Remote was not that popular just a year ago. Is your memory good enough to remember that dark age, hm? As an old fanboy of the remote first culture I remember having endless conversations on this topic with my colleagues, team leaders, bosses and CEO-s of other companies where I did consulting jobs. Many words about “special magic” of the office space and security issues have been said back then. I was not denying them, but making a statement that all of the raised questions are answerable while possible benefits of remote first approach can beat any disadvantages 100 times. Yet offices kept growing. Just a crazy guy talking crazy shit.
Now it’s not fancy anymore to be an office first guy. Yeah, life is a tricky thing, isn’t it? It’s cool, no doubt. We moved in the right direction. What I was fighting for is here. Right? Well, yes. But. You know my mom always teaches me that everything people say before the word “but” is bullshit. So, but I feel a lot of hypocrisy going on around. Feeling this smell too? Here are my 5 cents regarding where we are right now in the bright future of the remote first history.
First of all, yo, big guys! It’s almost never true that you were “always supporting remote”. Even if you have a couple of contractors working with you from somewhere else. Nah, you did it just to optimize cost. So, most likely they are working without any social benefits. No corporate insurance. No ability to have company shares. Not New Year or Christmas presents. No career possibilities either. Sorry, remote guys, you are not the same as the white collars who are driving to the office for 2 hours every day.
Am I right here? Then, please, do not pretend. Do not lie. Remember all the folks who have been told “no” when they asked for a short experiment of working from home. Remember all the people who were refused to join the company because they lived in a wrong place. It was your policy. You feel different now. Say it out loud. Be brave. Accept the mistake. Make it clear it was wrong and all of your excuses were just pieces of shit. It’ll help a lot to build a better remote first future faster and make you more… Let’s say honest? Is this a value still in the world we live in? Parents did a good job, so I believe in such things. So, I hope so.
Next, nope, you are not “one of the first”. Sorry to disappoint your marketing or HR manager. It’s not like you are driving the progress here. There are others who did it much earlier. A lot of them. You just joined the party with the feeling you are late already. Because you had to. It’s OK. Just do not play your games here. It won’t help. Most likely few of your managers were struggling to accept the fact people can work when nobody is watching them. It’s fine. Actually, no, not fine. But it was normal behavior. They were afraid of new things and basically stupid. Do your homework now. Learn how companies who were living remote did it for ages before COVID-19 made you think the same. Many mistakes were made already. Learn!
Another important thing about learning and making an effort. Remote work is not the same as “office work but from home”. It’s not like you just saved the money from rent without paying anything in exchange. No. It’s a totally different animal. It means a lot of processes should be adopted. Many bad project managers should go away. Yeah, I know you like them because they make you feel smart and big. But aren’t they the people who were supposed to offer you remote first much earlier? Are you sure they actually can do the job in the new reality? Feel where I’m getting?
Remember, everything has to be available over the network from now on. All the data. All conversations. All documents. Your company is an array of bytes now. Make it almost rude to ask colleagues where they are right now. Write remote first into DNA of your company. Also put some effort into comfortable communication. It’ll pay back. Promise! For example, test cameras and microphones yourself and build some recommendations for your employees. Maybe buy one for them? Just kidding! Or not. Hm.
It works not only for technology side of things. You have to discuss and commit how you are going to make decisions regarding salaries, shares and other payments and benefits when somebody is moving from one region to another. What if I worked in Europe and moved to Russia? Or vise versa? What does it even mean that I “moved”? How you define it? Do not try to hide it. It’ll bite. You can follow your old instincts and say: “Well, we are going to reduce the salary if you move because of living cost changes”. As Facebook did. Bad, bad boy, Facebook. You got it wrong. Let me do the prediction here. This is a fucked up approach. Be smart. Say, you pay equally according to skills, not location. Be with the good guys when this thing will blow up.
By the way, cost of living argument is a fucking nonsense. Really, why it’s OK to pay a single living guy who would like to spend his time in a more expensive region, while I’m not getting a penny for having kids? Where is the cost of living here? Have you seen my bills from the kindergarten and all of those additional lessons? What if I live in New York but with my grandmother in the same room? Why my salary is bigger? You don’t want to go into this battle. Just pay fair price for the job being done. Stop giving a fuck about where your developers are.
Now I would like to send a short message to the people on the other side of the equation: employees. Many-many-many messages with nice pictures of the beach or fancy bungalow on islands are posted now with the comment: “Working from home” or “Hard working” or whatever. Instagram is full of it. Facebook too. I’m not going to ask how are you getting there while crazy virus are killing people around you and putting your parents and grand parents under high risk. But. It was okay just a year ago when a remote job required advertising. Now it needs protection instead. Hey, people! Do not feed the bad manager who will say: “Look, they are having a good time instead of doing their job! We are paying for this luxury! They are having vacations instead of work!”. Remote first won the battle, yep. But there is entire war ahead of us. You have to be much more productive and focused to keep what has been achieved recently. You are the walking proof that an office is not required. Do not be an argument for exactly opposite. You were working in the office for years. Are you sure you adopted your habits and brains enough to keep on the same level by yourself in such a vacation like environment? Really? Take a break maybe? Learn, grow up in your time management. Mixing work, rest and life is not that easy. It’s a skill. Build it first.
Also there is another side of this “working from wherever I’m right now” coin. It hurts. You’ll feel it in a few years. Instead of working from hammock on the beach do yourself a favor and buy a good table and chair with the spine support. It makes sense to make an investment into your environment now, isn’t it? It’ll stay with you once you change the job, remember? Your body will thank you for it.
You can take the time you used to spend in a subway or driving your car for much better things now: do some sport, walk around, read, spend some time with your kids, change your schedule, involve into some local activities and politics. Once again, working remotely doesn’t mean the same work but from your current apartments in the middle of concrete and plastic glass jungles you are used to living. Think about it. When the market doesn’t depend on where you are right now maybe it makes sense to move to a smaller town where your kids will be able to walk to school or kindergarten instead of driving there? Can you afford a better and bigger house outside of a big city, so it’ll be possible to have a room dedicated to work? Kids jumping on your head are not helpful in being productive, but it doesn’t mean you have to go back into the office. Just move your ass out of the capital! What about home gym? M? M? How about being closer to your parents to be able maybe to help them with things from time to time? Be wise. Make your home environment tick for you. After go and see the world.
I’m writing this post just to highlight the fact: our industry is going in the right direction but a lot of the job has to be done. It’s not another one marketing shit you can put into your open position description for nothing. It’s not also an indulgence to live your life like it’s always vacation now. Remote first will change the world. But it will do it in a much bigger way. It’ll make smaller towns a better place to live. It’ll make poor countries richer. It’ll take the crowns from the places we used to see as a focus of everything progressive and move it somewhere else. Do not make it smaller thing than it can be.
Do not fuck up this fucking chance, people!