Remote vs On-Site

Earlier today, I had a conversation on Twitter with another PHP developer about remote vs on-site work. I was responding to a comment he made about companies not allowing developers to work remotely. I’ve noticed lately that there seems to be a general sense of animosity toward companies that don’t allow remote work. While there are definite benefits to remote working (both for the employer and the developer), I find the “companies must allow remote work” attitude that many developers have to be a bit one sided.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with working remotely. I’ve done it as a freelancer. My issue is that the stance they take is that any employer that won’t allow remote work isn’t worth their consideration. What I think they fail to see is that they are doing exactly what they dislike about the employer. The company isn’t considering the benefits of remote work and thus not allowing it at all. These developers are not considering the benefits (some times necessity) of on-site work and thus not applying for these jobs. This isn’t good for either side.

Instead, a conversation needs to happen. The companies that aren’t allowing remote work, should take a good look at their processes and see if there is room to allow for this. The developers that aren’t willing to take on-site jobs should also consider that rather than refusing to engage with the company, they might try educating the company. They should also take into consideration that by not allowing remote work, the company has provided the developer with leverage when it comes time for salary negotiations. Asking a candidate to uproot themselves and their family should come at a premium.

My currently employer doesn’t really prohibit remote work, but the general rule is you need to be on-site when working. However, this isn’t without good reason. It is near impossible to find a developer that knows Magento inside and out without either paying them a small fortune or by using Magento professional services. Because of this, we have had to search for decent PHP developers who may or may not have any experience with Magento and then train them. Because of the steep learning curve, training works best by having the developers sitting next to each other. We work in far too fast-paced of an environment that trying to grab someone’s attention via email, IM, or phone just won’t work. However, when you are sitting next to the person, it’s a little harder for them to ignore you (though as developers, we still respect the “zone”).

What are your thoughts? Why do you treat companies that don’t allow working remotely like they have the Black Plague? Does anyone prefer on-site engagements over remote work? (I know I have my reservations about remote work, but those are based on my personal circumstances).

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