True Life: Remote Engineers


True Life: Remote Engineers


The business environment has changed drastically in the past few years, making fundamental differences in how we work. In March of 2020, myself and the rest of the engineering department were sent home armed with our desktop computers and some new web cams. The global pandemic had forced our business to rapidly adapt to a remote work environment. However, we found that working from home can be particularly challenging for engineers. How do businesses effectively communicate and collaborate on projects when team members are scattered all over the world? And how do you make your engineering data available for your distributed teams? 

In this blog, we will explore the modern trends and benefits of working remotely as an engineer. We will also discuss the challenges and solutions provided by the 3DEXPERIENCE cloud platform for data and project management.

The Reality of Remote Work:

It has become clear that businesses need to understand the complexity of remote work and take a logical approach to dealing with these new challenges. Remote workers face the risk of becoming disconnected from their colleagues and the company culture. The lack of social interaction and isolation can lead to reduced motivation and productivity. Access to specialized equipment, engineering data, and project information can also be limited when not working in the office. But remote work isn’t going away any time soon. According to a study by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, the number of remote workers has increased by 159% since 2005. In the engineering field, the number of remote job postings has increased by 85% since 2016. Furthermore, remote work in engineering and architecture is expected to grow by 11.5% from 2018 to 2028.

Businesses that aren’t currently offering remote work options for their employees are at a significant hiring disadvantage, competing for talent against other companies in an environment where potential hires are putting more and more weight on work flexibility when choosing an employer.  Most engineers that have had the opportunity to work from home say it’s an important benefit to them when deciding on an employer. A survey by Buffer found that 98% of remote workers would like to continue working remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers. These new challenges introduced by establishing a remote working environment has accelerated the development of collaboration and design tools that focus on flexibility and remote access to information in order to reduce risk and achieve a sustainable remote work environment. The potential to save money on infrastructure and improve employee mental health are great reasons to let your team have more flexibility in where they work, but these new challenges need to be met with the right solutions in order to realize these benefits.

Why Remote Works:

Despite the challenges, working from home as an engineer has several benefits. For instance, remote engineers have greater flexibility in managing their time, allowing them to schedule work around their personal life. They also save time and money on commuting, reducing their carbon footprint and improving their quality of life. Moreover, working from home can lead to increased productivity, as remote engineers have fewer distractions and interruptions than in a traditional office setting.

Benefits of working remotely or having a more flexible work schedule:

·        Reduced commuting time and cost

·        Increased flexibility and autonomy

·        Improved work-life balance

·        Increased productivity and job satisfaction

·        Access to a broader pool of talent

  1. Hardware

One of the biggest challenges faced by engineers working from home is the lack of access to physical equipment and tools required for their work. In design engineering, designers require powerful software and specialized hardware to create 3D models and simulations, which may not be readily available at home. Similarly, many engineers require access to specialized machinery and testing equipment that may not be present in a home office. Manufacturing engineers needs to be on site to analyze and optimize production processes. To overcome these challenges, companies must provide their remote engineers with access to essential equipment and tools. For instance, employers can provide designers with remote access to the software and hardware they require or make use of more cost effective cloud-based solutions. Mechanical engineers can use virtual testing and simulation software, while manufacturing engineers can leverage remote monitoring systems.

  1. Access to file database

Having secure access to engineering files while working remotely is a problem usually solved by implementing a VPN to access a local company server. Engineers often rely on large, complex files that require powerful hardware or software to manipulate and accessing large files through a VPN can become frustrating and reduce productivity. And this issue isn’t specific to engineers working from home. How can files be easily and securely accessed when visiting a customer site or even just away from your desk on the production floor? Do you bring your workstation laptop with locally cached files just to be able to display and manipulate the models? Maybe your company has computers on the production floor for accessing files. Do they have the right client installs and are they updated?

The best data management solutions will enable you to access files from anywhere, on any device, without client installs or required updates. Companies are making the switch from locally operated and maintained servers to cloud hosted file databases faster than ever. The reduced load on IT and simplicity of scaling in addition to the increased access to engineering files on any device with an internet connection and browser. This has enabled companies to overcome this challenge while also providing more data management functionality and file accessibility to their engineers.

  1. Communicate and Collaborate

Another challenge is the lack of spontaneous interaction and meaningful communication between team members. In an office setting, engineers can easily discuss their work with their colleagues, brainstorm ideas, and receive immediate feedback. However, working from home can make communication and building relationships difficult, leading to project delays and reduced team morale. This issue is even more significant when primarily communicating through email or other text based communication. A study by Albert Mehrabian, a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, concluded that when it comes to the perception of a message, the actual words hold the least actual weight compared to vocal quality and facial displays. But even when using video conferencing software, which has become an important part of remote work, all meetings have to be scheduled and spontaneous interaction is minimized. And large formal video conference meetings discourage most team members from speaking up. 

Communication issues can also lead to reduced productivity and ineffective design decisions when a team isn’t collaborating efficiently. Maybe there’s a senior engineer that has been in the industry for decades that has a lot of tribal knowledge concerning your company’s products or there’s a lack of documentation on your current processes. Also, how does your company keep track of the status of various projects, logically allocate available resources, and how are project tasks communicated and tracked? If you are currently using a project management tool, is it integrated with your engineering data? 

When part of your team is working remote without effective communication tools, it is easy for projects to stall or tasks to go unnoticed. To address this challenge, companies need to not only utilize modern video conferencing software, but also virtual collaboration tools such as idea generation and brainstorming social platforms, product specific file history and communication tools, and advanced project planning and collaboration software. And all of these tools need to be integrated with your engineering data instead of downloading copies to email or sending links to files. These tools enable remote teams to collaborate in real-time, exchange ideas, and provide feedback. Managers can also schedule regular virtual team meetings to ensure that everyone is on the same page and to discuss any issues or concerns.

  1. Design Review Process

Most engineers benefit from an environment of collaboration with more experienced engineers and a consistent stream of feedback on their designs. This mentoring process facilitates a deeper understanding of industry specific complexities and design best practices while also increasing productivity and project throughput. It also has the benefit of creating an environment where employees efforts and progress can be closely monitored which results in faster career advancement. According to a study by Forbes, employees with a mentor are promoted 5 times more often than those without mentors. Working remote can add complexity to this process and reduce the effectiveness of personal mentoring if the right design audit, markup, and communication tools aren’t implemented. How do businesses with distributed teams accurately present and discuss design concepts, compare different design options, communicate necessary changes, and encourage a consistent stream of feedback from mentors? According to a survey by Owl Labs, 31% of engineering professionals work remotely at least once per week, and 28% work remotely full-time. With so many engineers working from home, and more expected in the near future, business need powerful design review tools to prevent projects from falling behind schedule and providing a beneficial mentoring experience to their junior engineers.

  1. Work-Life Balance:

Perhaps the most important and most difficult challenge to overcome while working from home is maintaining a satisfying work-life balance and proper mental health. Many remote engineers will find themselves working along in an office in their house, often in a multi-use room. Without a clear separation between work and personal life, remote engineers may find themselves working long hours, leading to burnout and reduced productivity. Remote work can also lead to a lack of social interaction and isolation, leading to reduced motivation and mental health issues. There is something to be said about having your dog or cat available for affection 9-5 but even engineers need daily human interaction, especially interaction outside the scope of work. 

To combat these challenges, companies can encourage remote workers to specify boundaries between work and personal time. This includes establishing a routine, setting specific work hours, taking scheduled breaks, and avoiding working outside of these hours. Employers can also offer more flexible work arrangements, such as flexible hours or compressed workweeks, to promote work-life balance. Many cloud collaboration platforms also provide social tools that can be used both for work discussion and also less formal interaction and spontaneous discussions. Companies can also encourage regular check-ins and social interactions to ensure that remote engineers feel valued and connected to the team. Virtual team-building activities, such as online games, themed social clubs, and virtual happy hours, can help remote engineers stay connected with their colleagues and maintain a positive company culture.


Working remotely as an engineer comes with its own unique set of challenges and benefits. Many companies using these kinds of methods have had success and seen the benefits of allowing remote work. With the right tools, communication, and work-life balance, remote engineers can remain productive and connected. Contact your CADimensions representative to learn more about how your company can be set up for success with the right tools for your remote workers.

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