Does Securing the Best Developer Talent Mean a Commitment to Flexible Working?
Should developers be working from home? If it means attracting the best IT talent on the market, then yes. But it’s not quite so straightforward. Candidates are savvy, they want interesting projects, more money and less office time. An IT recruiter can find you the best web developer and software programmer, but getting them to sign the job offer takes more than a great client sell from us.
Remote vs office
“People are more productive when they’re alone, but they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together”
Marissa Meyer (CEO Yahoo)
“In 30 years time, as technology moves forward even further, people are going to look back and wonder why offices ever existed.”
Richard Branson (Virgin)
Meyer and Branson represent two different camps; the first advocates that employees will get nothing done, except maybe catch up on their Game Of Thrones box set; whereas the second believes that employees will be happier and therefore get more done.
Concerns over the effectiveness of collaboration seems the most important factor in banning staff from working from home. However that still doesn’t deny that people are more productive when they are allowed to work more flexibly.
Branson sees things differently, actively encouraging working from home. He believes that flexible working will become the norm.
For IT employers, regardless of where they might prefer to see their workers located, undoubtedly it’s arguable that all IT candidates, employees and graduates not only prefer some degree of flexibility, but expect it too. And most IT managers will be somewhere in between the two views. Although employees would be closer to Branson while employers are closer to Meyer.
Yet tech firms lose the best candidates all the time because of flexibility
As IT Recruiters, we are well aware of how attractive flexible working can be.
Every week of every month we represent fantastic candidates. We source them before other agencies, find the diamonds of experience their CVs don’t mention and sell our clients’ company culture and goals. We also make their projects sound as sexy as possible.
But it isn’t always enough.
We still lose candidates at the offer stage because another client is willing to let them either work from home on a Tuesday (and Wednesday, and Friday), start and finish later, have personal allowance for their children’s school activities, or even earning extra holidays by working additional hours.
Flexibility is often more influential than salary
That flexibility can be seductive for candidates. Let’s not get into the psychology of millennials and generation x, most of whom don’t recognise the standard working day as standard anymore.
But the balancing of work/life/family is a huge influence on their attitude to accepting jobs.
Tech employers could recognise this and look at how they can offer flexibility. There are plenty of options, not all of them mean letting them stay at home all week. Here are some of the more popular ones:
Flexitime – Implementing a flexible working schedule where core working hours are maintained, but includes flexible arrangements where employees can dictate their own working hours.
Annualised hours – The employee working hours are worked out over the course of a year, employees know their responsibility to that time, but have some degree of control over when those hours are worked.
Compressed hours – The hours stay the same but employees can dictate how they are worked, i.e., in a shorter time so as to work less days in a month/week.
Staggered hours – Implementing different start/finish times for staff.
Part-time – Offering part-time hours to some employees can help them if they are considering taking a sabbatical, caring for relatives or looking after a child.
Job sharing – Similar to part-time, job sharing can also work for retaining experienced staff that want to leave full time employment.
Remote Working – Utilising technology to telecommute and working from home for an agreed number of days per week or per month.
These flexible options can be adapted to suit your specific business, and every business will have different core hours or client facing responsibility and department interaction. Whatever they are to your business, they are being increasingly used to attract talent, rather than merely retain it.
Web developers are prime candidates for flexible working
The nature of the IT industry makes it fertile ground for introducing more flexible working conditions and it is now more likely that competing tech companies will be offering those flexible terms to employees and new hires.
When it comes to developers, the stereotype is the reclusive nerd unable to leave their screens and spending their days in the same skinny jeans and hoodie, perhaps resembling a hipster.
But developers come in all shapes, sizes and ages. What is consistent is their ability to work on projects for long periods of time. That’s because concentration is vital for developers. Coding often requires lengthy critical focus.
In fact offices can provide more distractions than anywhere else, making them the worst places for developers to work. So the flexibility of anyone’s schedule working at home should offer some incentive to complete projects and meet deadlines.
But not everyone has the ability or desire to work alone. Some developers get distracted when away from their desk and some can’t separate home with work. Some employees might worry that others in the company think they aren’t working as hard as them, or will overcompensate by working even longer hours.
Weighing up the benefits of working from home
There are benefits to working from home for employers and employees, and disadvantages too:
- Flexibility to meet family and personal needs and obligations
- Reduction in commuting times (less stress) and fuel expenses (especially relevant from an ecological or green viewpoint)
- Initiating control over working time and working environment
- Working during the hours which are more conducive to creativity, concentration or energy levels
- It can be quieter and less distracting than the office, allowing workers to get more done
- Allowing employees to work remotely and flexibly will boost their morale
- It reduces absenteeism and lateness, especially if workers commute from long distance and/or use public transportReduces tardiness and absenteeism
- It generates fewer sick days
- Encourages higher employee retention
- Ability to recruit from a wider geographical talent pool
- Some things, especially customer-facing roles can only be done from the office
- Collaboration between teams isn’t as easy to initiate or monitor
- Working from home can confuse those you live with about your ‘availability’
- No clear dividing line between work and home
- Team building efforts aren’t as effective
- Supervision of employees isn’t efficiently managed
- Getting team and project managers together, especially on tight schedules and when multiple revisions are discussed, isn’t easy at short notice.
- Compressing or changing working hours can affect the client
- Feelings of unfairness when only certain employees have work that can be done remotely.
Most employees who work flexibly eat healthier and the overheads of a traditional office environment like lighting, and electricity are reduced. Developers are often more productive because of it.
It is worth understanding that the law clearly provides a requisite for offering flexible working arrangements to any employee who is a parent – unless there are clear business reasons for not allowing it. And with the availability of developer talent getting thinner on the ground, offering a more flexible approach to IT staff might just make your company a more attractive sell.
Working from home five days a week apart from the monthly meeting isn’t for everyone, but neither is the standard nine-to-five either.
The answer for most developers is somewhere in the middle. Flexibility that allows working parents equal opportunity to take responsibility for the school run, opportunity to minimise time spent in rush hour or lengthy commuting times (both of them are a growing environmental responsibility too) and being able to manage and control the time in which the contracted hours are worked.
What is clear to us is that a greater degree of flexibility is needed for clients to secure the best candidates. Because those that do are winning.
Do you work from home and has it made you more productive?
Have your say by leaving a comment below.