Working remotely is a dream job for many developers and many feel urged to get a position that allows them to work from home. In order to land a remote job that you love there’s one detail, you must be aware of before jumping into an opportunity, namely the company remote policy. Depending on its variations, your experience could differ drastically.
There are two general types - remote-first and remote-friendly companies.
Remote-first vs Remote-friendly: What’s the difference?
The former means that the team is fully distributed and everyone is perceived as a remote employee. Hence, the majority of decisions are made online. Remote-friendly companies on the other hand usually have an HQ or a base office where part of the team work and the rest work remotely. The office is also usually the place where the decisions are made.
Remote-friendly companies also vary with regard to the percentage of all remote workers and whether they are fully remote or not.
A division of the workforce into office and remote can sometimes negatively affect the ones working from distance. Especially if the office-based employees account for the bigger group.
In order to understand where the tricky moments hide in remote-friendly companies, let’s follow a scenario where a traditional office-based company transitions to a remote-friendly one. In standard settings where employees go to the office to work every day, they think of it as ‘the main place of business’ in almost all aspects. This is where they do presentations, have group meetings, conference calls, have lunch, and the so-called water-cooler chats. The office is the base where important decisions are made.
That environment naturally shapes their habits with respect to how they communicate and do their tasks. For example, if you need help you’ll probably stop by your colleague’s desk and just ask. Since you can always meet someone in person, texting or requesting video calls feels less intuitive.
Slack, hangouts, or whatever the company uses to communicate online becomes less preferable for such cases. Even when people are using them they tend to be less descriptive in their messages and less responsive to colleagues’ messages, as again, they can find them later and discuss what they need to discuss. Communication tools more or less feel like a secure alternative to reaching someone rather than the primary means.
Old habits die hard
Now let’s say the company decides to extend the team with fully remote employees and lands its first hire. Unless the management makes it crystal clear that from that moment on remote workforce becomes an integral part of the company growth strategy, chances are onsite employees won’t put much effort into adapting to the remote policy shift, they might not even realize they need to.
More likely they’ll perceive their remote colleague as an exception to the norm. That could become a huge hurdle for remote workers over time. Since people are used to collaborating in person and hence less of the communication happens online, remote employees have to put continuous and extra effort to sync with the office. That’s probably the top reason developers have bad experiences with remote work.
They simply feel left out in many situations.
And it’s the little things that accumulate over time that might drain your energy and make you feel unhappy. For example, someone from the office has a problem fixing an issue, they will probably first ask the person next to them. Or when there’s a feature that needs to be discussed, they might discuss it in the office quickly and then only bring the result on Slack omitting your input. Or if you depend on someone’s work and you expect something to happen in the next 10-15 minutes but they got sidetracked by another colleague that came by their desk and forgot to text you.
That’s why if you are looking for a remote developer job, make sure you’re fully aware of the remote philosophies of the companies that you might be considering. Especially if you feel they fall more into the remote-friendly category try to evaluate what state they are in, in terms of balancing office and remote employees.
During the interviews ask what problems they’ve had while transitioning into a more remote oriented company and how they’ve solved them and what they’re plans are about expanding the remote workforce.