cover image by Matt.c.28 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Recently our team at RunX was featured in a piece on remote work that has proven something of a rorschach test: in comments on the article and social media sites like LinkedIn, people have seen remote work as difficult, dangerous, a godsend, the future, or an effect of the pandemic that will soon be shaken off.
I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about how RunX has succeeded by embracing remote work, and why other startups will need to let go of locality if they don’t want to limit their growth.
The Limiting factor in cloud growth: people
In 2018 I gave a few talks about the difficulties in hiring experts in containerization, which included the throwaway line: “talk to any CTO and they’ll tell you that it’s hard to hire qualified people, when’s the last time a CTO complained they couldn’t find enough RAM?”
Sadly that little quip is a bit less timely given the current chip shortage, but even if you’ve been waiting six months for a GPU, the point still stands. Where once hardware purchasing could present a hard limit on your IT Operations growth, now the limiting factor is almost always the trouble of staffing and maintaining a team of skilled operations engineers.
Wait, what does any of this have to do with remote work?
I know this has been a hard year and a half for all of us. And for some of us, part of the pain of this time, along with the constant fear and knowledge that western liberal democracies don’t care about the welfare of their citizens, being cooped up in our homes wasn’t always fun. But for those of us lucky enough to still have jobs, and homes, remote work has meant a major upgrade to a previous commute heavy existence.
As our children return to school we’re able to spend an extra hour with them every single day. And our trips to school can happen with any parent now that we don’t have to get to a downtown office.
Days where you have two meetings, one at 8 am and the second at 3pm, can be spent in relative leisure rather than furtively reloading twitter at your desk. And if a day has more than 8 hours of work stuffed into it, well at least you’re home to have dinner with your family.
But as the pandemic stretches into its second year, people’s lives are shifting more fundamentally. People are re-locating to homes that more suit their daily lives. More than one of my own co-workers has gone from semi-urban wasteland to bucolic bliss, complete with solar panels and a goat herd. Others are living closer to family, while still others are planning multi-year global tours.
As numerous large tech companies prepare to ramp up their long-silent offices, they have little to offer in compensation for these lost benefits beyond K-cups and artisan burritos. Major players like Apple and Facebook have shown more willingness to force their employees to commute. Their confidence stems possibly from the knowledge that, paying the highest salaries in the industry, their employees will need to take a pay cut to leave.
Go Big and Go Home
Now perhaps you see the connection between remote work and the difficulty of hiring and keeping good people. If you are incapable of paying half a million dollars for every engineer as the FAANG companies do, you will be hard pressed to keep them if you insist they fight for domestic real estate in the bay area.
But the most successful teams won’t just say ‘remote OK’ and leave it at that. I’m working next on a piece about how remote teams differentiate themselves. In the meantime, comment down below with what benefits you expect in a remote team.
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