Should I Hire Remote Software Engineers?

Should I Hire Remote Software Engineers?

This is a comprehensive guide on the benefits and challenges of hiring remote software engineers. As the CEO and founder of the long-term global staffing company Hyperion360 and a three-time CTO that’s built and managed distributed and remote teams of hundreds of people, I must admit I have a bias towards hiring remotely. That said, it’s important to understand that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. In-person interaction is crucial for some, and remote hiring may not fit their company culture. But if you’re considering this path, this guide will walk you through the advantages and potential setbacks. Remember, though, that every employment scenario comes with its own unique legal considerations, so it’s always wise to consult with an employment attorney.

What Does “Remote Software Engineers” Actually Mean?

It’s about hiring software engineers who don’t work in a traditional office. They might work from their homes, coworking spaces, or other locations. Sometimes, they might be in a different city, state, or even country. The exponential growth of digital technology and internet connectivity has made this possible, making it a viable option for businesses, from small startups to global corporations.

The term remote hiring encompasses the entire process of sourcing, interviewing, hiring, and managing professionals who will work remotely. This involves unique strategies and tools, such as videoconferencing software for meetings and interviews, project management tools for organizing tasks, and remote-friendly policies for setting work hours and communication standards.

What’s the Difference between Distributed Teams vs Fully Remote Teams?

Although both are types of remote work arrangements, they are distinctly different:

Distributed teams or hybrid model. This refers to teams with members scattered across various geographical locations, possibly across the country or even the globe. They might work from different office locations or from home. While some team members work remotely, others might work in-person, creating a hybrid model of remote and in-office work.

Pro tip: For distributed teams, I prefer the hub and spoke model. This setup involves a central engineering headquarters that manages requirements for all remote locations or engineers. Everyone at HQ focuses on the core product, and everyone outside of HQ works on isolated projects that only require communication with HQ or the people in their location. This prevents unnecessary communication issues and management overhead.

Fully remote teams or all-remote model. This setup involves every team member working remotely, with no central or shared office location. The company operates in a ‘remote-first’ manner, meaning all its processes, communication, and culture are designed with remote work in mind.

Pro tip: For fully remote teams, I recommend using asynchronous communication channels like office chat (e.g. Slack or Microsoft Teams) and project management software (e.g. Jira, Asana, or Trello) for most communication. While synchronous channels like Zoom can be helpful for clarification, important knowledge may be lost unless you use something like Zoom’s Automatic Audio Transcription feature and post the content on a shared knowledge base like Confluence.

When Does Hiring Remote Software Engineers Make Sense?

When you can’t hire or retain local talent. There are millions of open tech jobs in the US. Recruiters are expensive and slow, and the best engineers are inaccessible or impossible to retain — even top tech companies can’t keep employees for over 2 years.

There are a variety of other good reasons that are covered by the next section, which outlines the benefits of hiring remote software engineers.

What Are the Benefits of Hiring Remote Software Engineers?

Tap into a diverse global talent pool. You can hire experienced developers from different countries and regions, unconfined by local market conditions or geographical boundaries. The clash of diverse views in engineering and business can often be the catalyst for growth and innovation, just as combining different metals can form a superior alloy.

Reduce infrastructure costs. You can save on office space, equipment, taxes, and insurance, as well as on salaries and recruitment costs, by hiring remote software engineers who work from their own locations and charge competitive rates.

Ramp up productivity and quality. Remote engineers may be more productive and perform better than onsite engineer because of the flexibility, autonomy and comfort of working from home. They may also save time and money by eliminating commutes and reducing stress.

24/7 coverage. You can have software engineers working in various time zones to have full coverage in the case of any outages or disruptions. One team goes to bed while another is still working, or two teams can work in the same time zone to increase output.

Foster loyalty, lower turnover. It improves loyalty and reduces turnover. Remote engineers tend to be more loyal and less likely to quit their jobs than onsite engineers. They feel more valued, trusted and empowered by their employers who allow them to work from anywhere.

Establish a presence in a new market. Having remote workers in a place you plan to go-to-market can help your business understand and adapt to the local context and needs of their customers, partners, suppliers, and competitors. It can also help your company comply with local regulations and standards, avoid cultural misunderstandings and conflicts, and leverage local resources and opportunities.

Future-proof work practices. Stay ahead of the curve and embrace the growing trend of remote work. Benefit from the diversity and innovation that remote software engineers can bring to your projects.

Hiring remote engineers can be cost effective, as international talent can often cost less, sometimes only a fraction of the cost in the US. Plus, location-specific knowledge can be crucial for entering new markets. Local expertise in laws and customs can expedite your expansion to another country. For instance, at one of my previous companies, we established an office in Ireland to sell to other EU countries. This has been also helpful for a few of my clients that expanded to Australian and Latin American markets.

But it’s not all sunshine and roses. If you choose the path of remote hiring, you must be prepared for some challenges.

What Are Some of the Potential Challenges of Hiring Remotely?

Here are some challenges you might encounter, and how we at Hyperion360 have learned to navigate them:

Communication. Remote software engineers may face difficulties in communicating effectively with their colleagues, managers, and clients because of language barriers, time zone differences, and technical issues. Sometimes when dealing with the distributed team model, onsite engineers inadvertently leave out remote engineers from important in-person group discussions and context is lost (see my tip above about using a shared knowledge base.)

Pro tip: Test every candidate for both spoken and written English communication skills. Make sure they have a reliable internet connection. Make sure engineers can commit to at least 4-hour time zone overlap if teams need to work closely with each other. Some companies prefer to only work with software engineers in similar time zones to them (e.g., the US and LATAM), while other companies want a 24/7 development cycle and full coverage for any outages and prefer engineers working in opposite or staggered time zones.

Management overhead. Remote software engineers may require more supervision, guidance, and feedback from their managers to ensure that they are meeting their goals and deadlines. Managers may also have to adopt different leadership styles and tools to motivate and monitor their remote teams.

Pro-tip: It’s critical to write detailed requirements and store them in project management software that the entire team uses when working with remote engineers. Writing sparse requirements and then trying to clarify them over video calls, chats, and emails will get messy quick and information will fall through the cracks.

Attitude. Sometimes remote work is a poor fit for the engineer. They might have poor time management skills, motivation, or just not work well in isolation. The same issues may arise with onsite engineers if they’re bored or don’t feel engaged at work.

Pro tip: Check if they have experience with remote work. Check their references (manager, peer, and a direct report, if applicable) and see how they handled different tasks, like collaborating with other team members remotely. Did they adapt to changing situations, demands, or expectations well? How did they handle scheduling conflicts or other stressors that arise during remote work? We check for remote work readiness or competency as a part of our vetting process before we send engineers to our clients.

Culture clash. Remote software engineers may have different cultural backgrounds, values, and expectations from their onsite counterparts. This may lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and reduced collaboration. Worse, possibly resentment or contempt. I’ve found this same issue between departments such as engineering, product, and QA. It’s never a fun thing and requires experienced managers and a culture of collaboration and learning to prevent and fix.

Pro tip: Foster a culture of constructive feedback and learning, and address any issues or conflicts promptly and respectfully. Create opportunities for teams to share responsibilities and incentives, learn from each other, and support each other. Celebrate wins together — when everyone wins, we all win.

Integration issues. Remote software engineers may feel alienated, disconnected, or less engaged than their onsite colleagues. If you’re doing a distributed team model, there may also be increased integration risk if the remote engineers are not given properly scoped out or isolated projects to work on.

Pro tip: Offer your remote engineers access to learning and development opportunities, mentoring and coaching, and social or company events. For example, you can broadcast all-hands meetings over Zoom or leave cameras running in conferences rooms while people work. We have weekly team building events (e.g., meals and drinks), an ongoing leadership development and management training program, and English language classes and tutoring. Think of what benefits make sense for your remote engineers.

IT compliance. Remote software engineers, just like onsite engineers, may expose sensitive data and information to unauthorized access or theft by using unsecured devices, networks, or platforms. They may also have to comply with different regulations and standards depending on their location.

Pro tip: Make all your employees, contractors, and consultants install mobile device management (MDM) software like Jamf that forces security policies like automatically logging out of inactive devices and allowing your IT team to remote wipe stolen or lost devices.

Legal risks. Local tax liabilities, immigration rules, employment laws, data processing laws, intellectual property protection, and other regulatory rules are serious legal considerations you must understand when hiring remotely. Depending on the country, issuing equity or even sending payment can be difficult.

Pro tip: If you work with a staff augmentation company, employer of record (EOR), or other third-party firm that hires engineers directly like Hyperion360, they will handle local laws and payroll for you. Otherwise, hire an employment attorney from a reputable law firm like Baker McKenzie to help you navigate local rules and regulations.

Compensation. This is a challenge for both remote and onsite engineers. How much should I pay? It is a common practice to set salaries by both location and industry. Look at what you pay your onsite employees (e.g., 50% of market) and match that in the foreign market, but this can make recruiting very difficult because you’re competing with companies who will pay way above market in some locations.

Pro tip: Look for a place where paying top of market or close to top of market fits your budget to stay competitive with other companies. Make sure the location you choose has reputable universities and solid educational systems. Also, make sure it has a large enough talent pool of skilled software engineers to support your hiring goals. At Hyperion360, we try to match companies with the best engineers based on their budget and job requirements.

If you need additional tips on working with remote teams, you can read more in my article on how to manage remote teams effectively . Remote hiring can be a handful, but with the right strategies, you can turn these challenges into strengths. Here’s to building a world-class team that’s ready for anything.

How Can I Test if Hiring Remote Engineers Will Work for My Business?

You can start out with a small, isolated project to give to one remote engineer. Your first remote engineer should ideally be a senior software engineer or technical lead. This can be a straightforward, low-risk way to see the pros and cons of remote work for yourself.

If you want to find the right remote software engineer for your company, you can contact Hyperion360 directly . We offer a 30-day trial period where you can cancel the engineer and after that it switches to a low-risk month-to-month contract, though most of our clients work with the same engineers for years.

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