Remote vs. Office: Which IT Team Is More Productive?

The demand for work-at-home options and remote positions is growing, both in the U.S. and around the globe. 

While such work arrangement does not suit all employees or industries, there are plenty of success stories related to remote IT teams and organizations. 

The very nature of IT work makes it well-suited to remote employment, but is it really the right choice for your organization?

Productivity Isn’t Just about Location

Efficiency and productivity do not depend solely on where people work

They also depend on how people work. 

One employee might be more productive in a collaborative, in-house environment while another might excel in a remote position and away from goings-on of the office.

IT teams may require occasional collaboration, but this field is far more like an assembly line of tasks or services

Plus, the very nature of information technology makes most employees more than comfortable collaborating in a virtual environment. 

Many even prefer it. 

To be the most productive, IT teams need:

  • The right tools, including hardware, software, and applications for working, communication, and collaboration between teams and employees.
  • The right support from their company, including a dedicated management team and support staff.
  • The right practices and work methods to get the job done most effectively.
  • Appropriate work requirements and structure of daily work tasks or operations.

And none of these elements are specifically location-based. 

The success of remote work, as with any work, mostly depends on a company’s best practices regarding daily operations and workforce management

If you don’t already have an efficient, successful workforce in place, you’re probably not going to find much success in switching to a remote environment unless that includes an overhaul of practices, workflows and requirements.

Creating a Well-Oiled Machine

When Henry Ford was envisioning the modern automobile assembly process, he understood that employee productivity and motivation were key factors in the success of his methods. 

To achieve both, he made one very simple, but effective change: a reduction in work hours and an increase in compensation for all employees. 

Along with the actual assembly line implementation, these factors helped skyrocket Ford to success. 

Today, this employee appreciation remains a core part of the values of Ford Motor Company.

What does this have to do with IT teams? 

It’s about getting the most out of your IT employees, and many companies could stand to take a few notes from historic entrepreneurs like Ford. 

If you want more productive employees, in any environment, make them feel valued and appreciated

By offering flexible work options, including remote employment, you may find that you can recruit and retain better talent than if you only hired on-site staff.

If you already offer remote work options, you’ll save a small fortune in overhead and operating costs

Thus, you can probably afford to pay your employees a little better, and again increase your odds of finding better people to fill your open roles.

Remote vs. In-Office Teams: How IT Employees Work

Believe it or not, despite the growing trend toward remote work, 44% of global companies still don’t allow remote work

That doesn’t mean that remote work is good or bad. 

It’s a relatively new movement, and many companies haven’t found a big enough need or demand. 

Some companies, like Yahoo! and Reddit have decided against remote work, at least for the time being.

Remote work seems to be most effective for those that require little collaboration or more uninterrupted working time. IT and development professionals are prime examples of these candidates, in many cases. 

While an open-office format that creates a collaborative workspace might be ideal for creatives in the organization, that collaboration can keep IT professionals from having the dedicated focus and attention that they need for certain tasks.

For those worried about productivity and motivation, early studies show that when you allow the best employees to work remotely, they go above and beyond the call of duty. 

Plus, there are several collaborative tools already in place for remote IT teams and organizations

While remote work isn’t without its own distractions, it can provide a better environment for those who have a more independent role or need a more flexible working solution.

Perhaps the biggest selling point, and especially for IT teams, is that remote work allows you to assemble the best technology professionals from around the globe

No longer are you limited to finding the best local talent and trying to make the most of what you have. You can literally hire anyone, from anywhere, so long as they meet your hiring requirements and are legally eligible to work for your organization.

It’s Your Call

There is no way to make the blanket assumption that remote employees are better or worse for a company. 

Every company is different. 

While some may not have yet identified the benefits and implications of remote work options, others are already creeping up on a decade of remote employment. 

Some companies and positions have seen better results than others, but there is plenty of positive insight regarding IT professionals and a remote work environment. 

Perhaps the best answer is to not pick one side or another

Rather, you can roll out remote options for specific departments, positions, or employees so that everyone can test the waters before you go giving up your lease.

About Author: Jen McKenzie is an independent business consultant from New York. She writes extensively on business, education and human resource topics. When Jennifer is not at her desk working, you can usually find her hiking or taking a road trip with her two dogs. You can reach Jennifer @jenmcknzie

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