if you can't measure them any better way than whether they're sitting in a chair in an office, you can't measure them at all (person-in-chair time does not correlate with productivity in my experience).

I disagree with many of the assessments.

From what I see around me, there is a problem where internal communication channels and communication culture is not mature enough to support remote work.

Depends on the job of course. If instant communication is useful for the job, remote working is often inferior, as there is friction. For example training up a new employee is a great deal harder to do remotely, it's much easier to shadow someone in person than via a screen share.

Also if the role requires some kind of client facing element, that rules out remote work.

I currently work partly remote: I go to the office for one day a week (8hr) and work the other 12 hours from home.

I like this arrangement as the day in the office also gives me insight into what else is going on, besides my immediate tasks. For example I may pick up on something that my coworker is spending a lot of time on that could easily be automated or a client request that may influence my schedule.

On the other hand the time remote gives me a chance to focus on harder issues.

What I like about the part-time aspect is that I can choose to just work when I'm focussed. If things are not moving as I like, I just stop working. This is also the disadvantage, because that way work spreads out over more days than it would if I would sit in the office.

In general I think the jobs are there, but you will probably have to know someone at the company that is already aware of your skills. Maybe first starting out as a contractor on a smaller project. (Assuming you would prefer a long-term job over contracting)

I used to love the idea of working remotely, but not anymore. I like working in a team, having the ability to bounce ideas off each other, make use of other people's knowledge, ideas and skills. When you're working remotely, you're working much more on your own. It's easier to get stuck, there's a bigger hurdle to getting someone to look over your shoulder, and a bigger likelihood to just figure it out on your own, which may be educational, but can also take weeks when someone else might be able to help you out in minutes.

I was actually hired once to help out the lone Java programmer at the company who had been stuck for weeks. I sat next to him, asked the right questions, and within 2 hours, the problem had been solved. Just having someone there and ask questions or discuss options with; having someone to spar with, can save a lot of time.

True. Although I have a mediocre GitHub profile, I receive about ~ 1 job offer (well some are interview offers) from recruiters every 1.5 - 2 months. Every single one of them was about relocation (UK or DE).

I'm not interested in relocation. If I could find a team that work with technologies that I like, I would accept a 'lower salary' just to work part-time (~15 - 20 hrs/week) remotely, then I would seriously consider joining, but that's not the case in Europe, apparently.

Being located in Cambodia, I get even fewer job offers. However, that is probably because they can see beforehand that I would not relocate to UK or DE. For 10 years, I made less than what I used to make in Europe, but with the much lower cost of living here, it probably boiled down to somewhat the same. Since this year, however, I make substantially more. So, as you can see, it is possible to have your cake and eat it too! ;-)

I think remote is quite realistic if you have decent chops. It's the part-time that will be problematic. Nobody wants to hire part timers. Most places aren't even happy with 40 hours a week. I work remotely (9 time zones apart!), but I find that I spend at least 2 hours of my day on communication. Since I'm fairly productive the rest of the time (6 hours), I can more than make up for it. If you were only working 3-4 hours a day, I can imagine that in many circumstances it would be a struggle to be productive.

Having said that, there are some teams who are super organized and can just ship off short stories if you are an amazing coder. They are few and far between, though, so you will really need to network to find them.

Good luck!

You might want to start with filling out your Hacker News profile if you actually are searching for remote work.

Part of finding that kind of work is to do with marketing ;)

I think remote working works best when doing maintenance work on software. I can understand why companies don't like remote workers when building new products from scratch.

I would like to emigrate in the next few years and work remotely for European companies and this is my intended strategy. Perhaps this is something you should try and maybe tell HN how that would work out for you.

Stop looking in a local area. Remote work is on remote work websites like wfh.io and remoteok. And upwork.

Also, this is a slow cultural transition as people learn about remote tools for collaboration and start to accept it. So within a few more years it will be different.

Companies in the US still prefer hire remote workers in the states over europeans, I guess mostly due to the timezone, and because of the legal issues, it's always easier for them. You need to be an exceptional developer to overcome this disadvantage and make them they to consider to hire you.

Besides that, most of the positions posted in job boards are for Full-Stack or Front-End developers, not many Back-End or Data Science, which is what I am looking for.

If companies in Europe were more open to telecommuting, we would have much more chances to get a remote job and companies would have more chances to hire better developers. I guess this will change in the next years.

I know quite a few friend in Poland doing remote work... for US. Especially given higher IT salaries in the US than in Western Europe, it't not that bad.

I do as well, but mostly freelancing contracts. The only thing that sucks is the timezone difference.

May I ask what is the relationship between remote workers and the employer's company? Are the remote workers hired directly by the US company, are they hired by a Polish subsidiary of the US company, or are they self-employed working as a contractors?

This varies.

Big companies that are incorporated in many countries will just employ you in the most relevant country (including your own).

Smaller companies can't do this (overhead, financial burden, regulation, blah blah blah), so they just hire you as an independent contractor. You get paid by whatever arrangement, and file your taxes accordingly. They pay an invoice file their taxes accordingly.


- self-employed working as contractors,

- after some time working in the US (either an internship or a regular position), but who went back to Poland (mostly personal reasons, but sometimes visa as well),

- in smaller companies/startups from Bay Area (where making exceptions is a... standard).

Either self-employed (myself included) or create subsidiary.

Hiring people directly over borders is legal nightmare. Though technically sometimes possible, tax complications are hard to follow.

When I did that (working remotely from Poland for US companies), I was self-employed and worked as a contractor.

Anyone looking for a remote modern Perl job in Europe, email me at pete@perl.careers

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