Maybe afraid is the wrong word. Maybe unwilling or reluctant would be more appropriate, but as working remotely in software development has become somewhat of a standard, a benefit and a need, all at the same time, I took the liberty to start with fear as a reason.
Many companies that are in need of specific talent, refuse to work remotely and/or on a contract. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine if they refuse, but some of them might be doing it for the wrong reasons. If you want to hire people to build your own team, that’s great. But if you need resources to handle a workload you can’t keep up with, then why ignore the option of working remotely?
Some companies offer occasional remote work for employees as an extra benefit, others have entire departments working remotely with just the occasional face to face meetup. These remote workers can be contractors for a given period of time or they can be full time employees.
You can find plenty of articles with pros and cons for working remotely, there’s no point in making another.
So, let’s have a look at what defines and influences remote work the most and how it may or may not work for you.
For remote employees and remote contractors, this is the main difference – the working environment.
Working on site at a company’s location usually means working in an office building. That might be a cubicle, an open space area or a private office. There would be a schedule, more or less rigid, (depending on the company), co-workers around, meetings, plans, coding, pair programming, coffee breaks etc.
Working remotely means working from home. Or from anywhere in the world.
It just means working from another location. Your employees/contractors can be anywhere in the world with an internet connection (and a decently close timezone for team work). In a cabin in the woods, a Starbucks, on the beach, at a library etc.
When it comes to the working environment, it really doesn’t matter if we’re talking about employees or contractors, in both cases the location would be off site.
But there is a difference when it comes to contractors like ourselves, we work remotely from our client, but have the office working environment, getting a bit of both worlds.
The thing about the working environment is, it has to fit.
Some developers can ignore all distractions, no matter where they’re working from, and just get the job done. It doesn’t matter if they’re working independently or as part of a team, as contractors or as employees. They have a working environment that suits them and have the available tools to stay in touch.
And, on that note, we move on to communication.
In 2017 we have more ways to stay in touch with each other than ever before.
Email, Skype, Slack, Workplace, Fleep, HipChat, Jostle, these are just a fraction of the services available to us today to talk to each other.
I know what you’re thinking.
But that’s not the same as having someone next to you.
Yes, that’s true. But it’s as close as you can get short of a hologram. Without going into a debate on how people work in close proximity and/or remotely, the task of talking to each other, of sharing ideas and problems can be accomplished with the aforementioned tools.
If as a company you want to have people at your office where you can keep an eye on them, well then remote work just isn’t for you, especially if you think “keeping an eye” on them helps in any way.
The thing is, we can talk to each other and we can work together even if we’re thousands of miles away. And I think that’s an amazing opportunity for any professional and any company.
Software development is compatible with remote work and the number of virtual companies grows every year.
FlexJobs, a jobsite for remote work and a virtual company in itself created a list of top 100 companies that offer remote jobs, out of a total of 47.000 companies, including jobs that allow part time and full time telecommuting.
The concept works and is being used heavily.
That doesn’t mean that it’s perfect or that it works everywhere or in any situation.
There is potential for isolation and confusion, but there is also potential and ability to solve these issues when and if they occur. As a manager or company you can mingle and incorporate your remote workers as/if needed in your organisation.
When it comes to contractors, we’re here to help you out and get the job done. That’s the end game, so staying in touch, analysing and planning everything out is just part of the job. There’s is no barrier in communication.
Still, you might think that remote work is just not right for your company. You might be right. Or you might be wrong.
If you think that it’s not suitable because remote workers just waste time and hang out at home and in coffee shops and get the job done poorly in twice the time then, yes, you might be wrong.
Developers that work remotely don’t necessarily waste time. If you’re that type of person, you’ll get nothing done, be it at the office or anywhere else. It really doesn’t matter if you’re a direct hire or a contractor. This is about the individual, not about the remote or on site working aspect.
Distractions occur in any environment, it’s up to the developers to handle them, to block them out, and adjust.. Sure, new distractions can come up, but that’s part of life. Remote work gives more freedom and less of a bind to the formal concept of having a job, that can bring on stress and turmoil at times.
Remote work can also lead to greater productivity, people are less likely to take time off when sick, and they’re more willing to work longer hours to accomplish more.
But I said I wasn’t going to make a list. There are other reasons why remote work is valid, but let’s be more specific. There are different ways of working remotely. I mentioned two so far, employees and contractors, but there are actually three.
Types of remote work
Many companies offer, at least occasionally, the opportunity to work remotely or to telecommute. It really is an opportunity to be able to work from home or adjust your schedule to have a good work-personal life balance. This practice usually implies that employees are somewhere close by, in the geographical area of the main office, with exceptions like virtual companies that work completely remote and have people all around the world.
Remote independent contractors
They work on a contract basis, usually under a year, and are there to complete a larger project that the company itself cannot finish with its available resources. There are also situations where this type of work is ongoing, but basically this is someone who helps you out and is not an integral part of your company. Reasons for choosing a remote independent contractor are usually about availability, experience or cost.
Remote contractor team
Based on the former, this applies to larger projects that need more resources than there are available in the company. Cost is also a factor here. You can have a remote team, each member in a different location, or a remote team in the same location, like the development teams in various software houses, like Evozon. The remote team works with the “home office” on the project at hand.
So what’s my point here?
For your employees, remote work, be it occasional, part time, or full time, could be a good thing and, when it comes to contractors, remote work is almost a norm. My point is that you might be missing out by shutting that door completely. There are plenty of wins through remote work.
But let’s get to the issues. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, right?
When you have a remote team or remote employees, there will be issues that probably won’t happen in an office.
Depending on the company and the nature of the work at hand, you will encounter security and intellectual issues. And by issues I mean problems that have solutions – otherwise nobody would work remotely, would they?
So I’m going to go from issues to inconveniences because these aspects are more in the realm of inconveniences. It’s a matter of getting organized, handling logistics and managing people.
It’s about trust. This is the barrier you have to cross.
Without trust you can’t move forward in the land of remote work. Trust has to trump fear here.
You might think that it doesn’t make sense for your business, but in the business of software development, it doesn’t just make sense, it works.