Remote working is the new norm in the tech industry. It’s no longer just a workplace fad but a solid corporate strategy for growth and employee retention.
Many organizations that didn’t offer this mode of working before COVID are now seeing its economic and flexibility benefits.
In addition, many professionals now believe that remote working will be a big part of corporate culture, even in the post-COVID world.
As a remote-first company we know that even though remote working has many proven benefits, it also has its downsides.
Our project managers have been facing many challenges when leading a fully remote engineering team.
Let’s look at some of those issues and what steps we took to avoid them.
Table of contents
Challenges of managing a remote engineering team
According to a recent report, 74% of the surveyed individuals felt happier working remotely than from the office.
“Like it or not, the pandemic has forever changed how we see work and how we carry it out. Thus, making the necessary adjustments to your corporate culture appears as a must-do when moving forward.” – Nacho De Marco, BairesDev CEO
Here’s how we managed to prepare our company for remote working and established a positive remote team culture so our engineers can keep being productive.
This is one of the most difficult challenges in a remote software development setup.
Many remote team managers are anxious because they can’t physically see how hard their team members are working or if at all.
At BairesDev, we solve this problem through the use of productivity metrics, i.e., metrics that track how much work an employee completes in a day.
They allow managers to summarize team productivity through KPIs and predictability of work.
Managers can then monitor their software developers for these metrics and determine their productivity.
Furthermore, our surveys show that 40% of people feel that they are more efficient when they are working from home. It positively impacts productivity and provides a better work-life balance to employees.
Enable easy communication and collaboration
Communication is a crucial aspect of software engineering. Managers need to know the status updates from each team member before creating a project completion timeline and responsibility assignment matrix.
They also need to know details such as who’s working on which task, what’s the timeline for a particular ticket, and if their time is facing any blockages.
In a traditional setup, this can be done easily via one-on-one conversation and team meetings (managers can call everyone in a meeting room for a quick chat).
However, due to time and distance constraints, these are difficult to fully implement in a virtual working environment.
At BairesDev, we understand the importance of communication. That’s why our teams use communication channels such as chats and video conferencing to address issues, suggestions, and all kinds of project-related information.
Our managers also conduct daily status meetings to clearly convey project goals and expectations to the whole team.
💡 Pro tip: Level up your online meetings with an interactive and engaging video conferencing solution especially build for remote engineering teams.
Approach cultural differences
It’s common in remote teams that people from different geographical locations and cultures come together to collaborate on a single project.
Even though this improves the overall diversity of the talent pool, it also highlights some cultural differences during the work process.
These cultural differences can lead to problems such as unclear understanding of goals, wrong expectations, nonadherence to deadlines, etc.
A cultural mismatch can also cause good employees to leave the organization.
Solving this issue requires strategic planning on the employer’s part.
At BairesDev, our leaders understand that company culture is a dynamic creation built with the values and contributions of the team.
It’s the remote team manager’s responsibility to realign their team’s culture and values to make sure that people fit into the new way of doing things.
Engineering managers can also use online cross-cultural training sessions to educate their team members about each other’s beliefs and working methodologies.
Overcome the lack of social connection
Remote working can sometimes lead to social isolation and loneliness and negatively affect morale and productivity.
It is difficult to replicate the feeling of belonging and community in a remote working environment, where you’re not able to physically see your team.
To counter this issue, BairesDev managers encourage employees to build social connections outside of work.
They also encourage casual conversations, relationship-building exercises, and virtual team-building sessions to cultivate team spirit.
Trust is an important part of software development.
Employers must trust their employees with confidential project details, requirements, and infrastructure access.
They also need to trust their employees to get the job done and this can be difficult when managing a remote team.
Building trust and commitment can take a very long time but our managers are always up-front with their employees ready to discuss any matter.
They understand the importance of empathy and appreciation, so they make a conscious effort to recognize their team’s contribution.
Schedule regular meetings
Oftentimes, remote teams are spread across different time zones. In such situations, tracking productivity and efficiency can become challenging especially if the manager is not working in the same time zone as the rest of the team.
Scheduling an impromptu video call is also difficult since people who aren’t online won’t be able to attend the call.
Furthermore, if there’s a critical issue or a production bottleneck, you want your on-calls to reply immediately. This can be difficult if your respondent works in a different time zone and is not logged in.
To fix such issues, our engineering managers can use tools such as 3veta for remote meeting management and scheduling.
When people work from different time zones, it sometimes becomes difficult for employees to set personal boundaries.
This can lead to the overutilization of resources.
It’s essential for virtual team leaders to identify signs of overworking and exhaustion since disconnected and exhausted team members make it difficult to complete work goals on time.
To counter such issues, BairesDev managers have regular check-ins with their subordinates to understand project direction and resource utilization.
They use project collaboration techniques to make sure that there is no mismatch of expectations between the employer and employee.
We believe personal boundaries should be accepted and encouraged in a corporate environment.
Remote work for the future
Managing a remote team is very different from managing a traditional one.
However, at BairesDev, we understand that the core principles of remote work remain the same: communication and trust.
If there’s adequate communication and trust between the team and our management, the management can efficiently identify project shortcomings and fix them before they affect productivity and deadlines.
Remote work is here to stay, so we need to make sure we are well-prepared and ready for what lies ahead in the business world.
Chris Taylor is a Business Development Manager at BairesDev. He offers strategic planning and works on improving and growing relationships with partners, suppliers, and clients alike.