Facebook’s F8 2019 developer conference dominated this week, with talk of AI and AR/VR and privacy. But the news and reactions were all largely expected, and frankly, I was disappointed there was no detail on end-to-end encryption messaging across Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
No, what really stood out for me this week was last night’s Stripe announcement: Its fifth engineering hub will be remote. Stripe has decided that hiring 100 remote engineers makes more sense than hiring 100 engineers in one place. Housing and relocation certainly played a role in the decision, but not enough to just choose a location with a low cost of living. Stripe would rather hire the best 100 engineers, regardless of where they are in the world.
It’s also inevitable. Remote work is happening everywhere you look. Coffee shops and restaurants, temporary offices and co-working spaces, train stations and airports — private and public spaces are full of people doing their job remotely.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and not just because VentureBeat’s editorial team is almost all remote workers. In my personal life, I’ve noticed a clear pattern. All my friends, and their friends, choose to “work from home” every chance they get. If their job allows once a month, they work from home once a month. If the maximum is once a week, they do exactly that. If their boss is on vacation or traveling for work, they work from home for as many days as the office environment permits. Whatever the maximum is, that’s what they do.
We have the technology
The internet is not done revolutionizing the workplace. Technology already makes remote work possible — and it’s only getting better. The remaining obstacles are habitual, societal, and traditional.
Stripe’s decision shows this is starting to shift. Why should my job dictate where I can live? What country you want to live in, what a town or city can offer you, and where you sleep at night are completely personal. Your employer should not have a say in any of those decisions, however indirect or direct their influence may be.
There will always be work that has to happen in person. But one day, remote work will be the norm.
“What?!? Your job requires physically going into work every day? Oh, you work in that industry. Yeah, that makes sense.”
The time will come when a company the size of Facebook is built from the ground up as a remote team. And its employees will still meet in person, as needed, but not necessarily in that company’s office. There won’t be a permanent office.
The only question is how much time will all this take? Will more people work remotely than not in the year 2100 or 3000? In what year will we cross that line?
ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.