Why Remote Working is Crucial for the UK’s Tech Industry
A recent report from techUK showed that one in six new hires made between 2009 and 2015 in the UK technology sector were EU citizens. With the tech sector creating twice as many jobs as the non-digital sector, according to recent figures from TechNation, it is vital that businesses can continue to access the tech talent they need. But – with Brexit looming – many companies are uncertain about future access to candidates from the EU and even the long-term security of EU nationals already working in the UK.
A possible solution for businesses who share these concerns, it to consider remote working options. So what’s the best way to implement a remote working policy, and how can businesses make the most of it?
No barriers to talent
Thanks to today’s hyper-connected world, you can now hire top-notch talent from anywhere in the world. If you’re based in central London and the best person for the job is based in the mountains of Switzerland, remote working makes this hire possible. At Stack Overflow, we have a widely dispersed team. Outside of our US and UK offices, we have people based all over the world – from Brazil, to Germany and even Australia, working and communicating via a variety of real-time messaging, file sharing and video conferencing tools.
And it’s a common misconception that remote working is only for tech startups. A number of larger and more established UK-based companies – such as Thoughtworks, KCOM and the Scale Factory – are already embracing remote working. Beyond the UK, there are thousands of developer jobs which offer the chance for developers to live & work anywhere.
Remote working isn’t just good for your business – it’s important for developers too. According to our recent report on tech hiring,55% of developers said that remote working options were a top priority when considering a new job.
Assessing the best
Offering remote working options can expand your candidate pool exponentially. So how do you ensure you hire the best person for the job? Remote working doesn’t suit everybody, so it’s crucial that your candidates have the right skills and attributes to make it work.
Since it’s difficult to train remote employees, it’s important that candidates have prior experience working in a remote setting – at least part-time. We recommend screening for this alongside your assessment of their development expertise.
It goes without saying that excellent communication is required to ensure remote workers feel part of the team. Since face-to-face conversations with teammates are impossible, they have to be comfortable communicating via all sorts of online technologies – from Skype to Google Hangouts.
In addition to looking for tech and time-management skills, think about how the candidate will fit in with the way your team communicates. The interview process is key here – asking lots of open-ended questions can help give you a sense of how the candidate deals with communication issues.
Another trait to look for in the ideal remote developer is the ability to code in a ‘flat’ collaboration model – which eliminates traditional business hierarchies by putting the deliverable first. This encourages developers to work together on an equal footing to solve a problem before deferring to a manager, and accommodates the unique competencies and experiences of developers working worldwide. Remote workers, therefore, can’t wait to be told what to do – they have to take the initiative and cooperate with their team no matter where they are in the world.
Once you’ve recruited your developers, it’s worth keeping in mind the challenges you’re going to face managing them. When some or all of your team are off-site, there isn’t the opportunity to walk over to someone’s desk for a chat. It’s important to be sensitive to the difficulties your remote software engineers might face.
Want to track your team’s progress and ensure that everyone is aligned over multiple projects? The ‘daily standup’ is a simple way to keep the team synchronised. A quick video call (5 to 15 minutes) is enough time for everyone to share their updates and plans for the day and flag any potential challenges.
And with a dispersed team, the latest chat tools become more important than ever – from cloud-based apps such as Slack to fire a quick message to a team, to tools like Trello, Jenkins and Redmine that are also invaluable for many remote workers. Sift through what’s available until you find the ones that work for your team.
And remember, when a team member is out of the office they’re going to miss out on the everyday office banter that traditionally helps to build a strong team. Isolation can be a real issue. But believe it or not, remote developers can join in social events too. At Stack Overflow, we hold remote beer bashes online – this means that teams can enjoy each other’s company even when they’re hundreds of miles apart.
Distributed teams aren’t for everyone, but as the availability of tech talent becomes less certain, they will become an increasingly relevant option. If you do consider hiring overseas developers to work from home, follow these tips to ensure you’re hiring the right people in the right way and managing them effectively.
About the author: Natalia Radcliffe-Brine, is Regional Manager at Stack Overflow, the world’s largest platform for developers.