Remote mode: is it as good/bad as they say?

Working relationships are one of the few types of ties that can get away with working perfectly from substantial distances. You do not necessarily need to be physically present to build trust and enhance communication. Your boss will not get offended if you do not answer with a smiley face. Your HR does not need you to call every day to catch up. That is the notable advance of corporate culture and a gift of globalization, creating conspicuous conditions where you only need to switch on your Wi-Fi, meet the requirements, and do everything in time.

With a remote team, you get flexibility as a ground for your work. You get the freedom of choice in terms of expenditure and technology stack. You can hire devs from East Europe and they will deliver you the same productivity as the coders from your countries, still, with a vast difference in price (in your favor). With remote workers all over the continents, your company gets another way of entering foreign markets. Need to sell computers to Germany? Hire a German sales manager! Also, it will be a great constituent of your customer support, as teams worldwide work in different time zones, providing 24/7 consultations to your customers.

However, flip the coin, and you get the language barrier and communication issues. The time zones gap raises scheduling concerns. Foreign tax, payroll, and employment legislation may deter you from collaboration on your terms. These were the aspects to consider if you are an employee. What about the people whom you intend to hire?

They get the opportunity to combine personal and professional life, and that may entice if they have families and kids. In addition, with distant working, they save money and time on commuting. However, the coin still has two sides, remember. Often, without face-to-face communication, developers do not feel that they belong with the rest. They may experience a lack of motivation, burnout, and overall dissatisfaction with the entire process.

Therefore, yeah, it is easy to praise a remote way of leading business, if you know all the management tips for this particular occasion. It is easy to reject it if your team is not ready to work apart from each other. That is the key characteristic of remote teams: some will fit in just perfectly; some will breathe out with relief at the sight of their office. Overall, before managing a remote team ask yourself: are the results going to be worth all the efforts. No? Then we have just the right article for you. Read it and understand how valuable your team is. If you are ready to take a leap in this product of globalization, keep reading and do not forget to take notes.

Hiring: is it different from in-house recruiting?

The stages of the recruitment process for a remote team is just the same as for the in-house. First, you create a clear and accurate job description. You fill it with all the necessary information to filter people who will not fit right away because of their qualifications. Add experience, education, tech, and soft skills requirements. That is one source collecting resumes. Another one — hunting yourself! Checking LinkedIn and Facebook profiles and making offers based on your first opinion. Having analyzed all the resumes, choose devs, and set the dates for the interview. What is important for remote workers if not only their tech skills but also if they actually can work distantly? That is the prerequisite for you to save time on training and adapting to the new workers. Next – interview. Without direct face-to-face interaction, it is harder to conduct them. Mimics, non-verbal cues, and the overall appearance may also give clues if the person is suitable. During the videoconference, you will have to understand it intuitively. The interview usually has three stages – with a recruiter or HR, with a tech director, and with the team member or project manager. The last phase is the offer, and here the hardest part is signing the contacts remotely. However, smart contacts based on blockchain come to the rescue.

“Recruiting process is about treating people as people, and not just as the mechanism for your startup acceleration or business improvement”, says Kate — our recruiter. “The more time I spend around the candidates, the more I understand how everything matters: the way you look and talk; how you gesture and react to uncomfortable questions. Of course, having this experience in remote mode is hard; however, it is possible to see if the person is genuinely interested in the position from the first texting sessions. You ask about the money first — this is your top priority. You ask about the opportunities for development — you want to learn.

I would advise not to rush to the conclusions and gradually build a network of developers. You do not need a designer now, but you may need him or her tomorrow. For example, I communicate with some potential candidates for months. Oh, and do not use the scripts. You may need prepared questions, just not to get confused. However, do not create an impression of being some chatbot. Communicate as a person, show genuine interest and let the developers feel that they will belong with your company”

Management, communication, and productivity: where do you find them working remotely?

It is harder to control all working processes in this type of leading business. However, it is not impossible, you only need slightly different strategies and more discipline. First things first: management is the basis for successful communication. Your PM must have experience working with remote teams because in the office it is possible to approach a person, tap on the shoulder, and solve the problem. With co-workers, being thousands of feet away, the only source of management is the Internet and tools you choose: Trello, Slack, or others.

What if the dev does not respond and you need updates here and now? What if someone has trouble with Wi-Fi? What if there are issues with hardware? What if you unintentionally overloaded one worker with work while the other sits around? The manager must develop creativity and resilience to find a solution to all these problems.

Here is where communication comes to help. It is easier to manage when you know the peculiarities of characters and what people feel and do. It is easier to trust your manager if he or she celebrates openness and communication. That is why it is so important to hold constant video-meetings, chat (even if it doesn’t concern work), and altogether be as present as it is possible in the working process of each other.

  • “I feel overwhelmed by this task. Is there somebody to help?”
  • “My troubles with the connection may interrupt the meeting, so if I disappear just continue without me”
  • “You wrote to me about the required updates when it was 3 AM in my country, I was sleeping and that’s why I couldn’t make it right away”
  • “I don’t think I understand what you mean in your requirements. Could you explain it to me in other words, please?”

Clarify. Talk. Share. That is what creates the overall productivity of all teams.

Devs understand the requirements, they express their concerns and you listen to them. You arranged the schedule according to your time zones and now it works as a clock, ticking the seconds until the next deploy which will definitely be successful (only not on Friday).

Practices to make a great product with a remote development team

Here are some of the best tips to grow productivity rates when working remotely.

1) Avoid split focus. Multitasking may have helped Julius Caesar during the Ancient time, however, now he would probably be overwhelmed with the number of distractions offered by the world. Notifications, a constant flow of tasks, and children/cats/dogs running in the background reduce productivity. That’s why clearly delegate the responsibilities.

2) Set clear requirements. There should be no “half-designer, half-copywriter and a bit of  HR”. A worker will end up trying to do everything and ending up with little results on each aspect.

3) Implement a “status” update. “In the meeting”, “On the break”, “Do not disturb”, “Available” — these features are available on many communication platforms, like Slack and Microsoft teams. It enables us to give people an understanding of whether it is suitable to disturb now or not.

4) Adopt “gym-approach”. Focus on small rounds of work, and rest in between to avoid burning out. Do not perform the same tasks repeatedly and all over again if you see that you are not productive with them.

5) Find the time to actually meet. Considering the worldwide quarantine, this tip is better to be postponed a little. However, as soon as it all goes away, visit the country of your team’s residence, and communicate with them face-to-face. It creates a remote corporate culture.

6) Experiment to find what is best for you and your team. As we have said in the beginning: sometimes remote is just not for you. However, there is another way –  hybrid teams, where some members work in-house and some remote. For software development, it can be a great idea, for if distant workers are not available because of tech issues, you can rely on those in the office. That is some kind of backing up.

Management can always be improved, communication enhanced and productivity boosted: you only need to give it a try! Moreover, if it does not work, it’s easier to go from remote to in-house than vice versa.

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