PoolThis tweet from Justin Searls (from TestDouble) discusses how companies who hire remote developers don’t have any issue finding applicants (to the point where they don’t need to pay recruiting fees). This doesn’t surprise me at all. There are a number of reasons why remote work will lead to more job applicants.

  • There’s a larger labor pool. This is the biggest advantage, and accrues to both sides of the labor market. (There’s a larger labor pool, but there’s a larger set of hiring companies as well.) Even if you are in SF, the labor pool for a particular technical skill is going to be larger if you include remote work (because your pool will include everyone in SF as well as everywhere else). If you can handle the legal tangle, your labor pool can extend past national boundaries as well.
  • The remote developer has more time. Typically the “commute” for a remote worker is on the order of minutes or seconds, as they walk to a different room in their house. Compare this with tens of minutes or hours of driving, public transit or biking. A commute to an office is a hidden job expense which can total hours of unpaid labor every week (or you could look at it as the price you pay for living where you want to live, as opposed to where your employer is located).
  • Remote work promotes different, less intrusive communication practices. Meetings take place on slack. PRs are reviewed online, rather than code review happening by looking over someone’s shoulder. Aysnchronous communication is favored (although that can certainly happen within colocated companies as well). These processes are far better for knowledge sharing than anything else, especially as a team scales.
  • Similarly, flow is easier to achieve when you are a remote worker, as long as you turn off your notifications (and set up your office appropriately). Depending on your workload this can be valuable and/or appealing.
  • Remote developers in general have more control over their environments. Most people enjoy this control (which, by the way, is free or cheap to the company).
  • People don’t have to uproot their lives to work for an interesting company.
  • There’s a larger labor pool. This is so important it’s worth listing twice.

There are of course many benefits to being onsite.

  • Easy, free, higher bandwidth communication that doesn’t require downloading yet another video conferencing plugin. Humans have been communicating face to face for hundreds of thousands of years and are finely tuned communication machines. If communication is a wall of text, context can be lost and misunderstanding can ensue.
  • Interaction outside of work is easier. This can be more important for different folks at different times in their career.
  • Water cooler/serendipitous department cross pollination can occur when people are in the same physical space.
  • Some types of technical discussion are just easier in person (I still haven’t find a truly great online whiteboarding application).
  • Some folks have a harder time staying focused or being motivated at home.

There are of course solutions for remote workers for all of the above onsite advantages. Every company and worker needs to determine what works best for them.

But just like e-commerce changed retail and social networks changed keeping in touch with old friends and work colleagues, I expect remote work to remake the modern team organization structure.

PS For more on this, consider this subsequent tweet from Justin.

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