Thanks to the digital transformation and the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become clear that software development can be fully done remotely, and many companies have already managed distributed engineering workforces long before the lockdowns. Working from home is more convenient for developers and also more cost-efficient for startups (in fact, a company can save on average $11,000 per year for each part-time remote worker). Greater flexibility also boosts business productivity, as indicated by 85% of companies in the IWG Global Workplace Survey. However, managing augmented teams is not without setbacks, so you should always make sure to implement good practices that will boost employee productivity and improve the company’s bottom line.
Solutions and Tips for Dealing with the Most Common Remote Engineering Challenges
Before delving deeper into the challenges, let’s look at remote work in numbers:
- Remote work has increased by 44% in the last five years.
- Employee turnover is less by 25% in companies that make remote work possible.
- 25-30% of employees are expected to work remotely several days a week by the end of 2021.
- 74% of companies are planning to switch at least 5% of their workforce to permanent remote positions post Covid-19.
Despite the increasing popularity of remote work, there are still challenges that can arise when managing augmented teams of vetted remote developers. Here are some key challenges and tips on how to deal with them so that you as a CTO or VP of Engineering can focus on delivering the best technical results for your startup.
Challenge: Belonging and collaboration
20% of employees name collaboration and another 20% loneliness as their main struggle with remote work. Remote software development might slow down collaboration for some startups if not addressed properly, so remote workers can often feel left out.
Solutions and tips:
- Arrange daily check-ins with your remote team. This is beneficial for improving the teamwork among your remote app development engineers and discussing key deliverables and challenges.
- Every few months run a survey among remote workers to evaluate their level of engagement.
- Have informal calls with your team members. It has become common to hire remote workers from abroad to save costs on employee salaries - for example, outsourcing in Eastern Europe can be up to 4 times less expensive than in the US, but this also requires a special approach to help employees bond with other team members.
- Promote a collaborative culture where everyone can share ideas and impact company decisions in an equal way. If you have an in-house team, treat them the same way as your remote team, so they can feel a part of the company culture.
Challenge: Work-life balance
Although 30% of remote workers see a flexible schedule as the biggest benefit of remote work, 18% struggle with not being able to unplug, so it’s important to prevent the burnout.
Solutions and tips:
- Make recommendations about work hours. Flexibility is an asset, but it helps to set the times for the beginning and end of a workday, taking into account the timezone of each employee.
- Although using time-tracking software like Time Doctor, Hubstaff, or Zoho Projects is a way to check whether your remote team is following along with assignments, you can also use it to make sure that your team members do not overwork themselves.
- Run surveys or set up meetings with remote employees so you can monitor whether they are struggling with maintaining work-life balance or not.
Many employers use a hybrid model - and challenges in communication between remote and on-site employees can happen. In hybrid meetings, remote workers experience 36% more challenges in meeting setup, 26% more in audio quality, and 11% more in interruptions.
Solutions and tips:
- Keep your communication channels organized. For instance, use email for formal messages, an instant messaging platform like Slack for quick notifications and problem fixes, and video calls on Zoom or Microsoft Teams for meetings to discuss strategic objectives and evaluate progress.
- Be available in case remote workers need to reach out. If they are in a different timezone, agree on the timeslots when you can have synchronous communication.
- Stick to a schedule for daily meetings, weekly progress meetings, and monthly check-ups with the entire team. Account for the different timezones if your workers are based abroad.
Mentorship is an important part of software development culture. Junior developers should have opportunities to learn about best practices in coding, get feedback, improve their skills, and grow professionally, but it is complicated to arrange within a remote work setup.
Solutions and tips:
- Arrange mentoring and pairing sessions among your remote employees. This is especially helpful when someone on the team is working on a difficult assignment and needs feedback from another team member.
- Schedule daily calls to catch up with the team where you can decide on the person who will be actively coding. Not only does it add more structure and mentorship possibilities, but also promotes belonging and encourages collaboration.
- Lead by example. Not everyone on your team is ready for remote work, so they need a strong leader, whether it is the startup CTO or VP of Engineering, who is fully dedicated to promoting true team spirit. A strong leader is also crucial for scaling your engineering team in the future.
Solve Remote Engineering Challenges by Working with Dedicated Teams
Many remote engineering challenges are the same as the overall challenges of managing augmented teams. If you are already familiar with remote team management, then you can choose to work with self-employed developers or freelance talent. However, if you would like to hire high-quality dedicated teams of engineers without having to worry about anything on the HR and administrative side of things, outstaffing is a more cost-effective and time-saving choice. Agile Fuel can take care of the administrative work, so you can focus completely on product development, engineering, and your team culture. If you would like to know more about how we can build an experienced team of vetted remote developers for you, contact us today.