Work-from-home: Could COVID-19 equalize on-site and nearshore developers?

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With Corona-virus infections exceeding the 500K mark worldwide (at the time of this writing, March 2020. Later edit: 125 Million, March 2021), companies are asking people to work from home, in order to protect themselves and their colleagues. This sees people working from their computers back home – and is increasingly applied to software developers – if it also spells disaster for jobs such as factory workers, hotel staff or taxi drivers.

work from home COVID nearshore and onsite equalizer

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This also brings into perspective the fundamental difference between a company’s own employees and nearshore (or offshore) software development engineers: co-location. While co-location of people was often invoked as the main driver for employing people onsite, their working from home could bring about a thorny question:

Why would you not get people to work from their homes elsewhere?

There would appear not to be a lot of difference, and the labour arbitrage would indicate greater profits, with nearshore software developers costing a fraction of the onsite ones.

If a work-from-home policy is imposed by companies, it will not matter if you are in India, Romania, Ukraine or Moldova. Skype, Zoom or Teams work just as well for everyone, everywhere.

One may object that nearshore (or offshore) developers are used to working together, just like any collective, in any company. Displacing them to their homes could potentially decrease their productivity and/or propensity to work. Cultural barriers could even make things worse for remote work: the bigger the distance, the more difficult it is to get your intent across to a different culture.

With that in mind, the “everyone-working-from-home” paradigm could bring on a new shift to the software development world. An equalizer.

We’ve recently joined a physical conference where half of the speeches were held via Skype, for fear of the virus. The conference was not bad (minus the few attendees who did the foot-shake, which I personally have found to be annoying). It comes to show that – when aligned – people can pull towards the same business goal.

In person or remotely.