Tips for Managing Remote Development Teams

It’s often the case for technical development teams to have both on-site and off-site team members. If confined to a certain geographic area when hiring, it’s likely your business won’t be able to tap into a wide enough developer skillset as you might find with no geographic boundaries. But when managing teams that have remote members, it can be a challenge to create unity and harmony across the team as a whole.

Here at Acquia, this is a hurdle we’ve had to address and overcome. We seek the best Drupal developers we can find, but that often means that our team members are scattered across the country, instead of all stationed in one place. This makes a case for the importance of making each and every team member, regardless of their location, feel included and involved.

It’s easy to get the crew at our headquarters together for a happy hour after work, but how do we involve the folks that can’t be around to attend? To combat any feelings of disconnection within our teams, we’ve worked to implement a series of different tactics and activities to keep teams tuned in and working together.

  • Be cognizant of time zones. Be sure to keep in mind the geography of each individual who will attend your meeting. Being flexible to meet the schedule of remote employees is a nice way to feel like they’re being considered.
  • Use Google Hangouts (or other screen sharing service). Being able to see your colleagues during a work call is a huge benefit, and hangouts allow you to do just that. They offer a more personal environment, and allow each member attendee to gauge how fellow teammates are feeling. Being able to see each others faces, even from afar, creates a much stronger connection.
  • Reward good work, wherever it happens. We’ve started a weekly award program for one of our teams, where the most exceptional team member of the week gets acknowledged -- on-site or remote. This helps bolster spirits and keeps the team aware of all the great work their colleagues are doing.
  • Engage with group chat. In the absence of being able to walk over to each of your colleagues’ desks, being able to reach them on chat is the next best thing. This ensures that everyone is immediately reachable, and also creates a stronger cultural connection. We use tools like Adium and Slack.
  • Share screens. Just because you can’t sit together doesn’t mean you can’t work together. A lot of our pair programming is done through screen share, so that team members can have a more interactive environment when working together, even if they’re apart.