The Joel Test for Remote Work

Recently on Hackernews, an article popped up “How to spot great remote jobs: The Joel test for remote work”.  This is applying a test, that should return a simple Yes or No answer, and therefore only takes a few minutes in order to help someone make an informed decision or conclusion. Initially, the Joel Test was created to identify good candidates for software development roles, or to identify the quality of a software development team. 

Questions that the Joel test may apply in the world of software development:

  1. Do you use source control?
  2. Can you make a build in one step?
  3. Do you make daily builds?
  4. Do you have a bug database?
  5. Do you fix bugs before writing new code?
  6. Do you have an up-to-date schedule?
  7. Do you have a spec?
  8. Do programmers have quiet working conditions?
  9. Do you use the best tools that money can buy?
  10. Do you have testers?
  11. Do new candidates write code during their interview?
  12. Do you do hallway usability testing?

The final score of 12 would of course be a perfect score, but in the world of software development at the Joel Test, a score of 10 or lower and this is a clear indication of a problem. 

So how can we apply this test to identifying the quality of a remote work role, or if a company stands up to as it says and providing remote work?

Where did the Joel Test originate?

The Joel Test was created by the famous software development question and answer site Stackoverflow co-founder Joel Spolsky. As you can see from the questions above, in the world of dev, these are all considered items of importance as opposed to after sights; and when it comes to remote work and if a company is set up to properly look after staff in the world of remote, we can apply the same test.

Using the Joel Test to identify the quality of a remote job

As the article written by Andre Schweighofer points out, there are a number of considerations before jumping ship to a company advertising itself as a Remote Work outfit. His questions are as follows:

  1. Does it offer equal pay for equal work?
  2. Are your direct colleagues all working remotely as well?
  3. Are benefits and vacations independent of your location?
  4. Is the hiring process fully remote?
  5. Is the company communication designed to be asynchronous?
  6. Are there equal promotion opportunities for remote employees?
  7. Are you expected not to use your private devices for company tools?
  8. Do you have weekly syncs with your team and manager?
  9. Is all information available written or recorded?
  10. Does it encourage physical get togethers?

Andre later goes on to point out that a Remote First company is one that is built around the idea that remote work is more important as opposed to being bound to a physical office. Trust is crucial to the success of a remote team, and that location means little to the success of the team.

As opposed to Joel Spolsky’s score of 10 or lower having serious problems when it comes to software development, Andre believes that a score of 5-7 points to an “okay remote culture”.

Joel Spolsky

Other questions to ask before accepting that remote position

Of course the Joel Test is not a complete framework when it comes to deciding whether or not to take a job. There are several other factors, such as money, learning and development and career opportunity. Therefore, Careersaas also recommends these questions to think about before making the move.

  1. Am I provided with time and tools in order to learn and build new skills in my career?
  2. Does the company have a transparent and clear pay scale, and does it adapt according to my location?
  3. Are career pathways clearly defined, and does the company tend to be strict about throwing out job titles for senior roles?

These further three questions will give you a clearer idea of whether the culture fosters learning and improvement, and career development is something taken seriously at the company.

Company principles to remote work

At Careersaas, whilst we find thousands of remote opportunities, one thing we’re yet to perfect is how to score a company when it comes to Remote Work. However, in our Company Profile tool, you can find a Remote Work rating; which is calculated by the weight of remote positions in the entire pool of open jobs available on the company’s career site or job board. We’re working on algorithms that use user intent to help identify if a company is open to or already successful at remote work. Take a look at some company profiles where we have processed this data:

Jobs at Willow

Jobs at Instructure

Jobs at Scribd

Jobs at Zoom

Jobs at Hulu

GitLab is a 100% remote company. The company is bound to what they have termed The Remote Manifesto and is considered a shining light in the world of remote work. Let’s look at their 7 items in the manifesto:

  1. Work from anywhere you want
  2. Communicate Asynchronously
  3. Recognize that the future is unknown
  4. Have face-to-face meetings online
  5. Daily stand-up meetings are for bonding, blockers and the future
  6. Bond in real life 
  7. Give credit where its’ due and remember to say thank you

What would you have in your own Remote Manifesto? Items in the comments! Thanks for reading.