Editor’s note: The following is a guest post from Claire Rutkowski, SVP and CIO Champion at Bentley Systems.
In a post-lockdown world, companies are struggling to get employees back in the office.
Companies usually cite employee engagement as a key reason to mandate full-time office work. But remote work and hybrid arrangements enable people to create better work-life balance with less time and money spent on commuting, easier appointment scheduling, and more time with their partners and children.
Studies show that engaged employees are more productive and more content. As talent needs get tighter for sectors across the board, remote and hybrid working arrangements have become key differentiators in the war for talent – a war that is heating up for technology firms.
This year began with a number of high-profile reductions in force at Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce and others. However, many of these layoffs were among HR, marketing, and sales staff, and, as reported in CIO Dive in March, were a temporary phenomenon.
October’s unemployment rate in the tech sector was 2.1%, substantially below the national average of 3.8%, according to CompTIA. Not surprisingly, developers, systems analysts, data analysts, data scientists, and cybersecurity specialists are in highest demand.
With technology advancing at an accelerated pace, finding people with the skills the firm needs at the time that they need them is becoming quite a challenge.
Offering fully remote and hybrid work options can help attract and retain talent and drive the engagement that technology firms desperately need. There are benefits and drawbacks to remote work for employees and employers alike.
Improving the remote/hybrid playbook
As an employee, the benefits of working remotely or in a hybrid mode are obvious. Better work-life balance and reducing the costs associated with having to work in an office to name just two.
However, some employees who work remotely do feel disconnected, particularly employees who have always worked remotely since joining the company.
It can be difficult to absorb the company culture or feel connected to what is happening in the office. In addition, people who work remotely full-time can find the line between work and home is blurred, leading to burnout and overwork.
There is also the risk of proximity bias, in which those who work remotely are passed over for promotions because they are “out of sight, out of mind.”
Hybrid working options offer a solution to avoid these pitfalls, giving new hires, in particular, a chance to connect, as well as the choice to work in an office for people who like being in that environment.
If employees are fully remote, it is crucial to make sure that they stay connected with purposeful communication, find a buddy and be careful about boundaries between work and home time.
For technology firms, where culture plays a huge role in an individual’s performance, the challenges of onboarding new hires who are fully remote can seem daunting. Communicating the company culture through a Teams or Zoom call can be difficult.
But onboarding can be done by bringing people into the office, partnering them with a buddy and providing focused training. Employers also worry about remote workers quiet-quitting or disengaging. While it can happen, it is generally not the case. The benefits outweigh the risks.
Upsides to remote work
Another benefit for technology firms to consider is that remote working enables them to widen their talent pool and hire the best people from across the country, or around the globe. Without location as a barrier, firms have a virtually limitless pool from which to draw.
A wider pool of applicants also translates into a more diverse pool of candidates, which can help the technology industry improve its lackluster track record on diversity. Providing flexibility around schedule and location can help deliver more reasons to stay.
If technology firms are purposeful, they can take advantage of the wage differentials to optimize spending. Time zones also enable “follow-the-sun” working models.
A company might set up a hub in Lithuania and have work done overnight that can be picked up in the morning by U.S. teams and transferred back to Lithuania again at night, increasing speed to delivery and reducing time to profit.
While it may seem intuitive to assume that workers who are in the office all the time are more engaged, in general, this simply is not the case.
Tech firms that embrace hybrid work options should provide their employees with a fully remote choice and give themselves more resources to choose from – and those employees are likely to be more engaged.
Firms will improve their diversity, which will improve their financial performance and enable them to deliver better outcomes in the software they create. Most importantly, they will have a great advantage in the war for talent.