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10 Effective Tips for Managing and Motivating Your Remote Software Development Team

10 Effective Tips for Managing and Motivating Your Remote Software Development Team

While some companies used to offer working from home (WFH) as a “perk,” the Covid-19 pandemic has made remote work the norm. Studies predict that 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022. It’s estimated that nearly 36.2 million Americans will be working from home by 2025.

Remote work is more than just a trend. Now more than ever, businesses are leveraging WFH to hire global specialists and are dedicating resources to ensure workforce optimization (WFO).

A happy developer working remotely
Source: Brooke Cagle

With 77% of remote workers saying they’re more productive when working from home and 4 out of 5 employees recommending remote work, it’s no wonder companies are jumping on the remote bandwagon.

With lowered office costs, increased productivity, and happier employees, WFH is here to stay. However, the most significant challenge for most companies is not adopting remote work, it’s adapting old management styles and processes to get the most out of remote teams.

In this blog, we will cover the top 10 tips for making your remote team more effective than ever.

1. Make meetings meaningful

When it comes to remote teams, meetings can come with new challenges such as varying time zones, less in-person face-to-face contact, and feeling pressure to meet just to “stay connected.” This is where a pulse check comes in – regularly survey your team to get a sense of whether the current meeting frequency is appropriate and meeting everyone’s needs.

If you find that you’re having too many unnecessary meetings, consider implementing tools and processes to replace those meetings, such as planning poker for asynchronous story point estimation or automated sprint planning to avoid meeting to hand-off work. When using project management tools like Zenhub, we also recommend providing as much context as possible when creating issues, to avoid having to have meetings for clarification. Learn more about what to include in issues here.

“Context switching” caused by too many meetings scattered throughout the day is also a productivity drainer. To combat this, we recommend lumping meetings together and having company-wide “meeting-free” days, so that everyone can benefit from this.

2. Choose effective communication tools

With more powerful tools, you can remove barriers to communication like technical difficulties, missed conversations, lost documentation, and other ways messages may get lost due to unorganized or faulty tools.

For decades, tools such as Line2 have played a key role in serving online communications for corporations. Nowadays, there are many modern alternatives to Line2 that are more suited to remote working, such as Dialpad.

Additionally, development teams from all over the world use tools such as Zoom and GitHub for collaboration and video conferencing. Finding tools that integrate with the rest of your tech stack, such as a project management tool that integrates with GitHub, can prevent your tools from getting in the way of productivity.

3. Encourage transparency at every level

The traditional work hierarchy doesn’t need to change entirely because of remote work, however, if you notice a lack of transparency and visibility, it's time to make some changes!

Everybody should be aware of your company’s goals and the “why” behind crucial decisions. Understanding the “why” behind the organization’s goals gives teams a sense of purpose and an understanding of their personal impact on the organization’s success.  

One of the best tools to create more visibility on your team is the product roadmap, which allows everyone to see what they’re working towards and what to prioritize. Burndown charts are also great motivators for developers to see how much they have accomplished in comparison to the larger picture and how much they have left to achieve.

4. Hire people who have remote work skills

Remote working requires a different set of skills, such as exceptional time management and organization. Members of your remote team should have above-average levels of self-motivation, communication skills, and the ability (and desire) to work independently.

Take your time to vet the right candidate and consider what unique skills you may need from remote workers. Studies show that 28% of remote workers have a high degree of burnout, so it’s important to find talent that can understand their own work capacity and have the communication skills to let you know when a workload is unmanageable.

5. Take advantage of the time zone difference

If members of your team live in different time zones, this can be a big advantage for software development teams. Workers in different time zones can provide around-the-clock coverage during software outages and additional tech support during off-hours.

Source: Slack

Allowing your team to work hours more tailored to their time zone will also give them the comfort of working with a schedule that allows them to participate in normal social activities outside of work.

Additionally, some workers may prefer to work hours that aren’t considered “regular” for their time zone. Check in with your team about how they feel about their current working hours, and check out our tips for keeping dispersed software teams productive for more information.

6. Provide feedback & focus on career development

While most developers prefer a more hands-off manager to a micro-manager, being too hands-off can leave your team scratching their heads. Teams that feel they do not have a leader they can learn from may feel they need to go elsewhere to take their career to the next level. Regularly providing feedback improves the quality of the work produced and enhances your team members' career development.

Check in with your team to identify what they wish to learn and improve on, and then plan to help them reach those goals. Whether you're helping them secure funding for occupational training or taking time to train them yourself, you can make them feel confident they're in a place that values their development.

7. Reward your developers

As the team lead, your developers look to you for inspiration. Make sure you provide ample praise and gratitude to let them know they are on the right path. This may seem like a small gesture, but it goes a long way.

We’ve all worked jobs where we’ve felt underappreciated, it can affect our morale and our productivity. Taking the time to reward developers with formal recognition, bonuses, and other forms of recognition for their work can make them feel appreciated and spur them onto greater achievements.

8. Keep the engagement high with virtual hangouts

According to Buffer’s State of Remote Report 2020, loneliness is listed as a top struggle with remote work. Regular virtual hang-outs can be a great way to combat this, especially for your more extroverted team members. It’s important to try and provide the same perks in your virtual gatherings as you would in an in-person gathering – in other words, don’t forget the food and drinks! After all, would you enjoy an in-office “party” that didn’t have any food or drinks? We didn’t think so!

9. Measure the right success metrics

Nothing is more debilitating than feeling like your work isn’t appreciated because of what is considered a key performance indicator (KPI) on your team. Metrics like “number of lines of code” or “number of hours spent coding” not only don’t measure impact accurately, but they can be discouraging to developers and can lead to poor code quality.

Consider reevaluating what your team considers a KPI, and look at developer productivity benchmarks to get a sense of what a typical productive developer looks like.

10. Reduce busywork

Spending time updating project management systems and other tools kills creativity and developer morale fast. Consider using Workflow Automations or try automating your sprint planning cycles to reduce the amount of time your devs are spending not coding.

If you haven’t yet, consider implementing an agile methodology. Agile principles are all about keeping your team focused on tasks that make an impact on the business and avoiding coding tasks that can be classified as “busywork.”

Conclusion

Remote work is the new norm. And while many developers are reporting its positive effects on their productivity, that doesn’t mean forgetting to motivate and keep them engaged. Following these tips and continuously re-evaluating how your team works should help keep your team feeling motivated, appreciated, and united as they work remotely.

Jenna Bunnell - Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Dialpad

Jenna Bunnell is the Senior Manager for Content Marketing at Dialpad, an AI-incorporated outbound call centers communication system that provides valuable call details for business owners and sales representatives. She is driven and passionate about communicating a brand’s design sensibility and visualizing how content can be presented in creative and comprehensive ways. Jenna Bunnell also published articles for domains such as Attention Insight and AWeber. Check out her LinkedIn profile.

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