10 Mistakes to Avoid with Remote Development Teams

Alex Vernik
Alex Vernik
Engineering Ops Specialist
Posted on
Dec 10, 2020
Updated on
Nov 3, 2022
Table of Content

In March 2019 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, millions of workers switched to remote operation. Today, more than 85% of IT developers work from home.

Even though for software developers, the transition seems to be smoother than for other IT sector players, it comes with a variety of nuances. From arranging proper communications to tweaking the network access, team leaders and managers have to adapt to the new normal without losing the work quality.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can adjust your team's operation without experiencing downtime or decreasing employee satisfaction.

1. Arranging Long and Frequent Meetings

Managers love meetings. Developers hate them. Virtual meetings are even more taxing for employees who have to work from home than for in-office developers. They are easily distracted by the in-home environment, which makes paying attention during meetings tough and tedious.

To improve productivity and employee satisfaction, rethink the length and structure of virtual meetings. Consider reducing the number and duration of meetings by implementing comprehensive formats:

  • Daily standups — quick status checks
  • Weekly Q&A and team updates — sharing ideas and experience, asking questions
  • Weekly one-on-one — quick private meeting with each developer
  • Sprint retrospectives — sharing progress, discussing mistakes.

The right approach to meeting length and format can streamline the development process and keep your team members happy.

2. Failing to Design a Remote Onboarding Process

When they need to hire an additional team member remotely, many team leaders face problems with the onboarding process. Unlike the in-office environment where your team is always ready to answer questions, a remote office can make the new employee feel disconnected. This could lead to misunderstandings and downtime.

That's why it's imperative to design a remote onboarding process:

  • Provide clearly documented company information.
  • Dedicate a team member to mentor the developer during the initial period.
  • Avoid overloading the new employee with excessive written information. Communicate as much of it as possible during virtual meetings.
  • Arrange formal introductions to the entire staff to help new developers feel more at home.
  • Provide access to the corporate chat and all the necessary groups immediately.
  • Explain remote work security policies.

To simplify onboarding, you should be ready to provide the necessary hardware and software to the newcomer. Otherwise, security could be at risk.

3. Assuming that All Developers are Excellent Remote Workers

While remote operation comes naturally to many developers, some of them struggle to keep the performance up.

Developers don't necessarily always possess such traits as self-motivation and self-accountability. That's why most team leaders have to make an extra effort to monitor their performance in an out-of-the-office environment.

  • Arrange structured daily check-ins
  • Implement different communication technology options
  • Establish frequency, means, and timing of communications.

To help developers adjust to the new normal, consider investing in remote work courses for your team.

4. Avoiding Face-to-Face Communication

Many team leaders rely heavily on such team communication software as Slack, Asana, Trello, and Microsoft Teams to send messages and set tasks.  If you are one of them, you probably feel the lack of face-to-face communication.

It's imperative to encourage your team members to initiate video calls instead of writing messages and emails. This can solve the problem much quicker while maintaining a virtual presence for the entire team.

5. Forgetting About the Social Factor

Even if your team is highly focused on work, they need some time to interact beyond discussing project development issues.

Do you remember the water cooler chats and quick coffee breaks? When you were in an office, socializing worked naturally. In a remote environment, it's up to team leaders and managers to arrange it.

From setting up poker nights (some poker platforms offer team games) to creating a #letsjustchat channel on Slack, you have to give developers an extra push to socialize remotely.

6. Saving Money on Communication and Team Management Tools

The right software is the key to managing remote teams. Everyone knows about such tools as Slack, Trello, Zoom, Jira, and so on. The majority of them comes with a free version. However, free tools don't always provide sufficient functionality for smooth interactions, forcing you to invent new ways of communication.

If you are using a free Zoom version, don't you hate the 40-minute conference limit? You need to reenter the chatroom every 40 minutes, which is highly distracting.

Don't try to save money on these tools. They can simplify the team management process tremendously, thus generating a high ROI.

[GoRetro on the other hand is a completely free retrospective tool :) ]

7. Ignoring the Physical Workplace Setup

For a developer, the right workplace setup can mean the difference between downtime and aced deadlines. While you can control the way a desk looks in the office, you may be appalled with what some devs have at home.  Desks cluttered with children's toys and barstools instead of computer chairs are hardly a rarity.

Even though you can't always influence the workers' decisions about their home office design, you should be able to seek funding for proper hardware, such as large (preferably dual) monitors, top-notch headsets, and comfortable computer chairs.

8. Failing to Have Clear Guidelines

Each remote software development team should have clear operation guidelines to achieve productivity. From security and scheduling to meetings and social interactions, it's imperative to place your entire team on the same page.

If your company doesn't have transparent remote work guidelines, you need to come up with a list on your own.  Remote development is here to stay. By developing clear guidelines, you are setting the right scene for the future.

9. Making Assumptions

The only assumption you can make before starting remote work with your team is that they don't know anything about succeeding in a remote environment.

If your top-star developers have been asking for a remote work opportunity for months, you are not alone. Many devs want the at-home work option, but hardly all of them are organized enough to take full advantage of it.  

You need to teach your team how to work remotely from scratch even if it means some initial downtime.

10. Micromanaging

When it comes to remote dev team management, managers and team leaders often feel a lack of control, which sometimes turns into micromanaging. If you can't look over the dev's shoulder physically, it may be tempting to keep calling, arranging meetings, asking questions, etc. Or, even worse, trying to do part of their work yourself.

Micromanagement often hides under the veil of care and support. However, a well-structured set of guidelines and meetings are more than sufficient to arrange remote development operations.

The Takeaway 

Even though the majority of software developers adapt to the remote environment quickly, team leaders and managers need to ensure a smooth transition. Unfortunately, some of them tend to rush into extremes either leaving things as they were in the office or controlling every single step.

By avoiding the above mistakes, it's possible to arrange a smooth remote development process while minimizing costs and keeping your team happy.

About the author

Alex Vernik
Engineering Ops Specialist

Engineering leader, passionate about coding products and value creation. Vast experience with managing R&D teams at various scales. Embracing innovation and transformation for constant improvement.

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