Working On-Site Considered Harmful

It doesn’t make sense for knowledge workers to be on-site anymore.

Working on-site comes with a significant cost. Quiet time is a precious commodity if you’re in any kind of cerebral role –  and it’s rare in most office environments. Then there’s the distraction of commuting to work, commuting back, people coming and going, the office socializer who wants to chat and so on.

Working remotely has many advantages. If you’re using Slack, you don’t have a situation where the dominant person in the room gets to drown out other opinions. It makes communication more democratic and a side effect is that communication becomes much more relaxed. Less conflict == more fun and getting more done.

When interaction happens via git and a bug tracker in the form of entering and updating issues and pull requests, it keeps things moving forward without the unstructured chaos that in-person communication can create. SaaS for remote workers makes communication more structured.

It surprises me that so many companies in the software space are still hiring on-site workers and developers in particular. I suspect it’s for two reasons:

Firstly, managers or execs think a major part of their contribution is to “oversee” their team. This comes from a kind of personal insecurity caused by them not being able to contribute in other areas – frequently because they’re non-technical, so they need to “manage” to contribute. This is solved by hiring execs or managers who are competent in their own right – and in a tech company they need to be hands-on technical and current in their skills. I’ve met too many managers who just “manage” and mention their MIT degree and tell coding war stories.

Secondly, I think a reason companies want to hire on-site workers is a lack of trust. They don’t think it’s possible to hire people who can be left alone to create amazing things. They think the team has to be put in a room and monitored at all times. This has evolved into persuading them to stay in the room by bringing chefs and masseuses into the office.

I think over the next 10 years we will see the first Google’s and Amazon’s emerge with 100% remote workers. They will create a new normal for tech companies to go remote. That will cause a massive exodus from urban centers. It’s going to have a huge impact on property prices and rentals and a significant impact on the landscape. Cities like Seattle, which is overcrowded with Amazon workers will see profound changes.

Fifteen years from now we’ll look back and giggle at how we used to crowd smart people into little boxes with bright fluorescent lighting so that we could watch them while they did work they can do from anywhere.

We’re hiring at Wordfence. All our roles are remote. We’re a team of 9 full-timers and we have 7 positions currently open (the forensics role is X3). If you’re the best in the world at what you do, are passionate about information security and you’d like to regain your freedom, we’d love to hear from you!