Based on a recent Gallup report that found that 37% of U.S. workers say they have telecommuted, it would be easy to assume that allowing developers to work remotely is enough to foster a healthy remote work culture. However, as challenging as hiring remote developers can be, it’s even more challenging to keep them engaged and retain them. While remote development teams at many companies have proven that remote software development teams can work well together, their success is a result of thoughtful planning around how to put their programmers in a position to succeed. Whether you’re already offering remote work options or are about to get on board, here are a few keys to creating a successful remote work culture.
Naturally, it’s harder for remote software development teams to share ideas and explain their thought processes virtually. Tools like Google Hangouts make it a bit less complicated, but the remote development teams that think about how they use these tools find it easier to communicate. Sean Graber, co-founder and CEO of Virtuali, wrote that leaders of remote teams need to understand which tools are right for every occasion. For more complex or personal ideas, he suggests using video conferencing platforms. On the flipside, he also says that it’s just as important to set up channels for friendly banter, for which tools like Slack or HipChat are ideal.
Conventional wisdom might lead your in-house developers to assume that your remote workers don’t put in the same amount of effort. They don’t have engineering managers walking around to check on their progress and have a different level of flexibility. While many engineering teams and developers have proven this to be completely untrue, fostering a successful remote work culture requires you to make it clear to everyone that you hold each person to the same standard, regardless of where they work. As Monica Zent, CEO of Foxwordy, wrote for Entrepreneur Magazine, “it’s crucial to lay down some goals and expectations for each employee and ensure that those expectations are being met.”
Our VP of Engineering David Fullerton once wrote that building happy and productive remote software development teams require everyone to be on board. He continues by saying, “There’s no halfsies in a distributed team. If even one person on the team is remote, every single person has to start communicating online.” Of course, you could make it company policy that remote work options are available at the behest of a handful of opinionated developers. However, if your anti-remote developers begin making decisions without the input of your remote developers, the programmers who aren’t physically at your headquarters will start to feel cut off from everything else that’s happening on the team. Unless your entire team is on board with the idea of adding remote developers, avoid rushing into recruiting them just for the sake of growing your team quickly.