Top Tips in Managing a Remote Team of Software Developers Efficiently

The digital age and people’s desire for greater job satisfaction are driving the upward trends in the number of gig workers worldwide. Almost all types of jobs, from data entry to complex software development, can be done remotely now. The Global Sustainability Research conducted by Morgan Stanley revealed that in the United States, the freelance workforce has grown three times faster than the overall workforce. Even big IT companies like Dell, Cisco, and Salesforce are acknowledging people’s need to work remotely and they are open to hiring more remote workers to be part of their workforce.

While remote work brings a lot of benefits to both workers and business owners, it is a set up that comes with some challenges as well. Apart from finding the right people with the right skill sets (a balanced mix of soft and hard skills), remote managers and business owners are subject to increasing pressure to provide and maintain a satisfactory work environment in order to keep their best talents.

As someone who employs and manages a team of designers and software developers from across the world and in different timezones, I can say that due to complex tasks and long hours of work, developers are prone to burnout. Many of them cannot stand politics or managers who constantly change projects’ requirements. The least that we, managers and remote business owners, could do is ensure that everyone knows what their responsibilities are and what is expected of them.

Here are my top tips for chief technology officers and remote software team leaders who are still figuring out how to find app developers and make them stay with you for a long time:

1. Keep the communication lines open

Set clear standards for communication while understanding the true reasons why people wish to work remotely. First, why do people want to work remotely? For flexibility. If you emulate an office environment, you will not attract employees that want to stay with you for very long. They’ll be there for the money grab but that’s it. People choose to go remote for personal happiness. Reasons I’ve seen include spending more time with kids or elderly, preferring to travel while working, having more alone time.

Once you understand their reasons, you can come to a clearly defined workflow for communication, including response times, best times of the day to have meetings, and what set of tools to use for what types of communication. The agreement would be something that works for their lifestyle while making sure they’re still accountable and responsive in the way that the company needs them to be.

2. Play your role as a manager or business owner.

One of the best practices for managing a remote team is providing people the tools that they need in order to do their jobs productively and efficiently. As their leader, your goal is to support them by making them feel that you’re ready to spend money on communication, project management, design, and testing tools.

People would be willing to think out of the box and use free tools, but if something is necessary for growing your business and it can provide ROI, then there’s no sense trying to save some bucks by not buying those tools. In reality, it will take them twice longer to do something if they have to find free tools first. Also, their job satisfaction is anchored on how well you equipped them to do their work. Effective leaders know where to invest resources.

3. Check in frequently

Developers are committed to delivering quality work and beating deadlines. They already understand how big their role is and how crucial it is to provide other remote workers a leeway to test the software for errors and bugs.

Most developers are critical thinkers and natural problem solvers. But, due to remote set up, they may hesitate to open up about the issues they’re facing. This may result in delays or mistakes. By checking in frequently, you’ll assure them that you care about them and that you’re willing to extend a hand to overcome roadblocks. This will also allow your remote workers to put their trust and confidence in you.

4. Have mini-retreats together

Collaboration is very important, not just for developers but for all workers regardless of their roles. While video calls and chat can serve as a means to collaborate with colleagues, nothing will beat personal interaction or face-to-face meeting. It may not be possible at all times, but when you invest in building relationships with your remote workers, they will be more motivated to work and help achieve the company’s goals.

5. Provide feedback

Make sure to acknowledge strong players in your team, but don’t beat around the bush when you think someone is underperforming. Developers appreciate feedback and if you point out their weak spots, you’re giving them a chance to improve themselves.

Likewise, as their leader, be open to receive feedback from developers who have a great deal of experience when it comes to successful project executions and even from those who have experienced failures. They’re the people who you can learn a lot from, regardless if you have more technical skills than them.

6. Value their time like you value your own

Because of the time zone differences, it may be tempting to bombard your freelancers with questions and instructions when you’re available to do so. But, don’t attempt to call them outside the agreed-upon work hours or when they’re on vacation leave. Doing so will make them feel that you’re violating the boundaries you have set mutually.

Also, don’t penalize them for errors by refusing to pay their hours to fix problems caused by those errors. Unpaid test projects are also a no-no. Don’t be a client or a manager that you would hate to work with yourself.

7. Deal with conflicts the best way you can

There are instances when people would encounter personal issues that would take them away from the job for a few days to weeks on end. When this happens, you should always have a back up in place (i.e freelancers or contractors who can work for you while your employees are not around).

Also, when there’s a conflict between members of the team or if a misunderstanding caused a big problem or major delays, do your best to mitigate any adverse feelings. Don’t put the blame on any of the members of the team or take sides, but be respectful and find a way to solve the problems. Get others involved if the problem is way out of your expertise or if you feel you’re going to be biased or emotionally involved.

Managing a remote team of software developers is not easy, but it is fulfilling especially if your team is creating custom apps or software that help transform people’s lives.