Productivity

5 Tricks to Manage Your Remote Development Team

Development teams are more spread out than ever before. How can a manager best oversee a remote development team?

Introduction

The height of the pandemic has hopefully passed, but the way we work has switched forever. We’ve switched to online communication and seem to cope with it successfully. Some learned to balance work and personal life while staying in one location. Others liked the freedom of working wherever they wanted and having a flexible timetable.

Remote work isn’t a fad. It’s a way of doing things for many businesses, requiring innovative approaches to team management. And IT professionals are the most adaptable to the remote or hybrid style.

Recruiting now happens online. The same applies to employee onboarding. Whether you’re looking for outsourcing developers or handle your geographically dispersed team, you may encounter similar problems. How do I ensure effective communication? What if someone neglects the things I consider important? How should I establish effective work from a technical point of view?

Being a Magento development company, we aren’t immune to these troubles while developing eCommerce websites, battling common Magento 2 migration issues, or finding experts in supporting Magento support and maintenance. But we bridge the distance with the help of specific resources and by honing our managerial skills.

Read this guide on typical remote management challenges and tips to overcome them. I’ll also share the best tools, making your life and work easier.

Challenge 1: Lack of Personal Communication

Without a doubt, in-house interaction provides more opportunities to resolve problems and send the right message. It is easier to distribute tasks between team members and give some accompanying advice.

The lack of personal communication is the leading remote work shortcoming (although a benefit for some). It’s hard to build rapport and adjust the schedule for different time zones. Furthermore, you can’t convey the tone through a text message without facial expression.

How do you keep in touch with the distributed team? You can’t do without regular calls. 

How to handle it: finalize a proper communication channel with your remote or hybrid team. You can even call each other on the phone or interact in messengers such as Slack, Skype, mail, and social networks.

Virtual meetings should be brief, relevant, and consistent. Give your colleagues a heads-up before holding a meeting, so they know the topic and main points of the conversation. 

A successful remote team needs clear communication policies. Define appropriate messages for each communication channel. For example, a chat ticks all the boxes for solving minor issues. So does creating a quick work instructions guide. Or you can have a one-on-one call. Major questions may require holding a department meeting with the entire team.

Challenge 2: Are the Employees Productive?

When it comes to the challenges of managing an offshore team, it’s sometimes hard to track their progress. Some managers may picture an employee sleeping, walking or doing anything else but work. As a result, team leaders end up over-controlling their subordinates. My advice is to be reasonable with monitoring a remote team.

You can track your employees’ progress all the time or at so-called checkpoints. Specialists will be stressed if you overdo it with time tracking tools because they are constantly “rushed” or watched. Such monitoring is counterproductive for both you and your employees. After all, remote teams can work even when they are not sitting in front of the computer. For example: thinking over a strategy. 

Establishing specific milestones will make it more convenient for you and your staff. They will allocate time and work at a suitable pace, and you will see where the team is heading and make adjustments if necessary.

How to handle it: if you decide to control subordinates, use time-tracking systems. Another option is to look into CRM reports, hold group meetings in chats, arrange calls in Skype or Zoom to monitor the situation at specific points.

Challenge 3: Prioritizing Tasks

Working without clear recommendations is akin to working blindly. And it is essential to define tasks and deadlines in the case of a remote development team. No one should work beyond their responsibilities. When someone invades your space, it’s irritating and discouraging.

Developers often work in different time zones. So it’s better to outline the tasks and due dates to allocate the time and resources for their completion. This working process is known as Agile.

This approach relies on short milestones and deadlines. As a result, you control the product planning and stages, where the development goes and what initial decisions require rethinking. It allows you to timely respond to unwanted development choices before the product reaches the deployment stage.

The agile approach is all about flexibility. And it benefits remote developers, team leaders, clients, and end-users.

How to handle it: implement CRM systems, allowing you to manage the workflow, such as:

  • setting tasks for one employee or several at once;
  • determining an exact deadline;
  • breaking large projects into subtasks;
  • and so on.

An example is the Trello service, working on the kanban principle. Each task is a card, which employees move through the columns depending on the completion stage. Trello is widespread among web design studios, marketing agencies and IT companies. Other task management tools include:

  • Todoist;
  • ProofHub;
  • Basecamp;
  • Chanty;
  • Teamwork.

Challenge 4: Feeling Detached

Out of sight, out of… Should it be like that? Of course, not. While you may forget about your colleagues you don’t share one working space with, your duty is to keep them updated.

How to handle it: inform your team members of the company’s goals, critical choices, strategy revisions and other key information. Ensure everyone is on the same page and shares the company’s vision of success and how to get there.

Make staff feel appreciated by sending corporate gifts: mugs, T-shirts and so on. It’s a small sign of respect that will result in better performance and relationships. Cash bonuses for extraordinary results are also meaningful motivators.

Start meetings by refreshing what your employees have achieved. Explain what you appreciate and what you’d better improve.

Challenge 5: Mitigating the Risks of Force Majeure

Employees in the office can get sick, take time off for personal events or take a short trip. Remote workers do too. But in fact, no one controls them, so some may abuse your trust and talk about force majeure when there is none.

Remember that we are all humans. Remote workers can also have difficult life situations, and it is vital to give them a little freedom if circumstances require it.

How to handle it: Discuss in advance in which cases the employee can take a day off. Ask everyone to report force majeure in any available way, even by phone or in private messages on social networks. This way, you can transfer the project to another specialist on time or distribute responsibilities among the entire team.

Final Word

When working remotely, it is crucial to establish the rules and features of control not only for subordinates but also for yourself:

  • always be in touch during regular business hours;
  • define your own global and smaller goals;
  • don’t forget about time management;
  • record appointments and to-dos on your calendar;
  • maintain your work spirit;
  • exude confidence, calmness and positivity.

Make sure to motivate your employees in different ways, for example:

  • calculate KPIs (key performance indicators) and reward those who have exceeded their plan;
  • identify the best employee every month and give them bonuses;
  • nurture them as specialists, e.g., pay for training courses, send to conferences, and other specialized events;
  • provide extra days off and paid sick leaves.