As technology advances, with ‘anytime, anywhere’ services and platforms for remote collaboration becoming more popular, companies are increasingly offering opportunities for their employees to work from home.
But how much of an impact does this really have on tech professionals?
Do today's tech teams really want to work from home?
Over the course of 3 months, we surveyed our community of tech professionals.
The answer, unsurprisingly, points to yes. But not with as great a margin as you might expect.
Of the 2,166 tech professionals we posed this question to, 67% expressed an interest in working from home.
So, why do this 67% feel working from home is important?
"It’s great to have as an option, and I love when it’s offered. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it would definitely affect my decision if I was trying to decide between companies."
– .NET Developer
"I actually work from home two days a week in my current role, and I’ve found it helps immensely with child care. It also allows me to just generally see my family more, which is great."
– Java Developer
Of the 33% who said working from home either held no interest for them or was actively something they avoided, these were the reasons provided:
"I actually prefer working from the office, I’m more productive that way! But most companies now do offer at least one day working from home."
– Front-End Developer
"I enjoy working on-site in a collaborative environment, so I wouldn’t enjoy working from home."
– Java Developer
On the whole, professionals in entry-level roles and those holding senior management positions were most averse to the idea of working at home.
The likelihood of tech professionals expressing an interest in working from home was also heavily reliant on the role in question, and the specific interactions or tooling required in the role.
Does seniority level affect opinions?
Entry-level professionals said that working in an office gave them invaluable opportunities to learn from senior colleagues and was believed to help them progress faster.
"I do like the idea and, in the future, I think it will probably be more important to me. But right now – for learning – I think it’s best to be in the office."
– UX /UI Designer
"I prefer to work in the office, certainly this early in my career, because I enjoy working collaboratively with developers and fellow DevOps engineers. It wouldn’t be possible to learn from the Senior DevOps engineers if I was working remotely from home.
I have noticed, however, that there are a lot more opportunities to work from home than ever before. I do think that’s a positive change."
– Linux System Administrator
As for the most senior-level professionals, they were of the opinion that working remotely was counterproductive, as it would make it impossible for them to be effective in their roles.
"This isn't something I’d consider at my level, and it wasn't really something that was done back when I was a coder.
I have seen more developers request this recently, which I think is down to the climate and advancements in remote communication, but it's not something I’d allow my teams to do. I just don’t feel it’s a good substitute for face time."
– Chief Technology Officer
"I don't think the role of a Scrum Master can be done remotely – it is inherently about communication with people and being ‘in the thick of it’, which can't be done from home. You'd lose out on a lot of team dynamics."
– Scrum Master
But one thing most respondents seemed to agree on was this:
Informal flexible working is champion.
Many of the professionals who expressed no desire to work from home said that they considered flexible work hours of significant importance. This is because informal flexible working offers the best of both worlds: the full in-office experience, with the ability to move work hours around to allow for other appointments and a greater work/life balance.
"I have no interest in working from home, but I do feel that flexibility is key."
– Java Developer
If your management team are reluctant to allow staff to work from home due to a perceived loss of control or anxiety that it will hamper collaboration, here are some tangible tips to ensure neither collaboration nor communication suffer.
Take a trust-first approach
Impress upon your managers the positive impact intermittent working from home will have on employee morale and retention, not to mention your employer brand. It can also provide much needed relief away from an ‘always-collaborating’ office environment for the introverts on your team, enabling them to recharge and focus.
Facilitate the right conditions
Cloud-based working is now the norm, not the exception, allowing visibility and communication regardless of an employee’s physical working location. Many tech employees already use chat, screen sharing, and collaborative Cloud-based project management tools such as Jira, Trello, Slack and Microsoft Teams. By reviewing the tools already being used, you may find there are only small additions needed to enable home working.
Agree on explicit parameters and expectations
Ascertain minimum in-office staffing levels for each team, or perhaps a maximum number of days per week you’re happy to allow staff to work at home. By requiring employees to inform stakeholders in advance, or check-in with the team via video first-thing, or expecting them to respond to all communications within a specific time-frame, you’ll create transparent lines of communication.
Hold everyone accountable
It’s essential that both management and the team remaining in the office feel no difference between when a colleague is ‘physically’ present in the office and when they’re working at home. Make it clear that, where expectations aren’t met, the privilege may be removed.
"At Talent Point, we run a quarterly opt-in work from home scheme, conditional upon a ‘two-strike’ rule (with each strike when the work from home communication policy isn’t followed). We’ve found that staff often communicate more when working from home to ensure they retain the privilege!
Trusting employees to work from home not only has the scope to improve employee wellness, but frequently increases productivity by reducing the inherent ‘can I just grab you for five minutes..?’ distractions of the office."