During the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work became a necessity for many technologists. Depending on the progress of a vaccine, companies will soon need to decide whether they’ll continue to embrace remote work or encourage employees to head back into the office. Conventional wisdom suggests that many technologists enjoy remote and flexible work, and don’t want to go back to their desks on a full-time basis—but is that actually true?
New data from Blind, which anonymously surveys technologists on a variety of issues, suggests that many technologists at some of the nation’s largest tech companies aren’t wholly onboard with ongoing remote-work policies. But it might not have anything to do with the stresses of working from home, such as burnout and long hours: Based on the responses to Blind’s survey, it seems that some are concerned that remote work will force them to compete for jobs and promotions with technologists all around the country.
“FAANG employees should PRAY that most companies do not go full remote. When companies commit to being onsite at particular locations, such as the bay area or seattle, it limits the competition pool to people who are able and willing to abandon family & friends and move to these places,” wrote one anonymous Apple engineer. “This keeps competition somewhat limited. If all the companies go remote, you will now have to compete with other candidates all across the USA and (to a lesser extent) around the world.”
Engineers at other companies expressed similar sentiments. Here’s the breakdown of how technologists at the biggest companies polled:
Blind’s data runs somewhat contrary to other studies, which have found technologists embracing some version of remote or flexible (i.e., coming into the office only part of the time) work. This summer, Dice’s COVID-19 Sentiment Surveyfound that nearly half of all technologists liked working from home very much, despite nearly one-third saying their workload had increased due to the pandemic. Roughly three-quarters also said that the pandemic had made them value the idea of remote work.
But if remote work also intensifies the competition for jobs and promotions, you can see why some technologists would be ambivalent about it. For a technologist who lives outside of Silicon Valley, New York City, or another large tech hub, the rise of remote work opens up new, potentially fantastic opportunities at some of the nation’s most prestigious companies; but for technologists in the tech hubs, the prospect of competing against thousands of skilled applicants for an engineering position could prove an unsettling one.
Blind’s data emphasizes how, as the nation claws its way out of the pandemic, it’s always important to keep your skills up-to-date. No matter what the competition, having a cutting-edge skillset will boost your chances of landing (and winning) a job interview.
It’s also important to realize that, at many of these huge firms, remote work isn’t necessarily the future for all employees. While some (including Facebook and Twitter) have wholeheartedly embraced remote work as the future, others—most notably Google and Microsoft—intend to give their employees the ability to set flexible schedules. A handful of prominent tech CEOs have likewise made it clear that they feel in-office work is key to effective collaboration and employees’ mental health. “What I miss is when you walk into a physical meeting, you are talking to the person that is next to you, you’re able to connect with them for the two minutes before and after,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told The New York Times this summer.
Between that and the major tech firms still reserving office space in major tech hubs, it’s clear that the traditional notion of the office isn’t going away anytime soon. As with so many things these days, the nature of work is evolving.