If someone had said 20 years ago that they work remotely, their conversation partner might have thought they were a long-distance truck driver. Perhaps a pilot or a writer, but certainly not someone sitting at home in front of a computer and earning money for it.
In today's world, no one needs an explanation of what it means not to go to the office but still be considered a full-time employee. Especially after the prolonged period of the pandemic when even staunch opponents of remote work had to adapt their organizations' workflow.
As soon as the global situation became more controlled, publications began conducting mass surveys of executives and their specialists. They tried to understand the general mood and predict the trends in HR development for businesses. Judging by the statistics and the results posted online, it seems they didn't quite succeed in doing so.
Instead of seeking answers and advice from others, we analyzed the topic as a whole and compared it with our own experience. We identified the advantages and risks of working outside the office and found an individual solution for our team.
What attracts professionals remote work
Lack of Strict Control
Often, the format of working outside the office allows employees to independently manage their time and start tasks when they are most ready for them. You can calmly pour yourself some tea and not worry that colleagues will judge you for enjoying a snack while watching a video. Afterward, you can calmly get to work.
No Need to Spend Resources on Commuting
In fact, remote collaboration was invented for this very reason. There's even an article from 1979 in The Washington Post with the headline "Working from Home Saves Gasoline." Indeed, you can wake up, freshen up, and start writing code, testing it, and so on. No transportation expenses and no long commutes.
No Wasted Time on Preparation
In addition to avoiding traffic issues, there's also the advantage of not having to go through the routine of getting ready, such as choosing clothes, preparing meals, and other morning chores. If there are no online meetings scheduled, many people really prefer not to bother with their appearance. After all, the computer monitor doesn't care how you look sitting behind it.
For some people, the comfort of being at home is of great importance. If the office lacks good conditions, a person may not feel comfortable at their workstation. For some, it's much more productive to stay within their own four walls.
We've discussed the general attractiveness of remote work, which often guides those seeking this format. However, for companies themselves, the advantages include not having to organize physical office space and having access to talent located in different cities or even countries. We should clarify that these opportunities are not considered advantages for our digital agency.
Why employees are returned to the office
For accredited IT companies with large projects, having a physical address and an official team located in an office is important. There are several obvious and less noticeable reasons for this, many of which are relevant to us.
Managing remote employees is a complex task due to the need to maintain effective communication and control over processes. Due to the COVID-19 situation, we had to not only adjust the way teams interact but also rethink our management structure. This led to the creation of a new position – IT Director. They oversee development departments, facilitate communication between them, and take full responsibility for the team and the entire product development cycle.
Decreased productivity can be attributed to the fact that not all specialists know how to organize their time and workspace effectively. Working from home or in a non-office environment can introduce many distracting factors. Without a clear understanding of how to separate personal life from professional timing, this can interfere with project sprints.
Difficulty in providing immediate assistance to colleagues can occur because some employees may not pay attention to messages or may not notice them. As a result, solutions must either be found independently or awaited for an extended period. For new team members, this can be a significant obstacle to assimilating into development processes. It hinders access to the knowledge of experienced programmers and managers.
The absence of a physical office space can lead to a lack of team spirit due to the inability to hold and participate in shared events, live meetups, and other in-person discussions. In remote work environments, the team can become abstract, and human connections and mutual understanding of each other's problems can break down.
Having a physical office address forces consideration of the decrease in paid workspaces. A legal address with actual employees is an additional guarantee for our clients that cannot be overlooked. We've created a comfortable atmosphere for our specialists and always strive to improve it. Therefore, we do not welcome working from home or empty spaces.
Information leakage risk does not affect us directly. However, for some companies, there is a danger associated with breaching data confidentiality, especially for those who work with new external employees without Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA).
Concerns about valuable talent. In 2022, many firms faced forced remote work due to specialists traveling abroad. Besides the worsened communication with them and the stress experienced by the programmers themselves, there was a risk of these employees being recognized as foreign agents. This led to difficulties in their documentation, resulting in a series of mass layoffs due to refusals to return to the company. To avoid such practices, we only expand our team with candidates from Ekaterinburg.
Based on this overall picture, our observations, and the requirements for the work setup, we have developed an individual approach for each team member.
Our decision on the format of work
Having analyzed all aspects of remote work, we concluded that it is not suitable for us. After the lifting of restrictions, our developers were returned to the office. We retained the privilege only for those programmers who can effectively handle tasks at home and maintain operational communication.
Some of our employees were pleased to return to the familiar routine of work processes, with a clear schedule, interaction with colleagues, and a sense of business focus. As a bonus, we introduced flexible starting times for most team members, from 8:00 to 10:00. Working hours are coordinated with management and are determined individually. We are also considering a hybrid schedule for certain specialists with periodic office visits.
The unexpected transformation of years of work has led us to the idea that we need to create a tool for remote support of employees' skill levels. To achieve this, in 2021, we implemented an automated testing system in our personal ERP. In this system, each specialist can voluntarily subscribe to relevant topics and assess their knowledge to identify and address any gaps in their skills.
We cannot give a definitive answer whether it is good or bad to work outside the office. It's just that for our company and many other IT companies, this format is unacceptable. Our choice is to communicate with colleagues in person and provide the conditions in which everyone enjoys being and can be productive in their work. We are always open to dialogue and suggestions in this direction.