A lot of managers are worried about working with remote teams, but they shouldn’t be. With the COVID-19 pandemic meaning work-from-home has become the norm, there’s never been a better time to try out a remote team. Today, we discuss what you can do to ensure your team is the best it can be.
Time Zones Matter
It’s not impossible to work with a developer who is sleeping while you’re awake, but it’s considerably more difficult. CodeClouds handles this by having teams spread out around the world—there’s always somebody online to contact. If a client in Chicago needs somebody on the phone now, we can pass it onto somebody in our Fort Wayne office. If a developer is only available during the evening in Tokyo hours, we can have a manager in Wellington work with them.
If your workplace isn’t spread out globally like ours, we recommend having a detailed plan for how meetings are going to work. We coordinate a lot of inter-office meetings, so we’re experts at getting people in disparate time zones on the same call. It’s really just a matter of planning and organization, having clear lines of communication, keeping everybody in the loop, and having a sheet showing where each of the offices, teams, or developers line up with each of the other’s time zones.
If you’re going to work with developers in different timezones, you need a plan, and you need them onboard with it. During the interview, it’s good to check whether they’ve worked outside their timezone before, and how they dealt with it.
Get Ready To Go Headhunting
Job ads are great—by casting a wide net, you catch valuable people you might’ve otherwise missed. Ads are a critical part of recruitment, but they’re not the only part. A good hiring manager keeps their ear to the ground and learns to get good at identifying talent early on. The best candidates often get snatched up before they even go job hunting, so they’re never going to see your ad.
In the tech industry, it’s good to keep your eye on the digital nomad subculture—full-time remote developers who travel the world, usually doing freelance work. They have their own forums and chat servers, and they’re always on the lookout for good work.
They tend to stay in places with a low cost of living but a robust expat community, like Bali or Saigon, and they can be excellent and affordable acquisitions, if you’ve got the organizational skills to manage them.
Forget To Test? You Won’t Get The Best
Any developer recruitment process that fails to include a battery of tech tests is an automatic failure. It doesn’t matter how good (or bad!) their CV is if you’re looking for an API developer and they can’t do something simple like take the Twitter API and POST to their account. Especially if you can’t get them in-person, timed technical tests (preferably with some sort of screenshare on) are the truest indicator of how well this candidate can code.
Code isn’t everything (I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but above all, remote developers should be organized) but also it’s the thing you’re hiring them for. It isn’t everything, but it’s a lot.
Let Your Team Let Off Steam
If you’re going to coordinate a team of people from across the globe, they need to like each other. They’re going to be getting up at odd hours, or losing an evening to a meeting. And traditional team building exercises don’t really work when everybody is in a different country, so you need to get creative with it.
Fortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has produced plenty of remote team building exercises, whether these are icebreakers or quick quizzes.
However, a more natural way to get your team socializing is to encourage Slack channels/Discord servers/Skype groups where the staff can gather and interact less formally. It seems simple, but it’s critically important for team cohesion and morale that they have a digital water cooler to gather around without feeling like they always need to be on. (And if you want a digital water cooler, that’s a thing too).
It’s not something you can force, but if you provide the space and step back, team building usually happens on its own. No managers! You’ve got that corner office for a reason!
Version control is important, and version control is especially important with remote teams. When your developers aren’t meeting face-to-face, Git Commits are a critical tool for the right hand to know what the left is doing. I’ve already talked about communication, and this is an often underappreciated part of it, giving your team a black and white record of who did what when. Version control is of course good for its own sake (debugging, record keeping, safety etc.), but don’t underestimate it as a tool for helping your developers coordinate.
Skilled Management Is Crucial
Good management always matters in the tech industry, but even more so when managing a remote development team. While the COVID-19 pandemic has improved remote management skills, there are some important differences when managing a permanent remote team.
Project managers who work with remote developers need to be all rounders: excellent communicators who can set clear tasks and expectations for their entire team, remote and local. However, it’s also important that they understand not to micromanage, as micromanaging remote developers shouldn’t be necessary (let alone possible).
Know What You’re About
Beyond management, another critical tool for uniting your remote team is having a single, clear goal for your company. Who are you? What do you do? These are simple questions, but they’re the lighthouse that ships need to find safe harbor. Smaller goals tend to orient around larger ones, and larger goals provide guidance in times when the micro-level management gets confusing.
It’s also important for morale that the team feels like their work has a purpose. While most workplaces have a mission, it’s often not articulated in a way that employees can understand. Like many of the points in this article, this applies to all workplaces but doubly, doubly, to remote teams—you need to create a powerful sense of common cause, unity, and camaraderie within your team if they’re going to work effectively across oceans.
A lot of this is assuming you’re building a team of multiple developers who are each in a different location from one another. A second, easier option, is to hire a dedicated offshore development team who come preorganized with their own infrastructure in place.
As you’ve probably guessed, CodeClouds offers that very service. With over 400 developers spread out across our four offices in Kolkata, Fort Wayne, Sydney, and Wellington, we’re ready to take on any project you need us to.