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Kevan Carstensen
Kevan Carstensen

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Remote work: here to stay?

Like many developers in the US, I've been working remotely since March of this year. It was hard at first – losing the social connection and routine of the office was a blow considering everything else going on this year. I've gotten used to it, though.

Many prominent companies (Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Shopify, Dropbox, etc) have committed to have remote work as an option even after the pandemic. Anecdotally, the majority of recruiter emails I get these days are remote positions – not just pandemic remote, remote period. These are for startups; rarely for big tech companies.

My question, seeing all of this, is whether this shift towards remote work lasts beyond the pandemic. Do you think the companies that have embraced remote work will one day reverse themselves, like Yahoo back in the day? Or is this trend here to stay? Would you want to work mostly or entirely remotely? Would your lifestyle change if you could?

Top comments (9)

isnotajoke profile image
Kevan Carstensen

Answering my own question:

I'm hopeful that remote work sticks around as an option (though not a requirement). Acknowledging the many downsides of remote work 1, I find that I'm calmer, more productive, and generally happier without going into the office every day. I can collaborate just fine virtually (this was always something I assumed would be a blocker for doing my role remotely), and focus work is far easier. Overall, I think my team is about as productive as we were in person, though there was a definite learning curve getting there.

For me, the big lifestyle win would be having a greater variety of jobs to choose from that don't require me to be in a high cost of living area. I could move closer to family, or just somewhere a little calmer than my current home. This was an option before 2020 – remote was, of course, a thing before COVID-19 – but I never felt that there were enough remote roles to make me confident in being a remote-only worker. I'm a lot more confident in that now.

It's hard to imagine remote work going back to what it was (sort of the exception/a curiosity) after the pandemic. I think the bigger companies that have committed in public to embrace it will continue to do so, anyway – having multiple engineering offices, as these places do, is already a forcing function for some sort of remote DNA. I'm less sure about some of the smaller companies/startups I get emails from. Plenty of remote or mostly-remote startups exist and do fine, I guess, but plenty of others seem to rely on informal communication pathways to complete big initiatives; I think that kind of informal connection is easier to do in person.

  1. It's challenging for people with children, especially women. It's hard for people without a dedicated workspace, or with roommates. It may have a negative effect on people just starting in their careers that lasts for years. It can be profoundly isolating for people who thrive on social contact that they get at the office. Many people have trouble focusing and getting work done without the structure of an office. And so on. 

kallmanation profile image
Nathan Kallman

I hope it doesn't become a 2 days in office 3 days at home "remote". That's the worst of both worlds! Now I need:

  1. 2 chairs
  2. 2 desks
  3. 2-6 monitors
  4. A home large enough for office space; that's also:
  5. Close enough to the office for the commuting days (and keeping up on the car / transport that entails)

I admit some things seem to work better in person; and having a personal relationship with coworkers can be good and really only done by in person meetings.

For a "blended" office/remote work then I think it should be 1 week in office every 1-2 months. Then living farther away and traveling / renting an extra vehicle makes sense. And the office can be a quarter the staff size, while a week is long enough for people to bring keyboards and things to set up "their" office for the week.

isnotajoke profile image
Kevan Carstensen

I like the sound of 1 week every couple months. Pre-COVID, that was the cadence (not formally, mind you, just worked out this way) for some of our remote teammates. Even a few times a year can be really helpful, just for putting people to Slack handles and building some informal/social rapport with coworkers.

steinbring profile image
Joe Steinbring

As a little background, the job that I had before this one was with a company that was 100% remote. One of the reasons why I switched jobs was because I wanted somewhere to go (beyond my guest bedroom) for work. Before the pandemic, my organization required multiple levels of approval in order to work from home. Since then, they require multiple levels of approval (and a training session) to work from the office. I don't see that changing before widespread distribution of a vaccine. I really want the option to work from the office (at least occasionally). This whole thing has really reset everyone's expectations of the viability of work from home. I don't expect my organization to just say "nobody needs to ever come back", though.

In general, I think that it really depends on how much the organization trusts their employees and how much they have invested in their corporate campus. If the company put $50mil into their campus over the past few years, I'm guessing that they will be more apt to say that "physical proximity is required for unit cohesion". ;)

isnotajoke profile image
Kevan Carstensen

It's not a tech company, but your last paragraph reminds me of REI's planned sale of its newly constructed and unoccupied headquarters earlier this year. I was surprised by that (having read past articles about the headquarters).

190245 profile image

A little background first...

Thanks to a few different things, I found out about the impending lockdown a little early, so have been 100% WFH since mid February, and on a recent call with my boss, we were told "there's no expectation to come back to the office until at least June next year, and even then, it may only be 1-2 days a week in the office."

Before the Covid pandemic, my employers formal policy was "no WFH allowed" but different line managers bent that rule in different ways, while some followed the policy to the letter.

Now, they've had to reassess, and not just because of the pandemic, but also to stay competitive with other companies (in terms of attractiveness when hiring). Nothing formal, but 2/3 home/office is being talked about at high levels.

Fundamentally, some things (currently) work better in person than remotely. I'm sure one day technology will solve that problem. Brainstorming, hack-a-thons, knowledge sharing type activities with a whiteboard, simply work more efficiently in person.

For everything else, remote working (as a developer) should be a right - but is a double edged sword.

I used to do 8 hours a day, I typically now do 14 - it's not expected of me in any way, but it happens. Before the pandemic, I've been away on holiday & worked. During the pandemic, when travel was allowed, I went on holiday and deliberately didn't take my work laptop - my partner still has pictures of me on a sunbed using my phone to reply to emails & talk to people on IM.

Our future, has always been to emigrate somewhere warmer - increased WFH will just make that more possible (several countries now offer visas for a year or 2 if you can work remotely).

I just need to sort the work/life balance out now that I don't have a commute.

isnotajoke profile image
Kevan Carstensen

The work/life balance issue hits home for me. My day has similarly expanded, and I find myself working more weekends too on top of that (something I didn't really do before). Some of that is learning to set boundaries better, and I think some of is a product of COVID. A lot of what I'd ordinarily do outside of work isn't an option during a pandemic; that, combined with the fact that I really enjoy a lot of my job means that work is often the most interesting thing I have to do. 🤔

winstonpuckett profile image
Winston Puckett

I enjoy my work because I'm part of a team that's dedicated to excellence and dedicated to building each other up. Both of these are cultural elements that I've had a really hard time encouraging in my team. I hope it's an option, but I hope my team doesn't choose to exercise it too often.

madhust profile image
Madhu Sudhanan P

This is my first remote working experience. I found myself very healthy and active throughout the day. As I am working in a product based company there are not much client calls to attend.

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