12 Effective Tips for Managing Remote Developers

Hiring remote developers is highly beneficial for businesses, but managing them can prove tricky. Managing remote teams requires a different set of skills and approaches, but knowing the dos and don'ts makes all the difference.

Your remote developers look to you for guidance, and rely on your management skills to point them in the right direction. Remote development teams can't thrive unless you let them—so here's how.

1. Set clear and realistic expectations

To perform well and complete every project successfully, your developers should clearly understand what’s required from them. It’s your responsibility to ensure that you deliver all necessary information on projects, including its goals, the deadline, and your client's requirements.

How to set clear expectations for remote developers?

- Provide comprehensive onboarding: how are remote developers supposed to know what's expected of them if you don't tell them? Onboarding is a chance to share key details with your team about their responsibilities.

- Outline clear targets and goals: your remote workers should know what they're working towards, otherwise their efforts could result in aimless work that doesn't support greater goals.

- Agree on working hours: it's important to set expectations around working hours when handling remote team management. Whether that's a strict 9-5, or completely async—the key is clearly communicating what's expected.

Open communication is a huge part of setting expectations, which leads us to our next tip for managing remote engineering teams.

2. Communicate effectively

Regular communication is the foundation of managing remote developers smoothly. You have to ensure that you effectively communicate with your team.

Online meetings are a great way to build personal connections with all the team members. It's not just a one-and-done, but a chance for you to connect with developers and find out what makes them tick. This, in turn, facilitates a better relationship.

How to communicate effectively with your remote software development team?

- Have one-on-ones with remote developers: working with a remote development team doesn't mean leaving them to their own devices. Make sure you schedule regular catch-ups and check-ins to ensure you're on the same page, even if there's nothing pressing to discuss.

- Define organizational communication tools: does your team use Slack? Teams? Google chat? Whichever you use, make sure to get remote developers set-up on the channel.

- Provide instructions verbally and in writing: outlining weekly tasks in one-on-ones is good, but something will undoubtedly end up slipping through the net. Share written details of tasks to ensure employees have something to refer back to.

Effective communication is key, no matter your role and responsibilities in the organization. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to establish best practices for communication.

3. Keep time zones in mind

Remote developers live in different time zones, which means they are not always available for daily meetings—unless you have some working hours in common. For example, if you live in the US and your developer lives in Canada, then your working hours match theirs. If they live in China, you're looking at a 12-hour difference.

Therefore, when considering working with global developers, you need to choose the time zone that works for you and your employees. Otherwise, you run the risk of confused teams and missed deadlines.

How to accommodate time zones?

- Establish core working hours: it really depends on the remote employee in question, but you'll typically find at least some overlap in working hours. This might be an overlap of a couple of hours, or it might be an overlap of half a day. Identify the time difference and discuss how you can make it work with your remote developers.

- Establish async workflows: setting out best practices for async collaboration is key for ensuring remote work goes smoothly. How can remote developers reach you in an emergency? What decisions need your input?

- Include time zones in submission deadlines: are deadlines for your EOD or their EOD? Providing this info helps ensure there's no confusion around key deadlines.

Don’t limit your talent pool to developers in a time zone similar to yours—make the most of global talent and manage accordingly. It might take a little getting used to, but it’s worth the time and effort.

4. Use advanced tools to improve work efficiency

Having the latest tools and technologies to streamline your workflow and efficiently manage remote developers makes life a whole lot easier.

You can use some of the most in-demand management tools, such as Slack and Zoom, to improve your workflow and communications. You want to select one tool from each category and stick with it—having multiple tools that do the exact same thing is pointless.

Here are some of the tools that will help smoothly manage a remote developer team.

Tools for managing remote developers

A great tech stack not only streamlines operations in your organization, but it also provides a better experience for your remote developers—a win-win.

5. Stay flexible with schedules

It is best to give your remote developers the freedom to follow a flexible work schedule. Micromanaging is not the way to manage remote teams, and will only hinder their progress and deny them of any trust.

Where possible, allow remote developers to manage their own workload. Instead of many little deadlines, give them the opportunity to work autonomously to meet larger deadlines. This enables them to keep a more flexible schedule—one of the most attractive aspects of remote work.

6. Take their feedback

A good manager values their team's opinion. Make sure you collect regular feedback from your remote team to find out what's working and what isn't.

This could be feedback on your management, feedback on the workflow process, feedback regarding a recent project, or any number of other things. What's important is inviting that feedback.

How to gather employee feedback?

- Send out employee surveys: surveys are a great way to gather insights from employees. You can separate the survey into different sections—such as day-to-day, management, corporate culture, and more—and invite employees to share their thoughts on the different aspects of the organization.

- Provide anonymous feedback opportunities: it's essential to enable your remote developers to share feedback anonymously. This ensures they're not afraid to share their honest feedback.

- Don't shy away from criticism: encourage employees to share both what they like and what they dislike. Constructive criticism helps improve processes—ensure employees know they can comment on both the good and the bad.

Hearing from your team will undoubtedly uncover actionable insights, and could even lead to improved internal processes.

Sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA)

A non-disclosure agreement is a document signed by two or more parties that allows them to share information with each other but prohibits them from sharing it with others. Companies usually sign NDAs to protect sensitive or confidential information.

You can get your remote developers to sign NDAs to protect your ideas, concepts, projects, and other sensitive information from being shared with anyone else. This ensures everything remains private when working remotely.

According to Forbes, NDAs should:

  • Identify the parties
  • Define confidential information
  • Outline obligations by the receiving party
  • Include exclusions from confidential treatment
  • Lay out the agreement terms

They don't have to be long, confusing documents—they just need to cover the essentials.

8. Avoid micromanaging

In a survey conducted by Trinity Solutions, 79% of employees said they had experienced micromanagement in the workplace. And 69% of them even said they were considering leaving their job because of it, clearly highlighting the importance of avoiding micromanagement.

Micromanaging limits employee creativity and autonomy. Nothing says 'I don't trust you' like micromanaging every last detail. Give your remote developers the space—and trust—to perform tasks as works best for them.

There will be times when you want to know every bit of the project progress and what your developers are up to, but you need to have patience and faith in your developers. After all, if you don't trust in their abilities, why did you hire them in the first place?

How to avoid micromanaging your remote development team?

- Encourage independent decision making: give your team the freedom to make decisions about the projects they're working on—not every task requires your input. Your team will never learn if they don't get the chance to make project decisions—remember, failure is a key part of growth.

- Give employees autonomy over their work: enabling remote developers to take control of the projects they're working on gives them space to innovate. You don't need to oversee every last detail, and you'll likely be nicely surprised by the creativity it encourages.

- Keep check-ins to scheduled meetings: once you've set a task and outlined the details, leave your employees to it. There's no need to constantly check-in on their progress when you'll be updated in team meetings and one-on-ones.

Managing remote employees, much like managing in-person teams, involves knowing when to take a step back. If you've delegated tasks, let employees manage the details.

9. Actively engage employees

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. Similarly, If you treat your employees like robots who work without any entertainment, they'll disengage and underperform. Retaining remote talent is difficult—they're not short of other options.

Offering high salaries, bonuses, and showing appreciation are standard now, it's how you go above and beyond that helps you stand out to remote developers. They can be paid big bucks anywhere—it's the additional perks and company culture that keep them engaged and happy.

According to Gallup’s meta-analysis, businesses that provided better employee engagement opportunities showed 17% more productivity and 21% more profitability than those that didn’t. The benefits are clear, so make sure you’re offering remote developers enough to stick around.

How to engage remote developers?

- Offer growth opportunities: offer remote developers development opportunities—whether that's furthering their software development skills or branching out and trying new skills. For example, why not offer them the chance to build their UX design skills—it helps both you and them.

- Celebrate job anniversaries: acknowledging and celebrating your remote developer's milestones is important for recognizing their contribution to the team. It proves you've remembered, and celebrates them in a public setting. Consider organizing a small celebration for them.

- Provide them with the necessary tools: providing remote teams with the tools they need enables them to work more efficiently. It shows you understand the importance of what they do, and are invested in providing the tools they need to get the job done.

Invest in added perks and opportunities for your team and you’ll reap the benefits. As their manager, it’s your job to advocate for them when it comes to budgeting development opportunities.

10. Appreciate and reward performance

Your employees work around the year to support your business growth. It's essential to reward them adequately for their hard work, both publicly and privately.

Over 91% of HR believe that recognition makes employees more likely to stay. In fact, according to a survey, lack of recognition and engagement contributed to 44% of employees changing jobs.

How to appreciate your employees?

- Cash bonuses and gifts: recognizing your employee's contribution with financial compensation is a great way to keep them invested in the growth of the company. Reward your employees for their performance and loyalty and they’re more likely to keep doing what they’re doing.

- Public appreciation: recognition is key for keeping remote workers happy and engaged, and doing so publically fills them with a sense of achievement. It also shows other employees that great performance isn't going unnoticed.

- Clear-cut career path: provide your remote developers with a defined career path. Similarly to your in-person team, remote teams also want to progress in their careers. Outline the path to increased seniority so your team know what they're working towards, and how they'll get there.

As you can see, none of these things are tough to do. Yet a few kind words, a simple positive gesture, or a short meaningful discussion can do wonders for reinforcing good work and creating a work environment that people enjoy.

Respect cultural differences

Remote developers are hired from all over the world. They belong to different religions, speak different languages, and have different cultures and standards, which you need to respect. Working with a global, remote team means engaging with a variety of different cultures and norms.

These are some of the ways to show respect to multicultural employees:

- Educate yourself: when working with international teams, take some time to read up on the different cultures in your team. This can help you provide better management by understanding the different cultural variables and norms at play.

- Offer cultural days off: does one of your team members celebrate Kwanzaa? Maybe Diwali? Does someone fast for Ramadan? Whatever the celebration or tradition, acknowledge it's a special time for your employees and enable them to celebrate as best as possible.

- Celebrate their cultural backgrounds: help everybody feel appreciated by celebrating the various cultural backgrounds in your team. You can invite speakers, organize remote events, and more to celebrate the diversity in your entire team.

Make sure your employees feel comfortable being themselves, and able to ask for time off during important cultural holidays. Diverse teams achieve greater success, so make sure to celebrate your diverse remote developers.

12. Hire the right remote developers

Of course, managing a great team requires great employees. Make sure the remote developers you hire have the skills and qualities you're looking for, and mesh well with your existing company culture.

You not only need great hard skills, such as in-depth programming and coding knowledge, but you also want to hire for soft skills, like great communication and an empathetic approach to building solutions. A successful remote team has both hard and soft skills—keep this in mind when you hire remote developers.

Interviewing candidates? Get a better idea of their hard skills by asking the 20 best HTML interview questions.

Where can you find the right developers?

So, with this last step in mind—how can you find the best remote developers for your team?

Simple: Remotebase.

Remotebase vets remote developers—with skills assessments, interviews, and more—so you don't have to. We then consider your unique needs to find you the best remote developer for your team.

Here are some of the reasons to outsource talent with Remotebase:

- Save hiring time and cost: reduce the cost of hiring an engineer with a hassle-free recruitment and hiring process from Remotebase's pool of talented developers.

- Choose from a global talent pool: hire developers from around the world and benefit from a variety of developer talent to work with.

- Get 100% vetted developers: all developers pass through various tests and interviews before they are hired to the Remotebase platform.

- Enjoy a 2-week no-risk trial: if you're not impressed with your developer within 2 weeks, you don’t pay a penny.

How does Remotebase help companies manage remote developers?

Apart from helping our clients hire exceptionally talented global remote developers without any hassle, Remotebase also helps manage them by assigning each customer a technical account manager who is also an engineer.

Their role is to ensure that you have a flawless experience every step of the way. From helping onboard engineers to regular performance reviews, account managers cum engineers always make sure you're happy with your new hire.

Hire remote developers with Remotebase

It may seem like a big challenge to manage remote developers, but the 12 top tips above will help guide you in the right direction. Plus, with Remotebase, you're not doing it alone.

With the support of Remotebase, you can provide the best working experience to your remote employees without compromising on the work quality and deadlines. It's a win for the business, and a win for your team.

Try hiring your next remote developer with Remotebase—get in touch with your requirements and we'll do the rest.

Managing remote developers: FAQs

What makes a great remote manager?

A great remote manager:

  • Empowers their team to achieve
  • Celebrates the diversity in their team
  • Recognizes team achievements
  • Provides development opportunities
  • Trusts employees to deliver

Building trust, maintaining transparency, communicating openly, and ensuring a supportive working environment are critical when managing remote developers successfully.

What skills do remote managers need?

An efficient manager has the ability to:

  • Communicate clearly
  • Set practical expectations
  • Keep everyone engaged
  • Avoid micromanagement
  • Use the latest tools and technology for better management

A combination of soft and hard skills are key for effective management.

What's the single biggest challenge in managing a remote workforce?

The biggest challenge when managing remote workers is maintaining a good balance of guidance and freedom. You need employees to meet deadlines and hit goals, but you want to encourage them to do it autonomously.

Finding this balance can be challenging—and comes from a foundation of trust that can take time to build.

What is your most valuable asset when working remotely?

Communication is the most valuable asset when it comes to remote work management. It requires a conscious effort to be understood—which is tougher than it might seem.

What does it take to be successful in a remote environment?

In order to be successful in a remote environment, a person must be:

  • Tech-savvy
  • Self-motivated
  • Disciplined
  • A great communicator

These skills help ensure they're able to effectively manage their workload when remote working.

Hire Top 1% Remote Developers in 24 Hours with Remotebase