How To Get Remote Teams Collaborating More Effectively
According to the 2021 Software Development Trends report from Coding Sans, 97.96% of tech companies allowed their employees to work remotely. With only 16% of those companies planning to switch back to fully on-site operations, many programmers can work from home.
That said, telecommuting comes with challenges. Remote workers and computer programmers tend to isolate themselves from the team when working on assigned tasks. This lone-ranger attitude is more prominent among computer programmers who work from home (WFH). A recent survey regarding the productivity of WFH software engineers stressed poor collaboration as one of the factors obstructing productivity.
A 2020 study of over 60,000 Microsoft employees in the U.S. also reported that telecommuting fractures employee workflow, task delivery, and team collaboration.
Additionally, Statista’s research found that 16% of remote workers struggled with collaboration and communication in 2021. For example, the Microsoft study showed that communication and collaboration decreased after the company moved to a remote setting.
In the face of these findings, it is apparent that collaboration in software engineering is one of the most important factors affecting development teams. So the follow-up question is: How can collaboration be improved in a virtual workplace?
In this article, I explore ways to ensure effective communication and collaboration in a geographically distributed software team. As a result, this article can advise the strategies and tools to keep WFH programmers connected.
Building a Workplace Culture That Promotes Open Communication
Open communication is a big deal with any team. However, until telepathic transmission becomes a thing, telecommuting programmers and their managers will have to share ideas and opinions in ways that are understood.
Beyond communication in practical terms, the workplace environment has to be a place that promotes open communication. There are a few ways to achieve this, so let’s take a look at them one by one.
One of the challenges with effective collaboration in remote software development teams is task synchronicity. Task synchronicity involves remote programmers working in tandem, which can be difficult in the absence of physical supervision.
This problem in synchronization is also true for communication. For example, a worker will likely not get an immediate response from a colleague who is in a different time zone. This latency in communication makes asynchronous communication important.
A study published on nature.com reported increased asynchronous communication among Microsoft employees in 2020. While the paper stressed the difficulty in sharing new information, asynchronous communication has its perks.
By making it a workplace culture for remote workers, asynchronous communication makes up for the inconvenience that follows prompts from teammates working remotely. For example, a remote programmer won’t send messages expecting immediate responses. They can be confident that their teammate somewhere else in the world would eventually respond to questions and demands. Thus, no critical task is left behind in the process.
Have Challenging Conversations
Places of work in the traditional sense tend to be impersonal spaces. This setting allows employees to focus on the core objectives of the workplace. Programmers take this focus to the extreme, and remote work further fragments the need for in-person, face-to-face conversations. However, this intimate communication is vital to improve relations among workers, especially when they work from home.
One way to encourage workplace intimacy among WFH programmers is to design policies that make programmer-to-programmer debate and discourse possible. Thus, rather than have overseers who soft-pedal heated interactions among team members, let the programmers talk it out. Confrontation is good and goes a long way to consolidating remote workplace relations.
Discuss Areas for Improvement
Beyond encouraging challenging conversations among remote programmers, you should also enforce feedback and review sessions. Effective collaboration goes beyond finishing specific tasks at record time. Instead, completing assignments as teams is another opportunity to boost efficiency, improve timely task delivery, and enhance team cohesion.
So make time for your software developers to discuss the various areas for improvement. What could have been done better or faster, and how? You could set up these sessions immediately after projects have been completed or just before another project starts.
Choosing the Right Collaboration Tools
Successful software development is itself impossible without software. In WFH programming teams, collaborative tools play a central role in simplifying workflow, amplifying individual achievement, and ensuring an organic work process.
So how do you use these tools to achieve all that? Let’s take a closer look.
Integrate Automation Into the Workflow
When it comes to multitasking and precise workflow adherence, the human mind can only do so much. As it turns out, software is one of those high brain-beating occupations that requires juggling multiple tasks at once.
Automation fills the gap of human inadequacies. With suitable time tracking apps, collaboration tools, or various technological means to improve remote software engineers’ productivity, you can integrate automation into the software developers’ workflow and raise their output. Moreover, many tools help you leverage the benefits of proactivity among remote programmers so that you can cover all the bases.
Select a Comprehensive Security Solution
Security is another factor you need to consider for your WFH programmers. Task assignment, collaboration, and output delivery are only a few of the nodes on the workflow chain. These are carried out online, where hackers and malware are virtually ubiquitous. Consequently, each programmer must play their part to secure the system.
Comprehensive security solutions keep you tidied up on this front. You won’t ever have to worry about asset and safety protection with the right tools. Even so, the effectiveness of any such solution relies on collaborative efforts from all programmers.
Use an Efficient Project Management System
Project management is another area where you need the right collaborative tools to maximize the plus points of teamwork. Use tools that take into account every part of the workflow and boost the involvement of all team members. In this context, a suitable project management system allows the full participation of programmers, amplifying their contributions and smoothing over cracks that might arise over time.
Consider Integrated CI/CD
Continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) has proved efficient for augmenting software development processes and products. Including this in your work plan will drive your programmers to track the life cycles of apps and improve them without losing time to new deployments of code.
With CI/CD, your software developers can attend to immediate customer demands by automating the coding/programming process, saving time and effort.
Delivering Feedback Promptly
Software development team members have to be in sync regarding task objectives and ongoing phases in the workflow. One way to ensure efficient coordination is to institute a prompt and periodic feedback culture.
Such a practice will reshape the project process into a cyclic pipeline to be as animated as technically possible. Once you achieve this level synchronization, remote programmers would not have to sit tight for validation for hours on end. Instead, a continuous back-and-forth culture at every project milestone will hasten the project. So score one for efficiency.
There are many ways to achieve this objective. Here are two.
Regularly Conduct Code Reviews
Remote workers are not easy to monitor. One study examining the play of chess found that working from home may increase a person’s chances of making mistakes.
So how do you get WFH programmers to commit as few serious flops as possible? Regular code reviews.
Regularly reviewing your developers’ code is a sure way to engage them while guiding their work. Besides helping to reduce the number of errors in their code, these reviews will get you up and personal with them. This way, you can better direct them on organization-specific methods and objectives.
Let Programmers Code in Tandem
Pair programming is a direct means of ensuring effective collaboration among WFH software developers. This model is especially prevalent in teams with different experience levels or industry backgrounds. Hence, the odds of improved workplace relations, effective communication, and shared leadership naturally increase.
Effective Collaboration Should Always Take the Front Seat
Ultimately, effective collaboration in software development teams doesn’t take a beating because programmers telecommute.
Remember that promoting communication and a feedback culture and leveraging the best collaboration and project management tools are among the best ways to strengthen teamwork and boost productivity.