Over the past few years, remote work has completely changed the way businesses are run, and one of the biggest sectors impacted has been IT. Pre-COVID, remote IT work was primarily the domain of outsourced (or offshore) teams providing contract work or virtual tech support. Today, close to 50% of recently surveyed tech workers are fully remote. To put that in perspective, before the pandemic the number hovered around 20%. This trend towards fully remote or hybrid work shows no signs of slowing down – some major industry players have been hesitant to the switch, but many small and mid-sized organizations are embracing the cost-effectiveness of a fully remote team.
Elon Musk might be able to implement a 100% on-site work environment, but for most companies, the days of on-site IT have come and gone. Employees in general, and IT talent in particular, favor the freedom and flexibility of completing their tasks at home, with no commute times, relaxed dress codes, and a better work balance.
We’ve had the technology to support remote offices for years, but the assumption has been that the transition would impact productivity. Study after study has shown that this was incorrect. Remote work does not have the detrimental impact on productivity that the industry once suspected. In fact, a 2020 paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research stated that workdays increased by 48.5 minutes when fully remote. This wasn’t just anecdotal findings of a small sample size – the paper’s author’s used data from 3.1 million workers. The study also found that remote workers sat through an average of 13% more meetings than their on-site counterparts.
A remote office is still an office. If your employees feel overlooked, overworked, disengaged, or isolated your run the risk of losing top talent via attrition. Removing access to the office ‘water cooler’ might keep employees focused on their tasks and boost productivity in the short term, but eventually, this will lead to teams with no meaningful bonds. IT is a collaborative effort, regardless of whether your team shares an office cubicle or interacts with one another from across the country.
Remote work enables businesses to hire employees from anywhere, but this advantage works both ways. Today’s IT talent is no longer confined to one city or state when looking for work. Fail to promote meaningful engagement and connection, and the most skilled workers will simply find an employment situation that works for them.
Attrition is always going to exist in fully remote offices. Accepting a lucrative role at one of the Big Tech companies used to require a move to Silicon Valley or Seattle. Now it can be done from anywhere. Additionally, the situation is more likely to catch you off guard – it’s a lot easier for workers to interview for new jobs remotely than it was in person. With that said, attrition that occurs because of employee dissatisfaction or burnout is an entirely different situation, and something employers should go above and beyond to avoid.
According to organizational communication research from the Limeade Institute, improving the way information flows throughout an organization can triple employee perceptions of inclusion, trust, and connection. Employees in organizations with good info flow were also three times less likely to report burnout.
One of the best ways to optimize info exchange is by setting reasonable boundaries. Without a physical office, it’s easy to lose track of when the work day begins and ends. This can be even more challenging in workplaces that are spread across multiple time zones. Discouraging managers from reaching out to team members outside of their regular schedule is a great step toward better communication.
Of course, that’s not to say that management shouldn’t talk to their teams at all. It’s important for managers and team leads to be engaged with their reports via casual, informal status reports. This can be a better way to relay information throughout the ranks than constant meetings.
Finally, team members need to be able to freely interact with one another. Constantly monitoring employee activity and/or employee group chats might seem like a great way to increase productivity…but it’s actually a great way to increase attrition and turnover.
In a remote workplace, the first step to boosting communication and team cohesiveness is implementing the right technology. Need help getting started? Schedule a free consultation with Flugel to discuss your options with an expert today.
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