WFH vs RTO: How and why we transitioned

As more and more businesses require employees to return to the office (RTO) there have been two popular, but cynical, takes on the trend. The first is that the businesses don’t want their offices sitting empty, especially if they own them rather than lease them. The second is that the businesses are control freaks and want to be able to once again monitor their employees every moment.

These takes are not completely wrong. There will always be businesses that make decisions based on dubious reasoning. But for most businesses that have more than a handful of employees, bringing them back to the office can be a matter of survival.

As a company that provides software development services and employs a large and growing team of software developers, we’ve felt the impact of Work From Home. It’s affected our staff and our operations to the point where we are now implementing practices to counteract it.

This article is a discussion about what we experienced during the COVID WFH period and its aftermath, what we’ve learned from it, and how we are changing the way we work to address it. 

How Work From Home impacted our day-to-day operations

During the early part of WFH under COVID we experienced minimal impact in our transition away from the office. This was due to all of our staff transitioning directly from the in-office experience where they all knew each other well and were part of the culture. 

It was during the later phase of COVID WFH, when everyone had undergone extended isolation and new staff members had joined us, that we started to see the impact on our culture and our mission.

The impact can be summarised in 4 words – Continuity, Clarity, Capability and Growth.

Continuity, in this context, includes maintaining a business’s culture, practices and institutional knowledge while also preserving staff development and advancement and integrating new hires into the business.

Clarity is having a clear view into the operations of the business. Some parts of this view can be found in reports. Other parts are found in meetings. Some parts are found only by in-person interactions and observations.

Capability is being able to execute at the level your business needs. The big challenge of running a business is you never have the perfect person for every role. You need to be able to work with the resources you have. But these resources might limit your options.

Growth is exactly what it is. It might be growth in product or service offerings or growth in size or growth in profitability.    

The impact of Work From Home on staff 

No-one can deny that people like working from home. At the same time, no-one can claim that everyone likes working from home or that everyone is better off working from home or that there are no negative consequences created by WFH strategies. 

What we found with our large team was that the people who fared best under work from home were in senior roles, had strong communication skills, and were in positions that required only minimal collaboration or reporting. Senior developers are an example of this kind of role.

On the other hand, we found junior developers were struggling to complete work. This caused them stress and in some cases anxiety. They suffered, their work suffered, and more pressure was put on senior developers to fill in gaps. But it was during lockdown and we all just soldiered on.

When we began bringing employees back to the office we found that many of our junior developers were still just that – junior developers. Despite the amount of time they had been with SoftwareSeni they had made little advancement in their skillset, including not just programming but the soft skills that are part of working within a team, as well as in carving out their own unique career path. We saw a similar slowdown in our mid-tier developers as well. 

We use a mix of formal and informal mentoring. Formal mentoring includes activities like shared planning sessions and code reviews. Informal mentoring covers all those little moments of learning and experience transfer that happen in an office. In an office environment it is easy to turn to someone more experienced for help when you get stuck. In an isolated environment like WFH, where finding a free coworker with the right experience and organising a video call and screen sharing is necessary to answer a question, that question might go unanswered, creating delays or resulting in a poorer quality solution. 

There is also learning by osmosis that takes place in an office environment. Being present while more experienced coworkers discuss problem solving and strategies for the problems they face is itself an opportunity for learning. 

You may be reading these examples and imagining solutions for each of them that don’t require working in an office. Just put a call out on Slack. Invite junior developers to Zoom calls. They look like solutions, but the level of friction in using them and the quality of the experience they provide results in worse results than simply being in the same space together. We know this because we had staff working from home for nearly two years using these “solutions” and things are going so much better now most of the team is back in the office. 

Bringing the team into the office is necessary for Continuity: continuity of our team members’ careers, continuity of inhouse experience, and continuity of “institutional knowledge” and our culture. 

Without this emphasis on maintaining continuity a business like ours with a team in the hundreds could see a collapse of our capabilities and our quality of execution drop to the point where we can no longer be competitive.

The impact of Work From Home on management

Goodhart’s law states “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure”. This law is about how when given a target, like a KPI, people’s natural tendency is to optimise their actions and find ways to game the system to hit the target.

During Work From Home we found something similar happening in our regular meetings. It wasn’t malicious, it was just the outcome of the team striving for efficiency.

Since, of course, all our meetings were video meetings, we adopted clear agendas for running our regular meetings. We all knew in advance what needed to be discussed and we got through them quickly and cleanly despite the inherent clumsiness of group video calls.

But once we returned to the office it became apparent that what was being reported in the meetings had become a streamlined, tightly focused delivery of the agenda items. Issues of all kinds had developed in the business but they had fallen through the cracks of our carefully planned and cleanly executed meetings. 

The issues had been allowed to develop because as everyone was sitting alone in their home offices they weren’t just physically isolated from each other, they were physically isolated from the issues. And almost all the issues were complex and identifying them as issues from a single perspective was unlikely. 

You can’t have a report for everything. You can’t have a KPI for every facet of your business. Workflows can’t cover every situation. But there are still countless factors that need to be monitored and dealt with. 

They’re different for every business, they’re different for every department, and they’re different for every team. Seal everyone off from each other and you may never be able to connect the dots.    

Clarity comes from having multiple views of the same shared experience. Clarity comes from secondary sources, back channels, passing comments, and interactions with the team. This is where recognising problems and solutions begins. From here they end up in reports. 

Your team might not be ready for Work From Home

This is where Capability comes into play. Your business needs to be able to run, survive and thrive with the team you have available. What you can do is constrained by the skill and experience of your team.

We found performance under WFH was dependent on the skills of the manager. WFH, and remote work in general, requires a higher level of skill to pull off than normal in-office team management. 

It takes time to adjust to the different management style. Again, like our meetings discussed above, reducing all interactions to video calls that need to be scheduled or coordinated changes outcomes. 

Simple things that don’t need a meeting to be shared, like job status, hours worked, and so on, are easy to monitor. Addressing them, however, along with other more subtle concerns, like engagement, role clarity, skill acquisition, morale, and work quality, is made more difficult by the inherently confrontational format of a video call. 

One of our main services is software development team extensions. Remote teams as a service, basically. You would expect that we would be masters of remote team management. But the teams are remote teams only for our clients. All of our team members, before COVID, worked out of our offices. Part of our service is acting as a secondary level of management or as a team support role for our clients. This was done in-person until the lockdowns. Which meant our team support staff had to learn the new skills required to manage remotely. Some adapted better than others. 

How to grow if your Clarity, Continuity and Capability are impaired?  

Some businesses rely on employees executing in roles with basic skill requirements. Other businesses rely on a small number of highly skilled employees who can execute independently of each other. These businesses can continue to do well under Work From Home or with a fully remote team.

If you’re like us, where your team is growing, where you need employees advancing between roles, and you need the resilience of a team where knowledge is shared instead of siloed, then Work From Home is not the best option.

Growth for a business relies on having a long term vision and the strategies that support it. For SoftwareSeni, our team is the heart of our strategy: growing our team, helping them develop their skills, supporting them as they grow to be important contributors to our company and to our clients. 

With people at the centre of our growth and success, Work From Home has been a disadvantage. It didn’t stop us from delivering for our clients, but it did slow us down as an organisation. A big part of that slowing was the result of difficulties being faced by so many of our employees.  

A return to growth

In January 2023 we started bringing the team back to the office. With a couple years of remote work experience throughout the organisation, we have been able to approach it with flexibility. 

Some roles are able to split time between WFH and RTO, and most roles are able to WFH on the occasion where a stint of independent work aligns with current requirements. 

Clarity and morale, which is really the keystone of continuity, were the first and most obvious wins as the bulk of our team returned to the office. No-one would say they enjoy a return to commuting, but the ease of working in a team that is physically present, in terms of efficiency, quality and camaraderie, does help ease the pain.

The WFH period has left us a more flexible team and a more resilient team. This increase in capability is contributing to a new burst of growth as projects and inhouse programs that were planned during COVID and were waiting on our return to the office are now being implemented.

Not every business needs to work from an office. And there are probably very few businesses that need every team member in the office every day of the week. 

Looking at your business through the lenses of Clarity, Continuity, Capability and Growth, like we did, provides a clear structure for helping you decide where on the continuum between Work From Home and Return To Office your business needs to place itself.

How to recruit software developers in days instead of months

Despite all the tech layoffs it’s never been harder to find, filter, and hire experienced developers. Demand is through the roof for these roles, making recruitment long and arduous while all you want to do is get your app to market and keep revenue coming in. There is a shortcut that will get you the dev talent you need, but you will have to think outside the box you’re in.

There really is a developer shortage

And it’s getting worse. In the US, software engineering positions are expected to increase 22% by 2030. That means about 190,000 new jobs opening per year. But there are only  ~53,000 computer science graduates per year. Even with the tech layoffs in January 23 of roughly 40,000 that still leaves a shortfall this year in the US of 100,000 jobs.

The same thing is happening in Australia. There will be 100,000 unfilled software related positions by 2024. But Australia is graduating only about 8,500 (domestic) computer science students per year.

No wonder it can take months to recruit a software developer.

Use a team extension to hire developers fast and affordably

Team extension, also called a dedicated team, extended team or extended development team, is basically remote workers taken to the next level – featuring dedicated management, lower risk, and reduced costs.

In a team extension you work with a team extension vendor like SoftwareSeni to access their pool of software engineering talent. 

In SoftwareSeni’s case, we use a mixed onshore/near-shore model. You work directly with a project consultant based in Sydney, Australia. The SoftwareSeni talent pool is based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia’s tech hub. This provides a large time zone overlap for Australian businesses that makes developer integration relatively painless. 

To increase your team headcount you discuss with us your project and the skills and experience you’re looking for. SoftwareSeni then provides a shortlist of candidates for you to interview and select from. What can take 2 or 3 months (including negotiating salaries and paying $$$ to recruiters) is completed in as little as seven to fourteen days, with you knowing at the outset what your costs will be.

How is a team extension different from outsourcing?

In this era of remote work a team extension is no different to normal team members. The developers show up. You manage them and assign them work. They do the work. They attend meetings virtually. Just like the rest of your team. 

However, unlike other remote team members, they work out of the vendor’s premises. SoftwareSeni provides a second level of supervision that your other remote team members won’t have. This helps to ensure delivery of the high quality of service we provide all our partners. We also provide your team extension developers with technical and human resource support functions you don’t need to fund or deal with. 

Unlike a typical outsourcing arrangement, you are in complete control and have complete overview into the work your team extension developers are doing for you. And you can always talk to your SoftwareSeni project consultant if you’re not sure or have any questions or need insights.

How to start the rapid hiring process for your next developer

Start the process to hire your next developer in days by speaking to us. At SoftwareSeni we can help you to quickly finalise experience and skill set requirements based on your product goals so you can keep moving forward. At every step of the hiring process you’ll be in complete control of decisions and costs and be able to scale your team extension options up and down to match your budget.

Contact us to hire your newest developer, start building your team and keep your business moving forward.

The simple secrets to making your extended team work


This guide will touch on engaging an extended development team and what processes you need to have in place. Following that will be tips on how to bridge the gap between local and remote workers and how to keep the team working smoothly. All the information comes out of our years of experience helping clients make the most of their SoftwareSeni extended development team.

If you’re unfamiliar with the terminology, this article on the extended development team model and what you need to know might be a good start. If you’re after a quick, general summary read the FAQ on the extended development team model.

If you’re still undecided about engaging an extended team you might want to read this article on how a team extension can help you do everything you want but can’t. The information is useful for anyone looking to engage an extended development team or has an extended development team and could use some pointers. If that last one describes you, some of this information might be arriving just in time. Building a cohesive, high-performing hybrid local/extended team starts from day one, but it is an ongoing process that can always be improved.


Covid radically changed experience and expectations

At the beginning of 2019 experience with remote workers was rare. Now it’s almost universal. But there is a difference between managing a remote team member and integrating a remote team member with a local team. Software development veers between an independent and collaborative process. Your processes need to be able to support both types of working while maintaining cohesion across an extended team.

We have seen the greatest success with remote teams from start-ups and scale-ups that have a mature Agile process in place. This maturity might be due to the business having a history with Agile or its developers bringing that experience. The Agile methodology works great with remote teams. And all the developers in the SoftwareSeni extended team pool are experienced in Agile.


The burden of hiring is on us

Hiring a new developer can take months. Assembling a full team — it doesn’t bear thinking about. At SoftwareSeni we’ve already handled the time-consuming part of the process — vetting, testing and interviewing. We operate in a market where we can be selective and our in-house culture has created high retention rates. This means the developers in our extended talent pool are capable, experienced and have helped multiple clients successfully complete their projects.

For you, our hiring process and experienced developers means selecting your preferred team members, conducting confirmation interviews, and commencing onboarding can be completed in days instead of weeks.

Making it work from day 1

Having a streamlined onboarding process for your extended team members can save a lot of headaches. We supply your extended team with workspace, a development machine and all the support they need. On the software side, which is your territory, the best practices we regularly see use an automatic process to set up the tools and repositories the developers need to start working. These processes have made use of scripts, Puppet, Ansible, and docker.

The worst practice is a specialised development environment with poor documentation that takes a developer days to get up and running. Don’t make the mistake of treating onboarding as a technical test.

Provide multiple avenues for communication

Think of onboarding as the time from a developer accepting their role and being able to complete sprints independently. At this point they are familiar with your business, the code they are working on, and how your team operates.

They’re professionals. They’ll get there, but how long it takes to get there can be shortened by providing rapid feedback in the early stages. This is when they are learning their way around your codebase. A tool like Slack, with a channel monitored by a team leader for this purpose, will let them quickly get answers they need to skip over any roadblocks. Issues that require more than a few lines of chat can jump over to Zoom or Google Meet or other video conferencing with screen sharing to move rapidly to a solution.

Video conferencing, for stand-ups, code reviews, and even virtual team gatherings for social occasions, is vital for building the familiarity that bonds hybrid core and extended teams together and keeps them moving towards the common goal — your success.

The message here is to not treat your extended development team as a black box – instructions in, code out. Integrating them fully into your team is key to achieving the benefits of investing in an extended team.

What happens if the extended team isn’t perfect?

Just like any team, there is a chance issues might develop within your extended team. SoftwareSeni has fully documented processes in place to resolve these. These processes remind us that we are dealing with people, not programming machines, and provide an ethical and supportive path to a solution.

If a problem with an extended team member becomes apparent in the first two weeks of working with you, we will work with you to find a solution. Sometimes the solution is to release the team member and engage another. In this case we don’t charge you for the hours already worked.

If a problem arises after the initial two weeks, we will put more effort into finding a working solution. This will be in consultation with you and will include clearly specified milestones and dates. Our goal is always to keep you on track. In the event our shared plan does not deliver the results you need, we’ll begin a new team member selection process.

This process is explained in more detail in our Performance Management Policy document that we share with our potential clients. Get in touch if you’d like to see it.

In the end it’s about the team

In-house team or in-house plus extended development team, the collection of people still needs to be a team. Each member needs to feel a part of the team. They need to know where they fit in. They need to know their work is appreciated. They need to understand that they are part of your success. This comes from working together, overcoming challenges together, and celebrating the wins together.

It takes discipline and practice to achieve the cohesion of a purely in-house team when you move to an extended development team model. By being prepared with your onboarding and focusing on regular, responsive and consistent communication, by being inclusive, and by addressing issues as soon as they appear, an extended team can expand what you thought was possible to achieve.

If you’re ready to achieve more, contact us to start building your extended team. Team extensions  are one of our core offerings. We’ve helped startups, scale-ups and SMBs punch above their weight in the marketplace with flexible, on-demand technical expertise.

How a team extension can help you do everything you want but can’t

SoftwareSeni team extension services help our clients do the impossible. Projects beyond their expertise, features outside their capabilities, services exceeding their budgets.

This article is going to introduce you to the team extension model (aka extended team model), show you how other businesses are using them, and get you thinking about what you could accomplish with an extended team and how it could transform your business.

Team extension in a nutshell

An IT team extension or developer team extension is a specialised form of staff augmentation. Rather than a patchwork fulfilment of roles within a business, a team extension’s purpose is to strategically target the skills and experience you need and integrate them cleanly and efficiently into your development process.

The extended team works just like the original team. They report to the same people, they share the same goals, use the same tools, and work on the same codebase as your existing team. 

Pre-Covid an extended team might have been a challenge, but now with remote work the new normal, global reliance on video calls and chat, your team has the skills and tools to work with an extended team, and working with the extended team members is now indistinguishable from your inhouse team.

Isn’t this just out-sourcing? And doesn’t that have drawbacks?

You might argue that team extension is just out-sourcing. The extended team is out-side the office.But with out-sourcing you are handing over the entire production of a product, along with any control you might have, to a third party. 

With a team extension you maintain complete control. Your extended team participates in stand-ups, meetings, and planning alongside your existing developers. And unlike out-sourcing, they are dedicated solely to your project. You, or your project or product manager, decides where their time is spent, just like your in house team members. 

This does require that you have the ability to manage the higher headcount and the complexities that might bring to scheduling, communications and prioritisation.

So a team extension is about getting cheap programmers?

No. It is about accessing talent. Team extension often makes use of programmers in off-shore and near-shore markets. Depending on your local market and the competition for talent, they may be the only way to access the skill sets and experience you need. 

The SoftwareSeni talent base is near-shore, based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, a national tech hub. This provides a great time zone overlap, unlike other locations. And our talent base are all developers we’ve worked with across multiple projects. Some have been with us for years. 

Having access to a pool of proven developers is an incredible advantage. The biggest advantage you should care about is time. Speed of execution. There are multiple financial advantages, which we will outline later, but the time advantage is where we think the extended team model pays dividends.

The time advantage of an extended team

When you think about adding to your head count you automatically think about how much faster work will be completed and how much more quickly goals will be reached. Mostly true, though the Mythical Man Month would say temper that vision with a grain of salt. But there are even more important ways team extension gives you time advantage.

Reduced time to productivity

Time to hire can be months, particularly for in-demand skills. Between waiting for viable candidates to apply, interviews, negotiations, resignation periods, and onboarding, you can lose a big chunk of a year making a single hire. And if you’re building a team with interlocking skills the time before the team is operating at the level you need can be even longer. 

Extending your team through SoftwareSeni reduces the interview process to assessing team and organisational fit. You choose the pre-vetted candidates you want to talk to. That’s it.

Less time to integrate them

After finding a developer someone on your team needs to make space for them, find them a desk, purchase and prep a computer, get their details into all the HR and payroll systems. 

You don’t need to do any of that. We provide all of our programmers with the space and equipment they need to be productive from day one. All the administration is handled by us as well. For you, they are there to help you meet your goals from day one.

Shorter time-to-feature

At this point – team selection complete, new developers onboarded and ready to go – you’re already a couple of months ahead. With professional project management, your extended team will be completing more sprints, increasing the feature count delivered each cycle. Or you will be moving forward on the direction that had been walled off to you because you didn’t have or couldn’t afford the resources.

The cost advantages of team extension

The upfront cost advantages of an extended team were implied in the section above. We’re not recruiters. We don’t charge fees for placing our programmers in your team. That will save you five figures per team member. 

Ongoing costs are set. You know how much you are paying for each extended team member. It’s a predictable number you can budget around.

Costs like office space, equipment and the like are zero. They are taken care of by SoftwareSeni. 

Despite all this, we don’t think you should be thinking about your extended team in terms of costs, but instead in terms of earning potential. Focus on what you can achieve with a team extension and how that will impact your bottom line.

The challenges of adopting an extended team

Any rapid increase in headcount can be a management challenge. This challenge is magnified by the remote nature of the extended team and the communication hiccups that can result from a multinational team.

You will need to ensure you have project management capacity in place to handle the increased head count. For some businesses, this is the greatest risk to an extended team and the most common cause of reality not meeting expectations. 

Finally, for a close-knit team it can take time to adjust to and integrate multiple new team members. 

All these challenges can be overcome. We’ve seen it happen. We’ve helped it happen. That is another benefit of a SoftwareSeni extended team – you’re not in it alone. Hire an employee and their problems are your problems. Extending your team through SoftwareSeni and we are there to support you and your extended team through the challenges and onto success.

You’re never too big or too small for a team extension

We obviously can’t go into details, but we think these brief examples will help you get an idea of how an extended team can be structured and what you can achieve with one.

Site production and support

A major media organisation uses an extended team of 3 part-time developers on a dedicated sub-site. The developers are split between implementing new features and devops.

Accelerator team

A startup in the energy marketplace increased their development capacity by 30%. Eight SoftwareSeni developers are currently helping them fast-track features.

Entire tech team

A two-person startup in the real estate market with a great idea and no technical skills built their entire product using a dedicated extended team from SoftwareSeni. That team continues to add features and keep the business running smoothly.

Full operation support

Another real estate services business runs their entire business with an extended team from SoftwareSeni. 75% of the team is software development and technical support. 25% of the team provides customer support. They keep thousands of paying customers happy.

What could you achieve with an extended team?

At this point we hope your brain is ticking over with the possibilities. You have some solid insight into the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing a team extension. You can see the unlimited upside.

The next step is to talk to us. We can help you turn those possibilities into a plan and make that plan a reality.

Contact us here. We provide extended development team services and staff augmentation.

If you’re thinking you might not be able to handle an extended, check out our article on the simple secrets to making an extended team work.