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The Ups and Downs of Working Remotely with a Development Team

We live in the age of the outsourcing. Hiring cheaper workers from less developed countries became the norm. We also live in the age of mobility, when people who use only a computer for their work can live and make money pretty much from any place on Earth. 65% of those people say that working home alone makes them more productive according to SurePayroll survey.

This caused a new trend to arise in the software development industry. Nowadays it is pretty common to have your team scattered across different countries and nationalities. This situation yields benefits to your company and at the same time creates difficulties.

Let’s take a closer look if working remotely with a development team is worth it or not.

Getting all developers on the same page

You need to have your objectives clearly defined. If you don’t know what the final product should be, no one will and the whole project will crumble. When working with a remote development team your job as the manager of your employees becomes much more difficult and important.

You should give proper instructions to your team on every feature you want in your project. Double check that every person in the remote development team is on the same page on that matter. Sharing vision for the project is one your most important jobs.

Everyone on your team needs to get as much information on the assignment as possible, both minuscule details about the features and how the final product will be used. Hear what your employees have to say, they may have a good idea on how to complete the task at hand.

Often the remote team may be reluctant on providing feedback, so you should ask them many questions. This way you will not only improve the product, but also survey how well employees understand your vision.

You will also need daily status updates. There are many tools to help you with that. Find one which will best suit your need. Have video conversations with your team regularly and concentrate on long-term goals and vision in those meetings.

Coordinating your team across time zones is hard

When hiring, try to have your developers living in times zones which will enable them to work on overlapping hours. This will ease the communication significantly as your employees will be able to communicate directly. Choose people who live in the neighboring times zones.

Language barriers

In remote development good communication is a must, so your team needs to have decent language skills. You will see their speaking skills in the job interview and you should test their writing skills as well.

Less chit chat

In most offices quite a lot of time is spent on talking on off topic things not related to the work. Even if employees are discussing the current assignment, they tend to overdo it, sometimes focusing more on the discussion than the actual work.

Working remotely lessens this problem quite a lot. But it has its own drawback. People get to know each other better by socializing. Bonding helps them understand their teammates’ way of thinking and smoothens communication between them. As result, the whole team becomes much more motivated.

This means that working remotely with your development team may limit your employees’ ability to understand and interact with each other in comparison to a brick and mortar office and it may negatively influence any activities which require team work, even if it saves some time.

Focus on the big picture

Micromanaging your team of developers when they work remotely is not only far more difficult than doing it in the office but also less productive, as remote employees often value their independence in tackling challenges more than office employees.

It is better to focus more on mid-term and long-term goals. Let your employees act more freely in their assignments. Control their work by using a list of milestones. Coordinate it between each team member, so the contributions of individuals turn into the desired product.

Recruiting the right people is the key

This leads us to our next step. You cannot have a remote development team if you can’t find the right people for it. Without the trust between you and your employee the project may not be completed successfully.

Your employees need to be not only reliable, but also independent, good at organizing their working time at home. They should be good at writing, so the communication between the team will be efficient. They need to be OK with having to work alone, without the social interaction typical for the office life.

Final word

As you can see, working remotely with a development team is completely different than working with a team at the office. Depending on your skills and personality as a leader, it may make your work easier or harder.

If you are a more long-term goal minded manager who trusts your employees, is great at sharing vision and can monitor other people’s work well, then go for it. Otherwise, consider learning those skills, because without them the work may become unproductive and the project may have a rocky road ahead.

Matt Warcholinski

Matt Warcholinski is the COO of Brainhub (a software house building awesome node.js web and mobile apps) who loves to build startups and play guitar.

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