Amidst COVID-19, Do Technologists Feel Safe About Re-Entering Offices?

We’ve reached the stage of the COVID-19 pandemic where businesses are figuring out how (and if) to reopen. For many technologists who spent the past few months strategizing how to best work from home (and help other employees work from home), this emerging situation could introduce some new complications. For example, if you’re a technologist ordered back into the office before anyone else, will your company institute health checks to keep you safe

It’s worth keeping this in mind as we examine the latest data from Dice’s ongoing COVID-19 Sentiment Survey, which analyzes technologists’ opinions on everything from their remote workloads to their sense of job security.  

The first time we conducted this survey, we found that technologists were generally optimistic despite the lockdown, as well as pleased with how their companies were handling the crisis. Those sentiments changed relatively little during the survey’s second round, taken two weeks later. Now it’s time for the third tranche of results; are technologists still feeling upbeat? And how do they feel about the prospect of actually re-entering the office?

Are you going into the office for work?

This is the first time that we’ve asked this particular question. As you might expect, the majority of technologists (68 percent) aren’t going into the office at all. Some 16.5 percent are going in full-time, however, and 15.1 percent are doing so part-time. 

Companies with significant manufacturing and/or hardware concerns, which often need employees to engage in hands-on activities, have been figuring out how to bring back employees into an office or lab environment, even if it means physically separating workspaces and putting stringent sterilization protocols in place. Technologists who work with servers and datacenters have also been heading into the office for the duration of this crisis. 

Over the next several weeks, it will be interesting to see how this number shifts as companies figure out how to safely bring employees back into the office in many states. 

Questions over whether (and when) technologists are heading into the office inevitably leads to the next question…

How safe do you feel working in the office?

Here’s another query we’re asking for the first time. Despite all the news stories about the impact of COVID-19, relatively few technologists (9.4 percent) feel extremely unsafe about heading back into the office. Meanwhile, nearly a quarter feel extremely safe, and the rest fall somewhere in the middle. This suggests that employees will feel okay about returning to the office, provided the right safety and health measures are taken. 

However, it’s worth noting that many tech firms have decided to shift to more of a work-from-home model. For example, Twitter recently announced that all but a few employees will work remotely from now on. Meanwhile, Facebook will allow a significant chunk of its workforce to work from home even after COVID-19 subsides and offices re-open. Employees might feel safe about working in the office… but in an ironic twist, a percentage of companies may give up on office space entirely.

How much do you like working from home?

As the COVID-19 pandemic grinds on, it’s clear that technologists are getting increasingly used to working from home: The percentage of those who most disliked working from home dropped from 2.1 percent to 1.7 percent between the second and third editions of the survey, while the other categories remained pretty stable. The majority of technologists continue to very much enjoy working from home, despite some industry-wide concerns over burnout

If you want another sign of the stability of technologists’ opinions around working from home, check out this weighted average of survey data. Although COVID-19 has inserted a good deal of chaos and uncertainty into working life, the bulk of technologists seem to have adapted pretty readily to working from a home office instead of their usual in-office desk:

How much has your workload increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

As with opinions over working from home, this is another survey element that has remained remarkably stable over the past several weeks. The number of those reporting either no increase or an extreme increase has dipped slightly. This is an encouraging sign, as it hints that employers are aware of how easily they could swamp their employees with work during an uncertain (and, for many companies, extremely busy) period: 

Meanwhile, the weighted average suggests that workloads haven’t substantially increased for technologists since the COVID-19 crisis began. Over the next several weeks and months, it will be interesting to see whether long-term workloads remain stable as businesses truly settle into new ways of working. 

How impressed have you been with your company’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of technologists have been pretty impressed with how their companies have handled the pressures of adapting workflows and operations to the crisis. This is especially notable when you consider that many companies didn’t have a contingency plan for a massive pandemic that forced nearly the entirety of their respective workforces to operate from home.

And as the weighted average shows, as the weeks pass, it seems that managers and executives have managed to hold onto their workers’ confidence:

How much job security do you have?

In general, technologists seem pretty confident about their job security amidst COVID-19. The percentage of those feeling most secure, after dipping between the first and second editions of the survey, has increased significantly in the third. The percentages of those feeling more insecure, meanwhile, has crept upward somewhat. This might be a reflection of increased business uncertainty as the crisis drags on, but none of the shifts have been drastic enough to suggest that radically more technologists fear for their jobs. 

Indeed, the weighted average has remained pretty steady throughout the duration of this crisis. Although unemployment numbers are high nationwide, and many businesses are making hard decisions about their futures and workforces, it seems that most technologists are confident they’ll remain vital elements in their companies’ overall plans. 

Have you already, or do you plan to start looking for a new job in the next two weeks?

This question is asked only of technologists who are currently employed, and a majority of them still aren’t interested in hunting for a new job amidst COVID-19. That makes sense: In times of broad uncertainty, the natural inclination is to hold in place and see what happens. However, a third of technologists are still hunting for a new position, which suggests that some workers are sensing that better (or at least more stable) opportunities await out there. With companies desperate for experts in everything from cybersecurity to IT infrastructure, these seeking technologists may indeed find what they need. 

Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed what you think is important in a job? 

As technologists truly settle into working from home, they’re finding remote work more important than ever (which makes sense). Meaningful work, the ability to be creative, and productive challenges also saw upticks between the second and third editions of the survey.  

Meanwhile, technologists are also finding some aspects of company life somewhat less important, including company benefits (which makes sense—a lot of perks are office-based, and therefore less critical when everyone’s working from home). Colleagues are also less important in the eyes of a few technologists, which might be a reflection of how long we’ve all been working from home, in relative isolation. 

Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed how connected you feel to others?

Although a few technologists seem to feel their colleagues are less important, a significant percentage seem to feel more connected to them:

The percentages of technologists feeling less connected to colleagues, friends, and family all fell between the second and third editions of the survey, which is an encouraging sign—despite being physically separated, technologists are clearly maintaining the vital bonds they need in both their professional and personal lives. 

Visit our COVID-19 Resource Center, which aims to provide the tech community with the best, most up-to-date information on the novel coronavirus. 

One Response to “Amidst COVID-19, Do Technologists Feel Safe About Re-Entering Offices?”

  1. Lorilynn King

    I didn’t participate in this survey because I got permanently laid off. My employer (a small non-essential business) was already feeling the pinch and I was anticipating that they’d be reducing staff and/or asking us to take cuts in pay and/or hours even before COVID-19 hit. The minute I got the email asking us (me and the only other employee) to stay home, I knew I was out of a job. (I wasn’t officially notified until two weeks later…. via snail mail.) Yeah. No phone call. My former employer was too CHICKEN to actually speak directly to me about the situation…. but I notice on Facebook that she has added a couple of new people as editors on her Facebook page. Which really HURTS… she wouldn’t talk to me about possibly flexing my hours or salary during this situation but she sure as hell apparently found someone to replace me??? There was NO indication that she had any issue with the work that I did for her.