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The four types of remote work

José Martins
If life gives you melons, ← ← A
Originally published at bytemybits.gitlab.io ・4 min read

Originally published on my blog: The four types of remote work

Remote work interests me very much, and I've been very keen on getting to know more, especially because of communication. You need to (almost) relearn the way you communicate since the the person is not there, like physically in front of you, but on the other hand it unlocks a whole new set of possibilities and also helps a lot with existing communication issues that even non-remote companies have.

With that said, from my experience, I put remote work into four categories:

  1. No remote
  2. Remote friendly
  3. Remote first
  4. Remote only

You're probably wondering why No remote is even there. Well, it is a reality for the higher majority of workers and if we aim for a proper comparison, it should be here as well.

No remote

No remote is the reality for most of us. For you to work you need be at a specific place, everyday, for a determined amount of time. People expect to find you (and everybody else) there. If I want to talk to you I can drop by your seat because I know you'll be present.

Pros

  1. You have the chance to connect with everyone in person
  2. Everybody is on the same timezone
  3. It's usually easier to do meetings because everyone is right there and on that meeting
  4. Free snacks and coffee (if that's something your company provides)
  5. Communication is easier because you're just talking directly to people

Cons

  1. You commute. E-v-e-r-y-d-a-y.
  2. You're limited to the office conditions you're given (probably an open space with lots of people and noise)
  3. You have fixed working hours (it could not be the case)
  4. Information usually gets lost in water cooler conversations because it's not written down
  5. People you meet are usually from around the area. If you're hiring you're limited to whom is already there or wants to relocate

Remote friendly

This is when most of the company works in office, but it's alright if you want to work remotely. It helps tremendously in situations like when your kid is sick, or when you have doctor's appointments and you live far from the office, or just when you're so tired that the 3 hours a day you spend commuting will be better spent resting.

Pros

  1. You can do a better balance of your personal and work life, i.e., kid's sick, you got appointments, you could just work from where it's best for you
  2. No commute for the days you're remote
  3. You still go to the office so you can connect with everyone in person

Cons

  1. Sometimes you're treated like a second-class citizen (work wise that is)
  2. Meetings can be very hard if people are not aware. You might end up connected to one laptop in a room with several people, talking at the same time, making it very hard for you to hear and to participate. They may also point the webcam to the wall for you to see what's being drawn in the board or the post its
  3. You miss out on important information because it happened on a discussion with people in the office and nobody remembered you weren't there, or maybe because it was very quick and setting up the whole thing was time consuming and not worth it. People also didn't write it down, because it all happened so naturally
  4. You choose your remote days carefully as to not collide with important meetings that people don't know how to do remote, like groomings, retros and that discussion about how cats rule the internet

Remote first

When you have offices and people are allowed to manage their time and workplace as they see fit, you have the room to be remote first. If everybody's in the office, you can just do it all offline, but if a single person is remote, then all proceedings are remote first. This means having proper support for remote meetings (audio and video) if you do them mixed (people in meeting room, people remote), or just do them remote by default, i.e., each person is connected to an online meeting. All key decisions have to reach everyone, they need to be accessible, so writing them down is key!

Pros

  1. You pick where you want to work: office, home or outer space (just remember to take your hotspot).
  2. No commute if you're not going to the office
  3. There's an office, so you could still go there and connect in person
  4. You feel included and not left out of important information or conversations just because you were not in the office

Cons

  1. If you remote from a different country (far away place) you lose direct interaction with other people that get a chance to go into the office
  2. In mixed meetings you might still feel a little bit left out, because it's always different from being present
  3. Creating relationships with your teammates is harder. You're not there to go and grab a beer

Remote only

There are no offices (just a mailbox, perhaps, with a sticker). Everybody you work with is in the same situation you are, but you choose where you want to be, as does everybody else. (Canada, here I come!)

Pros

  1. No (or shorter) commute - whether at home, co-working, coffee place or bunny island, you chose where you want to work
  2. Because everybody is in the same scenario, there is more awareness and concern towards information and interactions, so you don't feel left out
  3. You'll probably work with and meet people from many different countries and locations
  4. You can hire from anywhere in the world 🌍 (local financial laws will probably apply)
  5. Usually, once a year, you go to a cool new place for a get together with those nerds you talk to every day, so that you can nerd awkwardly with each other

Cons

  1. You might miss interacting with people (yes, that can happen)
  2. Timezones can be a bitch
  3. You need to learn new ways of communicating that are not synchronous (if you've never worked this way before)

I remote. Do you remote?

Discussion (25)

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imastee profile image
ste

Honestly I can't see myself work in remote. I just like to go the office and know other people, having fun with them, if I have some kind of problem I can ask for support to my colleagues. The idea of being alone in my a room (or in any other ok) simply doesn't attract me... I like office life!

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pabloportugues profile image
José Martins Author

I truly believe there are ways of working that suit all of us, with each individual quirk we might have. I see a lot of positive things about having an office, but having passed the last 4 years doing ~2/3 commute hours a day, I value time quite differently, so remote just makes sense for me, even if it's just friendly/first.
Also, there are remote workers who work in co-working spaces, so you can still have an office life, but in an office that's 5/10min away and not hours away. Missing human interaction is something that happens to remote workers (mostly people who work from home), but you can find a lot of helpful tips online on how to deal with that.
I agree that remote work does not come for free, as does not office work, the thing is, we're so used to the latter that we forgot how we learned it in the first time. Just try and remember the difficulty you had in learning how to use a mouse and keyboard, you now take it for granted, but there was a learning curve. Such is the case of remote work.

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julia_moskaliuk profile image
Julia Moskaliuk

I'd like to add this article from tmetric blog, quite interesting and useful - blog.tmetric.com/how-to-work-from-...

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ekimkael profile image
Ekim Kael

If you can provide links for remote at home, it will be helpfull for me

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pabloportugues profile image
José Martins Author

Some recommendations I can give (not solely focused on working from home):

There are several companies that have very good blog posts about remote, you could check on those as well:

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bansalsuv profile image
Suvansh Bansal

Just adding another post -
info.trello.com/hubfs/Trello-Embra...

It is actually an ebook by Trello and it talks in detail about all facets of remote working. You guys might find it helpful.

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lesis_more profile image
Leslie

Sometimes the office life can draw your concentration down by having too many disturbances, sometimes i get annoyed by people constantly asking for assistance, I end up being called Mr Know it all which is just not nice.

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jaredcobb profile image
Jared Cobb

Great summary!

I've worked in all four environments. If you want to work remotely full time, then the Remote Friendly model is the absolute worst. It's inefficient for everyone involved (and being a lone remote worker will cause you to be excluded from common information sharing).

For "No Remote" one of the "pros" is:

It's usually easier to do meetings because everyone is right there and on that meeting

But I'd actually say this is a "con". When you work in a distributed team you'll find that most meetings go away, and the same information sharing happens in a few minutes over async chats. Meetings are a huge productivity killer, and a main reason why I love remote work.

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pabloportugues profile image
José Martins Author

I was mostly referring to the standard way we perceive it, because I tend to agree with you there, however it's not a straightforward process to get to that point (hence being a pro). You need to first go through things like having distributed team, to re-evaluating the whole meeting process and understanding async communication, to then realize how it needs to be an integral part of your work life.
We're mostly synchronous in the way we communicate, async is great but has a learning curve.
Great point, nonetheless!

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jaredcobb profile image
Jared Cobb

Yep, totally agree. It's a real paradigm shift. :)

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Luiz Eduardo Carneiro

Love remote, my current situation is Remote first, there's a co-working that the rest of the company (the partners, CTO, CFO and CEO) work at, and I'm remote 4 days on the week, I just love it, it's by far the best way to do remote work.

Last year I spent some 8 months in pure remote, working for a company in another state in my country, the skype calls were daily, long AF, the guys at the company (not devs) frequently got confused about what I and my peers (also remotes) were doing, and the first time we all met in person in the company's place, everybody look very strange, no small talk, resuming, 1 month later I quit without even a new place to work! Just quit because I was having another burnout.

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oathkeeper profile image
Divyesh Parmar

I'm just starting my career, and I'm already so much fascinated with working only remote.

I just want to work with people from other countries as well as learn those small tidbits e. g., I use Sumatra PDF which one do you prefer?

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ekimkael profile image
Ekim Kael • Edited

That's of the coolest thing with remote work.
You can go where you want to go, and work where you want to work.communication with your partners if you're on a remote team it's all about something like chanels on the discord(i love that app)
Some rules must be established and everytime must follow those rules.

pabloportugues profile image
José Martins Author

How is that related to whether are you remote or not? I never do remote and never will and I still decide my own hours and I can change them (and I do.)

You might have no stipulated work hours for office, but my personal experience tells me otherwise, however I agree there are exceptions (it's a good thing that they are). When you're a in distributed team for example, that concept isn't really applicable, as not everyone will have the same work schedule.

Also, I am still free to choose where I live, that’s why the connection takes 1hr/day, spent walking through beauty streets and possibly making stops for a cup of coffee.

I can't live in the same city I work in, and if I wanted to work on the city I live in, I'd have to pass on the current job I have, which I don't want to. Honestly, I don't think it should be one way or the other, especially given that I can perfectly do my job whilst being remote. Being remote also gives you the possibility to, for example, travel the world, while working for the same company, having the same job.

The biggest con of remote (the reason I am positive it’s a second-class citizen) would be inability to a) teach and b) learn through pair programming, through follow-up questions involving the necessity to briefly share a context before asking etc.

I agree that remote communication isn't the same (or doesn't come as easy) as in person, but I disagree that you couldn't teach or learn through pair programming. You have a wide set of tools that helps achieve just that, you just have to learn a different form of communication. Most of the communication will probably be done asynchronously (and this has a learning curve), but you could fallback to synchronous when needed (like a one-to-one call).

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Adnan Rahić

I just started a new, remote only, job. Couldn't be any happier! But, I love to travel and talk at events wherever I go. Can't say everybody is like that, so I guess it really depends on the person.

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okolbay profile image
andrew

I remote. Do you remote?

No. Individual can never be as efficient as a team, distributed team can never be as efficient as colocated one. For me, if you take your job serious, you want to efficient at it - you work on-site with a colocated team. Personally for me office is a good boundary, that helps keeping work/life balance - no to little work outside of office (hours). Commuting time I spend reading, or riding a. bicycle, if weather allows.

There’s suprisingly little cons for full remote, I think you’re a bit biased )

Office cons is that watercooler conversations are not written? for remote they are not even happening))

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greencoder profile image
Vincent Cantin

Individual can never be as efficient as a team, distributed team can never be as efficient as colocated one.

I strongly disagree. Efficient communication is not related to how people communicate, but what they communicate.

Office cons is that watercooler conversations are not written? for remote they are not even happening))

There is a #watercooler channel for that.

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amyruth profile image
Amy Rutherford

I've worked remotely in a non tech job and it was good for me. After being in offices full of poison people and having no options it was a relief. I just had a deadline so if I was sick I could rest and do the work later in the day when I wasn't feeling so out of sorts. It allowed me to manage the things corporations don't care about much (health and sanity) and work on my own terms.

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Michael Glass

I'd argue fixed working hours are both a pro and a con.

Easy to know when you've done enough work.
Hard to take breaks when you're less productive / have life stuff to deal with.

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pabloportugues profile image
José Martins Author

I personally don't have fixed working hours (mandated by the company), but I still have my own working hours. The biggest difference is that I decide my own ours, and I can change them if I want. You have both the power and the responsibility of keeping your work schedule.

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Ian Watkins

I've worked remote for the same company for 21 years. Initially it was No remote, then more recently Remote friendly. I can agree with everything you have said.

Comms are good but even so it's the small nuggets of information that get lost when remote and they, as you say, are by fly by chats/water cooler moments. But that is also true for other office team members, so I don't worry about it.

Really nice post.

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Facundo Conde

Great article! I honestly see myself working remote when I have more experience, and as far as I see it, seems great

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signalnerve profile image
Kristian Freeman

Hey there! I'd love to publish this on Byteconf's Medium publication -- more details here about our story submission process: medium.com/byteconf/ios-12-wishlis...

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pabloportugues profile image
José Martins Author

Hey! As long as you point it back to here or my blog you're good to go. Btw, the link you posted has no reference to any submission process (at least one that I could see).