11 Tips for Managing Remote Software Engineering Teams
The software developer role is among the top 5 remote-oriented jobs in the world. After the pandemic, 92% of people expect to work at least 1 day per week from home, and 80% expect to work at least 3 days from home. Accordingly, fostering an environment and working conditions for software engineers to work remotely is inevitable. In fact, 75% of engineers want to work remotely, primary reasons being the lack of an annoying commute and a better work-life balance .
If companies fail to create an effective remote working environment, their developers will eventually find another employer who can meet their needs to work remotely effectively.
This article will give you 11 tips for managing remote software engineering teams, so you can adjust and improve your hiring, communication, and your team's collective output.
Why Hire Remote Developers?
The first and most obvious reason to hire remote developers is that your addressable talent pool is global . You immediately have a lot more choices for talent. It's actually a good thing you don't have to deal with visas and relocation packages.
Another reason is that many good developers are already in remote jobs. They have become used to a certain remote lifestyle and likely won't change that. As an employer, you must adapt to the growing market of digital nomads.
What are the Challenges in Managing Remote Teams?
Probably the biggest challenge with managing remote teams is asynchronous communication or a complete lack of communication. This can cause delays, duplicate work, or even wrong requirements being implemented in the product.
In an attempt to counter that, developers sometimes change their working schedules to have a bigger time overlap with their team members. However, this can easily lead to irregular working schedules and overworking.
Tips on How to Manage a Remote Software Developer Team
Luckily, you can surmount all these challenges by establishing some rules for the team. Stand-up meetings are a widely practiced SCRUM ceremony and have proven to be a very effective communication method.
It's also a good idea to hire developers who actually have worked in remote roles since they likely have more experience of self-management and are more goal-oriented than work-hours oriented.
Trust in the team, frequent communication, and feedback make a huge difference. Next, we're looking at 11 specific tips that you can implement to foster a more effective remote working culture within your software development team.
1. Stand-up Meetings and Scheduled Communication
Establish a stand-up meeting time and make sure to include all team members . Since the team is fully remote, you have to utilize video conferencing or text chat software like Slack to hold a stand-up meeting. This will allow for quick feedback loops on your progress throughout the day while also providing valuable face-to-face interaction with remote employees. A well-run stand-up meeting should take no more than 15 minutes so that participants can still get their work done afterward.
Schedule regular communication times during which people can discuss ideas, decisions, and general feelings about what is happening inside of your organization; this could be as small as one hour per week or as frequent as daily depending on what kind of information needs to flow between team members.
However, be cautious of video fatigue. The team at Solitaired improved their development team output and speed by moving their stand-up meetings to a written format. In the video meetings they had, they started writing email summaries and clearly outlining responsibilities.
2. Over-communication is Crucial for Remote Teams
One tip for managing remote software development teams is to "over-communicate." What does this mean? Don't just communicate as little as you can, which can create a feeling of insecurity among team members. Communication is critical when managing a remote team because you don't have the same level of informal rapport as in face-to-face interactions.
Another thing you can do is send follow-up emails after VoIP phone calls. This helps to ensure that all points are covered and that nobody has any unanswered questions.
3. Time Zones and "Common Time" for Synchronous Conversations
One of the biggest challenges is timezones. You need to decide whether you want a consistent "common time" or if it's acceptable for team members to work off-hours . The advantage of common time is that all team members are on at once and can have conversations in real-time , which means more collaboration and less miscommunication.
4. Look for Proof of Self-Management When Hiring
One of the essential qualities to look for in a software engineer is self-management. You want somebody who can think critically and find solutions instead of being told what to do. Self-managers also can see through other people's advice and execute accordingly; they are not chained by following others' instructions blindly without understanding why they're doing it this way or that.
5. Clear Onboarding and Product Vision
Straightforward onboarding and product vision is a necessity for remote teams. Clear communication about what the team will be working on, how they will work together, and their managers can help reduce confusion among teammates.
By providing clear expectations of roles and responsibilities and establishing an understanding of company goals early on in the process (even as early as employee training), you allow your new employees to hit the ground running with less stress.
6. Goals Above Working Hours; Goals That Inspire Results
Goals are more important than the number of hours your team works. You will never get a team to work harder by working them more hours. You don't want your employees to feel like they're on a hamster wheel. Instead, you want your team to pursue goals that inspire results. This is important because research has shown that employees will work harder and report to be 46% more productive when staff goals are aligned with organizational priorities.
Make sure your team knows what they're working on: Communicate with your remote teams (or any team) so that everyone is clear about the objectives of their projects. Make a habit out of updating them regularly on progress made or obstacles encountered. This way, you'll avoid getting blindsided when someone emails asking for an update; instead, you can proactively provide updates as they happen.
7. Tools That Support or Hinder Engineers
Good tools are a must for remote software engineering teams. These tools should allow for instant messaging, time tracking, file sharing, and scheduling.
A few in the list of great remote software engineering team tools are:
- Slack – works well with external members as it has a chat room option
- Google Drive – syncs files between devices, so you have access anywhere
- Zoom – video conferencing, which is easy to use and scales with your team's needs; also offers screen sharing functionality when needed; probably the best webinar platform
8. Invest in a Team Lead and Celebrate Small Accomplishments
When managing a remote software engineering team, it is crucial to have an onsite person who can connect with the whole team. This person should be able to take over tasks when necessary and provide updates proactively. It will also be helpful for this lead engineer to help celebrate small accomplishments to keep morale high among team members who are far away from one another. One way could be giving rewards to team members who have gone the extra mile or finished a critical job in time. It's good for team morale to give praise publicly, in front of the entire team.
9. Team Feedback Goes a Long Way
When managing a remote software engineering team, it is crucial to actively solicit feedback from the group. This will help build trust and understanding among team members. It can also prevent misunderstandings when regular staff members get back onsite or new hires arrive to understand their role within the company and expectations.
10. Building Trust With Remote Team Members
Since team members on a remote software engineering team lack in person interactions, it is vital to put emphasis on building trust with each other. This can be done through regular conference calls and short meetings for everyone to get acquainted with how they work together.
Another way of building rapport is by providing online tools that allow team members to share thoughts or inputs and provide feedback and encourage self-management among employees who are not always on-site.
11. Annual Get-Togethers, Even If Everyone Can't Make It
To be successful, remote software engineering teams need natural ways of building trust. This includes annual get-togethers for the team to mingle and socialize with one another in a casual setting to chat about their projects on an individual level. This is a great opportunity for team-building activities and events.
Key Takeaways for Managing Remote Software Engineering Teams
Managing remote software engineering teams is a critical part of the equation for creating a positive impact in your company. The challenge with handling remote teams can be people, time, or budget constraints. By following these best practices for managing remote software development teams and by investing wisely in your team members' success, you can work through any obstacles you face on the journey to becoming more successful as a business owner or a team lead.