The Way We Work
October 3, 2014 by Stephane Kasriel

“Relocate or be fired.” 

Can you imagine being told that? Reddit’s remote workers were this week:

It’s likely that remote members of Reddit CEO Yishan Wong’s team (@yishan) are still in shock. I’ll share my perspective here, but before I do let me say this: Some of you will very understandably decide not to move to San Francisco. Don’t worry. There are lots of opportunities. In fact, we’re hiring and I would love to talk to you.

Why would we be happy to hire Reddit employees?

Because this is a failure of an organization’s ability to set up effective management processes, not a failure of the remote employees themselves.

To the Reddit employees who might be reading this: Reddit wouldn’t have hired you in the first place if you weren’t good!

The fact that your management couldn’t make the arrangement you started out with work is sad. Reddit is a company based on connecting people via the Internet. They use tons of open source software, which is usually the work of self-assembled remote teams composed of passionate and talented developers.

Management of remote teams is a critical skill businesses need today. Reigning remote workers back into the office is a step backwards.

Why did Reddit hire remote in the first place?
(good question @swilliams)

A lot of really good talent happens to live outside the San Francisco Bay Area! In fact, most of the best talent in the world doesn’t live in the Bay Area, if we’re going to be honest with ourselves.

There’s an enormous skills gap. Our CEO, Fabio Rosati, puts it like this:

“Talent is distributed equally around the world; opportunity is not.”

The Internet, however, now allows businesses to find the best people, regardless of where they happen to be. Reddit started out with resources that were more constrained, and in order to find the talent they needed they no doubt had to search a broader talent pool. Obviously they think this need has now changed…

Why would a company reverse its remote work policy?

There’s the reason I already gave: A failure to make remote management a success. But there’s another: Being big and wielding the resources to be able to demand the convenience of “one roof over all.” Did I mention Reddit just raised $50 million?

As an example, per the book “How Google Works” (released last week), Google doesn’t believe in remote teams and only hires locally.

The Economist reviewed the book and said: “The experience of Messrs Schmidt and Rosenberg is so coloured by Google’s accomplishments that many of their recommendations best apply to managing teams of aces in lucrative, fast-growing markets, not to… the life of most managers.”

Sure, having the same quality of talent working under one roof is arguably better than having some people elsewhere, but that strategy is not realistic for the majority of businesses.

Who wants to be marched back into the office today?

No one really. Work today is about results, not about logging hours at a desk. Professionals expect respect for their accomplishments, not babysitting for their hours and location.

Forcing people to live a lifestyle they don’t want is ludicrous. Some of Reddit’s non-San Francisco team members will decide to stay where they live and, in doing so, they will choose to work for someone else. Some of Reddit’s San Francisco people may also decide to leave after this demoralizing decision. We’d be happy to talk to these people — there are plenty of openings at Elance-oDesk.

Why is Stephane so passionate about this conversation? He manages a team of 200+ spread all over the world and recently wrote this article about it. His tweets in response to Reddit’s decision to force employees’ moves are below:

Stephane Kasriel

CEO

As CEO of Upwork, Stephane Kasriel is driving the company’s vision of connecting businesses with talent faster than ever. He is an expert on working with professionals around the world, having managed the company’s global tech team of 300+ product managers, designers, and engineers. Stephane has 16 years of leadership experience. Previously, he was Global Head of PayPal Consumer Products (where he achieved unprecedented growth… read more