Scalable Path has been a 100% remote company since its inception in 2010, and our primary mission has been providing organizations with the best experience when looking to hire remote developers and technical talent through our platform. This post is an updated version of a blog in which we discussed the benefits and considerations of remote work for those lacking experience with it or harboring reservations about its efficacy. The post has now been updated to take into consideration the context of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic.
In the post-COVID era, an unprecedented number of people have experienced at least temporary remote working arrangements for themselves. This means that they’ve received a crash course on the collaboration tools, benefits, and pitfalls of remote work. Organizations that were successful in adapting to remote work have been able to recognize its benefits. On the other hand, those that struggled may have been left with a negative impression that may cause them to avoid it when possible in the future – to their detriment. The landscape of remote working and the lens in which we view the economy has been forever changed.
At Scalable Path, we believe remote working is the future now more than ever. There are strong arguments to be made for it COVID aside, and still myths to dispel. While the unfortunate reality of an increasingly interconnected world means that future pandemics appear to be an inevitability, posing a legitimate risk to businesses going forward. With much to discuss, in this updated blog post we’ll reiterate the arguments for remote work while addressing lingering concerns for those still unconvinced – all from a post-COVID perspective.
The benefits of remote work
The first major benefit of engaging remote workers is that it makes it easier to find talent. Your talent pool is expanded to a national, hemispherical or even global level, depending on what it is you’re looking for. With this expanded talent pool comes the ability to find candidates who are a better fit for your role, versus competing for the best of what’s locally available. It also helps employers “shop around” with respect to price point vs. ability, considering how variable the cost of living (and thus salary expectations) can be from place to place. For example, we’ve found that there’s a sweet spot in placing Latin American developers with US companies – the price is right and there’s a lot of experienced talent there, all in an overlapping timezone.
The second major benefit is cost savings. We’ve already discussed the benefit of sourcing from different markets with a lower cost of living, but there are additional points to consider. Not having to pay for office space and related expenses, plus worker benefits, all add up to significant savings for an organization. However, it’s worth noting that some of these savings are expected by freelancers to be passed on to them since they’re responsible for their own workspace, benefits, long-term savings, and so forth – so it can be built into their rates. Still, it regularly nets out to lower costs for the client.
And a less-often discussed benefit is flexibility, especially with respect to short-term projects and consultancy. It’s easy to bring staff on for a well-defined project until its completion, and then release or reduce the hours of your contractors without having to worry about finding another place or project for them in your organization. The commitment of adding staff becomes much less daunting.
Running the numbers
Drawing from a comprehensive analysis of the available research on remote working (last updated March 2020), we can see some interesting statistics:
- Remote work has grown 173% since 2005
- Estimates show a typical employer can save an average of $11,000 a year under certain teleworking arrangements
- Employees can potentially save around $3,250 a year under similar arrangements, by not having to commute or pay for parking, food, and similar expenses
- 80% of employees want to work from home at least some of the time
- 47% of Millennials (35% overall employees) would change jobs to work remotely full time
- More than a third of workers would take a pay cut of up to 5% in exchange for the option to work remotely at least some of the time; a quarter would take a 10% pay cut; 20% would take an even greater cut
Companies embracing remote work
Many companies regardless of size are now embracing a remote-first methodology, especially in the tech sector:
- Stack Overflow
- Facebook, which has changed its traditionally office-first culture in response to COVID, and caused a stir with their plan to tie remote worker salary to the worker’s location
- Scalable Path (that’s us!)
Productivity and trust
If your organization has the capacity for remote work, but you’re still not convinced, chances are that it’s because you’re concerned that the lack of direct supervision will cause your workers to slack off while on the clock.
The truth is, employees who feel trusted and empowered to work in a space that’s comfortable for them will have improved morale, which equates to more productivity regardless of setting. A happy worker is a hard worker.
Also, if they’re able to work with fewer interruptions, that helps contribute towards a flow state to further increase productivity. This is especially important for developers who have to juggle a large amount of information and considerations in their working memory while tackling the interconnected problems native to programming.
The numbers back this up, remote work leads to:
- Increased productivity: generally measured as somewhere between 15% and 45%
- Reduced absenteeism: 78% of employees who call in sick do so not because they’re sick, but due to family, personal issues, appointments, and stress. The flexibility of remote work can make many of these more manageable without having to take full days of unscheduled time off.
- Improved employee retention: equates to more overall productivity, given the effort (and cost) required to source and train replacement staff
If you’re still having trouble trusting your workers to be productive, I’d recommend giving things a try in a limited capacity to see how they go – you may be surprised. To track how things are going, measure outputs of work, not time worked – this is ultimately what you’re paying your employees for. Are they doing their job, are they doing it well, and delivering on time? Also, touch base to see what employees think of the arrangement and if they have workflow suggestions on how to make things run more smoothly in a remote setting. If after all that your employees still require constant supervision to remain productive, there may be larger issues at play in your organization than work setting.
It’s obvious that companies with some type of remote working arrangement were better prepared for this crisis. Many others had to adapt quickly and were surprised to find that, aside from some growing pains, they were adaptable to the arrangement and workers could remain productive throughout it – economic slowdown aside. This experience has gone a long way in exposing remote work to those unfamiliar with it and has raised some considerations for all businesses going forward. Human history has been marked by pandemics of varying severity, and given the increased interconnectivity of our world, we’re faced with a greater threat for fast-moving outbreaks to change our day-to-day life at a moment’s notice.
Those living in earthquake-prone regions like California know that, on a long enough timescale, a major quake is bound to occur. That’s why appropriate preparations are made with respect to building codes and emergency preparedness plans – it becomes normalized. The same must now be true for all businesses, regardless of location, with respect to infectious disease events.
Even if an organization doesn’t choose to become remote-first as a result of COVID-19, it would be wise to appropriately prepare contingencies for another outbreak. Having a part-time remote working arrangement, or remote-first policy for employees who don’t need to be in the office will go a long way in mitigating future risk.
And the lessons learned from this experience can be applied to that plan. Figure out the policies and supporting technology ahead of time. Employers should have the necessary infrastructure in place to support a remote workforce so it’s there when it’s needed. For remote workers, having a comfortable setup ready at home is essential. And for parents – just remember that during a typical remote work scenario, the daycares will still be open.
This doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. We’ve discussed the benefits of remote working in a vacuum, now there’s an additional argument for it – resilience for your business when similar situations occur in the future.
Scalable Path’s experience
We’re lucky in the sense that our staff is 100% remote and our business model involves placing remote workers with organizations. We’re grateful to have been able to continue working through this uncertain period with some sense of normalcy. Having standing (virtual) meetings among staff gave us an opportunity to connect and discuss the uncertainty we were all experiencing, and it also provided some much-needed social contact. That being said, it certainly wasn’t business as usual, and we experienced a few trends:
- In general, business was slower – especially at the start of the pandemic when things were more uncertain and clients were in a “wait and see” state of mind.
- There was an initial influx of applicants applying to remote positions, often without previous remote experience. This was good news for our clients, who now had a surplus of talent to choose from.
- We heard several stories of contractors who were stranded in their current location unable to travel, often as an interruption of their previously existing career plan. We did our best to find placements for them in these cases.
- Unfortunately, due to the economic impacts, some of our contractors were released. When this was the case, we tried to find them new placements as well.
- Eventually, things began to pick up a bit. There was a new trend in the type of projects people were coming to us with – collaboration tools and apps targeting the health and education sectors above all else. As the world changes, new opportunities arise.
It’s clear to us that in both the near and long-term future, remote work will continue to grow. There will be an increase in opportunities for those looking to work remotely, and more projects will be empowered by drawing from a global pool of talent.
Why using a recruiter can help
The biggest challenge to remote sourcing is that it can be more difficult to do than traditional local hiring. The number of candidates and subsequent inquiries can be overwhelming when drawing from a national or global talent pool. Many remote-focused talent marketplaces rely solely on algorithms and gameable review systems to provide assurances that any given profile is a safe choice. Without a dedicated HR department and a significant amount of effort, the hiring process can become very fraught very quickly for those without experience in the remote talent marketplace.
An unfortunate reality is that the distance and lack of in-person contact mean that it can be easier for candidates to misrepresent themselves to employers – who they are, where they’re located, and what their experience is. Although (much like with in-person work) bad apples are rare, some additional considerations must be made, and the vetting process becomes crucial.
With over 10 years of experience doing exactly that, we’ve developed a sixth sense for when candidates are misleading us. We’ve also honed our vetting process both with respect to identity and technical ability, to ensure that only qualified candidates make it through our process. The fact that we’ve built up a community of over 17,000 trusted developers – many with proven track records on past projects through our platform – makes the sourcing process easier and quicker for us when compared to more traditional recruiting models. We pride ourselves on providing the best experience to employers seeking remote talent.
That’s why we think our service is invaluable – finding the best candidates is essential to the growth and success of every business. Your staff forms the foundation of your company, so build it using the strongest individuals. Investing in the wrong candidates can set a business back in the marketplace and create internal strife – it’s better to take the safer path.
By this point, the benefits of remote work should be clear. There’s an overall cost savings to an organization, paired with a boost to productivity – two things that give a company an edge over its competitors. In an evolving landscape, it’s also clear that being remote-first or at least offering remote working arrangements is necessary for an organization to attract the best candidates and remain resilient through challenging times. We also believe that as the remote marketplace grows, engaging experts in the field of talent acquisition is essential for the success and security of one’s organization. Historically speaking, companies that have been at the forefront of a changing industry have been those with longevity in the marketplace. That’s why adopting a remote workforce today is a good idea for your business now and tomorrow.
Are you looking for help with your next software project? You’ve come to the right place, every Scalable Path developer has been carefully handpicked by our technical recruitment team. Contact us and we’ll have your team up and running in no time.