Remote Work for Developers

Oct 25, 2021

Two authors scraped job posts on Hacker News to make a chart that shows the shift to remote work. The results are interesting – nearly 80% of job listings are now remote for developers on Hacker News.


Obviously, there's no shortcoming of opinions on remote work. Personally, I think that it's great for developers to have more choices when it comes to how they work. Here are a few questions I think about:

What happens to wages? I'm not a labor economist but I imagine a truly global talent pool will change the price of labor. Pundits focus too much on the cost-of-living adjustments, but what happens when employers suddenly have 10,000 applicants for a job?

There should be "better matching" with a larger pool – employers should theoretically find it easier to find workers with a more specific skill set. This has long been the case for developers on open source projects – companies have hired them remotely for a long time.

Specialists generally see their wages increase – if you were a machine learning engineer in the Midwest, you most likely now have significantly more opportunities. However, junior developers might see their wages decrease.

What new tools will we use? Largely our tools have stayed the same since the global pandemic started. Video calls, emails, and instant messaging. Earlier this year, I wrote about Asynchronous communication, but we haven't seen many new advances, and timezones still present an issue. Products offering a virtual office presence seem underwhelming so far, but maybe that will change.

Is remote cheaper? People are often the most expensive line item on a company's books. Fully remote companies don't need nearly as much office space if any. Localized pay can reduce costs as well.

Maybe the era of big technology campuses with things like massage rooms is over. But remote also makes it difficult to offer shared benefits – things like catered food and common areas.

I imagine over the next few years we'll see how remote work plays out. So far, big technology companies have struggled to bring employees back into the office. There's a prisoners' dilemma here – if one of the big tech companies decides to be fully remote and others don't, workers will most likely flock to that company. I also think there will be more startups who are fully remote since inception.