Do developers really want to work from home?

The ability to work remotely has been long touted as a prime perk by recruiters and hiring managers. However, data from the Stack Overflow Developer Survey suggests that a slight majority of users (57.9 percent) want to work in the office as opposed to home (33.2 percent). And a mere 8.8 percent want to work out of another place such as a co-working space or café.

Indeed, among “important” job factors, some 35.3 percent of developers cited remote work, behind opportunities for professional development (35.8 percent), flex time (42.5 percent), the company’s technology stack (50.6 percent), and company culture (52.2 percent).

Even when they have the opportunity, it seems that many developers don’t take advantage of working remotely: Some 43 percent told Stack Overflow they worked remotely either less than once a month or never. Meanwhile, nearly a quarter (24.5 percent) said they did so a few days each month, and a mere 12 percent were full-time remote.

Stack Overflow’s data is somewhat contrarian to what we found in this year’s Dice Salary Survey. In the Survey, some 73 percent of tech professionals told us that they consider remote work an important perk (even though only 49 percent report having it as an option from their employer). More than 20 percent said they’d “always” want to work remotely, even though only 12 percent actually had the ability; some 19 percent wanted to work remotely one day of the week, even though 12 percent could do so.

Why do respondents to Stack Overflow seem more ambivalent about remote work than those responding to Dice? It might have something to do with the nature of the respondents themselves: Stack Overflow focused exclusively on developers, while Dice aimed at the broader tech industry. Each survey also asked different questions, so this isn’t a strict apples-to-apples comparison.

Nonetheless, it’s clear that not all tech pros want remote work, even though more companies seem to be offering that as a perk. It also puts more pressure on managers and executives to create an office space where developers can work without too many disruptions and distractions; for example, it’s increasingly clear that many employees hate open offices, and need someplace with walls where they can work in relative isolation (at least when they really need to focus).

For managers, this is also an issue of communication. Instead of applying top-down policies that might disrupt developers’ flow, ask them about their best ways of working—whether that’s at a desk, or in the back of a coffee shop. Simple listening can ensure maximum productivity for everyone.