The Future of Work for the IT and Technology Sector
Many organisations are trying to manage their way through what the future structure of work is for tech workers. As we all know, many companies already had adequate structures in place for parts of the team to work remotely either full time or on a hybrid work week with 1 or 2 days per week at home. Pre the Covid 19 pandemic it was generally considered a benefit offered to proven team members or employees who were experienced and had specialised and proven skills. However, since the Covid 19 pandemic, organisations have been forced to speed the progress of their IT systems to facilitate this. IT systems might have been the easy part of facilitating remote work or a hybrid work week. The challenges for businesses are “The Who”, “The Where” and “The How” do they navigate the future of work.
The Challenges for Companies of IT and Tech Professionals Working Remotely
The interesting element to his discussion is “The Who”. “The Where”, such as the amount of office space required and “The How” such as management structure will probably be established when the issue of “The Who” is clearer. “The Who” is potentially more of a decisive and challenging issue. Some people love to work remotely, some disdain it, and some like flexibility. That of course is a challenge for companies to develop the junior talent, embed a culture and collaborate on solutions and drive meaningful relationship change for organisations.
For example, Project Managers and Change Managers have said to us anecdotally that during workshops via video conferences, they can’t easily identify stakeholders’ nonverbal cues about potential misunderstandings or future project blockages. Historically, by building a relationship over a coffee, lots of issues can be understood and solved more easily.
One of the historical differences in regards to home working in the pre-pandemic environment compared to now is that remote working or hybrid work weeks was typically only offered to seasoned, experienced and reliable people. Now as organisations consider it for their entire workforce it is worth pointing out there are more issues for employers to consider, such as health and safety obligations. The Health and Safety Authority in Ireland have published a useful guide for employers with remote workers.
It seems that employees all have a different idea of what the future of work is to them and interestingly there lies a challenge for companies to plot their way forward. Companies that have highly skilled people in the area of IT and technology need to consider the needs and desires of their skilled workforce. The issue is, of course, if their IT skills are in high demand with bargaining power, they may move companies to options that suit their version of what work looks like to them.
Implications for Remote Workers
However, talented tech workers and IT talent should consider the longer-term implications for their career in a fully remote working position or 2 or 3 days in the office might have on their career. In an article in the Irish Times, it points to research that people working from home have drastically lower rates of promotion than those working in the office 5 days per week.
The Irish Times article is based on research from Nicholas Bloom at Stanford University. He has been researching remote workforces, distributed teams and hybrid work weeks for over a decade. Many of his research papers are here. Most of his research aligns with what we are experiencing in IT, Data and Business Change recruitment. We are seeing that only about 5-10% of IT candidates wish to work remotely on a permanent basis. In the areas of IT and technology, predominately software engineers are more eager to remain working remotely. Some organisations who typically would be interested in recruiting software developers but would have unfavourable terms and conditions are finding by offering fully remote positions these companies in effect are able to hire talented software developers that they normally wouldn’t be able to afford. It seems that companies can offer up to 10% less than the market for a remote working software engineer.
Nick Bloom’s research points out that it is best to have all people working remotely or if an office is working on a flexible basis, that the team is all in on the same days. As he describes, people at home know they will miss out on crucial post-meeting huddles that only those in the office can have.
What does the Future of Remote Working look like now?
Many companies are clearly interested in what other organisations are doing. It seems that many aren’t making firm commitments prior to August / September 2021. It seems most organisations do want to get their teams back in the office and Google has begun showing its strategy in a BBC article. It states there will be some flexibility but people will be back in the office and there will be up to 14 days of remote working available per year.
It is certainly a challenging period for organisations to plan their way into 2022. Generally, speaking most skilled professionals within the IT sector are eager to return to the office, however, it is clear that flexibility is going to be valued for candidates with bargaining power. Most companies when asked during the recruitment process, favour a return to the office post-pandemic, however, the issue of remote work over the next three months will begin to become clearer as companies begin to open their offices.
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