Developers say they're happier working from home. Managers should take note

Developers continue to sing the praises of remote working. But peace and productivity gains are only half of the picture.
Written by Owen Hughes, Senior Editor

Tech workers want to work remotely, but isolation and burnout remain key hurdles.

Image: Shutterstock/ESB Professional

Remote working is a boon for many developers, who feel they are better able to get their head down and do meaningful work when not subjected to the distractions of the office.

But as anyone who works remotely will know, extended periods of working in solitude can carry some undesirable side-effects, including loneliness, productivity hurdles, and a lack of visibility for career development.

The impact of remote working on software developers is the subject of a new report of over 1,000 engineers by software platform Terminal.

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The 2022 State of Remote Engineering Report aimed to capture sentiments of software developers across a range of issues impacting the profession, including remote working, burnout and productivity, compensation and pay equity.

It found that the appetite for remote working remains high amongst developers who want more flexibility and a better work-life balance in their careers, with software pros increasingly realizing that they do not have to relocate for well-paid and rewarding jobs.

Three-quarters (75%) of developers surveyed said they want to work remotely at least three days a week. More than 60% are already working fully remote, while 75% are working remotely three days a week or more.

When it came to productivity, 68% said they are able to get more meaningful work done while working remotely or from home, compared to 32% who said they are more productive in an office environment.

While developers reported a better work-life balance (64%) and feeling less stressed (48%) as a result of working remotely, being permanently untethered from a professional workspace also comes with drawbacks.

Isolation was found to be a key complaint of software engineers working remotely. Just over half (55%) of survey respondents said they suffer from a lack of day-to-day social personal interactions, while 40% cited loneliness or feelings of isolation.

The lack of direct contact with others also makes collaboration and inclusion more difficult, said 38% of developers. Meanwhile, 31% said working remotely makes it more difficult to pursue career development because they are less visible to their managers and supervisors.

The great work reshuffle

The more widespread adoption of remote work in recent years has prompted employers to rethink their employee proposition. With more companies making allowances for remote and WFH options, employers are trying to understand how to make shifting work patterns sustainable in the long term. This includes better support and more allowances for employers who choose to work remotely.

Just under a quarter (23%) of software engineers surveyed by Terminal are in favour of utilities, internet or home-office stipends from employers to help them work remotely. Similarly, 18% cited technology and productivity tools as the benefit they most desire, while 16% cited remote-learning and development opportunities.

Remote-working developers also want benefits to support their personal lives: 21% of respondents said they want their employer to offer flexible-working hours, while 13% want access to mental health and wellness services. Ten per cent want childcare support as an employment benefit.

Now that businesses have had a chance to settle into remote working, more employers appear to be taking steps to address issues facing their workforces – particularly when it comes to burnout and isolation.

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Terminal found that 59% of employers are offering flexible working hours to support remote engineers, while 53% are organizing virtual get-togethers and 35% are taking the opportunity to check in with their development teams more frequently.

A third (33%) of developers said they have been given additional time off to help tackle burnout, while employers are also taking a more lenient approach by being less demanding with deadlines (31%) and reducing workloads (12%).

Terminal noted that, faced with a continued shortage of technology professionals and a workforce increasingly unwilling to commute or relocate for work, employers are "at a crossroads". Unless businesses embrace tech professionals' new expectations of work, they will "lose their top talent to businesses that do".

Clay Kellogg, CEO, Terminal, said: "It's clear that the majority of engineers are happier working remotely and feel remote enables them to be more productive and effective in their roles. We believe the potential of remote work has yet to be fully realized, and we are excited for the positive impacts that the remote work revolution will bring to both businesses and engineers."

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