The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything for remote work. By April 2020, the Office for National Statistics recorded that 44% of workers were doing at least part of their job from home.
The pandemic only accelerated a change that was already happening. As technology has become smarter and faster, remote working is that bit easier for employees and employers.
It offers more flexibility and lower costs across the board. In fact, the percentage of businesses across the UK reporting a flexible workspace policy has grown massively. This grew even further with the inflation centred increase in commuting and office building costs.
With greater freedom and an improved work-life balance, it’s no surprise that almost 97.6% of people currently working remotely say they want to stay remote for at least part of their working hours and 80% of company leaders continue to offer remote work as an option.
As a Tech employer it is important that we take a quick look at the pros and cons of your teams working from home.
Remote work and tech recruitment:
During the pandemic, it’s estimated that almost 24 million people in the UK were working from home. According to Finder, they saved over £1 billion a week between them in commuting costs and buying office lunches. There’s even tax relief available for people who work remotely.
Remote work can save time and money for employers, instead of spending money on expensive office space, you can invest in resources, training, and company growth. There’s also some evidence that remote-friendly companies are more productive and have more loyal staff, according to Review42.
Some of the money saved by employers has been funnelled into software for remote conferencing, collaboration, recruitment, and onboarding. This creates a positive feedback loop where the tech for remote work just keeps getting better.
There are benefits for tech job seekers, too. They can fit the recruitment process around their own schedule and needs, which makes finding work easier for people with children or caring responsibilities.
No wonder that 86% of parents say they want to work flexibly, and “more time with family” is one of the top benefits of remote work according to Visual Capitalist.
Remote interviews can be more accessible for people with disabilities – for example, by using subtitles on a video call if you have a hearing impairment or enabling someone with mobility problems to join in from home.
According to the Office for National Statistics, people with disabilities are 28% less likely to be employed – partly due to a lack of flexible recruitment options and accommodations at work. Virtual interviews and remote work open new opportunities for people to find jobs that work for them.
What’s more they don’t have to spend time and money to travel to a remote interview. Remote recruitment even means that they can stay in a rural area, avoiding the high house prices in cities like London, Birmingham, and Manchester. That means less expense and upheaval while they switch jobs, and more disposable income once they get started.
Remote working provides you with a much larger tech talent pool as you are no longer limited to people who can commute to your offices which can mean less delays to your growth plans especially in the current candidate led market.
But perhaps most importantly, remote interviews are less demanding for everyone involved. They’re at home, on your own turf, where they can feel comfortable and confident and you are likely to get a much more genuine picture of what someone is really like.
However, remote work isn’t always plain sailing.
Some employers worry about productivity when people are working from home. Remote work also raises some security issues: is the company sharing information securely? If someone uses their computer at home, is it protected from hacking and ransomware attacks?
From the tech job hunter’s point of view, the problems are more personal. It’s harder to get a sense of the atmosphere at a company if you’ve never visited the office or chatted to the rest of your team in person. There’s no opportunity for the small talk that you have at an in-person interview when you’re waiting in the reception or getting a coffee. Everything rests on the virtual interview.
Once they start a new job, there’s the challenge of virtual onboarding. They’ll have to make more of an effort to connect with your colleagues and build relationships.
Networking in the company can also be more difficult, which is why HR Review reported that some people think remote work could slow down your chances of a promotion or a raise.
For many people, remote work is still worth these potential risks. Everyone has their own priorities for work-life balance, earnings, career progression, and quality of life. But they’ll need to make up the balance. If they go through a virtual interview and onboarding process, they’ll have to work hard to connect with people and make the opportunity work for them.
Is remote work right for your tech employees?
Before you commit to offering from home, it’s important to think about whether it’s really the right fit for your company and staff. Remote work isn’t for everybody, and that’s fine.
Will your tech staff feel confident working alone?
Especially if they are early on in their career or starting an unfamiliar role, think carefully about whether they will have all the skills they need.
Remote support will be enough for some people, while others might prefer to learn in the office where there’s plenty of help to hand.
Do they have the right workspace?
That means enough space for their desk, a peaceful place to concentrate, and a good internet connection, as a minimum. The ideal workspace will look different for everyone.
Do they have the right temperament?
Some people love the quiet and concentration of working at home; others miss the buzz and banter of the office.
Think about how you like to spend your time.
Would you be happy working alone all the time, want the occasional day in the office or a coworking space, or prefer to be in the office full time?
Can you provide a support network?
Even if you’ve decided to push ahead with remote working you’ll still need to consider building up a support network for your tech staff.
Loneliness can hit remote workers hard. In a survey by Small Biz Trends, 20% said that loneliness was the biggest downside to working from home.
So you’ll need to be proactive about staying in touch with your team.
What you can do to onboard a remote worker effectively.
Starting a new job as a remote worker can feel like a bit of an anti-climax. Hey are all ready to start a new chapter… but they are still sitting at home, in the same chair, at the same desk.
This is where onboarding comes in. A remote employer should do everything they can to make your staff feel enthusiastic, welcome and confident in their new role. People working from home face specific challenges:
- Because they are not in a physical office, it can be harder for them to get to know their colleagues.
- They’ll need remote support to get them set up with email accounts, software and access to key documents.
- They’ll need to know where they can get information or advice if they run into problems.
- When you work from home, it’s easy to lose track of your hours. A good remote employer will set clear expectations about how much you should work and how much flexibility you have in creating your routine.
What will your staff expect from online onboarding?
Some remote jobs will still encourage your new employee to come into the office for a few days while they get started. But as employers get used to remote work – and employees take up jobs at even greater distances – online onboarding is becoming the standard.
That’s a good thing. It means that virtual onboarding is becoming a lot more streamlined. More companies are investing in onboarding software, which acts as a one-stop shop to sign paperwork, review training documents, and get reminders about essential tasks.
Virtual onboarding usually includes:
Checking that they have the right hardware to do their jobs.
Many remote jobs will supply their staff with their own computer, for example. If your new team member has specific requirements, such as accessibility tech, you should support them with that too.
Setting up software and remote access.
As well as getting their own account and passwords, they may also need training in new software or the standard processes for your job.
Setting up communications.
How does your team communicate – email, Teams/Google?
Some companies prefer to keep all communications on one platform, while others will use different platforms for different tasks. What works best and how can you continue to encourage its’ effective use.
Getting to know the team.
Be prepared for a higher frequency of meetings than usual, at least for the first few days or weeks. You should check in each day with your new employee or after you work on a new task for the first time.
However, according to VisualCV, only 12% of employees say their company is great at onboarding. You’ll need to be proactive about providing help and ensuring they are communicating with their new colleagues.
Remote work means trading in some benefits (such as easy networking and a clear work/home division) for others (such as more flexible hours). It’s up to you to make sure your staff are not missing out on opportunities to collaborate.
Some remote-focused companies provide a mentor or a remote buddy to help your new employee settle into the company culture. Even if there isn’t a formal scheme like this in place try to identify a “point person” who can be their go-to for any questions.
How to help your new team member build connections with your co-workers.
Many people love remote work for its independence. But especially at the start of a new job or project, your new employee will need to connect with their co-workers for support, ideas, and advice.
Some of the ideas below have worked well:
- Use quick communication channels like Slack or Discord to say hi and check in with people. Some teams will have dedicated channels set up for socialising outside of specific work discussions.
- Include friendly greetings in your emails. This might seem like a basic point, but some people do write very short, business-focused messages. It only takes a few extra seconds to be sociable.
- Get your new team member ready to introduce themselves quickly on video calls – with a bit of personality! “I’m the new developer, I’m based in Lichfield and I like rugby in my spare time” is a lot more memorable and engaging than just saying “hello everyone”.
Think about setting up a regular social call. For example, some remote offices have a “morning fifteen minutes” where people dial in to drink coffee and chat before they start the day.
Face-to-face meetings can also give you a chance to network, share ideas, and build more effective working relationships. These meet-ups don’t have to be frequent, but they are still an important part of a healthy remote team.
However, it’s worth remembering that people have good reasons for going remote: they may have responsibilities at home or live far from the office. If an employer is encouraging people to meet up in person, they should choose a time during working hours and offer travel expenses if required. That way, no one misses out.
What to do if something goes wrong.
However experienced your new team member is, there will always be things to learn in a new job. And when they work remotely, it can seem harder to ask for help. Instead of just casually dropping past someone’s desk, they have to ring them up or write out a message.
A company with a strong remote work culture, should encourage their staff to get in touch whenever you need to.
Right from the start, make sure your new employee has the contact details for their line manager and HR department, as well as information about when exactly they’re available. (This is especially important if they work on a flexible schedule or in a different time zone.)
It’s better to provide this information now rather than them scrambling to find it in an emergency. If they have a mentor or remote buddy get them to chat to them early on and find out how they prefer to communicate – a weekly call? Regular emails? Live chat?
Encourage you staff to look outside their job for a support network. There’s a strong community of remote workers online who can cheer them on with advice and encouragement. Here are a few places to start:
- Check out local Meetup groups to see if there are any remote work groups near them. They may run regular coffee mornings or co-working sessions.
- There may be remote working or work-from-home groups for their area on Facebook or LinkedIn.
- Get them to look for other remote workers in their location or industry on X. Hashtags like #remotework and #wfh are a good place to start.
- Encourage them to join groups and newsletters for your industry. Even if they can’t meet up in person, they can still keep up with the latest news and network online.
Conclusion: Striking the right balance in remote working.
The landscape of remote work is evolving at an unprecedented rate, driven not just by advances in technology but also by societal changes, most notably the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote working offers compelling benefits for both employers and employees, from cost savings to work-life balance. For tech companies especially, the opportunities to tap into a broader talent pool can significantly accelerate growth.
However, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Employers need to ponder various factors before making the transition.
Will your tech staff thrive in a solitary work environment, or will they miss the camaraderie of office life?
Does your company have the infrastructure to support remote work, from secure communications to effective online onboarding?
Moreover, the human element shouldn't be overlooked. It's crucial to establish a robust support network to combat the loneliness and isolation that can affect remote workers. Simple initiatives like regular social calls or having a mentor can go a long way in making employees feel connected.
Virtual recruitment and onboarding, while convenient, bring their own sets of challenges.
From ensuring hardware and software setups to fostering team relationships, employers must be proactive in creating an engaging and supportive environment for new hires.
It's also important to remember that remote work doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing scenario.
A hybrid approach, allowing staff to work remotely while coming into the office occasionally, might offer the best of both worlds. It satisfies those who crave flexibility, yet offers opportunities for in-person interactions that are so valuable for team cohesion and networking.
In summary, as we navigate the complexities of the new normal, it's clear that remote working is more than just a trend; it's a viable model that's here to stay.
However, the extent to which it succeeds depends largely on how carefully and thoughtfully companies implement it. As technology continues to evolve, so will the ways in which we work. The key to success lies in understanding your team's unique needs and being flexible enough to adapt your policies accordingly.
So, is remote working right for your tech team? Only a well-considered approach that takes into account the various facets outlined in this article can answer that question.
One thing is for sure: the future of work is flexible, and companies that adapt are the ones that will thrive.
And if you need help sourcing your tech team...
Then contact us at Coburg Banks now. We'll help you fill your tech team with some outstanding talent, whether they're working from home, the office or a hybrid mix of the two.