Software developers prefer to work with autonomy, so it’s no surprise they find hybrid and remote work appealing. According to one study, 75% of engineers want the option to work remotely. Developers cite the lack of a commute, improved productivity, and greater autonomy as key benefits.
It’s still important to check in with them from time to time to ensure they’re staying on track and working toward the bigger picture of the project. You don’t want your developers getting too bogged down in details or struggling with distractions, especially when they’re working remotely and aren’t under your roof.
Here are five things you can do to ensure your remote developers are staying productive.
Create opportunities for meaningful collaboration
Working autonomously doesn’t have to mean working in isolation. Software developers working on their own still need the support of peers to tackle the complex problems they face in the workday. There are multiple tools now available to support meaningful collaboration throughout the day.
Microsoft discovered productivity didn’t decline when they shifted to remote work during the pandemic, thanks partly to their collaborative culture. People couldn’t stop for hallway chats, but they could still chat via Microsoft Teams. Real-time communication apps like Slack and video conferencing like Zoom connect developers to their colleagues when they want to troubleshoot problems or share new ideas.
Pair programming is a great technique for improving workflows and collaboration. With pair programming, two developers work on the same project. That gets two eyes reviewing a project instead of one. Paired programmers can communicate via live code or video conferencing and capture the best of being remote while working in a team. In addition, a programming partner can help with accountability in reaching project milestones.
Hold daily scrum meetings (that don’t waste time)
One way to enhance communication and encourage productivity is to hold daily scrum meetings. Scrum meetings are short meetings of about five to fifteen minutes that have a focused plan. These meetings are also known as “stand-ups” since attendees stay standing to save time and avoid the sense of formality that comes with sitting down.
A scrum meeting is an easy and efficient way to check in with your team to find out what they accomplished, where the pain points are, and their plans.
When your developers share wins and voice frustrations, you gain ongoing information about the status of a project – especially any ongoing sprints – and your team’s productivity.
Your developers want to use their time well, so don’t let these meetings drag out. Hold them each day and set a strict start time. It will be frustrating for everyone if a 10-minute session starts 10 minutes late.
Use time tracking to measure and understand productivity
With time tracking, you can track how your developers are spending work hours and how to allocate them more effectively. For instance, a developer may struggle to focus in the morning but hit a rhythm in the afternoons. You can help them identify what distractions are popping up and how to eliminate them and ensure to schedule key tasks for when the developer feels most focused.
Time tracking tools will support deeper focus by blocking the little distractions that make a big impact throughout a workday. If one of your developers is prone to obsess over email, have them use a time tracker that blocks access to their inbox and prompts them to prioritize bursts of productivity.
Your best software developers will be productive and efficient. They will produce a lot of code that works properly and as intended. Time tracking gives you the data you need to make it happen by measuring the time it takes to complete a task against the outcomes. In addition, identifying inefficiencies can help you understand where there is room for improvement.
Set small, achievable milestones to meet goals
The better you outline and track goals, the easier it will be to meet them. Help your developers stay on point by establishing clear milestones for a project. First, clarify the larger goal and then break it down into small steps. These steps should be achievable and specific with clear deadlines that your developer can aim for, meet, and celebrate as wins along the way.
Goals are not always static, so expect schedules and deadlines to shift during a project. Nevertheless, you can keep up with your team’s progress at the daily scrum meeting and problem-solve with your developers if they hit a snag. You can also equip your developers with one of the many goal-tracking apps available on the market.
Encourage your developers to take breaks
As counterintuitive as it sounds, being productive involves time away from work.
A developer tied to their computer all day busting out code might seem highly productive, but they run the risk of burnout. Even breaks that are just a few minutes long can increase productivity and job satisfaction. Breaks are also associated with renewed focus and increased innovation. There are very real health benefits too. Breaks from sitting help employees ward off heart disease and diabetes, whether a set of jumping jacks right by their desk or a brief stroll around the neighborhood.
Telling your team to step away from their computers will ensure better quality work, even when total work time might be less. Schedule breaks and have your developers stick to them. If you treat breaks as vital to the workday, your developers are more likely to follow suit.
Most of your software developers will be thrilled to work in hybrid or fully remote roles where they can draw on their skills for autonomous work. But software developers who thrive with autonomy can still get off course when producing high-quality code. Since remote work is here to stay, embracing the benefits of working autonomously while avoiding the potential downsides is important.
The strategies listed here can help your developers stay productive, but remember that what works well for one developer might not for another. So take the time to get to know your team and their work habits as you test out the best ways to support productivity.