With all the recent (Slowpoke) fuss about working remotely on some tech news sites, it seems I have totally the opposite opinion to everyone. Except Yahoo.
I don’t like working remotely and I generally don’t like working with people who work remotely.
I don’t like working remotely because I dislike encouraging people to believe I exist when I am not physically present. I don’t want people to email me at two minutes past five and expect a response. I like many of Bertrand Russell’s thoughts on work – “One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.”. It’s not.
I don’t like working with people remotely because people are hard enough in natural habitats. Add in more constraints and requirements and it gets increasingly worse. It is difficult to find someone who:
- Knows how to communicate,
- Can write, as opposed to just redirecting their spoken voice to their keyboard, and
- Doesn’t go weird without human presence, which they probably aren’t getting an awful lot of. I’m largely asocial, I’m the same whether people talk to me or not. Most people aren’t.
Plus you need them to have all the right skills to perform the core job to begin with.
If somebody can’t communicate properly via a written medium, you will be forever going backwards and forwards trying to work things out when they ask you for something. If they have a need for you to implement something, you need to know 1) Why, and 2) What they expect it to look like. You also need them to understand that you need this information, and for them to understand that you are not necessarily “just being difficult” or trying to find excuses not to do it when you try to get them to explain.
As well as the vast amounts of time involved, this kind of thing is also not good for your will to live.
Small lean distributed start-ups can afford to hire selectively, but most stable companies have picked up more baggage.