Is remote-first the new reality for software companies (and 4 ways to adapt)

Because the pandemic forced the global workforce into entirely remote – often isolated – work arrangements overnight, much of the learning curve is happening in real-time. 

But the next evolution of work is not as simple as creating general work-from-home policies. Instead, companies must create a culture that allows employees to work from home equitably without sacrificing the aspects of work that are difficult to replicate digitally.

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A remote-first future

“As an employer, restricting your hiring to a small geographic region means you’re not getting the best people you can. As an employee, restricting your job search to companies within a reasonable commute means you’re not working for the best company you can.”

Still, WFH is not without its challenges. 

Discussions around the relative productivity of remote developers often center around effective collaboration and development methodologies. Still, there are other factors at play: from lifestyle situations and potential disruptions to burnout and social capital.

So how do companies adapt and maintain their collaborative and efficient level of success? 

Four ways software companies can adapt to remote-first work environment

1. Avoid loneliness: Don’t stop engaging with people

Humans were not designed for a life of total solitude. And the lack of physical connectivity weighs heavily sometimes.

So when there’s no office to influence human interaction, you must be intentional about including it throughout your day: 

  • Schedule regular coffee chats with people using a video call.
  • All work and no play makes video calls a dull task.
  • We’re all in the same boat. Don’t be shy to turn on your video nor shame if your pets or family find their way into calls.
  • Find a co-working facility and share desks with others in your situation.
  • Wander out into the real world… #maskup

Cabin fever is real, and remote workers are more susceptible to it than those forced into an office. Working from home, however, doesn’t mean being locked away in your home office.

2. Encourage collaboration: But ration virtual meetings

As such, consider instilling some of the following:

  • List – and rank – preferred methods of communication (face-to-face, chat, email, etc.).
  • Optimize collaboration via platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams.
  • Celebrate individual successes and company milestones.
  • Ban meetings during lunchtime and for every time zone of employees.
  • Ensure a minimum of 10 minutes is required between virtual meetings. 

While nothing can replace face-to-face connection, there are opportunities to help maintain an emotional and intellectual relationship among colleagues while they’re working from home. But understand that collaboration isn’t just one meeting after another… explore other ways.

3. Prevent burn out: Separate business from pleasure

A manager’s instinct is to worry that their employees aren’t productive enough at home. In reality, the real threat is that they end up working too much. When there’s no physical office to leave from, it’s tempting to work longer than is expected (or healthy). This is likely to be the most challenging hurdle. 

Here are some tricks to manage the work-life balance:

  • Don’t immediately start working when you wake up.
  • Fill the void of gained commuted time with non-work activities.
  • Establish a culture of reasonable expectations.
  • Set boundaries between work and home and respect them for others.
  • Value productivity over logged hours.

Sure, now and then, there’s the need to sprint, but there are no awards for slaving away. Everyone must pace themselves.

4. Stay focused: Work-from-home isn’t always from home

Don’t assume everyone has access to an optimal workspace, especially those new to WFH environments, further complicated for employees with family at home. Additionally, what works best changes person to person.

Consider empowering team members to: 

  • Find a dedicated space to work. 
  • Reimburse expenses related to home offices, coworking spaces, and external offices.
  • Try not to compromise on comfort or ergonomics. 
  • Set up coworking days with colleagues.
  • Take the time to transition from parent-mode to engineer-mode

The execution of this will look different depending on your home and living situation, but the key is finding a spot purely for work.

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