Recently, Vaco’s Nashville office held a roundtable discussion featuring established technology professionals in Music City. The open-forum discussion shed light on several important hiring/recruiting topics in the tech space.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses across the country enacted work-from-home (WFH) policies to keep their employees safe and maintain operations. According to a recent Vaco webinar, only 8% of workers telecommuted before the pandemic took hold in March 2020. At the peak of the pandemic, that number skyrocketed to 60%.
For many tech workers, the ability to work outside of the office was in place before the pandemic began. But, according to a survey taken more than a year after the height of the pandemic, 75% of tech workers said it’s important for their companies to allow them to work remotely indefinitely. That includes plans that are completely WFH, as well as those that institute a hybrid office schedule (e.g., two days in the office per week).
In response to the overwhelming support and desire of remote work in the tech sector, several tech companies, including Coinbase, Quora and Upwork, have adopted a “remote-first” model. However, as more offices begin to reopen their doors, not all tech companies are investing in a fully remote future. Apple, Google and Meta have announced a mandatory return to the office in some form.
The question is, how can tech companies ensure their employees continue to thrive as remote work policies persist? This was a key topic of discussion during the recent Vaco Nashville roundtable hosted by Taylor Desseyn, a veteran technology recruiter and a team lead in Vaco’s Nashville Engineering Remote Division. The roundtable panelists shared their insight, along with several tips, that will help businesses successfully navigate the intricacies of remote work:
Allow remote flexibility that works for everyone
No two tech employees are the same. Some thrive on the collaboration, camaraderie, and familiarity that comes with working in the office. Conversely, many employees have sworn off returning to the office for good, preferring a comfortable and quiet thinking space isolated from co-workers.
While it may seem like instituting a hybrid schedule is the best way to please all your employees, it may not be the best way to find a scheduling balance that truly works for everyone. That’s why the roundtable recommended tech companies offer employees some level of flexibility when it comes to hybrid schedules, allowing more freedom for them to decide on their own which days they need to be in the office.
This recommendation is backed up by several studies, including a recent global survey from Future Forum, a consortium launched by Slack in September 2020. In the survey of more than 10,000 knowledge workers from the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K., 68% of respondents said hybrid is their preferred work environment. However, most said they also want flexibility above and beyond choosing where they work. While 78% of all survey respondents said they want location flexibility, nearly all of them (95%) wanted schedule flexibility.
Make establishing trust a priority
One of the struggles many companies have, particularly startups and younger companies, is the ability to build a culture of trust while working remotely. However, this can also serve as an advantage. One panelist pointed out that the remote environment can actually be the catalyst for a more trusting team environment.
“I love my team being remote because it gives me that unequivocal trust. I trust that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and I can see it in their work. This makes me want to be proactive when it comes to their role on the team and growth within the company. I don’t want them to have to come to me and ask for a raise or promotion. I want to be proactive about it.”Nashville tech hiring roundtable panelist
As leaders focus on building trust and a rapport with the individuals on the team, it’s also important to allow those individuals to have a say in the direction and goals for the team. Team leaders need to assess where the overall opportunities lie as a group, and then focus on achieving those opportunities together. When individual employees feel more invested in the team’s success, it brings the entire team closer—especially when the team is working remotely. As another panelist put it:
“Your employees are people and they have goals, and they also have things they want to do outside of work. They don’t want to be stressed while they’re at work, and I don’t want that for them, either. So, as we start to think about what a remote culture looks like, and what it means to be a leader in this world, it has to be less about ‘what you can do for us’ and more about ‘what we can do together.’”Nashville tech hiring roundtable panelist
Build connections that withstand distance
There are plenty of proven ways for leaders to connect with their teams and build stronger connections between employees, no matter how far apart they may be.
Here are a few of the roundtable’s suggestions:
- Structured one-on-ones: One panelist meets with a different team member every day for a structured, one-on-one meeting for 30 minutes. The first 10 minutes is all about how the team member is doing at work and in life. The next 10 minutes is dedicated to in-depth discussion about work-related issues. Finally, the last 10 minutes is to discuss thoughts about the future and any potential concerns the employee may have.
- Team game nights: Another panelist has a recurring game night with his team every two weeks. There are plenty of programs on the market that make it easy to host remote game nights with teams big and small, and spending time with colleagues outside of work has led to more productivity at work.
- Gathering around the virtual water cooler: Teams don’t have to be in the office together to enjoy the benefits of a quick meetup. One panelist said he has a dedicated Google Meet reserved for team members who just need a few minutes together around the “water cooler” to solve problems or brainstorm.
Read more: Check out this guide to engaging remote employees with unique virtual events.
Don’t be afraid to have conversations about mental health
With the lack of physical interaction that comes with working remotely, it’s natural for workers to feel isolated. According to a survey from the American Psychiatric Association, nearly two-thirds of people working from home sometimes feel isolated or lonely, while 17% admitted feeling that way all of the time.
That’s why the roundtable said it’s crucial for leaders not to shy away from having important conversations with their teams about mental health, and to check in regularly to make sure each employee feels seen, heard, and validated.
As one panelist stated, “There are more conversations right now around the individual than ever before, and that’s so important.”
Working remotely isn’t going anywhere, and businesses that can figure out how to sustain engagement while maintaining productivity outside of the office will be better off in the long run. Vaco is with you all the way to help enact strategies that will build lasting connections with your current team, as well as finding, assessing and hiring top IT talent when you need to grow.
Whether you need strategy and guidance on keeping your remote teams connected or help with assessing and hiring the right IT talent, Vaco is with you all the way.
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