Thoughts on Remote Work (Before Reading 'Remote')

Today when I get home from work, I’ll have the new 37 signals book “Remote” sitting in my mailbox. This is a book I’m pretty excited about – one of my  career goals is to work remotely, so naturally it’s something I’ve thought quite a bit about.

Update 2018: I'm building software for remote teams.

I thought it would be cool to write a blog post about my thoughts before reading the book (and especially after reading this article), and another post afterwards. Then I will be able to see what opinions changed (or stayed the same.)

I truly believe in the age of the internet, more companies should actively cater to employees who want to work from home. I think there’s also numerous benefits that I’ll discuss in the rest of this post.

Why do I want to work remotely?

First I should explain my reasoning for why working remotely is one of my top career goals.

I grew up homeschooled, and my mom stayed at home and taught four children (she’s quite a trooper.) My dad had a pretty decent work schedule, he would leave for work at 6am and arrive around 4pm. He was very involved, but I always thought “What if he was home all the time?” I want to be there when my children grow up ( p.s. – no intention of having kids anytime soon.)

Put simply, if I work on a computer all day, there’s NO reason why I can’t work from home. We are in an age where technology has changed everything, and this permeates through all aspects of life (including how we work.)

Next, I enjoy the flexibility that working remotely provides. I have self-diagnosed ADD, and showing up to a single place everyday at a certain time kills me. My senior year of high school was full of randomness – I would go to a college class, then the bookstore, then technical school, then soccer practice. Remote work provides a sense of freedom that I love and enables me to “mix it up” everyday.

Lastly, as much as a LOVE Boston, I know I could never raise a family here. A house I could purchase for $250,000 in Maine is going for $800,000 down here. Sure, the difference in salary closes the gap some, but still, that’s INSANE. Plus, I grew up with a backyard, and room to play. I can’t imagine raising a family where my kids have to go to a park to run around. Remote work enables me to work (and make a Boston salary) while living in a place where the cost of living is much lower.  It means someday my wife can choose if she wants to work or not. That’s the freedom that remote work provides.

Okay, enough about me, let’s dig into some trends that will happen as the world continues to gravitate towards remote work.

The Rise of Coworking Space

I see one of the main drawbacks of remote work being the lack of social interaction. That can be combated by hanging out with people. I really enjoy “quiet time”, but I also like being around people and interacting.

Coworking space is a solution for this problem (although not a perfect solution.) I see coworking space becoming extremely popular, with different spaces built to accommodate different industries.

I only see this industry growing very rapidly, and I think we’ll see a dominate “network” form that provides remote employees access to various spaces across the country (maybe something like this already exists?)

On to my next point….

Reverse Urbanization

Cities are cool, but if I can work from home, why do I need to spend a premium to live? One of the biggest draws to the city is the access to really cool job opportunities. I don’t expect cities to “fall apart” but instead, I see more people gravitating to places like Portland, Maine. It’s a really cool and small city, but the jobs are scarce. I would never think about moving back to Maine if I had to take a job up there (I hate saying that, because I love Maine.) On the other hand, if I worked remotely at a really cool company, Portland seems much more attractive.

P.S. – I see this happening in 10 years, not next year.

Software for Remote Workers

I think we are starting to see this happen now, but there is going to be major opportunities for software companies to build huge businesses off products targeted to distributed companies.

I see a company like Hall leading the pack – they have everything a distributed team needs to communicate.

Economic Benefits

In the pursuit of profit (which I don’t think is a bad thing), companies will continue relocating certain portions of their business to areas where it costs less to do business.

For example, Athena Health has a branch in Belfast, Maine where employees are paid far less than a Boston salary to do work. In an area where good jobs are scarce, Athena is a breath of fresh air. I mean, they have weekly back massages – that’s UNHEARD of in Maine.

This could be a blessing and a curse, but I only see this type of “outsourcing” increasing.

In Conclusion

This post is more of a brain dump, but you get the point. I hope you see why I’m pretty excited about remote work, and how fortunate we are to live in an age where this is possible.