Remote work is obviously great for so many reasons, but it does have severe downsides, especially for earlier-in-career engineers. I 100% agree in that these engineers should work more in-person when possible. The main thing gets nerfed in remote for more junior engineers is learning speed. Here's why:
- Less ad-hoc insightful discussions (i.e. "Water cooler" or "microkitchen" talks)
- Weaker sense of community so junior engineers are more hesitant to ask for help, especially booking time.
- More friction asking for help. You can't just wheel your chair over to a teammate's desk anymore and pair program.
- Lower chance of "getting lucky" with a senior person proactively helping you. Back when I was in the office, I would sometimes see a junior/mid-level engineer struggling with a bug or something and just offer to help them. They would always take me up on it, and this was always a wonderful experience. I can't really do this if I can't physically see anybody.
All the being said, here's some strategies to mitigate the remote work downsides:
- Set up recurring 1:1s aggressively - Don't only rely on your manager 1:1. Ask for 1:1s with your TL or anyone more senior than you. You can make it light by asking for a bi-weekly or monthly. Worst case, you get turned down, which isn't a real negative for you.
- Virtual lunch - Everyone eats their lunch in front of their computer, and everyone chats. Manager or TL should help drive the conversation. You can also make it into a casual learning brown bag session.
- "Offsite" events - This can be things like playing board games together online or doing a virtual chocolate making class (I did this at Robinhood and it was awesome). It's just a fun way to build community.
- Virtual coworking - It's a giant meeting block with no agenda. You come in and just work with your camera on and mic muted. People can come and go whenever. The goal is to mimic physical coworking. If you want to say something or ask for help, you can just do it - This call lowers the friction. Also, there's some aspect of peer pressure being on the call, so you want to be productive on it.