How Organizations Can Support Remote Work for Early Career Computing Professionals

In this post, we continue sharing the results from a recent survey on the Impact of COVID-19 and Remote Work on Early-Career Computing Professionals. We asked respondents to give their feedback on important ways they think that organizations can improve remote work for the future.

121 (47.8%) participants responded when asked what the most significant action an organization could take to improve remote work conditions. Respondents offered many suggestions on ways to improve remote work in general, remote teams, and work-life balance. A significant portion also made recommendations for improving the remote work experience during a crisis. 5.8% (N=9) of the respondents were satisfied with how their companies had handled the switch to remote work and stated that no changes were necessary.

Ways to Improve Remote Work

Of those who responded, the most common suggestion (41%, N=63) was to improve home offices and the remote work infrastructure. 63.5% (N=38) of these mentioned that their home offices were not ideal for working from home. Respondents suggested that companies should:

“provide home office setup or allow reimbursement for their establishment. Not everyone had external monitors, dedicated workspaces/desks, or other accessories.”

An additional 20.6% (13) in this group mentioned a lack of online tools to support online collaboration. One respondent said:

“Make collaboration tools more easily available. The very strict approval process prevents a lot of good tools to be used.”

Faculty and students also weighed in about the need for better online tools for teaching. One participant suggested focusing “on engineering a better remote-teaching system, the one we had access to so far experienced some troubles and it has some limitations on usability.”

Finally, an additional 19.0% (N=10) observed that their productivity had been impeded by unreliable network connections. These suggested that companies should pay for their employee’s internet connection to ensure connectivity. Others suggested that companies need to invest in their digital infrastructure. One participant noted:

“As the number of remote workers has increased, our virtual resources and services have become more unstable. Making all of our virtual tools robust enough to work with a 100% remote workforce would really help.”

Ways to Improve Remote Teamwork

Several people who responded to this question (15.7%, N=19) focused specifically on how remote teams could be improved. Most of these (68.4%, N=13) suggested ways to improve communication between team members online. One participant stated that “communication should be more frequent and coordinated.” Another suggested using chatrooms to create a virtual “kitchen where one just randomly meets people.”

26.3% (N=5) also noted greater challenges in getting help when working remotely. Participants asked that their organizations “facilitate peer consulting, mentoring”. Academics also noted universities need to provide more support on remote teaching and learning, including “remote learning/teaching/advising guidelines and suggested software.”

10.5% (N=2) of respondents mentioned that accountability is difficult in online teams. One suggestion was to “have a more involved accountability/pair programming system.” Another suggested that “there should be more deadlines.”

Promoting Work-Life Balance

Some of the survey respondents (7.8%, N=12) suggested that their companies could do more to improve their work-life balance. The majority of these (83.3%, N=10) noted challenges in maintaining balanced work schedules in particular. Companies must enforce boundaries on their employees’ time, normalize established work hours and discourage working outside of these. One participant noted that employers should “tell people to work only during working hours and enforce time boundaries.” Another suggested that organizations could provide “additional paid time off in return for long hours worked.” In addition to managing work schedules, 16.7% (N=2) of participants noted that it would be beneficial for companies to subsidize childcare costs to ensure that employees do not have to split their attention while working from home with children.

Lessons Learned from a Pandemic

Some respondents (9.1%, N=14) focused on the challenges of working during a pandemic and how organizations could better improve their response to crises like this. Several people (42.9%, N=6) observed that their companies needed to maintain realistic expectations about the work that could be accomplished during a crisis. One participant said,

“I can’t fix covid. I really can’t fix it so they have a normal Q4. But I feel so much weight from being directly told my projects and those of my colleagues are what the company is depending on to make it work this year.”

Additionally, some participants (14.3%, N=2) were critical of their company’s decision to reduce salaries after the switch to remote work. Another 14.3% (N=2) hoped that their company would allow employees to continue to work from home until after the COVID-19 crisis is past, or “ensure that there are thorough precautions and procedures for when employees return to the office.”

Four respondents (28.6%) suggested that their companies handled the switch to remote work well enough that they should continue to allow it after the pandemic.

How Organizations Can Support Early Career Computing Professionals

For many early-career computing professionals have, COVID-19 may represent their first experience working remotely. This presented many unique challenges. Some employees lacked the space in their homes to work comfortably without distractions. Many noted that they did not have the equipment that is standard in office environments, such as second monitors or ergonomic desks and chairs.

My home office is not as comfortable or well-equipped as my desk in the corporate offices and I don’t think I should personally be on the hook for equipment I need to do my job.

By offering stipends or equipment, organizations can ensure that all employees have what they need to stay productive and healthy while working from home.

Other employees found it difficult to connect with coworkers or network professionally. This was especially difficult for people who were new to their jobs and careers. Several survey participants suggested that their organizations could organize online socials or peer mentorships to help employees get to know one another better.

I’d like to see more of an emphasis on socializing because i think it builds camaraderie.

Organizations should subsidize home office expenses, facilitate communication and collaboration, and normalize boundaries.
Survey respondents suggested ways organizations can improve the remote work experience for early-career computing professionals.

Conclusion

We are very grateful for everyone who completed our survey and helped us gather honest information about what they are experiencing while working from home. This information is invaluable to organizations looking to improve their remote work policies and make working from home more accessible to employees at every career level.

Stay tuned to learn more about the results of our survey and how working from home has affected young computing professionals!

Wellness Team, ACM Future of Computing Academy

Jessica Hair, Software Engineer, SmartFile, jessica@hairsquaredsoftware.com

Jaelle Scheuerman, ACM Future of Computing Academy, jaelle@gmail.com

Gürkan Solmaz, Senior Researcher, NEC Laboratories Europe gurkan.solmaz@neclab.eu

Pamela Wisniewski, Associate Professor, University of Central Florida, pamwis@ucf.edu

Image Credit: Person Vectors by Vecteezy


How Organizations Can Support Remote Work for Early Career Computing Professionals was originally published in ACM Future of Computing Academy on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.