teamwork, cooperation, brainstorming

Is remote working here to stay, and if so is it a good thing for employees?

As technology advances and companies start to plan for life after the pandemic the question on everyone’s lips is ‘is remote working in the tech industry here to stay’. In this blog, I’ll give my thoughts on remote working.

In the last year, remote working has become a popular way for technology-based companies to reduce operational costs and increase employee productivity. It was only yesterday I was listening to the Diary of a CEO blog and Stephen Bartlett says there are 2 main benefits he sees in having people in the office – Being together will make the stress less stressful and work will become more meaningful and make our lives more fulfilling. Powerful and truthful.

The way I see it, remote working in the tech industry offers several advantages for both employees and employers, but I personally think as a 42-year-old seasoned office professional that it holds some serious challenges for the next generation of workers.

Candidates tell me that by working in the comfort of their own homes they can avoid distractions that come with office environments, such as chatty colleagues, unplanned meetings and constant interruptions from managers. As a result, they can focus better on their tasks, and thus, produce higher-quality work. Another consideration is money and time on travel – Wales has a select number of major cities people here can work from, so there is sometimes a need for a 40-mile+ commute and with petrol price hikes, this is a serious headache. The final advantage of remote working in the tech industry for employees is increased flexibility and a change in work-life balance. Let’s not hide this – when people work from home there is space for housework, going to the gym, walking the dog, picking the children up from school, looking after your health, taking a walk, improved relationships, and getting lunch in new surroundings and this HAS to be a good thing for people’s mental health and well-being. Not only that, since 2021, tech employees can work for companies with no geographical boundaries and have a chance to gain access to the greater salaries of other cities. This has huge positives not only financially, but this has allowed the Welsh talent pool to work for internationally recognised businesses and businesses that years ago were out of the reach. The world is quite literally their oyster!

HOWEVER, remote working in the tech industry for me is not without its drawbacks and some I believe need serious consideration for good of the next generation. One of the biggest challenges is the lack of face-to-face interaction. I believe as humans we need this in our life, admittedly not everyone does and provisions should be made for that, but I still like to believe people buy from people. Lack of genuine face to face interaction can make it difficult to maintain effective communication and collaboration between teams, as non-verbal cues cannot be seen remotely. While some companies try to mitigate this issue through video conferencing and other technologies, the impact of not being able to see one another in person can still be a challenge. I get told regularly that communication styles are changing, and Gen Z opt for shorthand messaging and quicker forms of communication. Whilst I am a huge advocate of technology advancements, this for me is a major worry. I think back to my time in the office, what else are people missing out on? – banter in the office, beers after work, lunch out with colleagues, catching up with someone you haven’t spoken to in ages, sharing a stressful situation, looking your manager in the eye, floating impromptu ideas past people, whiteboarding and most importantly MEETING NEW PEOPLE! Dare I say it, finding that future partner that online dating can’t give you. It happens.

Another thing I am passionate about and take great pride in is helping companies premote their culture. Yes, I have seen firsthand that remote working may increase productivity but when working for the company do you experience the same value proposition as you would when in the office? Can you understand and replicate the values of a company working from home? I believe this is a challenge and I do wonder if people do share the same passion and belief in the company they work for. And does this go somewhat to explain why the tenure at companies is less than 2 years in tech now?

I am sure this is one of the biggest challenges executive boards have faced in the last 3 years and ultimately the decisions they make now will be fundamental to the success of their business.

Personally, there is a balance to be had here. Firstly, everyone is different and has different motivations; so I don’t believe companies should deploy blanket companywide provisions – businesses need to think what works best for individuals/teams – i.e. do Software Engineers need to be in the office as much as the sales team? Do some teams have to be in the office at all and do some teams get any value from being in the office? What divisions see great value from face-to-face interaction and improved communication? How do you rollout a communication plan that benefits everyone?

Hybrid working for me seems the answer and what most of my clients are now adopting. There will always be people that feel a fully remote role works for them, so listen to them and decide whether it works best for you and them. BUT for me the 1 or 2 days in the office is the right way to go – it gives companies the best chance to build the EVP and create a meaningful culture, and for employees 1-2 days gives them all the benefits listed above, will build the need for efficiency and value when in the office whilst giving the chance to build that perfect work life balance that the pandemic has thankfully given us.

There is no right or wrong answer.

Happy planning – Dave

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