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For Tech Companies, The Future Might Not Be Fully Remote

Founder and Passionate CEO of Vincit USA.

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Tech companies have always been at the forefront of working from home, and within the last few months, those very tech companies have continued to lead the charge. Twitter set the precedent for companies transitioning employees to working fully remote, giving their staff the opportunity to work from home in perpetuity. Other companies, like Google and Facebook, are allowing employees to go remote for the rest of the 2020 calendar year.

However, despite this heavy push to work fully remote, I believe the future doesn’t lie with completely remote work. Whether you are a tech company or not, you might be mistaken to think that the future of your business’s work should also dive into the permanent remote work trend.

Do The Savings Outweigh The Costs?

Many businesses and companies affected by pandemic closures have come to realize that their operations can ultimately continue, despite their disrupted workspace.

The thought has crossed many business owners’ minds that rather than paying for expensive commercial real estate leases, they can continue the experiment at hand, in favor of cutting overhead. Making the leap to become a fully remote company, employers surely can maximize savings in that regard.

Though this sounds like it makes obvious sense on paper, it ignores the importance and essence of the workplace environment.

This work from home (WFH) period has lasted a few months for many companies thus far. It’s no secret that many employees and individuals have already been faced with psychological burdens that were unforeseen.

Things like being cooped up in the same place, having to balance family life while working and being removed from your team, all have a psychological effect on an individual’s mental health and ability to perform at their best.

Humans crave community and social interaction. The WFH period is an extreme measure, one of necessity that has made many businesses to pivot quickly and operate completely differently for the greater good.

However, I urge fellow technology leaders to not view this solution as wholly permanent. Yes, many workforces have handled the transition rather successfully, but it also creates a lot of stress and burden that employees shouldn’t be expected to handle on a continual basis.

Tech Work Is About The Community

I believe that a large part of why tech companies are so effective is their sense of community. Camaraderie and mentorship develop from having experienced veterans alongside up-and-coming, young go-getters, and allow for a strong ecosystem to develop naturally.

These relationship and network opportunities can drive young programmers in the tech industry who often choose where to work by the capacity to grow and learn from other developers. This choice to work for your company is directly related to the other subsets of programmers and mentors whose brains they can pick in the day-to-day.

The tech community thrives on this hunger to learn and grow. As tech workers, they have tools at their disposal to learn through online resources, but the reason they choose their job is to go beyond reading articles online. They want to work alongside and learn from those with experience.

Having this community not only breeds innovation and strong performance but attracts potential employees who want to work somewhere where they can grow, learn and gain experience in an industry of interest.

By working from home, we can use things like Slack and Zoom, but they may not entirely function as substitutes for an actual community. It is difficult to recreate those spontaneous conversations that take place in between work. Communication tools can complement and enhance a strong workplace culture, but they may not be strong enough to replace an actual work environment.

Growing Weakness In Retention And Value

Does working from home really make the most sense?

In the short term, yes, working remotely for your company not only makes sense financially but is what’s best to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic, and is doable for many office-based jobs.

However, in the long run, when competing companies start to hire extra employees post-pandemic, staffing agents will be calling around. Having a looser connection to you, employees may feel a weakened attachment to the company, culture and colleagues, making the temptation to leave much stronger.

If your talent is still working from home, the impact and effect on your workplace culture can potentially diminish. Quite simply, their co-workers, the energy of a fast-moving project and the small, fun moments may be lacking.

The battle arena will be nationwide, even global, for companies fighting to hire from the same talent pool. How will you retain your talented workers after the point in which they start to lose connections with colleagues, culture, vision, mission and values?

This will likely lead to accelerated attrition in technology companies that could create fierce competition for talent.

Working Remotely Is Not Clear Cut — It’s A Gray Area

Working remotely has shown many companies some positive financial benefits and has tested each employee’s productivity. What used to be abnormal is now normal, and getting back to what used to be normal will seem abnormal. The standardized work model as we know it has permanently shifted and given us the opportunity to configure a new plan.

Our actions moving forward as business owners don’t have to be all or nothing. We don’t need to choose between working fully remote or going 100% back to a 9-to-5, in-office schedule.

The lesson here is how to make incremental, continual change for a more effective and better-serving workplace. One that will accommodate an optimal hybrid model of “the workday” for each employee, placing emphasis on the personal freedom to choose the perfect work-life balance as part remote, part in-person.

I believe the workplace will be more enjoyable if it serves individual needs instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. The current work model shift offers a unique opportunity to improve workplace standards and the way we work. Let’s embrace the change because the future is better for the employer and the employee.

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