5 Practices For Managing Remote Development Teams

If you are used to on-site work it might be difficult to figure out how to manage remote development teams. But it is no secret that the future of work is rapidly changing, embracing remote and hybrid models. What are the most important tips for managing remote developers? Let’s take a closer look:

1. Hire Well

Ultimately, quality employee management begins with hiring a good fit for your company – not only the technical requirements for the job, but the general vision, values, and work practices. To learn more about how to define your organization’s culture and hire in accordance with it, read our article Culture Fit & Remote Hiring: How We Do It.

This is especially true for remote teams, as you might find it harder to pass those values onto the new employees in a distributed work model. Therefore, make sure the developers you hire not only have the skills to accomplish the tasks but also understand and support the values and ways of your team. You want them to be able to communicate their problems well and are not afraid to ask for help or guidance. Moreover, it is important to look at the programmer’s CV and see if they stayed with other companies for a long time – this shows their ability to commit. Otherwise, you might find yourself trying to micromanage their every step, which is a definite sign of bad management.

Choose The Right Kind of Remote Recruitment

First of all, it matters which recruitment model you choose – outsourcing, freelance, or outstaffing. All three imply remote work, but the degree of management varies greatly. Outsourcing companies have their own project managers who oversee the execution of the task that a member of your team passed on. Thus, outsourcing does not actually imply managing remote developers directly. Freelance software engineers need to be managed, but not in the same way you manage your own employees. The obstacle with freelancers that many tech managers face is their individualist spirit, a tendency to do everything in their own way which sometimes ends up requiring a higher budget or a longer time of implementation. All in all, freelance coders require a lot of your trust in how they will execute the task because managing them might prove to be difficult. Outstaffing, on the other hand, resembles traditional recruitment the most, as it allows you to fully manage the employee. To find out more about how you can hire an experienced full-time programmer on a limited budget, read our recent article The Ultimate Guide to Outstaffing.

2. Make Sure Everyone Is On The Same Page

Choose systems of communication, documentation of decisions, and task management, and stick to them. There are plenty of options for each of these functions. However, the objective here is to make sure everyone uses the same apps and understands the importance of checking with one another through the same channel. If different members of the team use different communication channels, some document their decisions, while others don’t, you are destined to run into a mess of miscommunication and miscoordination that is more difficult to untangle in the remote work model than it might have been if the team was colocated. All in all, simple and clear use of applications (like Trello, Notion, Slack) will free up everyone’s time for more productive task execution. Some apps could even allow the team if not work asynchronously then at least minimize the number of virtual meetings that are shown to be draining.

3. Share the Vision

First, we need to differentiate between the company’s culture and the vision for a single project. Your company’s culture is a set of values and practices. The vision is however created for each project or product your company works on. While corporate culture alignment is important to find the right people, the vision must be communicated clearly for each project.

You might think developers don’t need to know every step of the product’s lifecycle, but in reality, it allows every department to maintain the same picture in mind. This, in turn, helps avoid miscommunication and over-communication. When you keep every employee in the loop of the main factors of the product’s development with short meetings or even emails, you won’t have to answer each of their questions individually or deal with a misalignment of visions.

4. Invest in Your Developers’ Growth and Well-being

The well-being of your employees directly influences the results of their work. Therefore, instead of pushing for the quickest results of every single project, invest in the growth and comfort of your developers.

Check-Up.

It starts with simple check-ups: give your team a chance to speak up about the changes that would like to make. It can be anything from the equipment they use at work to their emotional well-being. Outside of discussing the ongoing project, create opportunities specifically to discuss other matters. The atmosphere of open communication will help the programmers feel valued not solely for their skills but as individuals and members of a team. Furthermore, it will allow them to be more vocal in projects-related meetings which, in turn, will drive innovation across other work processes.

Facilitate Socializing.

Remote workers frequently face feelings of loneliness and isolation. In order to keep the team spirits up, managers ought to create special times and/or spaces for their employees to communicate informally. Whether it’s a Slack channel, a Discord server, or allocated hangout meetings, make sure your devs know each other! Using the previous tip, ask them how they want to communicate and allow them to choose the method that suits them best.

Support Education & Growth.

Developers often are caught up on the trends of their field and know before you do which skills (languages, frameworks) they need to learn next. Allocate company resources to support your engineers’ further growth. That will show them that you value them and invest in their future in your company.

5. Don’t Micromanage

Micromanaging is a common mistake of the managers who transition to remote work. Being unable to see the work process in real life, many are inclined to be more controlling of their employee’s work. Find that fine line between leading, pointing out mistakes, advising, and taking over the task, solving the problem. Allow your coders to come up with solutions to emerging problems, new better ways to arrive at the desired result – this will allow them to grow and become better. You are there to make sure the workflow of the whole team runs smoothly. You can guide, provide your experience to learn from, but once you start solving the problem they came to you with instead of giving them ready answers.