Remote jobs: Why tech professionals are the only ones who can choose where to work – EL PAÍS in English

Digital nomads existed long before the pandemic. But new work modes became more common as the pandemic lingered, enabling many workers to embrace a new lifestyle. The advent of flexible work, which Ángel Sáenz de Cenzano, LinkedIn’s country manager for Spain and Portugal, believes will one day become widespread in every company that can operate remotely, opens up a world of possibilities for workforces. This is especially true for those with technology jobs, perhaps the only professionals these days who can choose where they want to work. In fact, there is a migration of workers to smaller cities and towns, according to Gary Mullan, CEO of Prosperity. “They want lower rental prices and a better quality of life. The trend is very clear. The number of worker relocations has doubled,” he says.

Although there is no data to back up Mullan’s statement, Google is a good example of employees taking advantage of flexible work opportunities. Its global work program attracted 15,000 employees, while another 10,000 signed up for 100% remote work, according to Javier Martín, Google’s human resources director for southern Europe. Because returning to office work is still voluntary in Spain, not much data is available. But Martin has seen some Google workers relocating to Málaga, Barcelona and the outskirts of Madrid. Others have gone even further, like Victoria Campetella, who moved with her husband and two young daughters to Hamburg, Germany. “The pandemic made us think hard about the lifestyle we wanted. We had visited Hamburg before, and found it to be smaller and greener than Madrid, and more child-friendly. Also, my husband has family here. We’ve been living here for two months now and are happy with our decision,” she told us in a phone interview.

According to Prosperity, a recruiter of digital workers, approximately 40% of all digital workers are remote full-time, 25% work exclusively in an office, and 35% combine remote and office work. “We see the highest demand for remote work jobs, and offering some type of remote work is very important for retaining talent. Companies that don’t offer this work mode have higher turnover.” Prosperity is currently recruiting dozens of digital workers for positions in Spain with Microsoft, Google, Wallapop, and many start-up companies. Mullan believes that this is what the future looks like, and cites the example of Meta, which recently chosen to build a new technology center in Spain that will employ 2,000 people.

From Begur with love

José López Morales has worked for several years in the technology department of The Knot Worldwide, the world’s largest wedding planning website. The Knot has 900 employees in 16 countries, and before the pandemic, Morales worked in the Barcelona office along with 500 other employees. Once the pandemic started, all of the Barcelona employees were forced to work from home. The Knot now offers a hybrid work model. “We provide our staff with flexible work arrangements. A typical employee currently works from home 70% of the time, and spends one day in the office,” said Anna Bisart, the company’s Vice President of People. But technology workers can work remotely 100% of the time, so José decided to move out of Barcelona and bought a home in Begur, Girona. He lives in a new residential development that’s close to nature and the beach. He escapes to his backyard when he needs a break from the intense pace of programming work. “Now that I’m out of the hustle and bustle of Barcelona, life is quieter, and I can also save time and money.”

José López Morales, in the backyard of the home he bought in Begur (Girona).
José López Morales, in the backyard of the home he bought in Begur (Girona).

López leads two teams located throughout Spain. “We used to only hire locally, but things changed when many US companies decided to establish technology centers in Spain. This is an incentive for hiring,” he said. Joaquín Quero wholeheartedly agrees. He is a software engineer who joined the company this year and works from his home in Córdoba. “It’s hard to find jobs in my city. If you don’t want to relocate, remote work is key,” says the 37-year-old professional who has two children. He was happy to leave his former employer, a company that didn’t offer this option.

Bisart is clear about her mandate at The Knot Worldwide. The company intends to recruit 250 employees in Spain this year, mainly in the technology area. She knows that to achieve this goal, offering a 100% remote work option is a must. “The individuals we seek to hire are highly sought-after and difficult to find. We have to offer added value so that they want to come work for us,” she said.

Globant is also trying to hire “as many people as it can,” according to Mercedes MacPherson, the company’s head of people for the EMEA region. She says they recently hired 300 people every month, and 1,000 across the company as a whole, to reach their current staffing level of 25,000 employees. “We almost doubled our growth rate in 2020 and 2021,” she said. The company is looking for experts in data, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, software developers, and more. “These positions are very hard to find everywhere in the world. It’s a global problem. The universities don’t produce many graduates in these areas, so Globant has undertaken a major initiative to train and retrain people through specific programs and boot camps.”

Flexibility is essential for the software engineering company, says MacPherson. “It arrived with the pandemic and it’s here to stay.” The company allows its employees to choose where they want to work. Many of them, especially those with children, have moved away from the big cities in search of a better quality of life, she says. That’s why their value proposition for employees is no longer solely focused on the individual worker, but on the family as a whole. “When everyone worked face-to-face, we didn’t intrude into people’s homes. When that ended, we developed family health and wellness programs,” said MacPherson. The company has gone even further. In response to the many employee requests to relocate to other countries, Globant launched a specific relocation program. Spain is the country of preference for Globant employees looking to relocate.

The great question

“Before the pandemic, people were embarrassed to ask about remote work because it seemed like a lack of commitment. But now every candidate asks this question. It’s a radical change,” acknowledges Google’s Javier Martín. Google has seen its workforce in Spain double since 2019 to more than 400 employees. It is now looking for people to work in its commercial and engineering functions. 

Job search website Adecco says that 15% of the jobs listed offer remote work options. According to Randstad, this is because work-life balance is gaining ground on salary as the main motivation for changing jobs. The priorities for candidates are salary, work-life balance, a good work environment, job security, and career development. And although one in three Spaniards surveyed by Randstad says they would quit their job if it did not allow them to live the way they want, companies offering remote work dropped from 50% at the end of 2021 to 33% today (38% in Europe overall).

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