Working productively on a remote team is an increasingly important work skill for software development teams. Understanding the impact of your work within the team is critical for creating effective and productive teams. Learn tips and techniques for being both productive and engaged for a positive working experience.
Remote or distributed teams are more of a norm currently than they were even five years ago. The early adopters were small businesses that understood the value of expanding their hiring capability by extending the locations available for work or enabling resources to work from anywhere with a securable internet connection. The business benefits from diversity and inclusion come almost naturally as teams learn to work together from around the globe.
Additionally, if your team is global, your team members may have the knowledge to help develop products specific to certain countries or cultures. Team members can also help ensure cultural and language barriers are handled properly. Leverage the team’s knowledge to build an international presence.
Even businesses without an international business need benefit from remote teams. With remote team members, there’s no limit on work location. Hiring becomes easier with access to a larger number of job applicants.
Remote working is here to stay and it’s both widely accepted and popular. For well-qualified job applicants who prefer remote working, the ability to work remotely has become a job requirement.
Granted remote working is not perfect. Productivity can be challenging regardless of location. Working productively on a distributed or remote Agile team does come with challenges and often requires changes in work and communication habits.
This guide provides tips and best practices for working productively as a remote team member on a distributed Agile team.
Productivity is important to any team, and all businesses. It represents the business value of a company or team. Productive teams generate more positive business revenue and reduce overall costs. Productive teams also make managing a software application development business simpler.
Why is your productivity important as a remote team member? As a remote team member, you are part of a team whose personalities and work habits likely vary. Admittedly, some team members produce more work that is also of higher quality than others. The end goal for remote team members is to produce high-quality work rapidly, effectively and efficiently to move the team forward while meeting team obligations.
Your productivity level builds respect and trust within the team. When you get your work done and do it well, it builds trust between team members. Everyone makes mistakes now and again, but productivity also comes with accountability. Productive team members are accountable and manage their workload effectively even when having to clean up mistakes and redo work.
Team members working remotely build trust by working together over time. Being productive helps the team trust that the work is done and done well. Trust between team members means understanding that each member does their job and is accountable for the results. Building your productivity helps to build trust and foster positive working relationships.
Distributed teams are often not initially productive. It takes time to build a productive team that respects, trusts and communicates with each other effectively. The more a team works together, the smoother the workflow through the team.
Communication is key. Communication doesn’t have to be complex. Don’t be afraid to simply phone a team member when you have a question or need more information on a task. Even if you need help, use the phone. The phone has been around for a long time—use it when direct communication is necessary.
Productive teams use communication tools effectively and understand which ones work best for each team member. For example, some team members prefer a phone call while others prefer a text or SMS message through an established communication channel like Microsoft Teams or Slack. Some may even prefer email or respond best to scheduled meeting requests. One sign of a productive team is the ability to be flexible and use the communication method preferred by each team member.
Other traits of productive teams include:
Productive teams work together actively and communicate as needed.
The keys to successful remote working include a mix of skills:
Remote working success depends on both the quality of your work and your ability to work with others. Working well with others includes working professionally with anyone regardless of location, nationality or time zone. A successful remote worker also works well across roles and departmental boundaries. For example, as a member of an application development team, you would need to work with developers, product owners, designers and testers.
Treat all team members fairly and equally regardless of their role. The best remote team members move beyond roles and departmental divisions to communicate and work with others as you’d like them to work with you.
Feel like some team members don’t fully listen? Listen harder. Feel like some team members hold back information? Be the one who communicates everything fully. Leading by example helps not only your productivity and improves work quality, but also helps the team.
Finally, be respectful of others’ time and be on time for meetings or discussions. Be available as much as possible and be prepared. Ensure any pre-work is completed so you can actively participate. Active participation means asking quality questions relevant to the discussion. Being prepared goes a long way to establishing mutual respect and trust in a remote team.
Staying engaged with your work and your team is critical for productivity and long-term success. Once the work is no longer new and the team is established, how do you remain actively engaged? After all, when you’ve been doing the same work on the same team for a long time, work can get repetitive. When work is the same constant grind, it becomes less motivating and enjoyable.
Keep engaged by learning, questioning and exploring. One way is to offer to do work outside your normal responsibilities. The motive can be to lend a hand or to learn a new skill. The motive is less important than the work. Communicate and ask questions and see if there are other tasks team members are open to teaching you. Show initiative and take a course or other training if needed to give you a base of education or information to start from.
Bring up switching roles or tasks intermittently. For example, if you’re a developer constantly on maintenance work, perhaps you can switch out and learn to code new features. Mix it up if possible. The more each team member learns and experiences, the better the team’s productivity. Consider offering training or learning opportunities to others. Training and mentoring are great ways to remember everything you know and share it with the team.
Consider suggesting new processes or procedures that’ll help reduce workloads or tasks. Perhaps you’ve found a new tool that can automate manual tasks for the team. Present your ideas and be open to feedback. Find new ways to interact with other team members. Perhaps a quick game during lunch online, or a brief get-together to discuss personal interests, sports or an upcoming event. Be open to switching things up by learning, communicating and listening to team members.
The best way to create a productive, highly functioning team is to be a productive team member and support the team’s needs.
A QA test professional with 23+ years of QA testing experience within a variety of software development teams, Amy Reichert has extensive experience in QA process development & planning, team leadership/management, and QA project management. She has worked on multiple types of software development methodologies including waterfall, agile, scrum, kanban and customized combinations. Amy enjoys continuing to improve her software testing craft by researching and writing on a variety of related topics. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, cat management and the outdoors.
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