DHH recently posted a blog entry Stop whining and start hiring remote workers. I posted a comment on this that I think deserves its own blog entry. I think DHH is in a very unique position at 37signals that allows him to hire the best of the best, which means he doesn't have to deal with as many issues with remote workers that most other companies will run in to. Here is my comment:
"I partially agree with some of the points here. But in my experience people are much more open and frank if you're in the same room as them versus a Skype call. And from a management stand point it is easier to keep tabs on people, help them if they're struggling, etc. if you can just walk up to them and strike up a conversation directly. If you have nothing but the best of the best developers, like 37signals, this isn't really an issue. But most companies our there just don't have the reputation that 37signals does to attract the best devs, so we have to settle for many devs that aren't the best. Especially if you're in consulting and contracting, and need to staff up. Having remote devs that aren't the best of the best is much more difficult than if these same devs are local.
My experience has also been that remote devs are much less interested in doing any sort of management work. And when they do management work they're typically less engaging than managers in the office. They'll do OK managing those they work with day to day but once they need to interact with people from other teams at the company, someone else in the office is usually needed to facilitate the communication.
And there is the social aspect too that others have mentioned. Several devs that worked remote at previous jobs but are in the office now at my job have said they're much happier in their lives because they have friends in the office, they can go out to lunch and socialize, etc. This despite having to deal with commuting every day. There are some devs that socially feel better working remotely but these are in the definite minority from what I've seen.
There is an environmental factor here too that no one has mentioned. Many cite the environmental benefit of working from home - you're not driving to work every day. But this is not a valid point typically. If you're flying everyone in to the office 3 or 4 times a year, these 3 or 4 flights will usually have more of an impact on the environment than that person driving to work by themselves every day. A lot of factors can throw this calculation off (like if the person only needs to take a direct 500 mile flight to get to your office, if the person commuting has a 50 mile commute, etc.) but overall 3 or 4 flights per year will equal or surpass commuting every day as far as environmental damage. "