Tips For Managing A Remote Development Team

Remote team managers

Managing a remote development team well can take a company to new heights.

Key takeaways:

  • Managing a remote team requires communications, expectations, and procedures to be as clear and easy to understand as possible for teams to work effectively
  • Mastering remote team software and working different time zones into your plan fosters flexibility and satisfaction on a remote team
  • Maintaining positivity and transparency helps everyone remain on the same page and boosts employee engagement

After the pandemic hit in 2020, the world’s work culture completely changed. Companies have opted to adapt to the times, and remote work is quickly becoming the norm. Consequently, managing a remote team is a fairly new skillset for many, and one that much of the business world is wrapping its head around.

Coupled with the startup boom, this has given rise to remote development teams. Businesses and companies of all sorts are scouting out promising developers worldwide to build remote development teams and help remote workers achieve their company goals. Many companies are now aware that remote teams can help save significant amounts of money while producing excellent results.

However, managing remote employees spread across the world across different time zones isn’t easy. To produce the best outcome, you need strategic and thoughtful management. Even the most experienced manager will tell you that managing remote teams is its own ballgame.

So, in this article, we’ll discuss how properly managing a remote team can increase their efficiency and boost productivity — and hopefully make the whole software development experience enjoyable. For reference, a new study shows that remote work increases employee happiness by 20%, which is a great start.

1. Schedule communications with your remote team

Managing a remote team via video

Video conferencing is essential to managing a remote team.

With your team members reporting from different parts of the country or the world, managing time and having constructive communication is crucial.

Maintaining a tight, clear schedule keeps the team up to date with everything that’s going on and helps organize their workflow. Having clear communication makes sure everyone’s on the same page and can foster fresh ideas organically.

Not maintaining a schedule of meetings or regular check-ins may cause communication gaps, disruption of workflow, and delays.

When developing a schedule, make sure all employees know how to access it and just what’s expected of them — and follow through on responsibilities. For example, if weekly or daily check-ins are your thing, stick to them. Frequently cancelling or delaying meetings can be frustrating for employees, who may start to doubt if the meeting is going to happen or not and resent feeling their time is wasted. If a meeting does need to be pushed, give employees as much notice as possible as a sign of respect.

2. Specify Work Procedures

Remote worker at home

Taking a break to stare out the window is one of the upsides of remote work.

  • Create a guideline and specify procedures: This is one of the most important things for remote teams. It will give the team a clear idea of what to do and how to approach it. Tell them exactly what you want in detail – so they can understand your goals. These guidelines need to be done in writing and be available at all times for remote workers.
  • Set clear goals: How efficient your project is will depend on your communication with your team. Share your vision with them and give them a clear description of what you want. Clear expectations regarding deliverables, communications, and a transparent company culture can help foster a viable remote environment.
  • Set expectations and provide detailed answers: Having well-defined tasks makes it easier to review project requirement documents to ensure remote workers incorporate all functionalities. Deliver the information requirements of the product passed down by your IT manager to your team.

Establishing specific check-in times can keep everyone on task without requiring micromanaging. Since remote workers work, well, remotely, having face-to-face meetings can feel like a blessing to those craving a bit of social interaction. When you’re establishing communication protocols with your team, discuss what communication tools you’re going to use and how your team prefers to talk. Perhaps some remote team members are keen to chat on video calls. Other may be loathe to.

A manager has to navigate the vagaries of employee desires and figure out the Goldilocks zone of communication. Some employees love team building exercises and get-togethers. Others can’t stand either and feel they get in the way of work-life balance. The smart thing for a manager to do is simply ask their employees what they think about such ideas before implementing them.

Regardless of how and when you meet, it’s valuable to have a quick summary session with written takeaways available as a reminder for team members.

3. Make Use of Remote Project Management And Communication Tools

Remote work videoconference

Having the right tools makes managing a remote team much easier.

For your team to collaborate remotely, they’re going to need specific collaboration tools for specific tasks. For a seamless workflow, a remote team needs project management software, a file-sharing service, email, video conferencing software, and an instant messaging platform.

Here are some of the most popular tools used by professionals while managing a remote development team.

Github

A holy grail for developers across the world, especially for remote collaborations. The best code hosting platform. It lets you collaborate with teams, review and update code, and manage projects. It’s available on both macOS and Windows.

Trello

Trello is a simple project management software for remote teams. With this, you can create different boards for different projects. You can use cards and lists to help manage tasks. You can specify cards with descriptions for different team members – where they can collaborate and comment.

Slack

Slack is a communication platform used by remote development teams. It lets you create several channels and dedicate spaces for your team to communicate with each other. With its direct messaging and private channels, you can talk to your colleagues without engaging with the whole team. It’s available on macOS, Windows, Android, and iOS.

Google Drive

Google Drive is one of the best and most used file storage and file-sharing services out there. Google Drive played a huge part in making cloud storage mainstream. Developers can use Drive to store and share documents via the cloud. It’s incredibly secure and is available on all platforms.

Zoom

Zoom took off as the most popular video-conferencing app during the pandemic. Up to 10,000 participants can join a call at once. It’s currently the default choice for online meetings. For many, Zoom has been a symbol of the shift to remote work and virtual teams, and represents a seismic shift in work environments everywhere.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams’ platform is an excellent way to manage large organizations, as it scales especially well. It’s quite flexible, available in a browser, as a desktop app, or a mobile app. When combined with Outlook, it can tackle any remote working task, including video conferencing, chat, file sharing, and more.

4. Master Different Time Zones

Remote worker with cat

Remote workers are often in different time zones, and may have feline assistants.

A good remote development team is self-sufficient. They need to know how to tackle work and organize everything. Having to work with people in different time zones may seem like a big hurdle – but you can use it to your advantage.

You can have different developers manage different tasks like testing and quality assurance. Some developers need to work on the front end, and others on the back end or APIs. By assigning different developers to handle various specific tasks, you’ll achieve around-the-clock efficiency.

If your developer lives in a time zone ahead of you, then it gives you sufficient time to review the work and give feedback on the same day. On the other hand, if the developer’s time zone is behind yours, then you can prepare everything beforehand.

So, having different time zones can be an advantage rather than a handicap.

5. Reward Your Team Members

Relaxed remote worker

Keeping your remote team’s morale high can lead to great results.

Complimenting your team members when they’ve accomplished something or reached milestones is a great way to lift their mood and boost their morale. Kick things off on a high note by praising the team for their excellent work so far. This will help them give their best to the project. Then explain what you like about the course of the project. And provide them with constructive praise so they can understand that they’re moving in the right direction.

Giving gifts to your team members holds significant value. It shows appreciation for them. They can be small presents like mugs, t-shirts, or anything useful and tangible. Of course, cash bonuses are always appreciated as well, and are simpler than sending gifts across the globe.

Keeping your team’s spirits high can significantly boost their performance. Ensuring team members’ mental well-being can help prevent burnout, which is quite common when there’s little separation between a work environment and home.

6. Be Transparent

Happy remote worker

Being open and honest is key to keeping your team happy and productive.

The leader should be transparent and open with the development team. Keep them informed about what’s going on in the company, what goals they have, important decisions, or any changes in the company’s strategies. One complication of managing remote workers is that team members can often get siloed into their specific role and don’t have a full grasp of what others at the company are up to.

The water cooler talk that normally happens with face to face interaction in the office doesn’t happen as naturally online. Consequently, information that employees can glean through daily conversations isn’t as readily available.

For this reason, a weekly or monthly wrap-up letter from the remote manager can help inspire teamwork by letting the remote team know what everyone is up to. People who have a more holistic sense of what’s going on at the company can make more informed decisions and get a better feel for company culture.

This will build trust and help them understand company goals. Enabling them to work towards those goals. So, transparency is key to achieving company success – so, be transparent while managing a remote development team.

Managing a remote team with SmartDev

We’re comfortable saying we’re pretty good at managing a remote team. So, when you work with us, you’ll get the expertise we’ve developed in managing our own team — and we’re more than happy to share that expertise. With our explosive growth, we’ve had to learn a lot.

Whether you’re looking for a fully autonomous development team or developers to temporarily join your squad, we’re flexible, able, and eager to help. Want to see if working with us is right for you? Curious how we do things? Reach out to us for a free quote and we’ll show you how we can help.

Closing Thoughts

Remote team management is a fairly new skillset, and takes some work to get right. Managing a remote workforce well can ensure team cohesion, give team members freedom while keeping some of the positive aspects of the physical workplace, and help maintain a healthy company culture.

Keeping communication clear and open, with regular check-ins, team meetings, and effective use of remote platforms helps keep everyone on task. Ensuring tasks and requirements are well-defined can prevent confusion and help workers reach goals. Making sure employees are mentally healthy maintains their sense of well-being, which will help maintain employee engagement and loyalty.

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