The Age of the Remote Worker

Remote Worker

There has been talk and conjecture about remote working for years.

Borderless work territories, global communities, and technology removing geographical barriers. But how many examples of this have we really seen? I’d certainly invite your input here.

Based purely on our experience in the last 10 years, there really are very few remote workers in IT. Sure most companies allow team members to work from home on occasion or on a semi-regular basis (though not all have this flexibility!), but that’s actually a different subject.

The remote worker concept is easy to subscribe to right?

A company has a need, a remote worker has the skills/experience and technology bridges the gap. So why is this concept not realised all over the place? Have companies tried and failed, or are there still barriers that prevent them from trying? Where is the reluctance? In conversations I’ve had with clients, they talk of perceived issues with culture, control, management, productivity, risk mitigation and IP protection. I have to say though, of these not many have actually given it a go.

Most of you would probably agree that the opportunity sits in contracting contingent resources. Several of the perceived issues are made more manageable with a remote worker on a contract engagement. In fact, right now, we have three contractors who have been engaged by our clients to deliver services or a piece of work from home. Why? In two instances, the companies are small and don’t have space or resources to have someone in the office. In the other instance, the contractor was a specialist who only works remotely so the client acquiesced.

How successful have these engagements been?

In each instance, very successful. Each were software development contracts with specific deliverables, and given the nature of this type of work, lend themselves well to remote working. All of this begs the question: What are companies paying for in a contractor? Do they need another body? How often do companies secure people for teams and then herd them together to produce outcomes? Or is it an outcome they’re seeking? Two bells and three whistles, please. Perhaps it is actually a service they want, one that aligns with certain objectives and constraints. Is this, people as a service?

Where’s the opportunity and where is our industry going with this?

The real opportunity and perhaps the original inspiring vision was being able to tap into resources anywhere in the world, addressing resource capacity and capability limitations. This could then give rise to an ideal I hear increasingly often - of a flexible, elastic workforce. I’m not making any claims of original thought here. These concepts are topical and you don’t have to spend long surfing the web to get a feel for the global interest in this aging yet largely unrealised ideal.

The challenge for you as employers is twofold in order to explore the future benefits of true remote resource provision. The first involves managing your IT business sufficiently tight to identify where short-term resource expansion could be valuable and effective. The second is to reframe your expectations to manage the issues this approach may present.

I’d really value your thoughts on this month’s post whether you’re an employer or contractor. Please post a reply below or just email me.