Within the last year, the way we hire, work, and fire has drastically changed.
Major tech companies like Uber, Groupon, and Airbnb were forced to lay off thousands due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the crowd-sourced tracker Layoffs.fyi, around 82,679 tech workers have been laid off from 599 startups since March 2020.
Many other tech workers left their cubicles and set up shop in home offices across the country. Some technology companies are now offering work from home (WFH) as a permanent option going forward. And, job seekers have landed roles and onboarded to new companies, all from the comforts of home.
In this white paper, we’re taking a look at how tech hiring changes will continue to affect the tech industry over the next few months and years as we adapt to a post COVID-19 world. We’ll also examine the importance of community in the workplace and how we can work to build community amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, a civil rights movement, and a newly remote workplace.
Table of Contents
1. How Employers & Employees Can Thrive in a Remote Economy
- The Benefits of a Remote Workforce
- Overcoming the Challenges of a Remote Workforce
- Talent Acquisition in a Remote Economy
- What Job Seekers Should Look for in a Remote Position
- Top Technology Companies Hiring Remotely Right Now
- Making Remote Work for You
- A Remote Future
2. What the Experts are Saying
3. Why Community Matters in the Workplace
- The Basics of Company Culture
- Why Community Matters in an Organization
- How Community is Built
- Building Community in Remote Workplaces
- Community in the Future of Work
How Employers & Employees Can Thrive in a Remote Economy
The future of work has officially arrived, and it’s a remote one.
In a matter of weeks, working from home (WFH), which was once just a dream for many workers in the United States, became a daily reality. While not all companies are operating on a remote basis (and there are many selfless, essential workers still operating as usual), much of the workforce has, in fact, moved home.
In 2016, 43 percent of U.S. workers worked remotely some of the time, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace. Though it’s still too early to say what percentage of companies are operating remotely today, one can assume it’s skyrocketed.
Whether you’re an employer trying to navigate hiring in a remote economy, a first-time WFHer, or a job seeker on the hunt for a new remote gig, there is space for you to thrive in our newly remote world. Here’s how you can do it.
The Benefits of a Remote Workforce
Before we dive into teaching you how to navigate the new frontier of a remote workforce, let’s discuss the benefits and challenges.
Greater Employee Satisfaction
In 2020, Eric Schwartz served as the Software Engineering General Manager at Kenzie Academy, a tech and coding school based in Indianapolis, Ind. Eric lives in Fort Mill, S.C. and found himself in a unique position, managing people working several states away.
From his perspective, employees are often happier when they can work remotely.
“Part of someone’s work day is how much time they spend commuting,” Eric said. “That can affect their happiness. Being remote is nice because you’re not getting to work after spending an hour on your commute being irritated in traffic. People are usually in a better mood when they start their day.”
For Karrie Wozniak, the SVP of Marketing at OneCause, remote work is about giving people freedom to make choices with their work. When asked what her employees like most about the WFH life, her answer was simple.
“Freedom,” Karrie said. “Freedom to be able to orchestrate your day and schedule accordingly. You have the ability to self-start. Yes, there are calls. But when there are not calls, you have the freedom to say, ‘Okay, what do I need to accomplish today?’”
Environmental Benefits & Flattening the Curve
Not only do people benefit from a remote workforce, but the environment benefits too. Studies have shown teleworking is an effective way to reduce carbon emissions and create a healthier environment for everyone.
According to Global Workplace Analytics, the energy consumption rate at an office is double that of a home office. The publication also cites a 2007 Sun Microsystems study in which 24,000 U.S. employees spent a year telecommuting. The result? A 32,000 metric ton reduction in carbon emissions. Since these employees drove less often, the environment (and probably their budgets) reaped the benefits. We can only imagine the impact telecommuting will have in the next few years as more companies implement WFH policies.
Currently, remote work is going beyond the environment and saving human lives. Teleworking has made it possible for millions of people to continue making an income while helping to flatten the curve amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Overcoming the Challenges of a Remote Workforce
Though many technologically progressive organizations may have easily made the switch to remote work, many more traditional companies and institutions are still struggling to adjust. There’s really no better time than the present to break with tradition and try out a new way of working. This is the prime time to start objectively considering the benefits and challenges and ask if this is something your organization is willing to implement now and in the future.
Choosing to consider offering remote work benefits to employees could not only create a happier workforce but also a more productive one. Of course, it’s up to each company to decide if it’s truly something that can work going forward.
Just because your team is dispersed, doesn’t mean you can’t foster those all-important water cooler interactions. According to Spark Hire, creating camaraderie within your organization not only fosters employee satisfaction but is also crucial to organizational success. Whether it’s by creating Slack channels for non-work related chatter or hosting happy hours via Zoom, creating casual spaces for employees to continue fostering connections with each other can keep your workforce afloat while operations go remote.
Let Time do its Thing
If your organization is struggling to adjust to remote operation, it can be an added burden to an already stressful and uncertain time. But it doesn’t have to be. Showing up to the workforce with a little bit of grace and patience can help here. If you’re an employee, know your managers are doing the best they can with the resources and knowledge they have. It takes time to switch up systems that have been in place for years, especially when it happens unexpectedly and all at once. If you’re an employer, approach this time with curiosity, a willingness to learn, and patience for staff members as they adapt to the sudden changes. And who knows? Maybe remote work could be part of your company’s long-term success.
As an employee, navigating a telecommuting world is certainly going to feel different. But it can help to approach your remote role with some mindfulness. Eric suggests employees show up and be present in their work in the same way they would in an office.
“Go to the virtual happy hours,” Eric said. “Go to the all-company meetings. Reach out to the employees you’re close with. Let them know you’re still there. Be present. It’s really easy to disappear into the void if you’re not staying engaged.”
Introverts may feel challenged by this. It can be difficult to assert yourself on a video call when it seems like everyone is talking over one another. It may require stepping a little out of your comfort zone to ensure your ideas are still heard. This can feel unnatural at first, but you’ll get the hang of it with practice and time.
Springbuk’s VP of Technology Roger Deetz helps his dispersed staff members transition to remote work by setting expectations and check-in times upfront. This helps to create consistency in a new hire’s schedule.
“Do a little more checking in, but on a defined schedule,” Roger said. “Checking in more frequently, but on an unpredictable schedule, can be even worse for folks not used to working remotely. But if you set some expectations up front (‘Let’s sync first thing in the morning and once more after lunch’) then folks can get used to a rhythm and the checking-in can be used for problem-solving and not stress-inducing.”
Talent Acquisition in a Remote Economy
Speaking of new employees, the talent pool in a remote economy is going to look a little different from the traditional, 8-5 workplace talent acquisition process, but there are more similarities than you might think.
According to Eric, it’s essential to evaluate the candidate’s office roles first. When hiring remote workers, it’s less about their previous remote experience and more about their previous work experience in general. For example, if you’re looking to hire someone into a remote management role, it’s more important to look at what other management roles they’ve already held than to consider the remote aspect first.
Still, there are a few qualities hiring managers should be on the lookout for in the talent pool. The ideal remote employee is a self-starter, communicative, and goal-oriented.
According to writer Rachel Go at 15Five, a great way to determine if a candidate will make for a good remote employee is to look at their communication during the interview process.
“Take note of how quickly they respond to your emails, how professional they sound, and how well they communicate during the interview process,” Rachel said. “This will provide insight into how well they’ll communicate when they work with you.”
For Roger, the same technical and communication skills he looks for in any new hire still apply, but he also looks for one additional qualification.
“For those we know will be full-time remote, we like to see folks who demonstrate exceptional self-discipline,” Roger said.
What Job Seekers Should Look for in a Remote Position
When adjusting to remote work life, job seekers should be even more aware of what they’re getting themselves into when they accept a job offer. Do your research so you can avoid a company and work situation that doesn’t gel with your goals and personality.
First, get clear on your own needs and wants. You can get started with these questions: Are you ok with working in a freelance capacity? Do you need the company to cover healthcare or are you ok to shoulder the cost on your own? How much vacation time do you want?
Also, pay attention to company culture before you accept a job offer. According to a Jobvite study, 88% of job seekers say company culture is at least of relative importance in their search. Since you’ll be spending 40 hours of your week in the job, you want to make sure you jive well with the company’s values. Do you want to work somewhere with a more casual, progressive environment or somewhere more formal and traditional? Research the company’s mission and see if you can get down with what they stand for.
You’ll also want to watch for work-life balance issues. If this is important to you, ask the interviewer about what this balance is like for them (since they already work there). Get a feel for what their day-to-day schedule is like — are they able to log off at 5 p.m. or are they working well into the night?
Top Tech Companies Hiring Remotely Right Now
In the market for a new tech job? Check out these companies hiring remote workers right now to get your job search started.
CB Insights is a machine intelligence platform looking to hire data-driven individuals who are positive and hungry to learn. CB Insights offers some great benefits too, like a 401k with 4% matching, a yearly education stipend, and paid parental leave. Right now, you can apply for the open Software Engineering positions. Learn more here.
Want to take on some of the biggest challenges in tech? Consider joining the team at Element 84; they’re taking on things like petabyte search, consumer streaming, and Earth science repositories. Element 84 is big on keeping employees happy and has the benefits to back it up: 401k, health/dental/life/disability insurance, flexible schedule, cell phone stipend, flexible spending accounts for transportation and dependent care, and a generous PTO policy. Join this innovative company remotely by applying for its Cloud Software Engineer position here.
Fastly is an edge cloud platform that enables customers to create great digital experiences. Over half its workforce operates remotely and they’re proud to have an international remote culture. Its current remote openings include Product Manager and Senior Software Engineer roles to name a few. View all openings here.
GitLab’s workforce is the largest all-remote company in the world. Its team works from 65+ countries to build a collaboration tool for DevOps. Currently, there are openings for Backend Engineers, Engineering Managers, and a plethora of other tech positions. You can check out the company’s remote work guide here.
With over 3,300 staff members around the world, Hubspot is a B2B software company. Employees enjoy working here for the autonomy they’re given and the awesome work-life balance. Unlimited vacation? Yes, please. Join the team by viewing open positions here.
Modern Tribe is a 100% dispersed team working to provide software and design solutions for some of the world’s largest companies and government institutions. You can submit a general application or view current openings here.
This Indy-based company offers remote work opportunities in the health intelligence space. They boast great benefits like unlimited PTO and professional development opportunities. You can view current openings here.
TEKsystems is one of the leading providers of IT staffing and talent management in the country. The company boasts high employee satisfaction with 92% of its employees saying it’s a great place to work. Currently, TEKsystems has over 100 remote openings for various tech positions. Find your next gig here.
Making Remote Work for You
Every worker is different, so learning to thrive in a remote economy is going to look different for everyone. There are a million and one remote work tips floating around right now. We suggest being open to trying some of these tips but if they don’t work for you, that’s ok too. The key is to approach remote work with a willingness to experiment. You should hold space for yourself during this time of transition, knowing eventually you’ll uncover what works for you. Here are a few of our favorite tips for you to try.
Designing a Workspace
Half the fun of working remotely is working from anywhere. Find out where you feel most creative and productive and make it your workspace. While we’re currently limited to our home offices, consider local coworking spaces or coffee shops once it’s safe to do so. Wherever you choose to work, don’t infringe on areas you do life stuff in (like sleeping and eating). As great as coding from bed may seem, it can actually interfere with your sleep patterns.
WFH isn’t working for you? Speak up! Let your managers know what you’re struggling with so they can assist. Whether it’s getting tips or just venting your frustrations about the doldrums of WFH life, talking about what’s hindering your work will help you evaluate the problem and look for solutions. Your success in your remote role is vital to the company’s success, and more importantly, your well-being. So your higher-ups will want to know if you’re struggling and how they can help you make it work.
It’s important to keep in mind those working from home are also balancing other roles: parent, caretaker, partner… you get the picture. We’re at a unique point in our history where all of these roles are being managed from one space: the home.
Parents who became homeschool teachers overnight can try to create flexibility within their homeschooling schedule. For example, a parent could do schoolwork with the kids Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and on weekends.
This would give them two days during the workweek to focus solely on job responsibilities and hopefully minimize some of the distractions which come from balancing the role of teacher and remote worker. Melissa, who has a government job in Washington D.C., is hoping to minimize the distraction by setting up a trampoline in her backyard. It’s simple but she hopes it will be an outlet for her daughters’ energy as they deal with being cooped up in the house together.
Those who are managing working remotely while partners or other family members do the same, can try to create boundaries during the workday by working in separate areas of the home. This will hopefully alleviate distraction and keep stress and tension levels at a minimum.
A Remote Future
WFH is likely to be a large part of our future, not just in this time of crisis, but also continuing after, in our normal, everyday lives. You can find success in a remote role by creating balance and space in your home, minimizing distractions, and working on skills like self-discipline. Hiring managers can now capitalize on opportunities to find talent from all over the globe to fill open positions, streamline their processes, and place new emphasis on employees’ happiness. Whatever happens, we’re pumped to see how remote work will transform the hiring landscape in the coming years.
What the Experts are Saying
Danielle Johnson is a Career Mentor at Patherise who works with fellows seeking employment in tech across software engineering, data, and product roles. Here’s what she’s noticed about changes to the hiring process after COVID-19:
- Candidates will need to prepare for all virtual and phone rounds, learning to whiteboard using Google Docs, HackerRank, or other tools the company chooses. This also means that candidates will need to prepare for how to connect with their interviewers virtually since they won’t have the opportunity to greet their potential coworkers in person. Sometimes, it may even be best for candidates who receive an offer to ask for more opportunities to virtually connect with members of their team to learn more about the culture and colleagues.
- There have been more “screens” being conducted via assignments emailed to candidates. For example, candidates are asked to complete a form or spreadsheet with answers about their background and interest in the company/role before receiving a phone screen or video interviews.
- In some cases, candidates who had signed offers have seen their start dates delayed, have had their offers revoked, or have been laid off in the first couple months of starting their new position.
- International candidates may see a shortage of jobs that are open to those on OPT or H1B Visa as some companies have started sharing on their applications that they are looking for US Citizens or Green Card holders only.
- In some cases, salary ranges for new hires have been lowered and for some startups, I have seen a shift to offering equity-only pay.
“Companies have learned a lot about remote work and are learning the pros and cons to working from home,” Danielle said. “They have had to do more remote onboarding so candidates can get started right away. There has also been a focus on pausing hiring at some companies so they could focus on their current employees and ensure they were set-up for remote work before bringing in a new wave of employees.”
Why Community Matters in the Workplace
We spend a third of our lives at work, so it’s only natural to want to be at a workplace that feels supportive, inspiring, and positive. The healthiest and happiest modern workplaces have strayed from the cold, corporate feel and are offering employees the opportunity to build community with their teammates.
Community is the lifeblood of a successful organization. It makes people feel they can bring their most authentic selves to their work and it makes job candidates want to work for and further the mission of the company. It also makes employees believe in the work they’re doing, leading them to more successful careers and fulfilling personal lives.
You may be thinking this all sounds nice, but what does it mean for productivity and profit at an organization? It turns out, companies lacking a positive sense of community are more likely to see high turnover rates, low employee morale, and unnecessary workplace drama, gossip, and power struggles. So it’s safe to say it’s a pretty important factor not just for employees to consider but for employers as well.
Read on to learn more about why community matters in the workplace and how you can help foster a healthy one in your office.
The Basics of Company Culture
Every company has its own unique culture which largely influences its capacity for creating a healthy community. This culture is determined by a variety of factors but ultimately starts with one foundational piece — a strong mission.
When a company has a strong mission, employees feel they are working towards a greater goal and can use it as a source of inspiration within themselves and the community each and every day. Discussing this mission with interviewees is essential to ensuring new hires are truly interested in supporting the mission and therefore want to be part of the community.
Writer Ashley Cullins wrote on the Kenzie Academy blog about why company culture should be a factor in your job search. Here’s an excerpt we think sums it up perfectly:
“Company culture is made up of factors like mission, values, expectations, goals, and work environment. You can think of company culture as a company’s ‘personality.’ While some organizations are warm and laidback, others are fast-paced and competitive. Some are more mission-driven than others. And for every company encouraging work-life balance and occasional fun, there’s a company expecting employees to make their career the priority.”
Just like with people’s personalities, a company’s culture is going to determine what kinds of people are attracted to and enjoy being involved with the organization. Hiring managers should keep this in mind when evaluating candidates for new positions as each new hire is an investment in the community.
For those on the job hunt, knowing the kind of company culture an organization possesses is an essential way to determine what kind of community it will provide, even while you’re working remotely.
Company culture is the foundation upon which we build a workplace community.
Why Community Matters in an Organization
Community matters for a couple of reasons. For starters, according to a 2018 survey by Clutch, nearly 50% of office workers said they value community in the workplace (and these numbers trend a bit higher among millennials). Organizations which emphasize community create a sense of belonging and foster transparency while reducing feelings of isolation.
Creating a Sense of Belonging
Do you remember being a kid in elementary school? You likely craved a sense of belonging. You wanted to feel understood and appreciated by your peers, your teachers, and your family. When you didn’t feel understood, it probably felt devastating. You may have cried when someone teased you or didn’t see the beauty in your latest art project. Though our emotional intelligence matures as we get older, the desire to be understood and appreciated doesn’t go away. In fact, this desire is a major reason why we seek out communities in various forms throughout our lives.
In our social groups, relationships, and workplaces, we still crave community. A sense of community makes workers feel like they belong. At an organization with a strong sense of community, employees won’t have to wonder if they’re just filling a seat or acting as a cog in the machine. They’ll know their value and will feel seen and heard as human beings (because after all, that’s who they are first — a good CEO will never forget this fact).
Fostering Transparency and Reducing Isolation
Henry Mintzberg of The Harvard Business Review wrote about rebuilding companies as communities back in the summer of 2009, in the midst of the Great Recession. Considering we entered another recession last year, reading this piece in 2021, you might not notice it wasn’t grabbed from our current news cycle if you didn’t glance at the date.
Henry uses the subprime mortgage problem as an example of what can go wrong when companies rely on hierarchical separations between leadership, management, and employees. He writes:
“Many of their executives adopted what has become a pervasive style of “leadership” in America: They sat in their offices and announced the goals they wanted others to attain, instead of getting on the ground and helping improve performance. Executives didn’t know what was going on, and employees didn’t care what went on. What a monumental failure of management.”
Why does this matter? Largely, if a hierarchical separation exists between the varying levels of a company, you’ll have employees at all levels who feel disconnected from the organization and their work. When this disconnect exists, people are less likely to care.
The tech industry as a whole has done a good job of moving away from this encouraged isolation and categorizing of employees — instead, we’re an industry that largely encourages community building and transparency between leadership, management, and employees. This trend can be found in many younger companies and startups. It’s the reason why workers in the millennial and Gen Z generations are so attracted to the startup life to begin with.
Healthy workplaces prioritize community building through transparency and embedding belonging into the fabric of their culture.
How Community is Built
Now that you’re sold on why community building should be a priority in your workplace, you’re likely wondering how you can transform it from idea to reality. Here’s how.
Focus on Building Traits of a Positive Workplace Culture
Community can’t exist in a toxic work environment, so establishing a positive, healthy workplace culture is key. According to UrbanBound, companies can build positive workplace culture in a couple of different ways. Altruism is one method cited by Abby Baumann.
“Research conducted by Shawn Anchor showed that ‘work altruists were 10 times more likely to be engaged […] and 40% more likely to receive a promotion.’ These people are the ones who are so connected to the mission of a company that they increase social interaction during a crisis, rather than decrease it.”
You can foster altruism and positivity by showing gratitude for employees, lending support when it’s needed, and celebrating people’s work wins (and recognizing their life wins too!). Increasing communication and transparency are also key ways to foster a non-toxic workplace.
This can be achieved through regular company-wide and departmental meetings. Think of the traits that make up a healthy personal relationship (clear communication, empathy, boundaries, etc.). You’ll want those traits to exist within your organization too.
Offer Opportunities for Team-building
Team-building activities can include things like company retreats, happy hours, or service days. At Kenzie, we have a weekly happy hour at a local bar where we can all get to know each other outside of the office (though we’ve been hosting it via Zoom during the pandemic). We also like to volunteer together. In pre-pandemic days, we served with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. These opportunities help to humanize your team, increase trust, and facilitate better communication.
Encourage Diversity and Radical Acceptance
It’s clear now more than ever, diversity needs to be a top priority in dismantling the systems which have kept BIPOC, and more specifically black people, from achieving success in this country and other western nations for hundreds of years. Creating equity in the workplace and in our education systems is going to be key in righting the wrongs of past generations.
Workplaces with a strong sense of community will not tolerate hate speech, discrimination, or bias. They’ll make people feel welcome no matter their differences. They will not be “colorblind” but instead, they’ll work to listen, learn, and educate. They’ll have systems in place around diversity and inclusion training as well as safe ways to report instances of discrimination without repercussion. Even further, they’ll pay people across genders, races, and sexualities the same wages. There’s much work to be done in terms of fixing the injustices so deeply ingrained in our American way of life, but those in positions of power should be encouraged because they will be leading the charge in changing these things on an everyday level through our workplace communities.
Building Community in Remote Workplaces
Like we mentioned in our piece on “How Employers & Employees can Thrive in a Remote Economy”:
“Just because your team is dispersed, doesn’t mean you can’t foster those all-important water cooler interactions. According to Spark Hire, creating camaraderie within your organization not only fosters employee satisfaction but is also crucial to organizational success. Whether it’s by creating Slack channels for non-work related chatter or hosting happy hours via Zoom, creating casual spaces for employees to continue fostering connections with each other can keep your workforce afloat while operations go remote.”
Community in the Future of Work
Overall, community-focused workplaces have one major thing in common: they’re pro-people. If the events of the last year have shown us anything, it’s that the ever-changing work world and culture at large are ready for a more human-centered approach to the way we live, work, and relate to one another. At Kenzie, we’re excited to see how organizations move forward with this in mind.