DevOpsGroup and the need for a remote workforce
Here at DevOpsGroup we strive to be market leaders in the services that we provide. We have some of the most talented individuals in our team who are located all over the United Kingdom! Having the flexibility to offer remote working means that we are not limited to a specific geographic area and instead we can go anywhere to find specialised professionals that we need as DevOpsGroup continue to grow. Although not every organisation has adapted remote working, statistics now show that the number of people working primarily from home has increased by 115% over the last 10 years, this means that companies behind the curve will have to start embracing remote working to keep their talent.
A recent poll found that workers who spent 60-80 percent of their time away from the office had the highest rates of engagement. There are multiple factors that can contribute to this increased productivity. Stanford professor, Nicholas Bloom, conducted a study that revealed that remote employees work a true full-day (and even more) rather than being late to the office or leaving early multiple times a week. The study also found working remotely to be less distracting, with employees finding it much easier to concentrate at home. Raj Fowler, our Principal Consultant, says that remote working for him means ‘more productivity with an environment designed around me such as sound levels, lighting, music, temperature, books, etc. I don’t have to worry about clean desk policies or leaving a mess’. In addition to this, employees can work when they are most productive, even if that means late at night or early in the morning, and they tend to work extra hours per week.
For Raj, remote working also means that ‘you can be more flexible about when you work so that you don’t feel like you are bringing work home’. Finally, what we believe to be one of the biggest attractions to remote working is that employees don’t have to deal with long commutes. In some cases, commuting to work can add 6-15 hours onto your work week! Kim Hutchinson, one of our Client Success Managers, says that she can ‘Can roll out of bed at 8.30 and get straight to work without dealing with rush-hour commuters on a tube!’
Remote working also offers an element of work/life balance that strictly office-based working cannot provide. Andrew Urwin, one of our Lead Engineers, says that ‘working remotely gives me the freedom to design my life, both inside and outside of work. I would estimate that I’m now somewhere between 2-5x more productive and impactful than when based in an office’. Being able to work from home to cater for any occasion wether it is to care for a sick child, if a plumber is coming round to fix the boiler or your car is being MOT’d offers a flexibility that can solve a lot of otherwise inconvenient situations. Graham Smith, one of our consultants, tells us what remote working means for him: ‘For me, this flexibility means being able to be productive both at work and at home. Firstly I save two hours a day (compared to my previous job) in commute time. Secondly, the quiet of my home office means I can really focus on work tasks for decent periods of time. I’ll take several breaks during the day which allow me to do household chores and life-admin, and also take the dogs running at lunchtime. I usually end the day with lots of tasks finished, which for a ‘happiness is a ticked-off list’ sort of person is a great situation to be in!’ In addition to providing a better work/life balance, it has also been reported that remote working can also improve your health. With more time in their workday, remote workers often incorporate more physical exercise into their day as they can be more flexible about when they take their time to be active and are more conscious about getting out of the house at lunch or for breaks. This added benefit of remote working helps create a healthy workforce which in effect means a more productive one.
Reduced employee turnover
According to the 2017 State of Remote Work report by Owl Labs, companies who offer remote working experience a 25% lower turnover rate, indicating that offering remote work is a valuable retention tool for companies. The value becomes more apparent when considering this in terms of recruitment as replacing highly trained employees can cost twice as much as the employee’s annual salary. The flexibility to work remotely decreases pressures that often cause employees to leave their jobs, such as commutes, physical conditions, or life events. As a testament to this, our remote workers who make up 40% of our work force, have a smaller turnover rate than our office based workers.
If remote working is so great, why isn’t every company doing it?
So, if remote working is so great, why isn’t every organisation adopting this way of working? Here at DevOpsGroup, we couldn’t function any other way. While the benefits are very real and apparent, we can’t ignore the potential challenges that are there as well. Our workers scattered across the country, so we, like many other organisations can face complications when it comes to communication, culture, and employee performance. We look into a few of our main challenges and how we overcome these below:
Challenge 1 – Maintaining good communication
In a recent study conducted by Google, it was found that remote workers reported a lack of information from management and timeliness of the information as the largest obstacles of working from home. It can be challenging to coordinate and communicate with teams made up of employees located in various locations. With the added difficulty of communicating without a face to face element and being able to pick up on tone and body language, sometimes poor communication can affect the team negatively. Poor communication issues can affect not only work progress but also employee morale—so communication needs to be even more top of mind when managing a remote workforce.
Challenge 2: Creating and maintaining culture
While employees do enjoy the flexibility of remote work, it doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy being part of the office culture. Remote workers have fewer opportunities to develop that sense of camaraderie with colleagues, and they have less visibility into overall company missions and values. As a result, some employees experience isolation, loneliness, and dissatisfaction within their roles. Raj Fowler explains how he has felt some of these negative factors: ‘I miss the commute into the office, listening to books on the way in, I miss the little routine of making coffee, saying hi to my team and colleagues, I miss the going out for lunch – I miss when working from home was a special thing reserved for Fridays… I miss the separation between work and home, even though I never really switched off or often worked late or at weekend… but there was still separation. After being an office-person, being at home can be isolated for an extrovert and with no interruptions, can cause mental drain… but there are lots of good things! It’s just different’.
While not an easy task, it’s important to help remote workers feel that they are a part of the larger company culture as much as possible. We are continually working hard to ensure that we manage the two challenges we have mentioned above by investing in new technologies and programs for remote communication and by getting the teams together as much as possible to keep the team culture and morale up.
Minimising these challenges and maximising the benefits of DevOpsGroup remote workforce
With 40% of our team being remote, our culture and ensuring we maintain this culture is at the core of our organisation. Ensuring that our remote colleagues feel engaged and involved in all events at DOG is an absolute priority for us!
A few ways in which we help keep our culture and our team stay happy and engaged…
We have taken the time to try and test a number of different tools and programmes which can help us effectively communicate with remote workers. We use slack as our main form of instant messaging so we can easily and quickly update teams, the whole company or even just have a chat with anyone direct which keeps the team feel. We have also chosen Zoom as our chosen program for our video calls and conferencing as it has a number of tools which allow us to link it with slack, have a clear image with fast connection and allows the whole company to connect via one link.
Face To Face:
Although majority of our remote workers time is going to be spent away from our Cardiff office, we ensure that everyone has face to face contact throughout the month and know the whole team from our internal conferences held quarterly. When joining us you will also get the chance to meet everyone on our 2week onboarding programme held in our head office. Following onboarding you will be assigned a remote mentor, work buddy and be well introduced into your team so will be attending monthly team outings. Team building this year so far have included things like, go-karting, bee keeping, frisbee golf, food and drinks.
So as to keep the morale in between the monthly team meetups, we have also set up a number of remote first activities. Our ‘drop in coffee sessions’ has been a new success for us where anyone can log on between certain hours to chat to others on the call, like a casual social hangout. We also hold lunchtime remote games sessions, we have always enjoyed board games in our office at lunch, so finding online games and zooming the remote workers in is another way to keep us all in touch. Using slack we also have dedicated remote slack channels to allow remote workers to engage again. Our aim for our team is to work and communicate with each other as if they are sitting next to one another, even if they are hundreds of miles apart.
The people team have recently put together a remote working handbook that addresses some of the issues surrounding remote working. The document is relatable to not only remote workers, but also those who work alongside them. This is available company wide to make the remote working an even better working experience for all. In addition to the remote working handbook, we have also created two pocket size guides for when are workers visit the London or Cardiff offices to find out the best attractions in town.