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Developer retention: The role your remote work policy plays

10 March 2023 , by Marcelle van Niekerk

Your company’s remote work policy has significant implications for how you retain and hire team members. While the majority of developers currently work in a remote set-up, hybrid options are equally popular. That means you’ll need to make a compelling offer if you want to bring your team into the office. Here we’ll deep dive into how your remote work policy affects your talent pipeline and what developers are looking for to make the commute worth it.

How your remote work policy helps you hire (and retain) more developers

Developers prefer remote options

In our 2023 SA Developer Hiring Report, we asked about developers’ preferences for workplace policy.

From the results, it’s clear that developers value work-life balance: They are evenly split between preferring fully-remote and hybrid work set-ups. The traditional office job stands out as deeply unpopular: Only a slim 3% chose this as their preferred option.

In the Netherlands, hybrid is both the most popular set-up, with more than 60% of developers preferring the option:


A remote work policy helps with attracting and retaining senior developers

Seniors prefer fully remote work the most, which perhaps indicates a higher capability of working independently than one would expect of graduates and juniors.

Developers with less experience seem to have a lower preference to work fully remote jobs. Given that they're dependent on the mentoring and support from their seniors, this is unsurprising.

If you're operating a fully remote work set-up and are hoping to grow talent from within, it would be worthwhile to invest in this area to get your juniors up to speed and add value to their team as fast as possible.

Remote work can grow your talent pool

A remote work policy can expand your talent pool by allowing you access to developers from outside your city limits. If you're opting for a hybrid policy that requires office visits, make sure to consider the effect this could have on your available talent pool. A local hiring policy that requires developers to come into the office will drastically limit your available talent pool.

It’s also important to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all policy for your team members. For example, in our latest South Africa Hiring Report, we’ve seen that the majority of developers in a fully remote setup prefer heading into the office at least once a month to connect with co-workers, with almost 12% going in once a week.

A solution we've seen work is optional office or co-working spaces. Providing a space for your team to connect addresses a major developer pain point about remote and gives you the freedom to hire more broadly.

Therefore, a good balance might be to have an office or co-working space available for those who want to work in a hybrid model, but not make it required for all developers to be in the office.

Offer additional benefits that make your office space appealing to your developers

If you want to make office space available to your developers — how can you make it as appealing as possible for people to go in? We asked our community what makes heading to the office more attractive for them.

Provide flexible hours or shorter working hours

Being flexible in your work hours is key for developers who need to avoid a lengthy commute, and have time for personal tasks:

“Being able to end at 5 and turn off my laptop and already be home is just something that cannot be matched. If there's a reason to be in the office that day… knowing that I can get there earlier and leave earlier to skip traffic helps make it bearable.”

LinkedIn response: Kevin van Niekerk, Full-Stack Software Developer

A flexible work schedule can also improve your team’s work-life balance by allowing them to balance work and personal tasks:

“I would say a 4 day work week, or shorter working hours… This promotes a healthy work-life balance. Working in the office doesn’t always grant you the freedom to rest your brain by doing other therapeutic/light non-work related tasks…like stepping away from your desk to water your plants, or taking a short drive to get lunch or other household necessities, picking up kids from school etc.”
Instagram response: @tshepiimab

"Full flexible work environment aka flexible time and place, with certain common hours for collaboration or necessary meetings. Professional development/learning and networking. Interesting project opportunities, resources and accessible office location."
Twitter response: @YogitaRed8

Offer a travel allowance

In the current economic climate, travel is especially costly. If you want to bring your team into the office regularly, offering an allowance for this expense is especially helpful to many developers:
The rising fuel and food costs have made a daily commute unmanageable on my salary. And the lost hour is really difficult to justify to myself; particularly in SA where you're likely to be driving yourself and as a result less able to use the hour for something else productive. If the company wanted me in the office regularly, I would need to see an adjustment in my earnings to account for that cost.

Incredibly short commute, if I could walk to the office in less than 10 minutes I wouldn't mind going to the office almost every day. Either the company is close by or is located in a location I would want to stay in and offers good financial incentive to make such a move.

Provide an exciting office environment with tangible perks

Compared to the comforts of home, it’s important to go above and beyond to make your office an exciting space. A great way to do that is with plenty of perks.

“I commute a fair distance to the office voluntarily, several times per week. If the office didn’t have a kitchen stocked with food and coffee and lots of big whiteboards, I probably wouldn’t go in as much. If there were activities such as gym or cross-fit, I’d probably go in more.”
LinkedIn response: Alex Steinberg, Senior Front-end Engineer

“Most people don’t have the time to pack a meal for lunch because they’re trying to beat traffic, so providing a simple lunch would be a winner. Buying lunch every day works out extremely expensive.”

LinkedIn response: Nico Hanmer, Testing Engineer

“Companies must remember that now the competition is working from home (probably the most comfortable place) vs. an office. Maybe put some games and a good coffee bar and give a bit more time to relax, other than lunchtime!”
LinkedIn response: Muhammad Umair Nasir, Data Scientist

“Innovative space that has private pods to shut off and code or work with music… and open collaboration areas with a popcorn and coffee machine.”
Twitter response: @DotBecca

Ensure your developers have a great technical setup

Finally, a great work setup matters to developers. For true flexibility in options, it makes sense for these factors to be present both at home and at the office.
Hardware and desk area is an important thing for me: having the right monitor, mouse, keyboard etc, and being able to easily plug it in lowers barrier to coming into office. Most devs have a good home set up nowadays and moving away from it is inconvenient... Lastly, having a lot of white boards and brainstorming areas is something where being in the office is of the most value to me.

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