We’ve all had to change our ways of working during the pandemic, for IT workers this has usually meant working full-time from home. Needless to say, that wasn’t for everyone, but for many, myself included, it has suited extremely well. Still getting as much (or more?) work done, but without the risk of being stuck in traffic jams or suffering train delays during the commute. Though unquestionably the best benefit has been having more time to devote to doing what we love. For me that’s spending time with my family and getting out cycling, though I won’t pretend setting the alarm later hasn’t been good too!
Of course, we all hope that lockdowns will become a thing of the past and we can all safely enjoy going out and meeting friends more often again, but what if there are some things you don’t want to end, like working full-time from home?
A few years ago, I used to work from home twice a week, so even though my job in 2020 was fully office-based, when coronavirus struck it was easy for me to adapt. When the company announced their intention to replace in-house solutions with bought-in software, it was obvious there was no long-term future for an in-house developer, the time to update the old CV had arrived.
Like many experienced people, I have roots where I live, I like it here, but finding a new job in the past hasn’t always been easy. This was due to being restricted to companies in my local area, as even then I wanted to spend as little time commuting as possible.
This time it would be different though, as many jobs were being advertised as full-time remote working, so I could widen the search area to include places I would not consider traveling to frequently.
The interviews started, but as they progressed, it became clear that my own view of full-time remote working was not necessarily in sync with some employers views. One thought it was acceptable to advertise a job as full-time remote, but to only mean during the pandemic, and afterwards you would need to go into the office two days a week. Another said I would have to visit the office whenever they decided I should, and that I’d have to stay as long as their whims dictated. So, it emerged that full-time remote working was not always as it first seemed to be.
I admit my view is somewhat simplistic, but I feel full-time remote working should mean exactly what it says, you never need to go to an office. Though naturally you may still wish to do so a few times a year, though even this should be optional. My guess is that this is also the view shared by most job seekers, but bizarrely not by many employers.
It appeared that during the pandemic some companies had embraced the new order, while others were pretending to do so, but were actually desperate to get back to the old ways (though they may not have even recognised this themselves). I needed to target the former, those companies that have welcomed remote working, and see it as a great way of hiring the best people, even if those people don’t live near their offices. That is, people who want to continue working from home full-time even after the world has returned to normal – like me.
I needed to change my strategy, but how would I identify the forward-looking employers? Sure enough, this turned out to be quite simple for me: better planning, a pre-emptive strike and repetition.
It may seem obvious, but before you engage with any potential employer, make a list of the show-stopper criteria for you, it could be anything. Remember your time is precious and limited, especially if you still have a full-time job to do while you’re searching for a new opportunity, you don’t want to waste hours on interviews with companies that will fall at this last hurdle. Here’s the list I created:
- Real full-time remote working
- Transparency and honesty
- Caring about code
The Pre-emptive Strike
If the job spec seems interesting, fire off a message to the recruiter including your requirements, i.e.
… I’m looking for a full-time remote role as a <developer> paying <a lot>, I would be expecting to visit the office about twice a year, does this fit with <the employer>?
Hopefully you’ll be able to filter out roles that aren’t right for you without wasting much effort. Note that your questions should be targeted, as some of the items on your list may not be appropriate to ask a recruiter (or anyone?). So, for example, I didn’t ask how honest the company is, or how much they care about their code!
At the interview, as soon as it’s appropriate you should find out exactly what their take is on the items on your list. You should have some other more specific questions prepared anyway and they’ll almost certainly give you the opportunity to get answers, so don’t be afraid to find out about the things that are important to you.
For full-time remote working, you can ask directly what the company’s policy is, but for other items you may have to be more subtle. To illustrate I cared about honesty, I described how uncomfortable I had felt when at a previous company the managers hid problems from customers, and to express that I cared about code, I just told them!
Also remember to bring up your list items at every interview, as you may be speaking to different people who have divergent views, even at the same employer. If the responses contradict each other, this should be a sign to you that all is not as it seems.
Fancy working remotely with us?
The Isle of Man, fast cars, historic architecture and .NET/C#. Just some of the topics you can pick up with David once you’re here.
Where does Mews fit into this?
Of my interviews, I found that Mews certainly is one of the progressive companies when it comes to remote working, Tracy wrote a great blog post on this. I also found that the overall company philosophy and IT principles matched well with my own values, so I accepted the offer to work here!
I’ve now been working at Mews for several months, and I can tell you how it is for me. Specifically with emphasis on full-time remote working, I’m glad to report that it’s exactly what I wanted and expected it to be. Actually Jan has even written a blog post about the digital nomad lifestyle.
It’s not all about work, I’ve spoken to many people (including senior management) through our random coffee initiative. Also, in my own team we have regular remote socializing sessions, such as online games and visits to a virtual pub. I’m also looking forward to my first visit to Prague to meet my team in person sometime soon.
Regarding my other requirements, I can also say that I’m happy Mews hits the mark there too. So, while we’ll all admit that the codebase isn’t perfect, I’ve joined a group of people who care at least as much as I do about making it better, and possibly even more! I’ve also been impressed by senior management’s openness to criticism, honesty and transparency about admitting mistakes, and willingness to make changes to try to improve things for the future.
Changing jobs can be a big deal so you want to get it right. If I can give any advice to job seekers, it’s to remember that interviews work both ways. You need to find out if the company is right for you, and checking how often you need to visit the office is pretty important. So always confirm your expectations match with your potential employer’s, you could even check with a final light-hearted question, asking if they’re really OK with only seeing you once a year at the office party!