It seems like forever that people have been arguing that remote working is the future. Why limit yourself to just the people who live near your office when hiring? Why suffer the distractions of an office when you could define your own environment in your very own home? Why waste employee time commuting? Surely by now every employee would want to be working from wherever they choose and employers would be forced to accept it, if not actively encourage it to save on office costs and get the best employees.
Yet somehow despite all the hype and promise there seem to be exceedingly few jobs around that allow for remote work. The fastest way I know of to ensure a recruiter never contacts me again is to simply mention that I’m based in Brisbane Australia and have no interest in moving. That greatly surprises me – especially in the technology industry.
When I do see jobs that support remote work it’s almost always for companies that primarily work on open source code or companies that primarily hire employees based on either their involvement in the company’s community or their other open source contributions.
So perhaps one of the big reasons employers aren’t adopting remote work as much is the difficulty in hiring the right people, training them and integrating them into the company and evaluating if they’re actually working out. Remote working involves a significant amount of trust between employer and employee. New employees generally haven’t had a chance to build up that trust unless they were already contributing to the companies community or demonstrating their contributions in open source. Unfortunately looking at open source contributions excludes any developer that enjoys their job so much they spend all their spare coding time on that and don’t currently work in a job that involves a lot of open source.
That fits with my current situation – for the last two and a bit years I’ve had the luxury of working from home, but it only happened because I originally worked in the London office and then resigned to move home. Fortunately they were keen to keep me so I wound up staying on and working from home. Later a second developer went through the same process and now works from New Zealand.
Once trust and culture is established we seem to have plenty of tools to make remote working extremely effective. If remote working is really the future though, we’ll need to find better ways to establish that initial trust and on-board new employees.
Are there hordes of remote working jobs out there that I just don’t hear about? If not, what’s stopping it from taking off?