After sheltering in place for three months, Quora on Thursday became a “remote-first company” when CEO Adam D’Angelo explained in a blog post that starting immediately, the company’s employees will have the opportunity to work remotely. It also lets the company hire employees worldwide without being too concerned about the Trump administration's latest freeze on H-1B work visas.
The Mountain View, California office will remain. The company will convert it into a co-working space for employees who want a place away from their home to work.
Remote work should create many benefits for society, D’Angelo wrote. “Increased labor mobility and widespread job opportunities could reduce political polarization,” he wrote in a blog post. “Eliminating commuting would remove a significant percentage of global carbon emissions. Children and parents can both benefit from living arrangements that allow extended families to be closer and pool childcare.”
Companies can build more diverse employee populations if they can access people worldwide who wouldn’t have wanted to move to their location.
D’Angelo wrote that he will not work from the office and will visit only once monthly.
Leadership teams will not be located in the office. All meetings will require employees to own their own camera and video equipment.
Sixty percent of Quora employees chose not to work from an office, even after COVID-19 is no longer a threat.
D’Angelo wrote that all existing employees can immediately relocate to anywhere the company can legally employ them, with the exception of those whose jobs specifically depend on their physical presence.
“Despite growing up as a company centralized in a single location, despite years of investing in culture and processes built on that assumption, despite the stress people are feeling from the state of the world, despite the distraction involved in adapting to that world, despite the burdens facing parents with small children and no schools or childcare, we have been very productive,” he wrote. “Many of us have actually been more productive than before.”
D’Angelo came to the conclusion after spending time talking to employees, digging into survey responses, and researching the topic. It became clear there would be major cost to returning to the previous status quo of office work. There are a few factors that add up to the surprisingly high productivity and preference for remote work.
For starters, removing the commute is a factor, as people lose time and energy getting to and from the office every day. Second, making it easier to focus without being in an open office plan with all desks in an open space. Third, the visa and immigration situation in the U.S. It will allow the company to hire employees in other countries without requiring them to live in the United States. Finally, the housing crisis in the Bay Area -- the restricted housing supply and poor public transportation makes the cost of living much higher.
D’Angelo estimates the median price of house in Mountain View in the last month was $1.7 million, which is more than times-times the median across the entire United States at $300,000.
Videoconferencing technology is far from perfect, he wrote, and Zoom has a long way to go as a product. The company will need other software to facilitate community among a remote workforce, which is still lacking, but in time technology will come together and close barriers.