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I think remote work will be difficult for junior devs particularly for mentorship and making them feel like a part of the team. Also getting comfortable with not only a companies tech stack but now also remote tools.

 

As a junior who worked in the office for ~7 months before WFH, I can confirm that it’s harder to knowledge-share remotely.

As an example, my favorite way to explain concepts is through drawing diagrams on a whiteboard. I’m not sure why, but I haven’t found drawing software that I’ve felt comfortable and swift enough to use in a video call.

 

Which goes to show that everyone's preferences are different when it comes to learning ... I almost never use diagrams, just give me text (email, articles) or code ... that's why I say give people a choice - even when a company is fully remote employees could still utilize co-working spaces (which then should be encouraged, but not mandatory).

 

I think what you might need is a tablet and a stylus. Tablet, because a mobile phone does not offer enough screen space and stylus because drawing with a finger doesn't feel the same as drawing with a pen. This is the case for me at least 😅

 

That rings true, I think for most seniors who've been around the block remote is fine, for juniors it might be a different story. A combo of local and remote (co-working spaces?) might be optimal in many cases.

 

I'm 25+ years into an IT consulting career. I've only had brief stints as a "never remote" worker. In short, I don't think new-to-the-profession people are intrinsically disadvantaged by going to work for a 100% remote business.

For reference: I first started doing almost-wholly remote work in 1997. My employer paid to run an ISDN line and a PBX-extension to my apartment (cell phones weren't practical options, back then, just pagers). It was only my second IT-focused job — after having only been at my prior employer (my first permanent, full-time job after graduating from college) for 18 months. So, I'd say I was pretty junior at the time (even if my hobbies had made me "advanced for my age").

I have seen a lot of my batchmates struggle, while I didn't have any major issues while working from home. I am talking about interns here, who haven't yet graduated. Knowing my way around tech and being "advanced for my age" has actually made WFH easier for me. Doesn't mean it is the same for others. Junior devs do struggle with WFH!

My point was more that whether you struggle or not (or need an office setting), is less a function of seniority than the individual worker. I've spent most of my career working on distributed and/or remote/wholly-offsite teams. Some people are suited for it, many aren't. It was never a problem for me. But, for others it often is. Worse, most people don't really know whether they're suited for it until they accept their first primarily-remote or remote-only jobs. Over the years, I've encountered many newly-hired senior engineers who simply couldn't cope with not working in an office and being able to have face-to-face conversations (not just work-related, but the random "what did you think of the latest GoT episode" or "man, the Cowboys really stunk it up, yesterday" conversations ...possibly finding the absence of the latter more problematic than absence of the former).

Overall, it's sorta like how a significant number of people have had problems with the COVID19-related lockdowns while some don't. I feel fortunate to be in the "don't" camp.

Ironically, one of the biggest problems I had with remote work didn't occur until after I got married. It took my wife nearly two years to understand that just because I was home didn't mean I was available. It took a number of months of me stating — eventually yelling — "that thing you walk by that looks like me? That's not me, that's just a really lifelike hologram" …and that my business-hours availability is just like when I used to travel for a living — if it ain't a legit emergency, I ain't available during those hours (and, no, the fact that your cable box isn't working doesn't constitute an emergency).

 
 

One consequence I foresee is based on indications that Facebook will be giving paycuts to remote employees who move to places with lower costs of living. I'm afraid this will set a precedence to other companies as well, and will incentivize lowering pay for all developers across the board.

 

Would that be a bad thing, though? I mean, besides smaller number < big number, more purchasing power means smaller salary gives you a better standard of living. Or the same standard.

What I'd worry about is a scummy place like Facebook using this opportunity to lower people's standard of living under the context of readjusting cost of living equations. But overall, being paid less when you're in a cheaper area doesn't inherently bother me. Seems rational and better for everyone involved.

I was looking at Gitlab's reasoning, for example, and I can't argue against any of it - about.gitlab.com/handbook/total-re....

Edit: this coming from someone in northern Virginia where all the houses start at 800k.

 

I agree with GitLab. Here's a nice excerpt.

Adjusting pay according to the local market in all cases is fair to everyone. We can't remain consistent if we make exceptions to the policy and allow someone to make greater than local competitive rate for the same work others in that region are doing (or will be hired to do). We realize we might lose a few good people over this pay policy, but being fair to all team members is not negotiable. It is a value we stand behind and take very seriously.

It intially feels wrong, and it is messy because large companies do affect the local pay that local industries are subject to. This doesn't eliminate the need for a well thought out policy though.

Another take is paying everyone the same number but their local currencies differ - thats not quite the same but is a good illustration imo.

In any given job-region (i.e the total area described by the commute-radius from a given corporate work-center), there are expensive neighborhoods and cheaper neighborhoods. If they're not doing ZIP-by-ZIP adjustments then their "fairness" doctrine is a sham.

The work being done has a specific value. It's the value of the work that the pay should reflect, not whether one employee is more able to afford to take a lower compensation just because they live in a cheaper ZIPcode.

Fair cost of living-adjusted pay doesn't equate to living in whatever neighborhood you want, it is fair for the local region. Usually that is at the state level. To suggest that isn't fair enough because they aren't paying per-street corner is some type of disingenuous fallacy. You can be plenty fair with compensation without ZIP-by-ZIP adjustments.

I'll also add, work output value !== employee value. In a good fit, employee value > work output value.

I live in the DC region. Within this region, there are several job-clusters with the average commute-radius for any given job-cluster of around the 25mi mark. If you placed a centroid at the Washington Monument to encompass most of the job-clusters and their average commute-radii, the overall average commute-radius is easily 45 miles (with some uber-commuters driving +60mi each way every day).

Using that 45mi radius circle, you're talking about an area of well over 6,000 square miles. even if you go with a more conservative radius, you're still over 3,000 square miles. Within whichever commute-area you wish to use, there are three different state-level jurisdictions. There are six county-level jurisdictions just within the inner-ring of suburbs. Even within a single, county-level economic territory, there are significant differences in cost of living that aren't accountable for simply by assuming "oh, you chose to live in an expensive neighborhood". Especially when you evaluate over time.

To illustrate, there's my case. Unlike many of my peers, I was conservative: I bought into a neighborhood that I was well within my "comfortably afford" envelope yet was still a sub 45-minute commute to the job-clusters I wanted to have access to. Between my 2002 purchase and the 2008 market-collapse, my house price more than doubled in value (and real estate taxes along with it). The post-collapse recovery means my initial purchase is now less than a third of its currently assessed value (which, again means my property taxes are 3x what they were when I first bought). Yet, four miles away — across a river as well as in a different state and county — a house of similar size and on a similarly-sized plot of land can be had for approximately half my current monthly outlay (though, at the time of my initial purchase, the delta was considerably lower). And while those arguing for the fairness of state- or region-wide pay-zones would say, "just move four miles," not only don't understand the economics of the region, they don't understand that moving four miles in that direction would add an average of 30 minutes to any existing commute (under normal traffic conditions). This is one of those areas where one measures commutes less by distance than by traffic-patterns.

So, no, greater-granularity in location-based salary-adjustments isn't a disingenuous argument if one is going to argue that it's reasonable for an employer to institute location-sensitive compensation.

 

I think location based pay is reasonable, but I feel like actually cutting pay because someone started working remotely (which saves the company money by not needing office space and whatever other amenities in office employees get) isn't great.

 

That is a very valid concern. Facebook has so much influence, the way they handle the result of the pandemic will show other companies how to proceed. I hope they do the right thing but i'm confident they won't.

 

Sadly, that sums up my opinion of Facebook pretty well too... 😔

 
 

Justified concern, that's the flip side of the "more opportunities regardless of location" coin ... question is if FB is actually going to do this (based on the huge pile of cash FB has there is no financial need really) but they might be tempted to start that "discussion".

 

Of course! I look forward to the opportunities that will now be open to my many friends in rural areas far from the big tech hubs, I just wish companies would pay them what they're worth and not try to save a buck by making silly COL arguments.

I don't remember where I saw it, but it was from a FB employee who said it was a message from management.

One interesting result might be that the inflated housing/real estate/rental market in these "tech hubs" (SF, Bay Area, Silicon Valley and so on) may start to relax and get back to normal levels ... I think many San Francisco (etcetera) residents, especially the ones who don't work in the tech industry but who've been seeing rent and prices soar, will be welcoming this.

Yeah, as someone who recently left Brooklyn so I could afford a house (not SF, but not too far behind lol) I'm really looking forward to that aspect of it!

Here, found one:

Right ... just one thing I was wondering about:

Does Facebook already have offices & employees outside of the USA, like for instance in India? If that's the case then it's safe to predict that the employees in (let's say) the India based offices receive lower wages (on average) than the ones in the Bay Area ... there's no way that they would be paying the same salary, because frankly it wouldn't make sense.

(not because the India devs or employees are in whichever way "less" than their US counterparts, but simply because of the huge gap with regards to cost of living)

In other words, I don't know if we should really be as "shocked" by this as we may think we should be ... this policy (or planned policy) might very well just be common sense.

I think its shocking because of the circumstances. We're in a global pandemic where lots of people went back to their parents houses and left NYC or the bay for what they thought would be temporary. Now its looking like this will be a while and Facebook is saying "we're cutting your pay unless you move back to SF even if its not safe".

I think the "shocking" part is that, by being remote, you're saving them money. It's significantly cheaper to furnish bandwidth than to rent/buy office-space, furnish it, climate-control it, clean it, etc.

And the whole "but where you're living is cheaper" thing is a crock to start with. I mean, as it stands, people working in the same building (in the same position) get paid based on their skills and experience, not on whether they live in an expensive part of town or commute 60mi each way so they can live someplace cheap. HR doesn't look at my ZIPcode and my teammate's ZIPcode and say "I'm giving you a CoL bump and I'm giving your teammate a CoL ding".

You've partially convinced me, however if FB's office is in an area (county, even state) where rent and other prices are totally through the roof, not in one zip code but virtually anywhere, then they HAVE to pay higher salaries don't they? Or people will simply be unable to make ends meet, no matter which city, town or neighborhood they live.

Apart from this "exceptional" scenario I would tend to say your logic is right.

What if they would give people a "base salary", which would be the same no matter locality or on site/remote, and which would be based on job title and years of experience and so on (so "merit based"), and on top of that people can get "subsidized" to cover specific costs (which they will have to prove by showing bills and so on) ?

That might be the basis for a more fair and transparent system of remuneration. I think that would be the way forward - whatever approach a company chooses, make it fair and make it transparent.

Yes you're absolutely right, the circumstances (COVID-19) make this very very shocking indeed - telling people "you need to come back to the office or you get a pay cut". But what about the news then recently that both Facebook and Twitter will allow their employees to WFH permanently?

At one point in time, Facebook (and others) decided "the value of the <POSITIONS> is worth $X/year compensation-outlay". If they weren't, they could have made the decision to move locations to where they could source for less. This strikes me as opportunistic. It also strikes me as a harbinger of a future where, "we now only want to pay $Y/year for your position: you probably want to move to someplace cheaper if you want to retain your earnings:CoL ratio" (and, ultimately, a harbinger of "we're just going to offshore since <FOREIGN MARKET>'s rates are significantly cheaper than even the lowest CoL-adjusted salary within this state/region/country would allow for").

Ultimately, it sort of strikes me as "double dipping" on such companies' parts: reduce the costs associated with facilitating workers' ability to produce (especially given that the costs of corporate facilities are likely going to have to go up to reflect newly-identified spacing, cleaning, HVAC and other requirements) and reduce the raw amount you're paying said workers ...all while retaining the full value of a given employee's output.

That they didn't previously simply outsource things says that there's (at least up to this decision-point) an intrinsic value to having workers within a given cultural-, language- or time-region doing the work. If so, the fair thing is to pay for the value of those factors.

Overall, if a company thinks that where an employee lives or works from changes the value of what they produce, then they should probably only hire employees that meet the associated cost/value relationship.

I mean lots of companies already pay low enough that employees need two jobs to make ends meet. In this case I'm assuming its just someone at Facebook decided to apply the usual Cost of Living calculation to remote workers. It seems like a cost saving measure for facebook. Ad spending is way down so they're trying to save.

Which is fine. But be honest with me. Don't try to claim it's "fair" to cut my compensation simply because I moved — especially if me no longer sucking up cube-space already saves you money. Tell me "we need to either cut everyone's compensation or start laying people off because the income-landscape has changed and we're facing losses". Of course, such honesty also means that, for "fairness" sake, C-suite occupants and shareholders should be similarly-facing cuts.

 

That precedent has been around for ages. I mean, if your familiar with the Federal government, they provide a base-pay and a locality-bump.

Also, because your retirement is based on your last few years' payroll, a lot of Federal employees try to get billeted to expensive locals a couple years before their retirement: if you retire out of a LA/NYC/Chicago/DC billet, your retirement check's fatter than if you retire out of a billet in, say, Nebraska. ...And then you can take that fatter retirement check and relocate to someplace cheap.

Even outside of the Federal government, there've already been remote-oriented IT companies that do locality-based pay-scaling.

 

Hmm! The big one seems obvious but I'll just state the obvious anyway - Onboarding is challenging to get right: cultivating a positive team culture and making sure people feel welcome and included. For people more junior and for students doing internships, there's also the added complexity of remote mentoring. All obstacles that can be overcome but I can see them being stumbling blocks for companies adjusting to remote-first.

For some people, working from home isn't ideal, so hopefully there is a plan in place to fund co-working spaces (once they reopen) for those who would rather work somewhere other than their own home. I don't think it's fair to expect everyone to be capable of working from home productively. Lots of people live in small spaces with loud distractions beyond their control 😅

Oh one more: potential for way too many conference calls. Some are definitely needed for both building relationships and hashing work out, but I think it's really easy to suck up all of an employee's time with a million calls when everyone is remote. There needs to be good time blocking for deep work.

 

HR and managers will be more demanding and asking for tracking software to be installed. There might not be a lot of difference between work and rest time due to micro management of workers.

 
 

How easy it will be to lay people off. No in person meeting, you just get a text that Friday is your last day.

 

You can get fired that way even if you have an office, bad HR will be bad with and without an office.

 

Exactly! When companies start out 100% remote it’s usually through some altruistic idea it creates a better work life balance. When companies shift to 100% remote, just watch the bad practices get even worse in some cases.

When we went fully remote it was a long effort to get things right and it was not great for everyone. It requires a lot of empathy and new practices and is so much easier said than done.

Even with the best of intentions, it seems very hard to scale out the kind of attention to humanity and the care for the mental health of workers.

Shameless our recent work about some of these struggles and wins 😄

play pause DevDiscuss
 

If managers start using time tracking as a control mechanism instead of a way for devs to own their time/improve estimations there is going to be some huge pushback for sure.

 

I haven't read this article fully yet, but this could be what happens. Remote work will be an option for the high earners/privileged but may not open up opportunities for the lower-income, disabled, etc.

theconversation.com/remote-work-wo....

I hope I'm wrong.

 
 

Whiteboard interviews through zoom. I guess you just write on your wall?

But in all seriousness I think it's going to open up the opportunity for developers that can't relocate to work at one of the tech giants, so that's good to be great!

 

There will be phases:

  1. Companies and teams trying to replicate in-office interactions and behaviors virtually, which will inevitably fail.
  2. Overusing/misusing virtual meeting tools, which will end up just wasting a lot of peoples' time
  3. Middle and traditional micromanagers will lose their minds and put alerts on their team the moment they move their mouse
  4. Teams will retool, adapt over time, but it will be painful for many for the first year at least.
 

People copying Facebook directions like a blueprint without thinking what makes sense or doesn't for their own company at their size.

On the flip side, if Facebook doesn't backtrack from the idea of paying based on COL (Gitlab and Buffer have been doing the same for years), devs might be going elsewhere and who knows, maybe even starting their own companies prompted by this.

I also wonder if the VC market is going to change for the worse for founders who need VC money.

 

As someone living with ADD, working from home has been quite a challenge for me.
I realized that I need the commute and the different environment at the workplace in order to context switch so I can actually concentrate and get work done.
As it is right now I need to rely on medication to at least have the chance to be concentrated and productive. So in the long run I'd probably have to get a desk in a shared office space if I have to do more remote work.

Disclaimer: This comes from personal experience and probably can't be generalized for all ADD/ADHD peeps.

 

Well, if/when broadband actually meaningfully penetrates the deep suburbs and rural areas, means you can work anywhere. Two consequences of that are:

  • Potentially leads to hollowing-out of urban areas since workers no longer need to be physically-proximal to their employer(s)
  • Potentially leads to yet more population-sprawl (as part of that hollowing-out of urban areas)
  • If you bought a house in an urban area that hollows-out and did so near the top of the market, your investment-value is potentially going to be greatly reduced ...potentially to the point of going under water
  • And while you can potentially take your urban salary with you to the suburbs:
    • Employers might start trying to scale your salary to match your local cost of living
    • If you can work from anywhere, then it makes offshoring to much cheaper workers that much easier to do — particularly if your skill-set isn't exceptional (since you've demonstrated to employers that "anyone anywhere" can do the job
 

"Employers might start trying to scale your salary to match your local cost of living"
I really hate this, on a superficial levels seems like something fair and whatnot, but employers are not paying living expenses to their employees -usually-, they are paying for a service, if that service is valued 4k/month it can't be now reduced to 1k because you're moving to India.
The same way if I want to buy for example, a hosting service, clothes, a switch, is going to cost me the same no matter where I'm living.
What would be the next, if the person owns the house where they're living, cutting off the salary a bit more because they don't have to pay renting/mortgage?

The is fair to everyone because blabla seems like sugarcoating the fact that the company is going to save money at the cost of the workers.

Someone mentioned -I'm not sure if it was you- that a base salary with extra compensation for expenses, i.e. rent, would work and I'd see that as fairer solution to the workers.

 

It's generally seemed to me that entities that try to make the argument that something is "fairn" are typically trying to give themselves cover for shitty actions by using an emotionally-loaded term.

 

I could see more companies using cost of living as an excuse to pay remote employees less than they are worth (some companies already do this). While I haven't been in this situation, I doubt the process is transparent or fair to the employee. I also doubt there would be a raise if you moved to a higher cost of living area.

Edit: I just read that Zuckerberg's statement said that employees moving to lower cost of living areas will take a pay cut. 😐 I hope everyone doesn't follow their lead.

 

How about if you move to a country like... Hong Kong let's say. HK was designated the most expensive place to live in, last year.
Will they increase your salary 2-3 times just so that you can afford a decent apartament or will they encourage you to move to random country where everything it's cheap, like India or something?

 

I read an article this morning about Spotify and Shopify extending their remote work policy to the end of this year.

I think it can be a very good idea if it is done properly. I think that graduate dev should meet at an office much more than more senior devs for leanrning, training, etc... But senior devs should come as well (not that often) to push the good practices and mentor the newcomers and the graduate devs.

If managers trust their teams and the teams have enough senior devs, remote work can be incredible.
If you want to know more about that, you should definitely read Remote from the founders of Basecamp. I read it a few years ago and it changed a lot the way I worked remotely (even if it was just a few days a week).

 

While not directly related to tech, a lot of local communities are going to take a significant monetary hit from this.

Coffee, lunch, gyms, and other small to medium businesses thay rely on their office regulars coming in are going to see a steep decline in revenue.

There's a very real economic impact of 10000 people no longer showing up to town for work.

 

I am really curious about if it distributes big cities. Will people flee from Silicon Valley?? I know I would

 

The thing that a lot of people forget is that broadband policy in the US is really regressive. Just because you'd like to take advantage of the option of leaving doesn't mean there aren't significant portions of the country that are effectively off-limits (unless your remote work can be done over dial-up). And even in the regions that have broadband, many such markets are mon- or duopoly broadband-markets — so providers have things like bandwidth caps: between the bandwidth you use for your job, are you going to have enough left over for your non-work Netflix-and-chill hours?

I mean, I wouldn't mind moving back to the region I grew up in …but, having Xfinity as, effectively, my only broadband option makes that a non-starter.

 

I don't know if I agree with you on that. I live in the middle of Indiana and do just fine with Xfinity and it really is not bad at all.

I have friends, family co-workers that are stuck with Xfinity as their only option. On a Mbps/$ basis, the less competitive the market, the higher Xfinity prices their offerings ...while simultaneously reducing the speed-options available. And, unlike, say, FiOS, there's always Xfninity's monthly data-limits (which, like speeds, vary by how many provicer-options subscribers have available to them).

 

I don't think it's a phenomenon we can stop even if we would like to but I agree it's good to have this discussion about pros and cons and about ways we could mitigate the drawbacks.

Oh and one sector of the economy that's obviously not going to like this development is real estate, housing market in San Francisco and other tech hubs is through the roof and has been for years but that might start to relax if "remote" takes of.

 

I think remote work is awesome (at least for me - I know not everyone likes it). I just worry that some companies are jumping in for the wrong reasons. For instance:

  1. They will try to use this as a way to cut the pay of their employees (cough Facebook cough). I find it interesting as a remote employee generally has lower costs than an in-office person but companies often perceive remote work only as an employee benefit and thus use it to offer less money or reduce people's pay. Some even tie pay scales to where you work, which I find kind of warped given everyone is doing the same work and as the workforce is getting more mobile can lead to weird disparities.
  2. They will use it to further blur the lines between work and home, making it harder for a person to maintain a good work life balance. This is complicated by dealing with time zones and can be a tough balance even at a company doing it right, but it can be abused by where a company doesn't properly recognize the line between work time and home time.

So many major tech companies that were openly opposed to remote work up until March seem to be jumping in beyond what is required by the pandemic, but I worry not necessarily for altruistic reasons.

 

I have no doubt that the lack of physical human contact in the office will dramatically impair the ability of employees to be liked by others and no less important to be valued correctly, leading to a slowdown in internal growth and promotions. We aren't robots 🤖

 

What sucks most about this is in my opinion, that they (often) will do it without considering the employees. Remote work was something special for most companies. Some companies lived the remote work style but these companies usually hired people with remote work experience. Now suddenly you're expected to be good with remote work. This will be tough for many. I also wonder how they want to sell their "awesome office environment benefits" with design furniture, a barista and massages. Are they really think remote work is better? Or did they just see it is worth the incredible savings they can make?

 

It could push technology like VR to become adopted sooner. There are many use cases where virtual meetings will become very handy for some industries.

 

All of this being reinforced and hastened by COVID-19 obviously ...