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Tech Companies' Office Returns Clash with Study on WFH and Software Engineer Productivity 

June 07, 2023

By Jamal Robinson

  • Wfh

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Over the past few months, we've seen a flurry of vocal billionaires bad-mouth working from home. James Dyson says the concept is "staggeringly self-defeating." Elon Musk says it's "morally wrong," and Alan Sugar has gone as far as to say that companies should pay remote employees less.  

With Covid-19, thankfully, behind us, many tech companies, including Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Google, and IBM, are rolling out a hard reset on WFH protocols and demanding employees return to the office. The majority are enacting hybrid working policies, but going from remote working to four days in the office is a significant change. There's been considerable backlash, especially as many of these organizations previously committed to a "remote first" approach to work. 

Who's being forced back into the office, and how's it gone down with employees?

Here's a snapshot of some tech companies that have changed their working from home policies over the last few months. 

Meta: Meta has stopped offering remote work in new job listings.

Snap: Snap employees will be required to return to the office at least four days a week as of February 2023

Amazon: Insider reports thousands of Amazon employees joined a Slack channel to share their thoughts on Amazon's return-to-office policy. Some are organizing to file a petition against it.

Apple: 'Apple workers hit back against the company's return-to-office plans, saying they have carried out 'exceptional work' from home.' 

IBMIBM CEO says employees' careers could suffer, and it'll be harder to get a promotion working from home

Is the rush back to the office worth it?

While the bosses in the headlines tend to focus on the morality of working from home, fostering a good working culture, and employee wellbeing, you have to consider the bottom line; office leases are not cheap. The financial impact of maintaining vacant office spaces and the business loss from employees not being physically present leave the corporate ecosystem in a precarious position. For example, in February, Bloomberg reported that New York City alone is losing $12 billion yearly because of remote work. So, on the one hand, WFH is bad for business. Still, a recent study has shown it's better for software engineers' productivity.  

Hybrid working and Software Engineers

Last month, Microsoft and Vista Equity Partners published a study entitled "Best of Both Worlds: Unlocking the Potential of Hybrid Work for Software Engineers." Its findings may shed some light on the sentiments behind the backlash outlined above. The study surveyed 3,456 engineers at 28 companies 'to identify challenges and opportunities facing developers in the hybrid world.' 

One of the key results found from the study is that developers working entirely remotely report the highest level of productivity. This data can't be extrapolated to cover all office-based employees from the companies we touched on above. Still, software engineers are office-based workers and will most likely be included in the return-to-office policies that many tech companies are enacting.  

office returns study image.png

It's worth noting that the majority of the respondents surveyed worked entirely at home.

Office returns study image 1.png

There are also other nuances to consider. For example, the study also asked about what aspects of going into an office are valuable and engineers' biggest work challenges.

Office returns study image 2.png Office returns study image 3.png

In both of these cases, social interaction is the leading factor when it comes to the onsite/offsite working debate. You would think that fully onsite developers wouldn't report a lack of social interaction, but, in reality, the study shows they are 8% more likely to miss social interactions than entirely remote developers. It's also worth noting that those who reported missing social interactions feel just as productive as those that didn't.

Here at Janea, we've been remote native since our inception, and we're sure that developers are just as productive, if not more productive, working from home. We understand the challenges that come with working remotely, and we have several working practices in place to overcome them, such as: 

  • We have a company-wide meetup at least once a year. 
  • Employees are encouraged to meet up and have the option of working from a coworking space. 
  • We provide employees with a generous stipend for office equipment
  • We provide great salary packages with more than enough to pay for a good internet connection and a fan for the summer months. 
  • We offer truly flexible working hours.

Developers are at the heart of Janea System, and it's because of this that we're committed to supporting developers' needs, both professionally and personally. After all, our CEO is a seasoned developer himself. We've seen firsthand how software engineers thrive when they're given the flexibility to manage their own schedules, and our ongoing work with the largest, software-centric, fortune 500 companies is a testament to this.

To our fellow software engineers who may be pushing back on the WFH reset, we hear and stand with you. Ultimately, it's not just about where we work but how we work best. Our own experiences, corroborated by the Microsoft study, show that productivity doesn't stem from being physically present in an office but mentally present in our work - wherever that might be. 

Want to join the best and the brightest software engineers? View our open positions here.

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