"A lot of companies weren't prepared for this situation" - Founder of developer job platform explains the essence of remote working
Manchester-based Employ Remotely first launched at the start of this year as a jobs platform specifically for developers seeking to work remotely.
Co-founders Tom Cafferkey and Nick Pilling seem to have somewhat predicted the current trend of remote working and in the few months since launch, they’ve had over 300 job adverts posted on the site.
The founders strongly believe that some jobs, specifically those of software developers, can be done entirely remotely if the right processes are implemented, with numerous benefits for both the employer and the employee.
Their simple-to-use website allows developers to search for remote jobs all over the world and refining them to match their own specific skillset.
In the below Q&A, we ask Tom about the essence of remote work, why it’s worth considering, how it benefits businesses, how Employ Remotely’s journey has gone so far, and much more.
What benefits does remote working bring?
Like everything, remote working is not for everyone and has its own list of pros and cons. But there is a reason remote working has seen such substantial growth over the years. If your average commute is 1.5 hours a day, and there are 261 working days in a year you are going to get back 16 days a year by cutting out that commute.
That is a huge amount of time back which you can choose to invest in your personal health, your family or studying to name a few, the list goes on. Families may also be able to live with one car rather than two which has a positive impact on their financial situation as well as the environment.
In terms of your working day, you can decide where you feel most productive working from, whether that be in your home office or a co-working space where you can work alongside other creatives, freelancers and likeminded individuals. It's entirely up to you to change your environment to benefit your best way of working.
For companies, you now have the worlds talent pool to pick from, you also don't have to worry about forking out for that expensive office space you're going to need as you grow. You can instead grow your company with the help of an inclusive remote workforce from around the world, from different backgrounds and cultures.
Why did you set up a platform for hiring remote workers?
Remote work is growing rapidly. Since 2005 it has grown 173% and that figure will continue to increase.
There are plenty of job boards out there that cater to remote positions, but we focus on software developers and here's why. For your typical developer, it takes unnecessary effort to discover suitable jobs which use technologies they know, are interested in learning, or have past experience in using.
Narrowing down these jobs into a small list of opportunities relevant to you is also time-consuming. Then when you finally have a handful of jobs that think are appropriate, you discover that these jobs require you to commute into a San Francisco office one day per week. I don't know about you, but that's not a commute I'm prepared to commit to with living in Lancashire.
On our platform EmployRemotely.com, we only publish jobs that are 100% fully remote, and we give the employer the option to tag up jobs with the necessary skills needed to apply for this job. This helps us present the most appropriate jobs to the candidate.
What is it specifically about the development sector that lends itself to remote working in contrast to other industries?
I think developers naturally thrive off processes, having a methodical approach to work appears less chaotic and more predictable. Because of this, it feels less of a risk to let developers work from their homes.
That's not to say that other sectors are chaotic, but often developers can spend days working on a task without the need to come up for air, so allowing them to do this in a space or environment with fewer distractions (like their own home) naturally feels like the right thing to do.
It's worth considering that developers often pick up side projects, or work on open source projects outside of work on websites like Github.com, Upwork.com, LinkedIn and others. They never meet the clients they're working with, meaning that they already have remote working experience.
That being said, I am seeing a lot of other professions adopt remote working which is a positive step forward.
How can employees ensure their remote developers are productive and working as well as if they were on-site?
A good approach to enabling developers to do their best work remotely is very similar to how you would approach it in an office environment. It mainly comes down to a few things. Process, communication and documentation.
There are off the shelf software solutions you can use but ultimately it comes down to how you use them. For example, Jira and Trello are popular for tracking tasks represented by "tickets". But without documenting all of the required information, a developer attempting to do that task may end up essentially "blocked" from working on it which isn't great for productivity.
Documentation is an important part of enabling developers to work independently. Removing dependency on others for their knowledge is something that all companies will benefit from. Should individuals have any issues then daily stand-ups (short catch-up meetings) are a great way to raise these and provide an opportunity to reach out for help or reassess goals. Couple this with meetings to establish weekly or bi-weekly objectives, goals and responsibilities, helps draw a clear line in the sand of what is expected.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges that companies are facing now that they're forced to work remotely?
I often have to remind people that working remotely, and working remotely in the midst of a global pandemic and national lockdown are worlds apart.
A lot of companies were not prepared for this situation we now find ourselves in. Companies have been scrambling to get systems in place to accommodate their employees working from home, meaning their IT teams have probably been working under intense pressure and round the clock to get these processes in place.
Given this, speaking to employees at companies who haven't been prepared for this, I've seen that they have felt a sense of it being rushed, which can have a mental impact on the team. If the leadership is anxious and worrying, that feeling will naturally filter down to the employee hierarchy.
Leadership is now having to take extra steps to check in on their employees to make sure they have enough support and that they're feeling OK working in isolation when they would otherwise be spending that team on other tasks. This I can imagine is extremely hard when you've got to manage a remote team with zero remote experience yourself. Again, something we want to educate people on.
Being in a constant state of isolation can also have a serious mental impact as workers are not able to get out of the house to integrate socially with their communities - something that is possible when working remotely.
Has the pandemic, and subsequent lockdown, benefitted your platform and what does this mean more generally?
As soon as the lockdown happened both nationally and internationally we saw a spike in traffic. As much as I'd like to say I was pleased with the levels of traffic we were receiving, I couldn't help but think that some of it was down the number of developers being let go from their positions and looking for new opportunities, which obviously is not something we want to celebrate.
On one hand, it's great that so many companies are adopting a remote working culture now, but on the other hand, it's a shame that it has taken such extreme measures to show that a lot of jobs can actually be done remotely.
If there's one good thing to come from this, it's going to make jobs much more accessible to people with disabilities, or other personal circumstances that meant they weren't able to apply for them before.
We all see now that letting employees work from wherever they want isn't as much of a risk as companies had first thought. Employees will now begin looking for opportunities that specifically offer this and if companies don't offer it, they're going to miss out on some fantastic talent to their competitors who are embracing this not-so-new way of working.
Do you envisage more companies adopting the option of remote working post-pandemic and why?
They may need to iron out some issues to make the process smoother, like with any new way of working you have to expect teething problems but I do expect more companies to make it an option.
It would be a shame to hear companies say "It didn't work, we tried it during the pandemic". Even if they don't adopt 100% remote working, I think companies will start to offer X days working from home as an employee perk.
I also think we will see an increased demand in the number of people wanting a position they can work remotely in.