Unfortunately, I don’t think that remote work is “the new normal”. Remote work remains an unusual exception.
Among other things, I designed and built nderground, along with a lot of other large scale software systems. I get a constant stream of queries from recruiters trying to fill their pipeline. Most of these companies are in Silicon Valley or Seattle. When I reply to the recruiters that I can only consider remote or consulting opportunities, they have responded that these opportunities don’t allow remote work.
Having a remote team forces managers to work differently, in a structure that they’re not used to. All of those “disruptors” in technology companies are deeply uncomfortable with anything new or outside of their comfort zones. Especially when it comes to inter-personal relationships. Whether it is remote work, working with women or working with people who are older than they are they stay in their comfort zones.
Given the horrific commutes and the eye popping cost of office space, I am surprised the remote work is not more wide spread, even if it did introduce more management overhead.
Technology companies constantly complain that they can’t find top notch people. What they’re really saying is that they can’t find top notch people who can show up in their offices every day and who happen to be men under 40.
In addition to saving on office space, commute time and stress, remote work allows a company to recruit from a much larger labor pool.
I’ve watched Basecamp (a company that “wrote the book on remote work”) recruiting Ruby on Rails developers. In a post on Medium they wrote that for their last opening they had something like 300 people apply. They were able to hire someone with exactly the experience they wanted. One reason Basecamp has been so successful in recruiting is that they can recruit from a geographically diverse pool of candidates.
We hear a lot from companies about how they are producing disruptive solutions to some problem (or perceived problem). The companies that are pushing these solutions hold themselves out as innovators, “out-of-the-box” thinkers.
In fact, they are herd beasts who follow the rest of the herd, whether it comes to technology choices (“yeah, we used MongoDB for our bitcoin exchange”), remote work or diversity. These companies don’t have a remote workforce because it’s too unfamiliar or uncomfortable. A remote work force might be even more uncomfortable for these companies than a work force with women or more experienced engineers (e.g., engineers over 40).