Remote Working in Tech: For or Against?

One of the top-rated employee benefits cited by candidates everywhere, including the IT industry, is remote working. But not all employers see the up-side.

​With technology advancing at an unprecedented rate, influencing almost every business sector, IT professionals are more in demand than ever before.

A talent-led market means that organizations are pulling out all the stops to attract the best talent, often differentiating themselves from their competitors with employee benefits and corporate culture enticements on top of a competitive salary.

So, with all the noise coming from these active recruitment moves, how do IT professionals see the wood for the trees? A nice, secure Fortune 10 company might look great on a resumé, but would you be a small cog in a big machine, hampered when it comes to tech innovation by red tape? Does the cutting-edge tech experience at a start-up come with the constant threat of going under? And which of the various perks and benefits are worth considering?

What employees want

As tech recruitment specialists, we see the process from both the employer and employee side, and one of the top-rated employee benefits cited by candidates everywhere, including the IT industry, is remote working. Widely becoming the norm in much of Europe across all industry sectors, it’s still a very divisive subject in the US, with clients of ours on both sides of the remote working fence.

It’s too easy to give the default response that remote working is the future or that organizations need to get on board with the concept sooner rather than later. The benefits have been discussed at length: it’s cost efficient; employees can be more productive; and often put in more hours because there’s no commute (imagine missing that inner-city traffic!). Stats back up these advantages too, showing that remote working is on the rise. Over the last five years, it’s increased 44% across all sectors, with Forbes reporting that it’s now standard for half of the US population. Gallup has it at a slightly lower 43% nationwide, though when it comes to certain sectors, IT included, it’s actually over 50%. So, are all candidates going to get what they want?

What employers are saying

The general positive spin on wellbeing and work-life balance tends to focus on the employee, so what’s in it for the employer?

Stanford University researchers concluded that remote workers were less likely to leave for another company, stating they saw a 50% decrease in attrition among remote workers. In terms of gender equality, there’s a positive for employers too. In hybrid companies (where both remote and office working applies), only 35% of women in the office reported a promotion in the last year, compared to 57% of women working remotely.

We asked some of our clients and candidates who encourage remote working to tell us about the benefits they see to their business and own work-life balance:

"Remote work is a great idea, assuming both parties (worker, and company) are capable of the discipline required for success. Communication, realistic expectations, and a verified work-life balance are key."
Lead Mobile and Full Stack Developer – Mobile Delivery Start-up

“I think that with the right team and the right mindset, working from home can be a really useful tool. I do think, however, that if not given the proper team it can lead to poor performance and miscommunication.”
Senior Frontend Developer – Global Ecommerce company

“Given the nature of the work software engineers do, being in the office isn't and shouldn't be a strict requirement. To be competitive as an employer, every software role should offer remote work opportunities. However, I personally don't enjoy 100% remote work. I find that for training employees and conveying more complex and nuanced ideas, a synchronous, in-person conversation is faster.”
Lead Full Stack Developer – Global Retailer

So it appears the argument isn’t as black and white as it seems! In fact, many organizations are refusing to offer remote working, with a number of high-profile companies even walking it back recently. IBM was an early advocate, ditching millions of square feet of office space, saving almost $2bn, resulting in over 150,000 employees without an office in 2009. But in 2017, they decided that they wanted workers back in physical offices again, with reports suggesting that the leadership felt workers would be more productive onsite. Yahoo, Best Buy and BNY Mellon have all recently backtracked on their remote working policies too.

You might expect a sought-after employee benefit to engender company loyalty, but a Harvard Business Review piece discussed how a lack of engagement among remote workers diluted that loyalty. Only 5% of remote workers surveyed saw themselves staying with their current employer for their entire career, compared to 28% who never work away from the office, suggesting that collaboration and office interaction fostered a degree of fidelity.

The pros and cons of remote working are far from cut and dried, and it’s naive to suggest that just because the incoming Generation Z expect it to be part of their work-life balance, employers need to jump accordingly. While the IBM’s and Yahoo’s might miss out on some Gen Z talent, there will be plenty of excellent candidates who do want to work there.

Does your company offer remote working? Do you work away from the office some or all of the time? Or do you value being in the office more?

Posted over 4 years ago

Our blogs and insights help keep you up to date with market developments and regional news