Return to office posted on 27 March 2024

Return to office (RTO) is probably one of the hottest topics post-covid where most companies are moving to 3 days in office. This topic seems even more controversial for software engineers.

Return to office is overall a good thing in my opinion:

  • If you are a junior engineer, having your team around is useful. It’s significantly easier to ask help from someone right next to you that is in your team than to ping them on Slack. I personally wouldn’t recommend a full remote job for a new grad.
  • If you are a senior engineer, your presence is needed for junior engineers but more importantly many important discussions happen in the hallway – these allow alignment on high level topics/principles without needing an additional 30 minutes meeting.
  • Meetings in person are better to build relationships – this is especially important if you work in a large organization and if you are a senior engineer. It’s just much harder to build relations over VC – that’s why remote first companies still organize in person events.
  • There was and there is still room for flexibility. Pre-covid, my experience was that we were all working from the office everyday but could work from home whenever needed (e.g. because of a doctor appointment, because of a furniture delivery etc.). This is what I also see around but some people often assume that if you miss a scheduled day in the office (e.g. because your train is not running), you will be fired – which is silly.

On the other hand:

  • I also think companies doing remote first is fine – both systems work. What doesn’t work well is having half of the people remote and the other half in office – since this will either remove the benefits of in office work or put a large set of employees in a disadvantageous situation.
  • Companies who want employees to be in office should figure out how to organize themselves such that people can actually meet in person without having to VC because one person is remote. Having to constantly VC because one person is always in a different building removes the benefits of in person meeting.
  • Facilities have to scale up with people in the office – e.g. you can’t lack desks.
  • If you cannot come into the office for personal reasons (e.g. health reasons, caregiver responsibilities etc.), my experience is that companies are granting exceptions for these cases. They have to figure out how to not have these employees be second class employees though.
  • It sucks if the company told you could work remotely “forever” and that you made arrangements based on this (e.g. bought a house far from the office) but are now asked to come back. Though my understanding is that this tends to be a misunderstanding from employees rather than the company back pedaling. I also think the job market is hot enough that you can just find a remote company if this really doesn’t work for you.

What’s your take of returning to the office?

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