Companies are embracing remote work. Does that mean employees can live anywhere?
New research by hatch I.T. shows how far from headquarters companies are hiring.
Prior to the pandemic, anyone on the East Coast who aspired to join a tech company had few choices. New York City was number one, followed by an array of what Rise of the Rest calls “emerging startup ecosystems” like Washington D.C. and Raleigh.
At hatch I.T., we work with many of the D.C. metro area’s fastest-growing startups. Fewer than a fifth of them were fully remote prior to the pandemic.
Software engineers, the backbone of tech companies, are often able to get their work done from anywhere with a WiFi connection. Yet companies frequently chose to keep these workers close to company offices.
That kept developers confined to cities like New York and D.C., where congestion and the cost of living are high.
In contrast, today none of hatch I.T.’s clients have fully onsite teams. Nearly all of them are working remotely due to the pandemic.
For many engineering teams, remote work has led to an increase in productivity, with faster turnaround times and more commits. Several companies have canceled their leases permanently, preferring to let their employees choose where they live.
Employers Are Hesitant to Make a Decision
Since the quarantine, many people in the startup workforce have relocated. Extended remote work time has enabled employees to work from areas that are cheaper, closer to family, and warmer.
But it might not last.
Our recent research shows that most companies plan to continue to hire close to their offices. Some plan to return to fully onsite work when it’s safe. Many plan for a hybrid model. A few just like to have employees nearby.
We recently interviewed Ben Foster to find out why many startups still seem to have a regional hiring preference. Ben is the Chief Product Officer at WHOOP, founder of Prodify, and an instructor at the Tandem Product Academy. He understands the startup space.
Ben experienced the Dotcom wave, and it taught him to prize in-office collaboration. He says remote work can increase productivity, but decrease creativity.
Although all the companies we spoke to said they were either entirely or mostly remote, few planned to be fully remote post-pandemic. Many still see value in in-office collaboration. Others recognize that some employees prefer office environments, so they wanted to make that option available.
But for many, the issue is uncertainty. An employer in Boston probably won’t want to hire a remote engineer in California if the team expects to return to the office. It would be unfair to unexpectedly ask an employee to move across the country.
Craig Connell, Chief Technology Officer at Baltimore digital medial analytics startup STAQ, explained it like this:
“Right now everyone is working from home full time, but people do have the ability to go into our Baltimore office if they need or want to for some reason. Our Baltimore office is open for employees only, no guests. I expect that we continue to work remotely for the rest of the year, after which we might start to do a little in person. We’ll likely have a policy similar to before, where we want people in the office one day a week with their team. As far as our hiring plan, given how remote we have become, we have been willing to hire people not from the area, although we have some expectation that remote folks would come to Baltimore for visits and team bonding time when travel is a more feasible option.”
While Employers Wait, Employees Remain in Uncertainty
WHOOP is located in Boston. Since they manufacture prototypes onsite, they need an in-person team. The pandemic has made them mostly a remote workforce, but they prefer to hire close to their offices. They’re sure to always ask prospective employees “would you be willing to consider relocating to Boston?”
They get the conversation started early so that there are no surprises when the offices open back up for regular use.
Employers like WHOOP don’t have the luxury of waiting to see what happens. When you’re growing fast, you need to know whether you’ll stay remote. The same is true for employees and job-seekers. They need to know when, where, and how far away they can move.
Preferably before their next rent check.