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I joined a company in mid February 2022 as a Principal Developer after having spent more than seven years in my previous company.

It is a service-based company, which means that the company has no product of its own and we work for client companies.

I had no project in the first month and the CEO came to me asking if I would be prepared to travel to a nearby town (90 minute commute) twice per week. I said that I would reluctantly do so for a limited period of time, but reminded that the job was described to me as a remote one.

The answer I got was that he would see with the client and the final response I got was that I need to go there twice per week for three months and that I would then switch to fully remote. I was also told that my red lines have been clearly communicated to the client and that no further changes to the initial remote-only deal are to be expected.

The first day at the client, I get asked to go to a foreign country twice in ten days. These are 14 hours work days, as the commute is six hours.

I bring this up with the CEO and get the response that "let's see what the trip is about; it could be interesting" and "let’s talk more on Monday".

My brain tells me that the company I have joined have no integrity at all and that I should quit, but my gut is strongly against it. As I said, I spent more than seven years in my previous job and am not really a fan of job hopping.

Have I seen enough to conclude that there is no point discussing with these people or should I try something?

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    You are "not really a fan of job hopping" but that is what the new employer appears to want you to do - but with location rather than employer. If you are not happy with that, then find another job first and then quit. (I am not an employment lawyer-equivalent.) Commented Jun 4, 2022 at 21:16
  • 3
    Stay or leave, you need to decide: stable job or travel like a fiddler’s elbow.
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jun 4, 2022 at 21:24
  • 51
    The fact that you have a 7-year tenure on your resume would inoculate you from any accusation of job-hopping, IMO. You probably need to rip that bandage off -- don't be morally held hostage to a fraudulent contract. Commented Jun 4, 2022 at 23:35
  • 80
    7 years at one company and two months at another makes it quite obvious to an observer that there is something wrong with the second company and nothing wrong with you.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jun 5, 2022 at 7:51
  • 4
    I read a lot of "i was told". What does your contract say about work from home or traveling? If your contract does not say anything about this, what did the job description state when you applied for it?
    – MrTony
    Commented Jun 5, 2022 at 12:32

10 Answers 10

61

It appears this company is telling the developers they recruit, as well as their clients, what they wanna hear. They promise remote work for the former, and on-premise presence to the latter, betting on developer's reluctance to object to satisfy the client.

I guess this boils down to how much are you getting paid and what alternatives do you have available? Maybe the CEO is thinking they are already paying you above the market, or he just views travelling as something minor, but nevertheless it's a big step from "fully remote" to "travel to a foreign country". Is that possibility even stipulated in your employment contract?

Do talk to the CEO on Monday, say travelling is breaking your agreement about remote work, and politely ask to be moved from that project. Bear in mind that at this point in time, they need you as well, otherwise their client could leave, so you do have some leverage. Medium term, though, I would explore if similar paying jobs are available, I would start interviewing at some; I wouldn't be staying long there, as it seems their business model is just reselling developers to whatever role the client wants.

12

If the client company is expecting you to travel internationally, is the travel time being paid for (by the client, to your company)?

If so, then it counts towards your worked hours and it's up to you to decide whether you're okay with longer days if your overall hours worked stay the same. This is still your choice.

If the client does not pay for the hours, or your company gets paid but expects you to not count it as worked time, then you should strongly decline as you're essentially being asked to foot this bill yourself.

It is a service-based company, which means that the company has no product of its own and we work for client companies.

As a general observation, these kinds of consulting companies tend not to be able to guarantee WFH, as they are dependent on a client's needs. This varies from company to company though - the company I currently work at has agreed that they will not send me to projects that exceed my minimum WFH requirements, but this is because there are ample opportunities with good WFH to be found. This may be less feasible for your particular role and location.

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    I'd also argue that the 90 minute commute each way twice a week is also work hours, as teh OP is traveling from his normal place of employment to the clients site.
    – Peter M
    Commented Jun 5, 2022 at 15:15
  • @PeterM: Being in a similar position, I land somewhere in the middle. If the commute is egregiously longer, for a regular schedule, that would be something I bring up as time worked, cap it at a short term contract, or refuse. For any reasonably similar commute, it counts as a commute to my real employer IMO.
    – Flater
    Commented Jun 5, 2022 at 16:42
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    I would also suck it up if it was reasonable, but IMHO 90 minutes is way past the line.
    – Peter M
    Commented Jun 5, 2022 at 18:41
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    @PeterM In the UK, contracts state your normal place of employment. If the OP's contract says they're working remotely and their normal place of employment is their home, then travelling to work is automatically work hours. It isn't even an argument. :) Also the cost of transport can be claimed as expenses too, and the company should have standard mileage rates.
    – Graham
    Commented Jun 6, 2022 at 13:16
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    @PeterM Even in the US, when you are assigned to a temporary work site, the delta of the new commute over your old commute is considered work hours by the Department of Labor.
    – tbrookside
    Commented Jun 6, 2022 at 13:51
11

You need to discuss this with the CEO on Monday and move forwards from that conversation.

Realistically the main red flag I see here is the client talking to you instead of whoever is looking after their contract. The rest just needs to be discussed so you have sufficient information to make decisions with.

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    I must disagree about talking directly to the client being a red flag... I don't see how you think client communication wouldn't be a core responsibility to someone at a principal level in this type of org. The lack of coordinated communication between the poster, the client, and the CEO seems more the problem in my mind.
    – abeyer
    Commented Jun 5, 2022 at 17:31
10

Service companies are a bit of a different animal from those developing products. If they are developing a product then they know what kind of person they want, and can put you to work adding value to the company immediately.

With a service company your value depends entirely on their ability to hire you out to a client. In a service job you almost always have to be flexible, tailoring what you do to the client's requirements no matter how strange they may be. They may have had a client in mind when they hired you (but it didn't work out), or they may have decided to take a chance on you, gambling that they could find a client prepared to accept you as 100% remote worker. That gamble may not have paid off. So they tried to match you up with this client.

The differences between what the client wants and what you want may not be the company's fault. The client may be uncertain about what they want. The company may be hoping that you impress the client so much that they will accept your conditions, but they have to see you in action before that happens. The company may be simply doing its best to find you work in difficult circumstances. It may turn out that after a few visits to this foreign place the client is happy enough with you that they are prepared to let you do almost all the work remote.

I would seriously advise you take no rash decisions until you have seen what the pattern of work with this client is like. The initial phase of a project can often be very different from the main part. And don't go straight to accusing your company of deceit in the early stages.

When you are certain what the pattern of the project is going to be, then make your decision about whether you can tolerate that pattern. If you absolutely can't (remembering that the project may not be very long) then have a serious discussion with your company about how you resolve this. Remember that if they can't place you with a client in a relatively short time frame they may be forced to let you go. A principal level developer without a project goes very quickly from being a huge asset to an expensive liability. Be prepared to decide whether it is better to have this job or no job at all.

If you decide to quit, then I strongly recommend your next job be in a product development company, not a service company.

1
  • This would have been my answer had I beat @DjClayworth to the punch. I work for a services company. I was hired as a remote resource. When I started, I was immediately placed on a team with a customer with whom we had a long-term relationship. Two months later, as the year ended, the customer decided to bring the work we were doing in house and I was on the bench for several weeks (i.e., bringing in no revenue). Three weeks after that, I was engaged with another customer. That's how this business works. That customer priorities change is a feature. You get to decide your priorities
    – Flydog57
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 22:20
5

At the very least your contract and salary will have to be renegotiated. What is a decent / good / excellent salary for a fully remote job would be an awful / not good / barely acceptable salary if you are supposed to travel all the time.

4

Be prepared with a fair offer. Decide for yourself what it would take for you to make this trip and be left off no better and no worse. If that means extra pay, extra vacation, or whatever else, think it through and then when they ask you to agree to it, you can ask them to agree to what you need to make it work.

I was once in a similar situation. I explained to them what it would take for this to leave me no worse off than I expected to be. They cut me a check immediately and we were both happy.

Either it's worth more to them than the inconvenience will cost you or it's not. Either way, a mutually-agreeable solution should be possible. If it costs you more, then you not doing it should be mutually-agreeable. If it's worth it to them, then you being fairly compensated should be mutually-agreeable.

Just be ready to ask for what you need and ensure that they commit to it. Just be careful that future consideration come with a termination protection. For example, if you want an extra week of paid vacation, ensure that you get some cash compensation if you are unable to take that vacation for whatever reason.

1

I don't think that this actions indicate low integrity from any of the actors. In any business relationship, the contract indicates what can be enforced, but that doesn't mean that any party can't or shouldn't ask for something not included in it(You can ask for a bonus, they can ask for a trip like in this case).

The issue here lies in that your CEO and your client are treating this conversation as a negotiation, and you're accepting their statements as facts/needs ("Are you prepared" is negotiation speech). Based on your post, you're saying that this company needs you more than you need them, but your actions might be sending the opposite message, as you accepted the request to travel from your CEO, and then didn't say no to the client asking you to travel 6 hours.

I would ask myself the following questions:

What is my situation? Am I ready to leave the job? Or do I need to have a backup job before

What is their situation(Client/Company)? Are they ready to fire me? What if I refuse to travel and perform my duties from home? What if I accept the 90 minute travel but not the 6 hours?

What is the best case scenario for me? i.e. I want to perform my duties fully remotely.

What is the worst case scenario that I'm willing to accept? i.e. I can accept travelling 90 minutes twice a month.

Keep in mind that contracts go both ways, if the company needs you more than you need them, you can refuse to travel even if the contract states that you might travel occasionally (the worst thing that can happen is that you get fired).

The invitation from your CEO to talk on Monday is an invitation to negotiate, Be ready to ask for what you want, say no at any point, but also be conscious of the possible consequences.

-1

Ask how to go about booking an hotel room at the client's location.

Your client is asking you to go to a foreign country to work on something for them? Great! That's a working vacation.

Ask your boss what their processes for booking hotel rooms for company travel are. A three-hour drive each day is clearly unreasonable, so you'll need to stay there overnight. Additionally, because you'll be staying away from your typical support networks, you'll probably also want to ask them about how they handle meal allowances - will they give you a budget to spend on meals, or will they just ask for receipts to reimburse you?

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  • "reminded that the job was described to me as a remote one", so going to a client's location is definitely not remote. And if you are suggesting the client would let the OP work remotely from the hotel room, then why wouldn't they be able to work remotely from home, instead? Not to mention that a working vacation isn't a vacation, it's just work. Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 17:34
  • @computercarguy No, not working remotely from the hotel room. Commuting from the hotel room into their office. Also, a working vacation can be both, if you do tourist things after you finish work for the day.
    – nick012000
    Commented Jun 8, 2022 at 7:23
  • "No, not working remotely from the hotel room." Exactly. That's not "remote", which is what the OP signed up to work as, a remote worker, not remote from their home. You can also to "tourist things" right in your own town. The fact of the matter is that it's still not what the OP's employer promised. Commented Jun 8, 2022 at 14:47
  • @computercarguy It doesn't matter what was initially promised - this is the job they have, and my answer is the best way to proceed within that job
    – nick012000
    Commented Jun 8, 2022 at 22:37
  • It only doesn't matter what was promised if the employee doesn't have a problem with it. The OP has a problem with this change, so it absolutely matters. Employees aren't slaves, so they aren't required to do what the employer says just because they say it. In this case, the employer's request for the OP to work onsite, when the job was originally agreed to be remote, isn't reasonable. Commented Jun 8, 2022 at 22:57
-1

If you're concerned with being viewed as job hopping, you should shop around for another job that you have high confidence that you'll be able to stay at for a long time, and not quit until you have one. If a company you apply to thinks that you're a job hopper, you can move on to another. Eventually you should be able to find one who will hire you, and if you can stay at that employer for a while, then you have two long term jobs with a blip in the middle, which shouldn't be a problem for most employers.

Also, consider why job hopping is often seen as a negative. Companies don't want to spend a lot of resources recruiting and training someone only for that person to move on, forcing them to start over again. So your goal should be to leave prospective employers with the impression that this won't happen with their company, which means emphasizing difference between this job and the new job. Right now you're basically a contractor; even if you're an "employee" for the company that signs your paycheck, you're a contractor at the company that you actually work at. So if you get questions at an interview insinuating that the prospective employer is concerned that you'll hop to another job again, then as long as that is not a contracting job, you can just say "My previous job was essentially a contracting position, and there was a lack of suitable work/clients. I am looking forward to this position, where there will be more stable employment." This also doubles for questions along the lines of "What excites you about this position?"

-5

I had no project in the first month and the CEO came to me asking if I would be prepared to travel to a nearby town (90 min commute) twice per week.

If there is no work in the first month, and they have a client that is not remote only, it's possible your employer could have decided to just fire you due to there being no work. Various contracts will have clauses including clauses that could allow them to fire you early if they don't have any suitable work.

But instead they gave you a chance to work on a project that is not remote only. You decided to take that project on board.

Don't know why you say they have no integrity at all.

We don't know exactly what they knew at the time when they hired you, they may have had every intention for you to work remotely, but they obviously have struggled to find clients that want that. They probably don't want you visiting client sites either.

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    Note the "Principal Developer" job title. I am way past the point where I "get chances" to work on projects. This company needs me way more than I need them
    – Dragan
    Commented Jun 5, 2022 at 10:11
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    @Dragan You only bring value to the company if they can actually engage you with a client. If no client accepts 100% remote work, it doesn't matter how good you are, you're not going to bring value. Commented Jun 5, 2022 at 11:37
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    All of their clients do accept it apart from this one. Also, I am not from the US and they could not have fired me that easily if they wanted to. Workers rights and other commie stuff
    – Dragan
    Commented Jun 5, 2022 at 11:57
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    "This company needs me way more than I need them" - Everyone can be replaced.
    – Donald
    Commented Jun 5, 2022 at 18:12
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    @Donald - I never claimed otherwise.
    – Dragan
    Commented Jun 5, 2022 at 18:54

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