A (Short) Rant About Working Remotely

January 31, 2013

I get emails on a weekly basis from recruiters looking for developers. The first question I respond with is, "Are you open to remote workers?", to which the answer, 99% of the time, is "No".

The reasoning is inevitably something along the lines of "They're an early stage/small company, so they want to have everyone in the office", as if being a young or small start-up necessarily means that you have to have everyone together, as if there's no possible way to build a company otherwise.

I get the reasons why face time is important. This is why even companies that are advocates of remote work, like GitHub and 37signals, have company-wide meetups at least once a year. Even an arrangement where a dev can come in once a week, or when needed during crunch time for a project or a special planning meeting, seems reasonable. But I don't see a reason why, in 2013, given the tools we have, a developer has to be on-site at a desk every day, as the normal operating procedure. Think of how many times companies miss out on really good developers just because they're not open to remote workers.

I joined TalentSoup as a technical co-founder, and worked for a year and a half with my partner before we met face to face. All communication was done on the phone, through email, Basecamp, GitHub, iChat, whatever. We built (and continue to build) a profitable company, completely remotely. So I just don't get the reluctance from other companies to embrace remote workers. Are the problems you're working on that difficult, is your product that special, that everyone needs to be in the same room every working day?

I'm really disappointed at the state of remote work in the startup universe. Hopefully it will change in the coming months and years as companies realize the resources that exist outside of their small part of the world.

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