The Evolution of Work – The Perils of Ignoring Remote Work in Tech

As businesses struggled with unprecedented operational challenges occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work emerged as the magic savior that most executives never knew they’d so much need. According to a 2020 survey by Owl Labs, 70% of full-time employees operated from home, either fully or partially, during the pandemic. As you’d expect, the software and IT industry was among the biggest embracers of this change.

Fast-forward to today, a few years after the pandemic, the tone is changing. Suddenly, and somewhat unexpectedly, everybody is talking about going back to the old ways. Everywhere you go, the buzz is all about returning to the office again. As of 2022, the number of U.S. workers fully operating remotely had reduced to 22%, with the in-office model rising back to 54%.

Why the sudden change of attitude towards remote work? Will remote work die? Should you join this trend? What if your team returns to the office and your competitors don’t? Before you hit that reverse gear, let’s answer these questions and discuss why sticking to the remote work model might just be your tech company’s ticket to success.

Why Are Some Businesses Recalling Employees Back to the Office?

While the push to get employees back to the office is getting more aggressive by the day, the remote vs on-site work debate is far from settled. Below are a few reasons some executives believe the traditional 9 – 5 in-office model is better:

Ability to monitor employee productivity

Most business leaders advocating for the return to the office often cite the perceived ease of monitoring employee productivity as a primary motivation. And reasonably so — in the traditional office setting, managers typically have direct visual oversight of their team members, enabling them to observe work habits, interactions, and overall engagement. This visibility can create a sense of control and assurance for executives, as they believe they can more accurately assess employee performance and address any productivity issues promptly. Also, some argue that face-to-face interactions foster a collaborative environment and facilitate spontaneous communication, leading to increased productivity and innovation. They front that being physically present in the office encourages accountability and teamwork, which can ultimately drive better results.

For example, in BlackRock’s 2021 back-to-the-office memo, the firm’s COO, Rob Goldstein, and the head of HR, Caroline Heller, argued that “Career development happens in teaching moments between team members, and it is accelerated during market-moving moments, when we step up and get into the mix. All of this requires us to be together in the office.” Similarly, while justifying the need to have employees back in the office, Amazon’s CEO, Andy Jassy, told them that “it’s easier to learn, model, practice and strengthen our culture when we’re in the office together most of the time and surrounded by colleagues.”

However, this perspective overlooks the evolving nature of work and the advancements in remote work technologies. The shift towards remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that productivity and collaboration can actually be maintained, if not enhanced, outside of the traditional office environment. Remote work tools such as project management software, video conferencing platforms, and time tracking applications facilitate seamless collaboration and provide comprehensive insights into employee activities and progress, enabling managers to effectively monitor productivity regardless of location. Moreover, with several studies showing that many employees thrive and experience higher job satisfaction and lower stress levels in remote work settings, this model is more likely to spur higher productivity.

Company culture reinforcement

Another common reason for the clamor for returning to the office is that the office serves as the heart of the company culture for many businesses. It’s where traditions are upheld, team camaraderie is nurtured, and organizational values are reinforced. Therefore, by recalling employees to the office, employers seek to rekindle the sense of belonging and unity that may have waned during prolonged periods of remote work.

In a 2022 survey by Korn Ferry, about 66% of the interviewed executives admitted that corporate culture accounts for over 30% of their organization’s market value. The survey also revealed that the business leaders believe they can only create and maintain a strong company culture “if everyone is — at least some of the time — occupying the same workplace.”

While plenty of research shows that physical presence is crucial for establishing a shared understanding and meaningful connection, the truth is that working from home doesn’t have to dilute your company culture. Several case studies show organizations can counter this challenge by reinventing their processes and establishing more responsive touchpoints. Take the IBM Work From Home Pledge, for example. The initiative by the firm’s CEO, Arvind Krishna, involved encouraging remote staff members to sign up to help colleagues with simple tasks like delivering groceries. This simple signal upheld the company’s culture of inclusion and kept employees innovative and connected despite being miles apart.

Security and confidentiality

Some industries, such as tech, finance, healthcare, and legal services, handle sensitive information that requires strict security protocols and confidentiality measures. While remote work offers flexibility, it also introduces potential security risks. With employees dispersed remotely, there’s a perceived lack of oversight, potentially leading to leaks of proprietary information or security breaches and unauthorized data access. By centralizing operations in a secure office environment, some business leaders believe they can better safeguard confidential information, implement stricter access protocols, mitigate the risk of security breaches, enforce compliance with regulatory requirements, and protect both client and company interests. Also, they may feel that face-to-face interactions foster a culture of trust and accountability, which is essential for maintaining confidentiality.

While the physical presence of employees in the office may provide a sense of security, it does not guarantee immunity from cyber threats. In fact, remote work setups can be made equally secure by implementing robust encryption, multi-factor authentication, role-based access, cyber awareness training, and other cybersecurity measures. Additionally, the reliance on traditional office-based security protocols may create a false sense of security, leading to complacency and the overlooking of potential vulnerabilities. 

The Perils of Ignoring Remote Work in Tech

Remote work is not dying any time soon; it’s here to stay. While some may champion the return to the in-office model, the few who embrace working from will reap big. Here’s why:

  1. Shrinking talent horizons

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the talent pool for tech companies extends far beyond local borders. Embracing remote work opens doors to top-tier coding wizards and data engineers from diverse corners of the world. Neglecting this global talent could limit you to a less-equipped in-house team that might not propel you to compete on a global scale — potentially hindering you from developing cutting-edge products and services.

  1. Squandering work-life balance

One of the most touted benefits of remote work is its ability to empower individuals to work when they’re most productive, without the confines of traditional office hours. This can significantly enhance employee morale and satisfaction. According to a 2021 study by Tracking Happiness:

  • Working from home can increase employee happiness by up to 20%
  • The recalling of employees back to the office is detrimental to employee happiness
  • The shorter the commute time and distance, the happier employees are
  • Millennials are the happiest when operating remotely

Comparatively, by ignoring remote work, companies risk stifling the flexibility that comes with remote work by inadvertently imposing a one-size-fits-all approach to work schedules. This could lead to a disheartened workforce struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance, ultimately impacting productivity and morale.

  1. Forsaking cost-efficiency

Remote work isn’t just about flexibility; it’s also about financial efficiency. By tapping into international talent pools, companies can often find skilled professionals at competitive rates while maintaining exceptional quality. A perfect example is Latin America, which boasts a vast pool of highly qualified yet relatively untapped tech talent that charges way less than most North American and Canadian specialists. Ignoring remote work means missing out on such opportunities to maximize budgets and allocate resources more effectively, putting companies at a financial disadvantage in the long run.

  1. Missing out on time-zone alignment

One of the primary concerns for organizations considering international remote hires is inconveniences from huge time zone differences. However, in today’s globally connected world, time zone disparities can be turned into assets rather than obstacles. 

Here’s how…

Remote work offers the flexibility to assemble teams that operate across different time zones, enabling projects to progress seamlessly around the clock. For instance, in case you need extra hands to monitor your networks when your regular employees are asleep or engaged elsewhere, hiring from different time zones can help you ensure you have eyes on your systems 24/7.

  1. Stifling creative environments

Like most creatives, tech professionals often thrive more in personalized workspaces. Quite often, traditional office setups do not feel personalized enough to activate the creative juices needed to create those magic codes or crack those obstinate pipeline bottlenecks. That’s why you’ll occasionally see in-house coders taking walks to ‘catch some air’ only to return with brilliant solutions.

With remote work, employees can create personalized workspaces that foster creativity and productivity. They can strategically position their ‘lucky charms’ or perform their ‘creative people rituals’ without worrying about offending anyone. The more free they feel, the more creative and innovative they’re likely to be.

  1. Missing the global puzzle

Building tech marvels is like solving a puzzle — it often requires diverse inputs from various corners of the world. And that’s what international remote hiring helps you achieve. It dismantles geographical barriers and promotes collaboration, enabling you to transform diverse perspectives into comprehensive solutions. Also, it gives your organization a multinational feel, which can be essential if you plan to go global in the future. Comparatively, abandoning remote work means missing out on the opportunity to leverage this global puzzle, limiting the breadth and depth of solutions you can develop.

  1. Vulnerability to Disruption

Remote work can also help enhance your organization’s resilience. When your on-site staff can’t reach the office due to natural disasters, pandemics, or other unforeseen events, you don’t have to stall all operations. You can instead rely on remote employees to handle essential tasks as you seek long-term solutions. With downtime in the IT industry costing over $5,600 per minute, this can save you from massive financial losses.

Remote vs. In-Office Work: Leverage the Best of Both Worlds Through Staff Augmentation

The notion that you must abolish your in-house workforce entirely to enjoy the benefits of remote work is misplaced. With staff augmentation, you can savor the advantages of both models without forsaking one for the other. As the name aptly suggests, this model allows you to retain your in-office team as you complement them with external specialists — giving you the security that comes with on-site staff and the flexibility of a remote workforce.

DevEngine has been helping organizations like yours augment their teams with competent LATAM software and data engineers since 2019. We specifically focus on the South American region because we realized very few companies have embraced its potential. Despite being christened the next Silicon Valley, the region’s highly qualified tech experts charge favorable rates and are generally less tapped. Also, LATAM’s proximity and time zone alignment with North America makes it perfect for tech projects that require real-time collaboration.

We know how much you value your in-office team. However, you should not let this prevent you from realizing your full potential by leveraging global talents. Let us help you make your in-house employees more productive by augmenting them with competent LATAM specialists. This way, your employees will get a chance to work with and learn from the best software and data engineers.

Whether you want project-based staff augmentation, permanent placements, or autonomous remote teams, we have your back. Get in Touch with Us to discuss more!