Opportunities for remote work have become a natural part of almost all business models, and tech teams are no exception. Often, employers and supervisors use remote working as a perk to attract and retain top tech talent. The question is: do the pros of offering this perk outweigh the cons?
In 2013, Yahoo!’s then-CEO Marissa Mayer made headlines when she butted up-and-coming trends by instituting a telecommuting ban for the company’s employees. In the year that followed, some claimed Mayer’s decision was sound—citing studies that reported remote workers’ abuse of privileges and overall detriment to a team’s productivity.
But ultimately, remote working has remained a popular option for many teams, with hundreds of big-name companies allowing all or most of their employees to work from home. This option can be especially important for tech teams looking to save time and money by bringing on IT consultants, who are used to having freedom and flexibility to do their work well. Here’s what we know about why so many tech teams are choosing to allow remote working—and the pitfalls to look out for if you’re planning to do the same.
3 Reasons Why Tech Teams Are Going Remote:
1. It saves money—especially for startups.
IT always graces the top of lists of industries favoring remote work—largely because tech start-ups choose remote-only work as a means of saving money on overhead expenses. When your whole team works remotely, you don’t need to pay for office spaces, computers, lights, and other basics of running a business. It may not seem like big amounts of money, but companies report saving millions of dollars by having some or all of their team work remotely.
And remember: it’s not just business owners who save money. When IT pros are allowed to work remotely, they save on the cost of commuting and can choose to live in more convenient and affordable locations. By extension, managers may be able to snag top consultants—who normally come at a hefty price—for less, because the financial benefits afforded by working remotely are significant enough to justify a slightly lower hourly rate.
2. Let’s face it—flexibility is a really good perk.
Eliminating commutes doesn’t just save your team money—it saves them time and stress. Remote IT pros often trade the time they would have spent getting ready for work and commuting for some extra shut eye in the morning, and more time with family in the evening. More so than that, remote workers enjoy the comfort of their pets, the ability to eat home-cooked meals, the chance to catch a quick nap, and other perks that make working from home highly desirable.
In the very competitive world of tech, IT managers can’t afford to miss out on top tech talent by denying IT pros this highly sought-after perk. Research has continually shown that the perk tech employees want most—more than free meals, happy hours, and a collaborative office space—is increased flexibility that will allow them more time with their families, and this is especially true of female techies.
3. Less distractions—increased productivity.
Without the distractions that arise from team members chatting, or even legitimate interruptions, IT pros working remotely are more able to focus on the task at hand. They’re also able to work in an environment that best stimulates their mind and keeps them focused. For some, this will mean working in a coffee shop. Others have a designated office in their home that suits their needs. Regardless of where they work, allowing your team to choose their workspace leads to increased productivity and efficiency.
The flexibility of working from home also boosts employee satisfaction, especially among millennials. Happy employees are more likely to stick with your company longer and work more efficiently. And let’s not forget what industry we’re a part of. From Skype, to Slack and other collaborative systems, technology is what makes remote working possible. Who better than IT pros to reap the remote working benefits?
3 Pitfalls of Allowing Remote Work:
1. Work-life integration is good for you—how about for your team?
Some of the same reasons that IT pros enjoy working remotely can foster unhealthy habits. Often, remote workers adopt a work-life integration model that allows them to work outside of traditional hours. This increased flexibility means they have the freedom to focus on chores, family, and other facets of their personal life at times when it’s most convenient.
But in some cases, work-life integration can lead to poor work-life balance. Team members of social media automation site Meet Edgar have said that as remote-only workers, the line between work and relaxation gets frequently blurred. As a result, your tech pros may end up working longer workweeks. While this may not seem like a bad thing at first, remember that overworked IT pros are less likely to be happy and more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere.
2. Big tech companies are on board—but not always.
Hearing news about how companies like Google, Twitter, Facebook and Amazon all allow IT pros to work remotely may make you feel like it’s time to get on board. But while these companies do allow for some of their positions to operate remotely, none of them have moved their tech teams fully online. Instead, they seem to favor hiring specific roles—such as operations managers and infrastructure architects—to be remote-only, while allowing their other employees the flexibility to work remotely on occasion.
Likewise, integrating remote work into your team’s model doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing switch. Consider how you could approach remote work on a case-by-cases basis. Perhaps you allow all of your contract positions to be remote-only, and extend your permanent employees the opportunity to work remotely once a week. Or maybe try putting everyone on the honor system: work from home when you need to, but not all the time. You can continue to customize and adjust your remote working policy to best fit your company’s structure and your team’s needs.
3. “Full time” might mean one thing to you—and another to your team.
Possibly the greatest remote-working abuse reported in connection to Marissa Mayer’s telecommuting statements was the fact that many remote workers—while more productive outside of the office—did not put in a full 40-hour workweek. The question you’ll need to ask yourself is: If your IT pros are still completing the work you need them to complete—are those fewer hours important to you?
Keep in mind that IT consultants often don’t work a traditional workweek. Instead, these experts flex their time—putting in more or less hours when it’s most convenient while ensuring that projects are completed on time. If you’ve had positive experiences working with consultants in the past, it might be easier for you to embrace this consequence of allowing remote working for your permanent tech employees. In addition, consider the example of Amazon, who recently launched a pilot program to attract more tech talent—allowing them to work 30- rather than 40-hour weeks. In their case, Amazon decided that having the best outweighed the negatives of losing hours. It’s a trade-off you too may want to consider.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Remote Workers: What’s right for you?
So, do IT managers favor remote tech teams? For most, using a dual approach seems to capture the benefits of both remote and in-office working options, while minimizing the negatives. Give your team the option to work from home or the office in a way tailored to your company’s particular needs. Utilize the perks of productivity at home and collaboration in the office by creating a hybrid model that works best for your company. Who knows what your IT team will be able to achieve when you customize their work experience.
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