Working from home has been so effective at keeping businesses operational during the coronavirus crisis that many firms are planning to stick with it even after the pandemic has passed. And while some tech workers will welcome the flexibility and lack of commute, others are starting to worry about how to develop their careers if they are always working from home.
COVID-19 has had a greater impact on flexible working in tech than it has in almost any other sector, according to a study by the recruitment company Hays.
It found that almost two-thirds (63%) of tech professionals said they expected to continue to work remotely; the same proportion said they expected to have more opportunities to work flexibly in future, compared to less than half of professionals across all sectors.
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But some concerns are appearing about the impact of remote working on career development. While nearly two-thirds (61%) of tech professionals said they do not believe that flexible working limits career development, that belief varies greatly depending on how senior they are in the industry.
Director-level professionals are least likely to think that flexible working does limit career development (70%) – perhaps because they've already done most of their career development and have strong networks in place. In contrast, just over half of graduates in the field are worried about the effect on their careers. Similarly, employers are less likely to worry about their promotion prospects than employees.
For the workers worried about their ability to advance in their careers while working from home, many said the problem would be their lack of chance to spend time with managers and colleagues to learn new skills, or to understand different parts of their organisation which could provide new opportunities.
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James Hallahan, director of Hays Technology, said that when it came to the impact of flexible working on career progression, there is a "fairly stark disparity" between those more senior and newer entrants to the workforce.
"To ensure that flexible working is perceived as a viable option for all, ensure that it is promoted throughout the recruitment process for all levels of staff and remember that it is not a one-size-fits-all. Being accommodating to different preferences and requirements will help improve the perception of flexible working at an organisation and promote an inclusive culture," he said.
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Whether tech workers looking to progress in their careers like it or not, it looks very much like working flexibly and from home is here to stay: a survey of a thousand company directors found that nearly three-quarters said they would keep increased home-working after coronavirus. More than half of those surveyed said they intended to reduce their long-term use of physical workplaces; one in five said their use of office space would be significantly lower, said the research by the Institute of Directors. Nearly half (44%) said remote working was proving more effective than their previous set-up.
So now that we've all mastered Zoom etiquette and got our home offices just right, the next challenge will be to network and learn from colleagues - even if we rarely meet them in the real world.