More than three months into COVID-19 lockdowns, it’s clear that technologists have largely settled into a comfortable remote work routine. While this collective self-quarantining is almost certainly temporary (especially with many companies figuring out how to safely reopen their offices), it’s worth asking whether these weeks of working from home have convinced technologists that it’s superior to the office.
As part of Dice’s ongoing COVID-19 Sentiment Survey, we’ve been taking a deep dive into technologists’ opinions about work-from-home. And as time goes on, it’s clear that there’s a lot they like about remote work vs. the office.
What are the professional and personal cons about working remotely?
Not every aspect of working from home is fantastic. For the first time ever, we asked respondents about the personal and professional downsides of working remotely. “Distractions” was the top response. When you’re stuck at home with your kids (whose remote education must be monitored), relatives and partners (who have their own work schedules and issues to deal with), and even friends and/or roommates (some living situations are weirder than others), it’s easy to find your focus disrupted on a regular basis.
Respondents also indicated that they were working more hours, and that was a problem. The lack of commutes and defined office hours, along with (in some cases) boosted workloads due to the pandemic, can quickly lead to “mission creep” for many technologists. Before you know it, you’re answering emails and taking meetings from the crack of dawn until late into the night.
Other respondents had similar complaints about technical issues and communication barriers. Shifting offices completely to remote work obviously put enormous pressure on sysadmins and other technologists, especially at organizations that have always run their operations in-office. Not every business is a startup with employees who can rely on Slack and a few easy-to-access cloud apps to do their jobs; at some enterprises, the tech stack is incredibly complex, especially if you're trying to access it from a laptop tethered to a home Wi-Fi connection. For managers and executives, an awareness that employees may face issues with hardware, software, and even their chat app is key.
Although many technologists love working from home, it clearly comes with its share of professional and personal challenges.
What are the main professional benefits you receive from working remotely vs. working in an office?
A rising number of technologists report that it’s easier to work from home versus the office, which certainly makes sense: Your commute is roughly 30 seconds, the coffee is always to your liking, and you can set up your workspace exactly how you want it.
Many respondents find they’re more productive, and they get to avoid office politics. As the lockdowns continue, the percentages of those who have more time for everything from “in-depth thinking” to clearing out email and chat backlogs has crept up. In a weird way, companies may see boosted productivity, not less, as a result of this crisis.
What are the main personal benefits you receive from working remotely vs. working in an office?
On a personal level, a rising number of technologists also realize how much money they’re saving on their commutes. More and more are also enjoying “more comfortable attire,” by which we assume they mean shorts or sweatpants—definitely not things you can wear in a “normal” office. Work-life balance, such as time for hobbies, is also rising as technologists settle into a new, often more balanced schedule.
Many of the main personal benefits come down to huge savings in money and time. But with less commuting (and burning less power at an office), a rising number of technologists are also sensing that they're having a positive impact on the environment. Those who perhaps felt a little guilty about their daily carbon footprint can now be less so.
What is the main overall benefit you receive from working remotely vs. working in an office?
Ultimately, respondents cited “more flexibility or control of schedule” as the top benefit of working from home during COVID-19, followed closely by boosted productivity and cost-effectiveness. Although the pandemic has made life far more difficult for millions of people, it’s clear that technologists are making the best of it, and using self-quarantine to squeeze some additional efficiency (and money savings) out of their daily workflow.
What is the highest salary cut you would take to work remotely?
The first time we asked this question, a majority of technologists made it very clear that they were unwilling to take any kind of salary cut in exchange for working remotely full-time. Very small percentages were willing to take more than a 10 percent pay cut, and virtually none were willing to accept any reductions greater than 25 percent.
The second time we asked this question, the responses were subtly different, with slightly more willing to take a 5 percent or 10 percent cut if it meant they’d never have to enter an office again. Does this mean that technologists, having more fully realized the benefits of remote work, are willing to sacrifice more to get it? Whatever the answer, it’s clear that they’re largely unwilling to consider any cuts larger than 10 percent, which suggests that potential salary sacrifice has definite limits.
How desirable is working in the following settings?
These percentages remain largely unchanged: Nearly a third of respondents continue to find it undesirable to work in the office 100 percent of the time, but the majority at least somewhat like the concept. This dovetails neatly with technologists’ positive feelings about remote work.
In fact, it seems that many technologists want balance and flexibility when it comes to remote and in-office work. After all, sometimes you just need to get out of the house; in addition, many technical roles require access to specialized equipment or networks that you can only find in an office environment.
Meanwhile, a very large percentage of respondents continue to find the prospect of full-time remote work very desirable. Clearly, technologists everywhere have adapted to self-quarantining during the pandemic, and they can see remote work as an option going forward.
Here's a summary of how many technologists find each option very or extremely desirable, just in case you doubted that they want flexible or full-time remote work:
Do you think that a significant number of employees working remotely is a detriment to company culture?
Roughly half of respondents think that remote work is a detriment of some sort to company culture, while the other half seem at least somewhat fine with it. This is an interesting dichotomy, as an erosion of culture is one of the big fears gripping executives and managers as the pandemic grinds on, especially within companies that previously put a big emphasis on in-person meetings, standups, and events.
During these days of mandatory remote work, companies have done their best to keep colleagues connected through everything from frequent video-conferencing check-ins to virtual happy hours. Constant communication is vital for companies that want to maintain a certain degree of connectivity among employees; but as Dice’s surveying has shown, as the pandemic continues, employees are generally feeling less connected to their colleagues.
If desirable remote work becomes more prevalent, would you consider relocating your residence to live elsewhere?
This is another question where the responses have remained largely stable. Roughly a third of respondents have no intention of moving, even if remote work becomes prevalent within their company or the tech industry as a whole; another third may consider it, and still another third will likely move.
Many of the nation’s largest tech hubs, such as Silicon Valley and New York City, are famous for their high cost of living. Now that some of the largest companies in those tech hubs (such as Facebook) are allowing employees to work from home on a permanent basis, many technologists are wondering whether they should stick around and continue to pay astronomical rents. Will that translate into a widespread migration from the biggest tech hubs to up-and-coming cities? That remains to be seen.
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