Remote work in the software and IT industry could be here to stay even after the pandemic comes to an end.
A Forbes survey from earlier this year found that 74 per cent of professionals expect remote work to stick around and 61 per cent of workers actually like remote work and want to remain completely remote.
According to Greg Gunn, chief executive officer and co-founder of Commit, the preference for remote work among software engineers is even higher at 90 to 95 percent. Commit, a professional network that prioritizes the career needs of startup engineers, is a collaborative community that operated remotely well before the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Gunn, in-person work extremely limits how companies hire employees.
“Before (the pandemic) we were really constrained by folks that were able to work in an office environment. But then, also to people that were within the 30 to 45 minute commute to your office, which is really limiting when you’re trying to build a global organization,” Gunn said.
Finding more tech talent
With remote work being so prevalent in organizations today, companies have the opportunity to search for talent outside their home city.
“That means that a software engineer in San Francisco, or Kitchener, or Lagos, Nigeria theoretically, can have the same access to opportunities as any engineer in the world,” he said.
An advantage to remote work which many have enjoyed is they can do everything they need to from the comfort of their own home. In addition, Gunn said, remote work can also remove many prejudices from the workplace, allowing employers and employees to focus solely on work.
“If you’re an exceptionally talented and collaborative engineer that is producing three, four, or five times more than your peers, you’ll be able to actually get paid your worth…remote organizations only care about your outputs, they don’t care when you check into the office, or who you went out for lunch with, or if you’ve got a good relationship with the CEO where you go and play ping pong,” Gunn said.
He also discussed how remote work can eliminate the “trap of office culture” or unfair work environments. He recalled an early stage of his career when one of his first managers introduced him to the airport test; if an employer believes that they could enjoy time with the person they were interviewing when they are stuck at the airport due to a delayed flight, they would have a better chance of getting hired. This is mainly because the employer and interviewee have things in common that may be completely irrelevant to the job.
“It’s totally biased. A lot of people benefited from that, right? I’m sure I benefited from it, being a white male from Canada.” he said, noting that because of his privilege early in his career, he might have gotten a job even if someone else had been more qualified.
But with remote work, these issues are less prevalent. The idea of office culture is not that important as workers are not always together in an office. Gunn also said that remote working enables people with employability barriers such as anxiety and depression to have successful careers, since they may excel in a remote environment.
Remote work also opens up opportunities for people who need to care for a family member and may not make it to the office every day of the working week.
Pros outweigh the cons
There are drawbacks to working remotely – things like Zoom fatigue – but Gunn thinks the pros outweigh the cons. Humans have adapted to technology over the years, he said, and they can also do so with remote work. For example, they can combat Zoom fatigue by realizing that not all work discussions need to be video meetings; many problems can be solved with a simple email.
“We’re learning different ways to adapt to this technology. In the same way that we needed to learn different ways to adapt to screen fatigue and typing fatigue and carpal tunnel. This is just another new part of a professional knowledge worker’s career, that we get to adapt,” he said.
At Commit, the organization is making changes to make remote work the best possible kind of work. One thing the company is doing is experimenting with the number of asynchronous workdays. Gunn thinks a four-day week could be the future of work for the software development industry.
For him, remote work is even more collaborative than in-person work. There are many tools organizations can use to enable a collaborative office online; Gunn cites Google Docs as an example. He says that anyone can type their own ideas into a shared document during a meeting, unlike in an office environment, where sometimes a single person holds the marker to write down ideas on a whiteboard.
“To be a remote-first organization you can collaborate better, your cultures are better, they’re more authentic.”