Why Remote Offices Mean Better IT Teams

Today's IT worker is mobile and traditional ideas about brick-and-mortar offices no longer apply. This shift is a good thing as companies are already reaping benefits such as reduced costs, better productivity and a larger pool of IT talent. Of course, there are challenges managers need to overcome.

Mon, October 08, 2012

CIO — As the IT market evolves, so has the way America's IT workers do their job. According to a recent BLS survey, 24 percent of working Americans reported that they work at least some hours at home each week.

As IT job markets become more and more competitive, this trend is likely to continue. While this shift offers many benefits, it also brings its own set of problems that center on communication, collaboration and the unification of your team. CIO.com spoke with the CEO of REAL Software, Geoff Perlman, to find out what it takes to run an operation that consists entirely of remote employees.

"Remote employees are increasingly common in the IT field. It's an adjustment that's happening," says Perlman, who has a unique perspective on remote employees having run a technology company for more than four years, employing only remote workers. However, it wasn't always that way. While Perlman was starting his company in Austin, Texas, in 2008 he had only one remote developer who didn't want to leave his native Colorado. As his company grew, and he hired more remote office employees, he became more and more comfortable with the idea.

"Remote employees are increasingly common in the IT field. It's an adjustment that's happening."

"I was reading an article about how 75 percent of MySQL developers work from home and I found that interesting. IBM also has huge amount of people who work from home. It made me realize that it was a possibility and I did my research," says Perlman.

After doing his research, Perlman gathered all his employees and hashed out a plan where every employee would work remotely for a month. In that month, they identified tools for communicating and collaborating as well as identified problems that they needed to deal with. The experience made Perlman decide to move his entire operation out of a traditional brick and mortar office and into remote offices.

Related Story: 8 Tips to Increase IT Worker Retention

The Benefits of Remote Employees

Advances in collaboration and communication technology in recent years have made sharing documents, video conferencing/desktop-sharing and instant messaging second nature to most people who work in the IT market.

In a recent Harvard Business Review Blog, Scott Edinger argues that remote employees are, in fact, more engaged and connected, and employers are really the ones benefitting from all this.

Employees who work remotely, of course, don't require a physical office and many times use most of their own hardware and software, says Perlman. It's also worth noting that, according to BLS statistics, remote employees work on average an hour longer each day than their brethren in the office, which can equate to almost six extra weeks of productivity over the course of the year.

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