Remote By Default

Information work is remote by default, because information is remote by default.

When you want to know the answer to a question, you don’t ask someone who happens to be within 20 miles of you — you google it.

Unless, of course, the nature of your question is location-restrained for a specific reason. But, by default, questions and answers are not location-restrained.

When you want to download an app, you don’t look for the app that was developed by someone within a 20 mile radius of you — you find the app that best addresses your problem.

When you want to use a service to store and share files, you don’t look for a service that is developed by someone within 20 miles of you — you use Dropbox or Google Drive, because they are the services that best address your need.

So let’s talk about hiring software developers …you saw that coming a mile away right?

Unless you have a genuine reason why your talent pool should be location restrained (I.e. SpaceX isn’t allowed to hire people outside of the US because government security), your talent pool is remote by default.

But, but, but…I can hear the objections already:

I’ve tried remote before — it doesn’t work It’s too hard to manage people that aren’t local How do I even know if they are working? “I’ve tried remote before” — remember back in the 90s when everyone had a local network guru set them up with file storage and sharing on a LAN?

Well, I don’t remember the very earliest version of Internet-based file sharing, but I’d imagine it probably wasn’t very good. The people who were happy with their LANs probably dipped a toe in the water, ran into some snags, and decided that “new-fangled Internet stuff just doesn’t work — we tried it”.

In hindsight, it’s obvious that the fundamental economics of the Internet made Internet-based file sharing services inevitable, right?

“It’s too hard to manage people that aren’t local” — you know what’s too hard? How about the complete reorganization of society from rural areas to dense cities because of the industrial revolution? That’s a Hard Thing.

Compared to getting some best practices in place around hiring, tooling, communicating, evaluating results of software developers, I’d say the reorganization of society was a touch harder. But it happened — why? The fundamental economics made it inevitable.

Yes, of course, it’s challenging to make remote teams work and it’s still something relatively new to our society — there are some kinks to work out. But, guess what, you can work them out — it’s not that big of a deal.

Think of sports teams that are incorporating talent from other parts of the world where they may not even have a common language with their team members at first. Speaking the same language has to be an important part of thriving as a team, right?

But what has happened? The fundamental economics of a global talent pool has made it inevitable for widespread migration of talent from all over the world.

“How do I even know if they’re working?” — again, it’s certainly challenging for someone that’s managed people locally for a decade to rewire their brain and management style to effectively manage a remote team.

But it’s doable — it’s possible to figure out. As a business owner or team lead of a software development team, you’re in the business of doing hard things. You’ve figured out harder things than this before, and you can figure this out too.