Tech companies continue to embrace remote working
Even as Covid cases in Los Angeles dwindle, working from home continues to prove fruitful for many tech companies.
Whether this new work culture is studied before, during or after the pandemic, one thing is certain: remote work is here to stay.
Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford economics professor, has studied remote work since 2004, years before the pandemic pushed companies to resort to and adopt virtual workspaces. Before the pandemic, 5% of full days were worked from home, and last month that number had jumped to 30%.
According to Bloom, the hybrid workspace is becoming more mainstream because it has four main benefits: employees are happier, productivity is increased, it supports diversity, equity and inclusion, and (for some ) it saves the company from having to invest and pay for more space. These and other reasons have prompted companies to continue to allow hybrid working, and some have gone totally remote.
Bloom said working from home typically increases productivity by 3% to 5%, mostly because the time workers aren’t spending commuting is used to work more. Additionally, the average employee is able to be more focused in the quiet of their home.
“Fully remote has two major advantages, namely that you can save office costs, which represent around 20% to 30% of salaries, and you can hire from all over the world,” Bloom said in an email. . “The big downsides are that it’s harder to frame; it is more difficult to build a culture and innovation can be hindered. Therefore, while it’s obvious to companies that hybrid is better in person for professionals and managers, it’s less clear that full telecommuting is worth hybrid. »
Bloom added that while hybrid working is already the norm, the tech industry is unique in its focus on fully remote working.
One size does not fit all
Founded in 2015, Sure is a Santa Monica-based technology company that brings together core insurance technologies, such as policy details and claims management, into a single platform for digital insurance programs for brands and carriers. The company has been a “remote-first” business since before the pandemic, chief executive Wayne Slavin said.
“Remote control has always been a pretty natural fit for tech work… A lot of the collaboration tools that have been developed and deployed over the last few years, even pre-Covid, really enabled that, everything from Zoom, Slack, but even some d other meaningful collaboration tools around software design and project management tools. They don’t need to be on sticky notes on the wall anymore,” Slavin said.
Slavin, however, was quick to admit that working remotely hinders the face-to-face relationships that are important for building trust between team members.
“In these scenarios, we strongly encourage people to meet up once in a while and not necessarily work, but just hang out and socialize and make those connections,” Slavin continued. “But in terms of productivity, we’re very happy with how remote working has gone for our team, and I think that’s reflected in business results and our customer satisfaction rating.”
EPAM Systems, on the other hand, wanted the best of both worlds, so that the company’s employees had the option of working from home or at the company’s offices in Brentwood.
Larry Solomon, senior vice president and director of human resources at EPAM, said: “I think we pivoted quite quickly and quite decisively once Covid started. But even before that, we’ve always maintained a fairly flexible model here; flexibility in where and how people work is one of the most important things we can offer our employees.
Salomon added that “people like choice”.
“I think today’s worker doesn’t like top-down mandates very much,” he said.
The WFH Prize
Matthew Kahn, a professor of economics at the University of Southern California, said remote work, like anything else, comes with distinct costs, such as a need for more space at home and an increase in electricity bills.
Kahn added that there is also a generational gap between older and younger employees when it comes to virtual workplaces. On the one hand, older, more career-focused employees are content to work from home because they can do their job while taking care of their personal business. On the other hand, younger employees want to be back in an office where they can make connections and receive mentorship in their field.
“For established middle-aged people, we can do our business on Zoom because we already have our networks. For young people, who are trying to network, to find their niche, working from home is not for them,” Kahn said.
A positive outcome of the remote workforce, according to Kahn, is that tech companies have access to a larger and more diverse talent pool.
“Before the Covid crisis, it was obvious that tech companies were going to Silicon Valley,” Kahn said. “What was unfair about this old model of entrepreneurship was that cities like Baltimore weren’t attracting enough of these startups. They were all going to San Francisco, driving up real estate prices and increasing traffic congestion in Silicon Valley…and in those cities that have a large African-American population, African-Americans weren’t entering the city enough. tech because they had to move to Seattle or Silicon Valley or Boston to get into tech.
The pros and cons that Bloom and Kahn found in their research are what’s driving tech companies to decide whether fully remote or hybrid working is right for them; however, virtual workspaces will not be widely used in other industries, according to Kahn.
“Can working from home penetrate areas that we currently do not see? What’s crucial here is that he won’t get into areas where face-to-face continues to be crucial, like a dentist or installing solar panels,” Kahn said. “I don’t see how you do this from home.”