It is expected that the working environment will become increasingly dependent on computerization in the coming years. By 2022, it is projected that the IT industry will grow by a staggering 50%. However, the current pool of local talent is not sufficient to accommodate this rapid expansion, with only 23,000 students graduating from US universities in 2022 with a Bachelor’s degree or higher in the field of computer science, which is less than half of the current demand for qualified professionals.
In order to stay competitive in today’s market, businesses are increasingly having to look beyond their traditional employee base in order to meet the growing demand for skilled technical personnel. According to a survey, more than half of software engineers (53%) consider the ability to work remotely as very important or important when looking for a new job. This is due to an increasing number of digital nomads in the technical workforce, as well as the ambition of both startups and multinationals to expand globally. As a result, some businesses, such as Automattic, have opted to forgo physical locations in favour of virtual ones.
At a recent event in New York City, some of the most progressive and visionary software industry professionals came together to deliberate on the challenges and benefits of scaling and managing dispersed teams. In this article, we will take a look at the most pertinent insights that were extracted from this event.
Concentrate on proper office conduct and equipment.
It is essential to clearly define a “communications stack” for a business. While there are a multitude of suppliers to choose from, including email, Loom, Slack, and Zoom, the challenge lies in determining the policies and boundaries of how these technologies can be used by employees.
As a rule of thumb, here are some considerations to ponder while planning for distributed or distant communication in your designs:
- What methods will we employ?
- Which communication methods are ideal for real-time collaboration as opposed to asynchronous tasks?
- Where can I find the protocol for each channel?
- Does company policy mandate the use of cameras in all video conferences?
- When should we have group email threads or utilise Slack’s real-time messaging?
- What are some ways we might formalise the incorporation of our company’s values about communication into the onboarding process for new employees?
At Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, sound is of utmost importance to the designers. CEO Matt Mullenweg is adamant in promoting an atmosphere of collaboration and community, and believes that having everyone on a teleconference unmuting their microphones is crucial to achieving this. To ensure quality audio, he insists all of his employees use USB headsets that he has personally tested and recommends investing in a Sennheiser model, which typically cost around $45.
Propose a system of responsible action.
The argument that remote employment is not beneficial due to the lack of physical presence of employees is often used by those who are skeptical. However, it is essential for managers and staff to maintain open communication and clear expectations regarding availability and responsibility when working remotely in different locations and across time zones. Without this, the potential benefits of remote employment may not be realised.
The following are topics that may be discussed with remote workers, whether they are managers or contributors.
- When do our schedules overlap and what do you anticipate from that?
- How can we establish a regular schedule for team or group calls that takes into consideration everyone’s various time zones?
- How much can we rely on asynchronous communication to keep everyone updated when there are no scheduled meetings?
- Where can we meet formally and informally to work together and get to know one another better?
Make an effort to improve the quality of video conferencing while working remotely.
Companies such as Invision and Automattic, who have a fully distributed workforce, have the advantage of being able to tailor their traditional workday to fit their needs. Invision has 650 employees in 25 countries, with the East Coast being the main hub. Automattic has 750 employees in 65 countries, giving them the ability to provide round-the-clock customer service. Both companies prioritise the importance of face-to-face communication and hire employees with the intention of increasing their remote workforce.
Build a set of rules that takes into consideration the following while expanding a remote team:
- When do most workers put in a full day at the office? Given the dispersion of workers across time zones, how much overlap can we reasonably expect?
- In order to best evaluate a candidate’s potential for succeeding in a remote work setting, it is important to consider a variety of factors. Essential characteristics to look for include the ability to work independently, excellent communication and interpersonal skills, and the capacity to problem-solve. Additionally, a successful candidate should have the requisite technical skills for the role and the ability to adapt to the ever-changing remote work landscape. While experience in a dispersed team setting may be beneficial, it is not the only factor to consider. Ultimately, the key is to select the individual who has the best combination of qualities and attributes that make them the strongest fit for the job.
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