The State of Remote Engineering: Eight Out of Ten Engineers Want Options in the Future for Both Working From Home and From the Office

Terminal’s Research finds nearly half of engineers say working remotely has made them consider or plan to leave the city they are currently living in

Terminal, a company that builds world-class remote engineering teams for high growth tech companies, today announced the findings of The State of Remote Engineering: The 2021 Edition. The research, commissioned by Terminal, aims to benchmark and uncover the perspectives of engineers in the United StatesCanada and Latin America – with an aim to deliver leaders insights on how to recruit and build high-performing engineering teams.

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The report highlighted the seismic shift of 86% of software engineers now working entirely remote, compared to only 19% of engineers prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and its effects:

  • Engineers are embracing remote: nearly 80% of engineers surveyed want to work remote 60%-100%  of the time even after the pandemic is over.
  • Location limitations removed: Nearly half (46%) say working remotely has made them consider leaving the city they are currently living in.
  • The rise of the hybrid work week: The majority of engineers surveyed (83%) want options in the future for both working from home and the office.
  • Mental health: 38% of engineers say mental health has gotten worse since the coronavirus pandemic broke out.

“The rise of the remote work movement, fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic’s stay-at-home orders, has established a new era of engineer expectations,” said Clay Kellogg, CEO of Terminal. “Our findings show that overall, engineers love the flexibility and benefits that remote work offers and aren’t going back to the old ways. Business leaders risk widening the tech talent shortage at their companies if they don’t build a long-term remote work strategy that focuses on mental health, flexible schedules and team-building.”

Engineers Making Moves, but not Coming to America
Nearly half of engineers say working remotely has increased their interest in moving, but it’s not necessarily to move to be closer to a job – especially one in the United States. Findings from the study indicate that the United States isn’t viewed as the land of opportunity that it once was and US-based companies risk losing out on talent if they don’t establish a remote recruiting strategy:

  • Nearly 40% of Canadian and Latin American engineers said they didn’t want to work in the United States. More Canadian engineers said they did not want to move to the United States (49%) compared to Latin American engineers (18%).
  • Three out of four (74%) of engineers who are currently uninterested in working in the United States say they still won’t be interested in moving to the United States even after the pandemic is over.
  • Although the study showed engineers don’t want to move to the United States even after the pandemic, 67% of engineers say they still want to work for companies located in major United States tech hubs,) showing signs of increasing demand for engineers looking for remote work.
  • The top reasons engineers said they didn’t want to move to  the United States were related to their perceptions about US politics being too crazy (56%), gun violence and lack of safety (55%), the Coronavirus pandemic not handled well (51%), poor race relations/racism (47%) and the cost of living is too high (32%).  The United States is losing its standing as a launch pad for upward mobility and US-based companies risk losing access to talent if they limit themselves to only hiring engineers who live in the United States.

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Moving to the U.S. Would Require Major Salary Increase from Employers
Engineers would require huge pay increases to move to the United States and no amount of money would convince some. Among those who are not interested in working in the United States, 15% of engineers say they wouldn’t move to the United States no matter how high the pay raise, 27% would require double their current salary, and 24% would want more than double their salary.  Almost twice as many engineers in Latin America (83%) would require at least double the salary or more, compared to Canadian engineers (46%).

Better Work-Life Balance, But Loneliness Increase Too
According to the survey, engineers say the top benefits of working remote span not needing to commute (74%), better work-life balance (61%), more autonomy (52%), more productivity (46%), less stress (37%), greater equality between on-site and off-site employees (25%), and more proactive communication by teams (22%).

Although work-life balance and less stress were cited among the top benefits of working remotely, more engineers reported feeling isolated, less collaborative, and lonely compared to last year:

  • Lack of day to day interaction— 58% in 2020, nearly a 15 point jump from last year
  • Harder to collaborate or feel part of a team—39%, a 5 point increase compared to 2019
  • Loneliness or feelings of isolation— 39%, up 17 points compared to 2019

Engineers Feel the Pain of the Tech Talent Shortage
The same amount of engineers as last year (64%) say there’s a need for more software engineers at their company, but the study revealed that engineers perceive the ramifications as far more dire for both the company and personal growth this year compared to last year:

  • Holds back technical development—65% in 2020 vs. 56% in 2019
  • Overworks engineers—61% in 2020 vs. 49% in 2019
  • Limits ability to grow—55% in 2020 vs. 46% in 2019
  • Stunts innovation—35% in 2020 vs. 24% in 2019

Engineers’ Views on Remote Work Salaries and Benefits
Nearly three out of four (74%) engineers said their company adapted well to remote work during the pandemic, and collaboration and productivity have remained high. As companies adapt to working remotely, companies shifted their benefits to address the new needs of engineers working remotely:

  • The top remote work benefits that companies offered this past year spanned flexible work hours (55%), remote learning and development (32%), technology and productivity tools (36%), mental health services and subscriptions (31%), and utilities, internet or other home office stipend (26%).
  • When asked which remote-specific benefits would be most helpful to them, engineers were most likely to pick utilities, internet or other home office stipend as their top choice, showing an opportunity for employers to better tailor their benefits to engineers’ needs.

Terminal conducted this study among 1,108 software engineers sourced from Terminal’s database of contacts and partner organizations. These respondents were primarily from CanadaMexico, and Latin America, with representation from the United StatesEurope and Asia as well. Responses were collected from December 17, 2020 to January 6, 2021.

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