It’s been more than a year since most of the development teams started to work remotely due to the pandemic. For some of them, it wasn’t new, a lot of development teams work across the globe seamlessly.
But for some companies, it meant completely re-organizing the management style, introducing new remote tools and finding a way to build a positive company culture - even with people scattered around.
It’s never been easy to work efficiently and smoothly with remote people, and development teams are no exception.
Challenges are from both the employees’ and the management’s perspectives. Brent Gleeson of Forbes identified some key pain points when it comes to remote work:
- Lack of face-to-face supervision
- Lack of access to information
- Social isolation
- Distractions at home
- Enhanced issues with already existing silos
Those risks can lead to poor productivity, a slowdown of throughput and de-motivation of people. Well, nobody wants any of that, of course.
So the Tech lead has a front-row seat with the responsibility to motivate the troops. The question is, how to do that most efficiently? How to lead a better remote team? And how to make this happen on top of the normal daily (piling up) activities?
Here’s our take on some answers as developers working internationally and remotely ourselves.
Fewer meetings, more asynchronous communication
Working as a tech lead involves a lot of meetings, whether it’s for a project, quick check-ins, or reporting to the head supervisor. The more projects involved, the more meetings! The software development cycle requires many steps and sometimes it is hard to keep up with all the processes.
To declutter your email inbox and reduce meeting invites, privilege asynchronous communication. Document, plan, update and report using written documents and tracking tools so that you keep an ongoing communication. That way you won’t miss anything…
Unlike synchronous communication that blocks a fixed time slot, the information is automatically accessible when ready, no need to wait until 10 am sharp for a Zoom meeting to share the news.
That way, the teams can work continuously, without gaps. Here’s an illustration of Process St that perfectly compares Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication.
Build engaged teams while focusing on the outcome
It’s not easy to re-create the bond a team can have working physically in the same office. There is no body language, no coffee breaks or afterworks drinks, and fewer greetings. Tech leads have to be empathetic, they have to understand that working from home involves a new life and time management for employees.
Some of them might have kids, some of them have a cupboard under the stairs as an office, or some of them may suffer from social isolation. There are millions of reasons to be adversely impacted.
Be available to your team. Don’t be afraid to over-communicate. It’s important for your team to be in sync when it comes to daily tasks, responsibilities, and desired outcomes. As we mentioned earlier, lack of communication was already a problem with the physical team, so communication has to be even more an area of attention with remote teams.
If someone is blocked on fixing an issue, don’t hesitate to hop on a quick 1-to-1 call. If you are devoted to your team and you empower them, your team will be more dedicated to reaching the expected goals!
You can also build engaged teams by scheduling fun times. At Gitlab for example, they organize coffee chats via Zoom, and they have informal Slack channels where they can know more about each other and share funny pictures. Those moments are precious for developers’ mental health.
Rely on efficient tools to boost productivity
Choosing the right tools for your company is also an important step to more controlled management. But it is not just about adding Microsoft Teams or Slack to your toolbox - it’s about training the team to a new process and implementing rules. For instance, encourage people to use dedicated and public channels to share their questions instead of reaching out to you directly by email. Everyone will surely benefit from it!
At Keypup, we understand that development teams need to access the right data at the right time. So we implemented a cool toolbox of remote actions you can perform for your development project without jumping between Github and Jira tabs. The mission is to accelerate your pull request process and deliver software most efficiently, especially working remotely with your team!
Among our many Agile features built for developers, the Agile board gives you a clear view of all projects you’re involved in, in a prioritized way. It’s particularly useful for a Tech lead to see the progress of a project at one glance.
For smooth asynchronous communication, quick replies on items both in the Priority Inbox and allow you to comment on a particular issue or the whole pull request, your choice.
On the same note, if you’re looking for a better way to run retrospective meetings, we just released an easy and smooth retrospective tool to promote constructive feedback among team members, automate the preparation and the running of retrospectives, and above all - run them remotely without hassle.
Remote work is here to stay. It’s not a surprise that big companies such as Atlassian, Amazon, or Reddit announced long-term remote plans, allowing employees to choose permanent remote work, with options for in-office work in a casual environment.
What struggles did you face when you shifted to remote work? Share your experience with us on Twitter.