June 8, 2020

Half of Silicon Valley workers prefer remote working – but a third worry about career progression

By Robert Scammell

More than half (53%) of professionals working for technology firms in Silicon Valley prefer remote working to an office environment, according to anonymous workplace survey app Blind.

However, a third of tech workers are worried that working from home will have an impact on their career progression.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the plans of many technology firms to shift to a remote workforce. In many cases, these firms are well-positioned to switch to a distributed workforce because of their robust infrastructure and the nature of their work.

Google and Facebook have said that most of their employees will work from home until 2021, or longer. Amazon has told staff they will be remote working until at least October this year.

“We’re going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in May.

“We need to do this in a way that’s thoughtful and responsible, so we’re going to do this in a measured way. But I think that it’s possible that over the next five to 10 years — maybe closer to 10 than five, but somewhere in that range — I think we could get to about half of the company working remotely permanently.”

Remote working: Reshaping Silicon Valley

A long-term shift to remote working among Silicon Valley firms could also reshape cities such as San Francisco. Rent prices have soared in the Bay area and restaurants and entertainment have changed to meet the needs of an affluent workforce, often outpricing local residents.

Some tech workers have pointed to the savings they could make from living in a more affordable city and working remotely. Others have complained that they are missing out on perks such as catering and free gym access while offices are closed.

Blind’s survey of 4,500 employees of technology firms between 29 May and 5 June reflects the lack of clear consensus among tech workers. The surveyed employees work for firms including Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple, among others.

“People go to work in Silicon Valley to work alongside with the best talent available in the market so it’s understandable that only 53% want remote work as they are typically super passionate people that want to work with others,” said Brad Coombes, co-founder of Collabz, an in-house talent company.

“There is also a huge risk to innovation and collaboration as the conversations around the desk are invaluable and hard to recreate in a virtual environment.”

Silicon Valley workers were equally concerned about isolation, at-home distractions and less work-life balance as a result of remote working.

Remote working also raises new questions for how companies evaluate the performance of remote workforces. Some 33% of responses feared working from home would impact their career progression.

Uber and Facebook employees were the most worried that remote working would harm their career progression prospects, with 41% of respondents having concerns.  Around a quarter of employees from both companies did not have any fears, while approximately a third from each said it was too soon to tell.

“My view would be that is actually a greater opportunity for progression as more objective measure of performance will be being used. This is especially true for introverted people who may struggle to stand out,” said Coombes.

“Companies who start to operate more remotely are going to put a greater focus on learning and development so in fact there will be huge opportunities for growth and development through this.”

Read more: London tech recruitment slumps 57% during pandemic

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