Remote Work Trends in Chicago Business & Technology

Remote Work Trends in Chicago Business & Technology
Photo by Gordon Dymowski

(Special thanks to Matt Mead of SPR Consulting for his time and insight)

Many full-time workers and freelancers are adjusting to remote work in the wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic. However, many companies have had to rapidly shift towards remote work policies with varying results. Given Chicago’s thriving technology and business communities, we wanted to examine how local companies have successfully adopted remote work policies and how those policies may progress in the future months. We spoke with Matt Mead, Chief Technology Officer at SPR Consulting, about trends and predictions around remote work in Chicago.

Can you provide an overview of how the Chicago technology & business scenes are adjusting to remote work models in light of COVID-19?

Fortunately, many tech companies and groups with companies that are tech-heavy were not strangers to remote work technologies— even before COVID. As a result, the transition to working remotely has been less impactful than most assumed. While working with our clients on various technology initiatives, we’ve had no significant issues moving previously onsite engagements into the virtual realm.

However, working remotely does take more effort to keep all necessary stakeholders and team members up to speed. Fortunately, there are almost ubiquitously adopted tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Slack that make the transition easier and keep all people in the loop by leveraging features that allow synchronous virtual meetings mixed with asynchronous threaded communication.

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What are the challenges that are being faced by the tech/business community in the wake of COVID-19?

There are two primary challenges facing the tech and business communities in the wake of COVID-19:

  • With a now-remote workforce, the many cultural differences between different tech companies, such as free lunches, on-site gyms, etc. aren’t as important. As a result, COVID is starting to level the playing field between employers.
  • At the same time amid COVID, we’re actually seeing technology workers continue to change jobs. Entering the pandemic, we assumed most tech workers would stay put and value the inherent job security of a tighter labor market, but that hasn’t been the case. What’s most surprising is that the required networking and interviewing is being done almost exclusively virtually and it is proving to be effective.

How has the pandemic impacted hiring patterns and processes? (For example, have employers increased their geographic reach in trying to find candidates?)

We’re starting to see technology workers look at wider geography for their next jobs, as most companies are working remotely for the foreseeable future.

By being able to apply now for more jobs that are now remote,  tech workers still expect to be able to drive up their salary as they compete for jobs in higher-paying markets. However, employers think they can drive down their salaries and costs by competing for employees in markets that pay lower. From what we’ve seen so far, it seems the workers are winning, as they are able to work anywhere and are demanding higher salaries in more expensive markets. This ultimately has the ripple effect of raising salaries in all markets, given that everyone is fishing in the same pond for this pool of potential employees.

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Finally, as many companies adopt technology and digital tools to enhance collaboration and communication, how do you see this adoption impacting how companies function during – and potentially after – this pandemic?

We can expect most tech companies to continue to present more remote work opportunities than pre-COVID, mostly due to companies having positive experiences managing their remote workforces. As a result, CFOs are now questioning whether the cost of their lease and/or real estate is worth it.

However, this is not the death of the physical office. We also expect that most companies will continue to have a physical space, but their in-office requirements will be less stringent than pre-COVID, as some workers will continue to operate remotely.

Thanks again to Matt Mead of SPR for sharing his time and thoughts. If you have questions or comments, please leave them below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. If you want to contact us privately, please use this email form. As always, thanks for reading!

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