There's no doubt that current circumstances, like COVID-19, changed everything. This sort of involuntary paradigm change affected all areas of daily life. Of course, workspaces were not the exception. Remote work has become the go-to working mode of the 21st century.
Yet, the trend is not strange to the software development and engineering industry. In this field, this kind of work arrangement has been widely adopted for a while now. But why? Is it beneficial for IT workers and companies? Far from an easy topic, there are many edges to notice while discussing this approach. Let's get deep into this article to explore it carefully!
What is Remote Work?
The definition of remote work implies a newly-recalled-flexible arrangement. It allows companies to provide choices on their team members' physical location. Further, it encloses out-of-office areas, making tasks more viable at first sight. Yet, in almost all cases, it happens within the context of established guidelines. A pro leaning enterprises toward this approach is aiming for employees' work-life balance. While it seems new, this term has a long road. The idea behind work-life balance looks for equilibrium. Its leading purpose settles a balance between career demands and personal life desires. Yet, the rise of remote modalities can hugely modify prior operation models.
How does Remote Work function?
Remote work comprises different processes to enable workers to meet their requirements. These contain the needed culture, environment, and techs to make it virtually possible. In most scenarios, companies provide a set of off-site rules. These guidelines highlight more than individual performance. Also, they have a broad focus on communications and collaboration. Yet, when discussing remote work, we must consider the different types of contractors. In this context, remote work goes beyond members working full-time within a company.
What are the Types of Remote Work?
This remote work type doesn't need a full-time contract with a company. Often, freelancing contracts last until the end of a specific project. Yet, it can involve various IT-related jobs like design or development. In this scenario, the assigned tasks receive periodical management's supervision. This procedure allows companies to avoid quality-related surprises.
2. Gig Economy
The term gig economy has been around in business spheres for almost two decades. With worldwide connectivity, it has become another common way to perform remotely. The main idea behind the gig economy encloses sporadic and limited contracts. In most contexts, it aims to find small-to-medium-sized contractors to perform specific tasks. Within Software Development and Design, the most known platforms enclose Upwork and Fiverr. Yet, the concept includes independent contractors within big brands like Uber and Airbnb.
3. By Contract
This kind of work refers to contract positions with several conditions implied. It involves hired workers to complete determined tasks established by the employers. It usually must be finished during predetermined periods and payment conditions. Following these terms, three main types of works by contract are seen. These conditions would be:
A. Work From Home. As the name suggests, people's work location is their own houses. Work From Home (WFH) often provides more opportunities to combine comfort and quality. According to different studies, this option covers the best conditions in user-friendly environments.
B. Hybrid Work. This case combines remote and in-office work. As a result, employees' virtual and physical instances get intercalated throughout the week. Typically, hybrid work settings come from agreements between companies and the workforce. While encouraging in-person activities, it doesn't aim to disturb how individuals work.
C. Full-Remote. Here, there's no need for people to be at the office to work. Its arrangements don't have direct connections with face-to-face interactions. Moreover, this modality goes in hand with flexibility and saving conditions. OwlLab's 2022 survey revealed that remote workers save over 50% on work-related expenses. Yet, full-remote policies rely strongly on organizational protocols. Thus, it involves a more profound use of platforms like Slack, Meet, and Teams.
As mentioned, it’s essential to differentiate work from home and full remote work. Most people tend to confuse the conditions implied through these two work alternatives. But they comprise different processes that allow workers to achieve their tasks. One difference is that working from home can depend on government regulations. Thus, a worker must work in this state or country, or this would represent legal problems. In contrast, complete remote work offers location freedom among companies and other industries. Their employee can work in any part of the world without location regulations.
Pros and Cons of Remote Work
Notably, when the pandemic changed our lives, remote work created controversy. This debate has some pros and cons when considered as an option. Some of them go as follows:
Pros of Remote Work
1. Commute-Costs Reduction. Remote work cuts time-consuming and not-so-work-related activities like transportation. Since workers don't need to move, they can give this extra time better uses. This approach becomes more relevant when considering the search for work-life balance.
2. Space Reduction. This advantage often applies to large-sized companies. Employing remote workers can reduce space-related costs. The downsize can lead to more efficient uses of enterprises' budgets.
3. Business Coexistence. Often, remote modalities' benefits concern the daily coexistence in the workspace. Here, employees are less likely to distract each other with conventional location issues. With task-assignment platforms, duties are more followable rather than missed in day-to-day conversations.
4. Recruiting and Hiring. Companies expand their panorama to hire-recruit employees that work remotely. It allows for finding new candidates worldwide without location limitations. With it, the talent pool becomes bigger, raising the chances of securing top-notch workers. And as said before, virtual platforms enhance recruitment processes without in-person interviews.
This change allows companies to hire the best candidates without location regulations. It results in obtaining the best cultural fit for all the positions without current issues. As a result, it improves the company's performance drastically. By doing this, a company is not just growing in terms of experience but also culturally.
Cons of Remote Work
1. Productivity Rollercoaster. With remote work, productivity may not stay constant. Depending on the circumstances, employees can feel overwhelmed or not motivated to work. Companies must ensure proper knowledge of work policies to prevent this potential drawback. A good switch is to measure results rather than day-long activities.
2. Time-Zone Shifts. Yes, we mentioned recruiting and hiring as a pro of remote work. Yet, if this is your business approach, you may also have to deal with time-zone shifts. At the same time, while some are beginning their workday, others are calling it quits for the day. Yet, there are some tricks to prevent miscommunication.
The first one, of course, is understanding how different time zones impact work. For it, you can rely on asynchronous contact as much as possible. Not everything lies on the technical side. Businesses need to be prudent on tasks, deadlines, and meeting schedules. While time zones are geographical, they often come with cultural diversity. Here, awareness involves contemplating special holidays and structural conditions.
3. Modality Conditions. In this item, the point goes beyond working conditions. Instead, it relies on strategic choices. An example of it is when employees suffer multiple modality changes. The constant switching can be counterintuitive in productivity and trust in the company. Thus, enterprises should specify all potential scenarios for remote work in their contracts. The list can include the when, how, and why of possible movements toward in-office work.
What are the Challenges of Remote Work?
Nowadays, it's not a secret that remote work is only sometimes a comforting thought. It can represent immense challenges for both companies and employees. But this time, we are referring to more than just organization and money conditions. We'd like to go deeper into what affects them as human beings and in terms of business. That's why we'd like to explore what it's behind the scene among companies and employees. That said, four interesting challenges people don't usually consider might be the followings:
Creating a healthy work environment is one of the companies' most complex tasks. They must find a balance between comfort and productivity while working. But the problem only arises when it refers to productivity. Building relationships and culture as a company is the challenging part of it.
Companies must look deeper into integrating all the workers, considering location limitations. Then, creating a natural tie to make them genuinely comfortable is the most important thing. Still, something to take into account is loneliness. This is the companies' first enemy that overwhelms employees. If they do fight it, employees and companies can be drastically affected. So, constructing this tie helps keep employees engaged and motivated. This results in the best asset that companies might have in their journey.
Regarding work environments, cultural differences are always present in working remotely. They can be considered a challenge to deal with when a worker is not familiar with other cultures. This may produce some issues among employees if it's not controlled. Things like religious beliefs come together as backgrounds on different projects.
Still, it's possible avoiding these problems by applying open dialogue among employees. Creating more in-group activities helps employees to get in touch with these cultures. Also, this can guarantee everyone feels comfortable and personally safe.
This working mode can bring some timing issues if workers don’t know how to manage their time. This is associated with distractions while working at home. At the same time, it involves doing home activities like laundry or cleaning. Then, workers might establish hours to do home activities outside their working hours.
Another challenge is the time-zone difference. This procedure requires a well-planned schedule not to disturb workers while working. Since employees can have different plans, finding a balance might take time and effort. While possible, workers must discuss similar hours, not to overwork.
In recent years, growing professionally with remote work has become challenging. Most workers consider they work and don’t feel they’re growing. But why is it happening? The thing is that your presence becomes less visible and your actions more tangible. Still, this doesn’t mean it’s impossible growing through a company. Your activities can improve your position by showing your potential and accomplishing your tasks.
This is one of the misconceptions about growing through companies. Being face-to-face is optional to prove how valuable your work is. That’s why many people think remote workers’ work is not notable. This means trusting in your career and progress is the best way to grow. Even if people think it’s not noteworthy, an outstanding performance will be reflected in the company’s journey. Your actions will bring your improvements as long as time goes by.
Of course, sometimes it’s possible working for a company that doesn’t care about workers’ growth. But it doesn’t happen every time. If you notice it, you should consider talking to your employers to prevent you from it.
Remote Work in Software and IT Fields
We reviewed the different edges of remote work. Now, it's time to explore how it works in the IT world. In this specific field, an interesting question arises. Is remote work productive for development and engineering? The short answer is yes, but we'd like to explain why. The thing is that remote work has affected the modern world as few other conditions did before. Thus, it pulled unknown characteristics in different workers. Yet, as we mentioned, remote work within IT didn't begin with COVID-19.
What's more, neither did cross-country and multiple time-zone teams. Yet, for those used to on-site work, it meant a challenge and brought some concerns. But that wasn't the end of it! IT teams found ways to improve both productivity and (virtual) coexistence. For instance, remote work provided a new approach to online learning. Thus, both people and teams could show technical improvements in outcomes. Also, groups began to search for ways to create a remote work culture. These practices included non-formal virtual activities to bond more. With on-site work, it would have been harder to build social spaces across countries or time zones.
Yet, remote work also showed a workforce productivity increment. With no face-to-face contact, employees felt the need to show their value. While some companies had concerns about remote work and laziness, the opposite happened. Buffer's Survey showed that 25% of remote workers have trouble unplugging from work. Even more, 20% said they were working more than on-site work times. People felt the need to do things to trust the processes. Thus, company loyalty became an invaluable asset, even if that wasn't the case before. Of course, remote work encloses different realities. There are groups of workers that just prefer remote work, with no fears attached. For them, productivity growth was the way to prove that on-site setups were not a necessity.
Then, this was not the case for all IT and Software-related companies' leaders. Some stood by their pre-learned methodologies. In turn, they failed to recognize workers' realities. Further, they choose to lose talent for grasping their specific work processes. A known case involved Ian Goodfellow, ex-director of Machine Learning at Apple. He stated in a letter: "without the inclusivity that flexibility brings, many of us feel we have to choose between (…) our well-being or being a part of Apple." The outcome occurred after the brand's CEO urged to install a three-day-at-the-office policy. Yes, each company has its own ecosystem and protocols. But there's no doubt that remote work started unprecedented debates.
Does Remote Work Affect Working Processes?
Since we know it now, what's better than hearing about actual developers’ experiences? This controversial topic made all workers choose their side of the street. So, we’d like to share some thoughts of Capicua’s team members:
"I believe that a few years ago, a slight trend toward remote outsourcing began to appear. It’s something the pandemic greatly enhanced during this time. Although, there are companies that decided to go back to working on-site. Also, it’s increasingly common to see among startups. These are companies where people scatter throughout and width of different time zones.
The issue of productivity is complex while this happens. Lots of aspects go into counting to measure it. Also, you rarely find two teams with identical elements except for remote work. So, it is challenging to know if it impacts positively or negatively, at least in software.
Studies could be conducted to measure its effectiveness and impact. They would still be studies of a sociological nature. There is no way to know if remote work affected us for better or worse. Still, everyone has their points of view. It has pros and cons, but the balance I personally make is positive. I like working remotely!” Franco Roura, Full-Stack Developer @ Capicua
What Does the Future of Remote Work Hold?
Since it has a controversial present, remote work's future will remain contentious. And, most likely, the debate's ending is far from the horizon. Many think all this time has proven the value of non-on-site work approaches for the IT world. Companies' ability to provide comfortable work environments will still have a massive weight. This approach includes creating a company culture despite time zones and, most importantly, creating a genuine belonging sentiment among employees.
In the short term, remote work will be at the pyramid's top for a while. A leading reason is the trend of younger generations' demands on work conditions. According to an Axios/Harris 100’s report, 84% of Millennials and 66% of Gen Z take remote work chances as a critical edge. Also, software and IT services are in rising demand in the outcomes of the pandemic. In sum, workers will only face significant conflict if they face rough conditions.
Plus, academic research supports the idea that remote work will be around for a while. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health's survey is an example. Here, it analyzes bank workers performing consulting tasks remotely and in person. Results showed that remote workers experienced higher meaningfulness and commitment. Also, the National Bureau of Economic Research conducted its specific investigation. And on it, hybrid workers also showed higher work satisfaction than office-centric workers.
These outcomes are an excellent chance for companies to re-organize core ideas. They can use remote work's potential to seek higher goals without forcing employees. Plus, it can be the best way to reduce costs while improving performance. Only time can tell what will. Yet, there wouldn't be strategic to overlook these trends.
Remote work continues to shine as a working modality. Its performance allows the software industry to explore employees' potential. As a result, remote work keeps rising. And this data can encourage companies to try never considered innovative approaches. By trends and research, there is only one thing guaranteed. Commitment, productivity, and goals are achievable despise teams' physical location.