Remote Working in the IT Industry
June 28, 2021
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by Arabella Seebaluck

Since working from home has become the ‘new normal’, many studies on the remote form of working are coming to light, alongside the new ones being carried out to measure this approach in one way or the other. Remote working and productivity in the IT industry is one of the areas of study by researchers from UK and US, who looked at data from before and after the Coronavirus pandemic.

The idea for these researchers from the universities of Chicago, Essex and Lund, was to compute information from “…over 10,000 skilled professionals at a large Asian IT services company, we compare productivity before and during the work from home [WFH] period of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Their primary observation was the following: “Total hours worked increased by roughly 30%, including a rise of 18% in working after normal business hours. Average output did not significantly change. Therefore, productivity fell by about 20%.”

This is bad news for those trying to convince their bosses that it’s more productive for them to be at home. In fact, some highlighted this study as showing how online work meant more meetings, more remote monitoring and therefore had an impact in terms of motivation and output.

The pros & cons

While many families rejoice at the possibility of spending more time together while remote working, some corporations are frowning on the perhaps unnecessary prolongation of a situation which was imposed on the global workforce by the sanitary situation. Apple, for instance, recently announced that it would go into hybrid mode. That is, its employees would be able to work from home for some days and would be required to be at the office on the remaining ones. This prompted a response from the tech giant’s employees, who claimed “Apple’s remote/location-flexible work policy, and the communication around it, have already forced some of our colleagues to quit…”

If this is the case for Apple, smaller companies could be having a tougher time. A WSJ article tells the story of San Francisco-based start-up Chef Robotics. For the eight-member team, the challenge is real as they even “recently missed a key product deadline by a month, hampered by the challenges of integrating and testing software and hardware with its engineers scattered across the Bay Area.”

Their solution was to move to a bigger location, where the employees would have more space and be able to safely socially distance. The cost involved may not be as high as missing a product launch or client schedule.

What’s missing

Other than the tug-of-war between productivity and the work-life balance, there have been some other downsides to working from home, researchers found. For IT professionals, the lack of person-to-person interaction is having an impact:

“Employees have fewer contacts with different individuals and organizational units both inside and outside the company. They also have fewer 1:1 meetings with superiors, and receive less coaching. These lost opportunities to network may help explain why WFH lowers productivity.” [Source]

Other components of the industry, in particular where the business aspect is involved, have signalled the lack of networking opportunities. This is despite a lot of virtual events and digital marketing strategies being on the rise since the pandemic put a damper on fairs and other meetings.

There isn’t a solution to the situation other than adopting a wait-and-see approach. What’s sure is that many claim working from home, or at least a hybrid model, is that which is most likely to remain in the present-day scenario.

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