On working remotely in The Netherlands

Working remotely, telecommuting, teleworking, or simply remoting is a practice where people work from (a location close to) their home, instead of a central place of work. Remoting is popular in our industry.

Recently, a few of our members sat down to discuss the popularity and state of remoting in The Netherlands. Here are some of the items we discussed that night.

The pros of remoting

The pain of (long) commutes is greatly reduced or eliminated entirely, resulting in significant time savings and reduced stress. Some people like to do their work in a (relatively) isolated environment, such as a specific room at home (like a study), or a (small) office close to home. Such an environment provides fewer distractions and enables more focus.

With the right tools, communication becomes easier, meetings can be kept short and to the point. Another advantage is the more efficient and flexible scheduling of working hours around dentist appointments, family, hobbies, sports, etc.

The cons of remoting

Remoting reduces the potential for “accidental” communication, i.e. hallway or water-cooler conversations. This could pose risks for companies that have both on-site and remote employees, as the latter category could miss out on vital information.

Failing Wi-Fi and buggy collaboration / communication tools creates delays and noise during meetings, and those tools can’t always convey non-verbal communication. In general, anything that benefits from close(r) contact (such as coaching, brainstorming in front a whiteboard, pair programming) loses some effectiveness when done remotely. Even with good online tools.

What can employers do to enable remoting

  1. Have a single point of contact for business-related questions (such as a product owner) and another one for process-related questions (such as a scrum master). These roles need to be (continuously) accessible through Skype, Slack, or similar.
  2. Trust team members that they will do the work and put in the hours, but be flexible about their schedules.
  3. Have a clear process, sustainable pace and structure.
  4. Implement good collaboration/communication tools (Skype, Hangouts, Slack, Basecamp, Jira, Trello are just a few of the possibilities).
  5. Ensure that all (semi-)important communication is accessible and can be participated in from outside of the office.
  6. Encourage collaboration by scheduling regular (bi-weekly, monthly) sessions where the entire team gets together in a single location for team building activities, retrospectives, or simply to get to know eachother.

The state of things in The Netherlands

If you are looking for a remote job and are having problems finding one, there may be a few options. Sometimes it helps to reduce your rate, to reflect reduced (commuting) costs. Or, look for companies in nearby countries (such as Belgium, Germany and the UK) that have more experience with people that want to work remotely.

Our conclusion of the discussion is: there is definitely room for remote work in The Netherlands, but the majority of companies aren’t ready for it yet. They either lack proper tools or processes, or don’t place enough trust in the people that (want to) work remotely. The ‘9 to 5’ mentality is still very pervasive, limiting the flexibility to more efficiently schedule working hours.

 

Michiel Rook is a Java/PHP/Scala contractor and consultant from the Netherlands. He loves coaching teams to develop better software and implement continuous deployment. He is a co-founder of Make.io and a member of the Dutch Web Alliance. He is an Army reservist and enjoys music, cars, sports and movies.

Dutch Web Alliance