Remote development teams: 5 ways to promote productivity

Successful development teams must balance autonomy and collaboration, a tricky balance when everyone is working remotely. Consider these tips to keep your teams productive
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Strong leadership can have a lasting impact on employee productivity and morale, but that leadership doesn’t look the same for every kind of team. As many IT teams anticipate working from home for the foreseeable future, here are five ways leaders can support their developer teams – and encourage them to stay motivated and productive.

1. Create a culture that encourages digital sharing

Developer teams meet every day at standup and are used to managing workloads where increments of work are clear and concise. Providing support and communication channels to your teams encourages individual autonomy and can prevent burnout.

[ For more advice on leading remote development teams, read How to lead remote development teams: 4 tips. ]

Providing support and communication channels to your teams encourages individual autonomy and can prevent burnout.

Digital updates are powerful; they leave behind a record of events for others to leverage in the future. Devs should continue using the capabilities of your tools and channels to share and harness digital collateral that will support other developers on the team. This collateral can come in the form of pinned messages, code snippets, documents, or diagrams.

2. Be mindful of meeting cadences and lengths

Your development teams may not be experiencing a reduction in delivery velocity, so it’s important that each developer gets enough uninterrupted hours of work to deliver their stories. Sometimes it’s worth turning a weekly meeting into a biweekly one, or vice versa. Avoid having calls go on too long; this may not be effective in remote environments. Consider scoping your meetings to include only the right people.

3. Encourage remote pair programming

Pair programming is a great way to build camaraderie across the team while promoting healthy peer feedback. Two pairs of eyes are better than one when it comes to reviewing code. This is also a great way to build domain expertise across the team.

There are many ways to pair program remotely. Screen share using video conferencing systems like Google Hangouts or Zoom. If you need hands on the keyboard and interaction, VSCode has a coding live share plugin. Pair programming remotely can often be more effective, as you have your own space and screen to collaborate.

4. Maintain a health-first mindset

Developers may find themselves starting work earlier and getting more done as they’ve reduced their commutes. However, it’s important to remember that they may need to adjust their habits when working from home. Encourage them to take walks and breaks and keep some flexibility in their work schedules if needed. Support individual decisions to invest in ergonomics and desk setups that will sustain their health. Having a work laptop on an elevated surface along with some external accessories such as keyboard and mouse can prevent neck and back pain caused by hunching forward.

5. Promote the "life" aspect of work-life

Continue watercooler work conversations between your teams and people. It’s essential to take breaks, to celebrate accomplishments, and to enjoy work. If your team enjoys tools, share some of your findings.

If you enjoy learning, opt for a digital lunch-and-learn. There are many ways to have fun while continuing to build trust and success with your development teams.

With these tips, IT leaders can help boost team collaboration and individual autonomy, which helps prevent burnout as developer teams continue working from home for weeks to come.

[ Want to build your leadership EQ? See 10 emotional intelligence must-reads for leaders. ]

Tiffany Jachja is a Developer Advocate at Harness. Before joining Harness, Tiffany was a consultant with Red Hat's App Dev consulting practice. There she used her experience to help customers build their software applications living in the cloud. In her spare time, she likes to go on walks with her cat Rico and blog about self-development.