Coronavirus Forces Remote Work Conversation in Tech

Despite the best efforts of medical professionals to contain it, novel coronavirus is spreading across the globe. Fears of infection forced the closure of Mobile World Congress (MWC), and companies are backing out of this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) show.

Throughout the tech world, companies are also having an earnest discussion about modifying policies so more employees can work from home. On the surface, this makes sense: you want to do everything possible to limit the potential for infection. For example, Twitter said it was “strongly encouraging” all 5,000 employees worldwide to work remotely, adding in an updated blog post:

“We are working to make sure internal meetings, all hands, and other important tasks are optimized for remote participation. We recognize that working from home is not ideal for some job functions. For those employees who prefer or need to come into the offices, they will remain open for business. Our Real Estate & Workplace team is increasing deep cleaning and sanitizing in all spaces, as well as more visual reminders for personal hygiene best practices and pre-packaged, pre-composed, and pre-plated food options.”

Those companies that expand their remote-work policies will want to ensure that employees remain efficient—a potentially difficult proposition.

“There are a number of things to pay attention to if you want the work from remote teams to be efficient, organized, and productive,” Peter Coppinger, CEO and Co-Founder of Teamwork, which produces a project-management software, wrote in an email to Dice.One of those things is making sure your team has a single source of truth, or SSOT.”

“By creating a SSOT—or using one platform where to organize all important documentation, assignments, projects and workflows—you can ensure that every member of a team knows exactly where to go to find the information that matters at all times,” he continued. “This helps improve transparency, trust, and time management, which are all essential for the success of remote teams.”

Indeed, it’s at crisis moments like this when a business potentially discovers that a mash-up of solutions—some employees relying on Slack, others on Teams, and still more trading documents via Google Docs and email—isn’t the most efficient. This goes double for teams that ordinarily rely on physical proximity; for example, engineering teams that perform a daily, in-person standup in order to better coordinate development efforts. Before any expanded remote-work policy can take effect, employees and managers must reach a common understanding about tools, schedules, and expectations.

Dice’s 2020 Salary Report revealed that a large majority of technologists (93 percent) want to work remotely at least some of the time. However, only 60 percent of respondents had the opportunity to actually work from home. Perhaps the spread of coronavirus will change that, at least in the short term.

If you’re trying to convince management to let you work remotely, emphasize how you’ll maintain maximum communication (with regular check-ins, in addition to liberal use of the company’s collaboration platforms of choice), along with normal working hours. Whatever the situation, a combination of good communication and careful planning may convince your manager to let you work far, far away from the office.