5 tips for better remote developer teams

Photo by Pascal Swier on Unsplash

With over 60% of developers surveyed in Terminal’s State of Remote Engineering Report 2022 already working fully remote, and with only 4% working full time on-site, it’s easy to see why more and more companies are moving forward with fully remote work models. 

New to working fully remote as a developer? Check out our tips below to help boost your WFH performance, with some hints from top companies working with remote developers. 

  1. Resist micromanagement

A lot of managers might have the instinct to double-down on micro-management when it comes to remote teams, especially if moving to a remote model from one that was previously office-based. But you only have to look at a few case studies from the world’s biggest remote companies to see that one of the main drivers for productivity is shared trust

Take GitLab as an example, a giant in the developer world, and a company who have worked fully remote from the start. Chief executive Sid Sijbrandij emphasizes the importance of allowing remote workers to complete tasks in the way that suits them, shifting the value onto the finished result rather than the journey there. “We measure the results people achieve,” he says, “And don’t measure how long you work to achieve them.” In fact, constantly expecting your development team to check in with progress reports and updates can be counterproductive and demoralizing; just let them get on with it

  1. Find the perfect software fit

A good worker never blames their tools, but a remote developer probably has a good case to do so. If you are expecting your remote team to deliver work reliably, efficiently and sustainably then you need to provide them with the correct tools to do so, some of which should be tailor made for remote teams; Zapier for instance has a host of functions to automate workflows for remote workers. 

There’s an almost overwhelming variety of options when it comes to choosing the correct combination of software to use for your unique team, and there’s no one-size-fits-all option. Trello or Jira? Slack or Discord? And of course the age-old question: GitLab or GitHub?  Employ a degree of trial and error, and encourage some feedback from the team actually using the software, and you’ll have found the perfect fit in no time (before you change your mind with the next update), easing the burden of remote work in a myriad of ways. 

  1. Document, document and document!  

However long you take deciding on the above tools and software, and however strong your communication processes are, at the end of the day you’re still not sitting next to each other. Keeping clear, consistent and up to date documentation and embedding this directly into your development process can make a world of difference by creating a culture of shared knowledge, and take the strain off of those communication channels by reducing unnecessary queries. 

Mattermost bake documentation into the onboarding process for new staff; making a change to the handbook is a prerequisite for any new starter’s second month, ensuring the onus is on the team to own their own knowledge and contribute to the shared information. With tools like Confluence making it easier to include collaborative documentation in a team’s workflow, there’s plenty of scope to make thorough reporting just another step in the cycle.

And for what it’s worth, the DORA State of Devops report found that a focus on documentation can play a vital part in achieving Elite team status. 

Photo by Vlad Hilitanu on Unsplash
  1. Culture is for life, not just for Christmas

Creating and maintaining a team culture can feel like herding cats if you’re new to remote working, but once you have a consistent calendar made up of both social events and daily non-work related drop ins, you’ll quickly see the positive effect that makes it worth building up.  

In their 2021 Remote Work Report, GitLab found 33% of remote workers enjoying virtual tea breaks along with 27% clinking the glasses (through the screen) with online happy hours. These small, everyday interactions can go far in building team culture, which can translate into stronger collaboration between developers. Buffer found that reducing social events like Zoom hangouts and speakers directly affected employee engagement, highlighting that culture should be a priority for remote teams as much as in-person – you might just have to try a little harder to build it. 

The good news is that remote socials open up the floodgates for more niche events which people don’t have to feel obligated to join, meaning almost anything can be an excuse for a meet! Why not take a leaf out of Zapier’s book, who organize knitting meets, video game groups and even special online events for team member’s kids to meet each other!

  1. Challenges = Opportunities 

You’ve built the culture, you’ve got the software, the documentation is doing its job: it’s all coming up roses! Until you realize you’re going to have to wait eight hours for a reply from Suzanne in Florida to find out how to get access to that all important prod environment. 

Yes, there are some obstacles that even the best remote teams can’t avoid and time is a good example. Working asynchronously as a remote team across different time zones brings with it another layer of challenges when compared to a more local remote team, but rather than give into the frustration of delayed responses, it’s possible to instead seize an opportunity to strengthen your team.

Having to wait for the other side of the world to wake up before you get an answer does wonders for improving the communication between remote team members, as every interaction becomes suddenly more valuable. Questions should lose any ambiguity and instead make clear and direct requests for specific information, negating any chance of misunderstanding and future clarifications, and answers be sure to cover all the bases. As Jared Brown, co-founder of Hubstaff points out, asynchronous remote working “initially looks like a disadvantage, but it quickly turns into a superpower”.

This is just one example of the solution to a remote-work problem actually improving collaboration and communication across a team. Across the board, you’ll quickly see there are real benefits to full-time remote working, including boosts to productivity and well-being. Using Adadot helps you track real-time metrics measuring you and your remote team’s performance, collaboration and well-being, helping you know where to push and pull and make remote success sustainable.

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