How to maintain the well-being of software engineers working from home
The first thing that comes to your mind when you think of remote teams is something like: different people working from all parts of the world and distinct time zones on projects and having the same general goals. There are several reasons why this field is embracing remote cooperation and what used to be known just as outsourcing to cut costs is now the most efficient way to build high-quality software solutions. Even though lately companies are thinking about different ways to bring their employees to the office, remote working is still among programmers’ preferences. One study indicates that 74% of professionals expect remote work to become a business standard.
Leading a team of remote developers from anywhere is not always easy. Its management is a more delicate task and needs to be carefully monitored. To succeed in this period of remote work, we need to change ourselves and get used to this new environment and ways of working remotely. This article lists some tips that you can implement to effectively manage your remote developers and ensure that all your projects stay on track.
Organize Workflow – Set clear expectations and targets with your team
Managing tasks is a complicated and complex process. It’s common knowledge that projects are made up of tasks/subtasks, each of which has its importance in successfully completing the project. So, as long as you don’t have a system for coordinating tasks and projects, you will have difficulty meeting client needs. For example, imagine you’re managing a programmer’s team and developing exciting new software that could have huge results for your business. Your remote team might be equipped with all the latest tech tools they need, but if they’re not staying on top of their assigned tasks and don’t know clearly what the expectations are, all will be complicated.
The solution: Managing any team, remote or traditional, starts with setting clear expectations. While each person might have individual responsibilities based on their role, the entire team needs a set of guidelines that help them stay on the same page. Added to this, you are responsible for ensuring that employees have access to the resources they need from you when there is an emergency. So, if you don’t have a logical method for determining which workflow activities are high or low priorities, you will constantly scramble to rearrange schedules because you incorrectly determined the urgency of tasks. But, you can avoid this by using a clear template within your team, such as the Eisenhower Prioritization Matrix.
Improve Communication – Encourages social interaction
Communication is the most critical and complex ingredient of a successful work team. Unfortunately, having clear, effective communication can be difficult for remote teams. No immediate response and missed messages can cause people to second guess their messages. All of this can lead to higher stress levels, conflicts or issues, missed deadlines, anxiety, and unsatisfied customers. On the other hand, poor communication can affect your organization. Just imagine that you, as a supervisor assigned a project without providing any context, leaving your employees to tackle the project blindly. Then, when the project is nearing completion, you realize that it is missing key parts and does not meet all of the client’s requirements, forcing you to have your team redo much of it. What could’ve been clearly communicated from the start has now cost your team precious time and your organization money.
The solution: Remote teams clearly need different processes and tools to communicate effectively. Schedule times during the day when you’re available for brief sessions with remote employees and share your calendar to let them know when you’re available should they want to take the initiative. Another good idea is to have a chat room that is always open and doesn’t forget to hold regular meetings on Zoom. Within our team, we communicate more asynchronously. For example, when someone writes a message, we don’t expect others to reply right away. This means no one has to check their messages non-stop, allowing them to work uninterrupted. But we don’t forget to schedule weekly meetings with each team member, and every few months, organize town meetings with colleagues to encourage direct interaction and strengthen interpersonal relationships.
Workload Management – Understand your team’s work capacity
Some people are simply more resilient and motivated than others. This means each remote developer will have varying abilities to deal with the workload. For example, if you overwork your high performers, you will lose them because they start to resent the fact that they’re doing more. And if you’re taking away work from slower people, they’re going to lose interest. However, one of the problems of remote working is the increased difficulty in gauging how team members are doing and whether they can adequately handle their assigned tasks.
The solution: Establish a balanced workload where everyone on the team contributes, and no one is overworked or underworked. Of course, this kind of equilibrium isn’t automatic; as a manager, you will need to analyze the workload ability of different developers and accordingly manage their tasks. So, this strategy also creates a more even distribution of work, ensuring everyone can meaningfully contribute and prevent certain team problems from arising.
Maintaining Trust – Encourage and role-model transparency
Instead of seeing their team’s daily input, managers sometimes only see the output. Research shows that managers who can’t see their colleagues directly sometimes struggle to trust they are indeed working. Usually, when they have doubts, they can start to develop an unreasonable expectation that those team members be available at all times, ultimately disrupting their work-home balance and causing more job stress. Specifically, this lack of confidence translates into constant checking of assigned tasks, regular meetings to get things going, and the need to ask for confirmation of everything you do.
The solution: It’s not only about saying to your team that you trust her but also expressing it. More exactly, trusting your employees and knowing none of them will let you down are the most important things to keep in mind. As a manager, giving them the trust necessary to complete tasks on their own will help make them feel confident and valuable to the team. It’ll also encourage them to do a good job. For example, in our situation, instead of holding daily standups where the projects are discussed, a particular channel could be created on Slack where the materials could be uploaded. Here, you can find out what to do to build a team where employees work and feel well together to achieve company goals.
Set Boundaries – Establish rules of engagement in work
There’s always another bug, another feature, another deadline. So it’s easy to fall into the trap of saying “yes” to too many things, working overtime, answering an email, or coding on weekends. Software developers are prone to sitting in a chair and staring at a computer screen for hours. So, it’s hard to have a clear set of working hours when your team is spread across the country or the world, which means it’s always the wrong time for someone. Also, a constant cycle of 1-2 week work sprints can quickly burn out your team. Then, once developers are finished shipping out the product, they often have to jump right back into the planning phase. This is not sustainable in the long term.
The solution: Creating a work structure where developers thrive is key to avoiding burnout. Make sure you establish a work plan with your team that allows them to work efficiently, so they have time at the beginning of the day to prepare for work, during the day to manage tasks, and at the end to leave it behind. When you feel developer fatigue risks, you must encourage regular breaks, mental wellness, fitness benefits, and help prioritize workloads. As managers, you must strive to be empathetic, ask questions, and lead by example. Also, it would help if you encouraged them to make time for themselves; in this way, your employees will clear their thoughts and relax to come back with a fresh perspective.
Provide Feedback – Create a feedback-friendly culture in your team
Without direct contact, it can be challenging for remote employees to figure out exactly what’s asked of them and in what capacity. There are considerable discrepancies in providing feedback in a remote job. Managers usually don’t place much importance on giving feedback to team members, especially “positive feedback.” However, a lack of a feedback connection with the employee can lead to confusion about setting expectations, repetition of the same mistakes, and low motivation. For example, some remote team members will drift toward silence if left alone, they won’t always tell you if they’re struggling with something or won’t improve their work since no one offers them feedback based on what they do.
The solution: Find the right balance between positive and negative feedback. Be transparent, and talk openly about everything with each team member. For more severe issues, a formal meeting is appropriate or a discussion as part of a performance review. Still, building feedback into your day-to-day encounters with employees is a great way to develop rapport. Aside from providing input to the various team members, it is also helpful to take the time to request feedback from them. Once you’ve done this, it’s important to listen and understand what has been passed on to you. You will also have the opportunity to evaluate your role as a manager through employees’ eyes to see where your suggestions, interventions, behaviors, and actions have worked well and where they have failed. In this way, you will know how to proceed in the future.
Lack of Empathy – Observe, listen and show sincere interest in your team’s needs
A lack of empathy may be having a serious negative impact on your remote team, which, if not corrected, can break down his dynamics, especially if you don’t have a basic connection with each of your employees. In addition, this disconnection can lead to a wrong assessment of the team’s strengths and weaknesses, improper placement in different roles, or not fulfilling tasks in projects. As a manager, you may or not understand what empathy is at first. Although, over time, certain cultural utopias have been highlighted, and it has often been accepted that empathy is something you are born with, still, in reality, empathy is a skill that is learned. Empathy requires constant effort and attention.
The solution: Showing empathy for people’s situations and their emotions is the most important thing managers can do to help their team. So, empathy can become your superpower when dealing with difficult interpersonal situations with your employees. Try to observe different perspectives and why someone may be acting out of discontent, fear, or sadness. The best way to include empathy in your remote management is to build genuine relationships with your team. Knowing about personal interests beyond work helps create common ground, motivates engineers, and helps build a climate of trust. Similarly, by using humor in discussions with team members, they will be more open to communicating problems, expressing their opinions, and managing stressful situations better.
Appreciate Performance – Show team members you value their contributions
According to a study by Teem, roughly 48% of workers feel underappreciated in their roles. Every manager has certain expectations of each member of their team. But how many of them really appreciate an employee’s efforts and achievements in reaching the levels of expectations set? If you hesitate to do this, then over time, the motivation of team members will decrease; they will also not feel appreciated for what they do and will stop coming up with innovative ideas.
The solution: One of the most powerful ways managers can motivate their team is by giving them regular recognition for a job well done that is timely, specific, and individualized. Why? Because employees love recognition. Whether they’re doing that task that no one else wants to do or have taken the initiative to do something new, they don’t want their hard work to go unnoticed. In addition, software engineers are often introverts and prefer private rather than public recognition and would especially appreciate peer recognition for an outstanding piece of written code. Establishing a culture in which people regularly thank each other and express gratitude to their coworkers and staff can make a happy workforce.
Bonus Tip – One-on-one meetings
It’s probably the most powerful tool you have as a manager to learn about your employees, understand their grievances and perspectives, and coach them as they need. It may even be difficult for managers to get engineers to open up about their interests in the beginning. However, regular, one-on-one conversations will offer that opportunity. This allows your team members to talk about any difficulties they’re scared to bring up in group sessions. It’s also a good moment to check in with team members about their role and whether it aligns with their overall career ambitions. According to Gallup, employees who have regular one-no-one with their managers are 3x more likely to be engaged. In addition, increased employee engagement leads to increased productivity and performance.
Knowing how to manage a remote team shouldn’t be as difficult as it might seem. But at the same time, many challenges can arise in managing project tasks, motivating team members, keeping communication open, maintaining performance, and a level of trust between colleagues. By following these best practices for managing remote software developers and by investing wisely in the necessary resources, you can work through any obstacles you face on the journey to becoming a good manager for your team.
- Remember and plan when you can communicate with your people regularly and when to give them some space. Avoid letting the physical separation turn into disconnection.
- Get on top of your software team and carefully plan: one-on-one meetings, career development plans, an open communication strategy, and an empathetic environment.
- Set clear objectives and requirements within project teams. Don’t forget to provide and solicit feedback from employees in a context where they feel safe.
If we’ve made you curious about how remote developer teams are managed, we’re waiting to prove to you what a great job our team does. We design modern, easy-to-use mobile and web apps that meet your business and users’ needs. Also, we have gathered the finest developers, most of us from algorithmic backgrounds, the main reason why we love technical challenges and have no problems adapting to new ideas or products.