Although remote work is becoming more common everywhere, professionals in the IT industry have been working this way for a long time. The only requirement for developers and designers and their managers is a laptop with an internet connection.
Studies show that remote developers experience a boost in productivity and feel that they can do more when not subjected to the distractions of the office. As anyone who works remotely knows, however, extended periods of working in solitude can carry some undesirable side effects, including loneliness, productivity hurdles and a lack of visibility for career development.
Though some developers’ work is more autonomous and requires less interaction with their coworkers, other teams are affected more. For example, product teams require flexibility and constant interaction and need to stay in touch at all times. This leads to a number of problems with communication, especially in a remote work environment. So, how can companies help developers make their remote work environment more efficient?
Here are four tips that employees can implement in their homes to improve their workflows.
4 Ways to Improve Remote Developer Efficiency
- Follow smart security procedures.
- Use asynchronous communication.
- Embrace pair programming and mob programming.
- Clarify career paths.
1. Follow Smart Security Procedures
Remote work implies freedom of movement and the ability to work from anywhere in the world with just a laptop, but this freedom isn’t without risks. The larger the company, the more concerned it will be about the security of its intellectual property and customer data. Developers often have access to almost the entire codebase of the company and sometimes to customer data, which means that a forgotten or unprotected laptop can lead to serious financial losses.
Several simple rules can help minimize the likelihood of leaks and hacks:
5 Security Tips for Remote Software Developers
- Roles and permissions. Developers should only have access to the repositories and databases necessary for their work.
- Isolated environments. Development and operation should be carried out in isolated environments (e.g., development, staging, production).
- Quarterly reviews of roles and access. If a developer no longer needs access to a certain database, it’s best to remove it.
- Basic laptop or computer security. Regularly check settings like disk encryption is in use, a screensaver is enabled, a password manager is in use and the latest updates are installed.
- Use of VPN. Access to repositories and environments with two-factor authentication should always be done via VPN. To enhance security, physical keys such as Yubikey can be used to generate one-time passwords.
2. Use Asynchronous Communication
Any company, regardless of its work format, is based on communication between people that enables teamwork. In the office, people are accustomed to receiving immediate feedback from colleagues. You wouldn’t ignore someone who asked you a question while you were waiting for the elevator on another floor, and people bring this expectation to remote work.
The work of a developer involves deep immersion in the context of the problem being solved, and any sudden message through a messenger can easily disrupt that immersive state. In fact, it takes a person 15 minutes to get into a flow state and 15 minutes to get out of it.
Frequent and rapid context switching leads to increased work time and decreased productivity. To avoid this, follow these guidelines.
3 Steps to Implement Asynchronous Communication
- Agree on an asynchronous communication format within the team or company. This means that you shouldn’t expect an immediate response to any question asked in a chat. When a person is free, they can fully and elaborately respond. Both the person asking the question and the person answering it should understand and accept this system.
- Record all meetings and calls. Considering that many people work in different time zones (sometimes on opposite sides of the globe), it’s important to have the ability to review discussions at any time.
- Take notes and write articulate follow-ups. With the development of AI technologies, we can easily generate summaries of discussions and meetings, saving time and avoiding the need to spend an hour listening to a call to track down a single point.
3. Embrace Pair Programming and Mob Programming
With the transition to remote work, developers have slightly slowed the speed with which they acquire new knowledge. If you worked in an office, you could often see two or more developers sitting with their laptops and discussing a particular issue, such as designing a microservice or analyzing a difficult-to-reproduce bug. In precisely these moments, cross-pollination of knowledge occurs. Each of us has our unique set of skills, and by solving a problem together, we both learn and help others to do the same.
With the transition to remote work, this kind of fruitful collaboration becomes more difficult because we don’t see what a person is doing right now and whether they have time to discuss something.
To solve this problem, you can use two similar techniques: pair programming and mob programming. For pair programming, you can use tools like online IDEs or screen-sharing functions in tools like Zoom. Mob sessions involve creating an entire (functional or cross-functional) team to solve a single task.
4. Clarify Career Paths
Due to the peculiarities of remote work, the programmer’s work results become less visible. In general, the transparency of work across the entire company suffers, which can be a stumbling block when trying to advance up the career ladder. Here, the task is for both the manager and developer to establish and discuss the rules of the game. Some simple steps can help clear things up, however.
Professional Development Plans
In many companies, Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) exist to help employees achieve better results. But giving direction to and supporting the growth of those who are performing well is just as important. Create a competence matrix to help your remote workers identify their strengths for further development and any weaknesses that need to be shored up. Developing a plan together helps keep them connected and gives them clear goals.
Hold Regular one-on-one meetings
Keep an open dialogue between developers and their immediate managers to discuss progress on the PIP.
Working with mentors
It’s helpful to have mentors and friends who have already gone down this path and can share knowledge and experience. There are many websites where you can find a mentor for yourself if one isn’t available in your company.
Become a mentor
Teaching others is the best way to get a deeper understanding of what you do and is also a good way to improve soft skills.