Distributed

Why Remote Software Teams are More Productive (and how to keep them that way)

Arpan Jhaveri
By Arpan Jhaveri
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What was called “the future of work” pre-pandemic–the ability to work productively from anywhere–arrived in a hurry during global lockdowns. While it may seem counter-intuitive, many software teams have found that they are more productive when everyone is remote. 

“Productivity in software development teams has gone up, according to almost all respondents – with one organization reporting a rise of 30 percent,” a survey of fintech software executives found. “Most executives reported that quality was at least the same, if not better than before.”

A Level Playing Field

These findings come as no surprise to Brian Kardon, CMO InVision, a maker of product design software. InVision has been an all-distributed company since its inception and found early on that the consistent use of tools and processes across teams builds teamwork and enhances productivity.

“People use the same tools and commit to following the same processes,” Kardon said. “This can create an equal playing field for all employees and becomes an integral part of the culture that binds people together—despite the distance.”

Keeping the Change Post-Covid

Will this future of work for software teams remain as offices reopen and some return to the office and others don’t? “When part of a team moves back to the office, and others stay remote, the experiences diverge,” Kardon said. “Some meetings happen in an office; others happen virtually. Perks and benefits apply to one cohort but not another. Processes that should be followed by everyone are unevenly respected.”

The risk is that the separate remote and on-site experiences becomes institutionalized and the playing field is no longer level. “Over time, these differences tend to concretize, revealing the ultimate danger in partially remote workforces: the creation of essentially two different organizations.”

Making Hybrid Teams Work

It doesn’t have to be that way. Hybrid teams can continue to thrive using the best practices that enabled them to accelerate while all-remote. The consistent use of tools and processes can remain in place. The challenge is to treat every workplace–office, home, shared workspace–the same. This removes the distinction between remote and office-based team members and re-establishes the level playing field that enables productivity and camaraderie gains to continue to grow. 

Andela has developed considerable expertise in building and managing high-performing remote software teams working with office-based teams. Some of the best practices for successful hybrid teams include:

  • Documentation: Create single sources of truth for codebase documentation, development processes, architecture, and your team’s use of tools.
  • Communication: Establish rules for how and when to use various channels–email, instant messaging, video conferencing, etc.- for example, define required response times for emails, require everyone to be visible on video calls to keep that playing field level, etc.
  • Culture: Develop rituals that celebrate team wins and that keep teams aligned with your vision, mission, and core values.

The future of software engineering is here and, well, it’s working. Continuing to use the best practices developed while in all-remote mode, teams can keep the positive changes they’ve found when offices reopen. 

To learn more about Andela’s model for successful remote engineer teams and whether it can work for you, download the e-book, “Engineering Staff Augmentation: Flexible Hiring Without Sacrificing Quality.”

Arpan Jhaveri
Written by
Arpan Jhaveri