How To Improve Your Productivity When Working Remotely

Andy Charters
.
August 23, 2023
Mindset & Growth

Consider building your software engineering team with the ability to choose from the entire world's talent pool.

Doesn't that sound incredible?

The reality is that thousands of companies of all sizes and in all industries employ remote workers every day.

Those days are gone when you hoped the right candidate lived within a reasonable commute of your office and stayed with you for many years.

You also hoped your competitor was not wooing your best talent with the flashier office, on-site gym, and subsidized restaurant just a few blocks away.

A remote worker isn't enticed by a shiny office or on-site perks to nourish their body and spirit.

In terms of loyalty, remote workers have been proven to stay with a company longer than their on-site colleagues.

COVID-19 is forcing companies to adopt remote working in 2020, where they had been reluctant until now.

Surely your company is not an exception.

There is no denying that remote working is here to stay, regardless of whether you've embraced it or not.

You need to put your head down and understand there are things you can do to improve your remote software engineers' productivity if you want to get the best out of them. Here is how you can do it.

Why Is Working From Home Beneficial to Productivity?

Let's begin by highlighting the benefits of remote work.

If you know why you should improve something, it's easier to see how to improve it.

Thanks to today's technology, working closely together doesn't have to mean physically being in the same office.

Many studies have shown that remote working improves productivity. Why?

Consider this: Every morning you get out of bed at the same time, get on the same train, see the same faces, arrive at your workplace, and sit down at the same desk.

This seems like a menu for productivity and inspiration, doesn't it? Personally, I don't think so.

People burdened with that much routine and repetition will not be at their most productive.

Nevertheless, remote working does not mean simply swapping your office for your spare room.

Working remotely is convenient if lockdowns are taking place in their area: the beach, the park, the cafe, or wherever else suits them.

A change of scenery can spark new ideas and spark creativity.

Getting things done at the office can be a hassle, as people constantly come over to ask questions.

Most people will tell you they get their best work done "first thing in the morning" or "after everyone else has left." Basically, it isn't at work.

Working remotely has its downsides, and working from home can be distracting.

Whether it's the kids coming in every time with something serious/funny/disgusting that can't wait, or the new series of your favorite show has just begun, and you're dying to watch it now.

However, your remote workers can deal with all of these distractions by themselves.

They're adults, after all, and they know how to work best for themselves.

Some productivity guides recommend that you tell your team to put on their work clothes and not lounge around in their dressing gowns, but I'm guessing that everyone over five knows when pajamas are appropriate.

In light of these considerations, let's now focus on improving the productivity of your remote software engineers.

No matter how well established your remote team is or how new you are to the remote world, you want to know how to succeed.

Be Confident In Your Team

confident

Your managers will struggle to manage a remote team when they can't see the team at all times throughout the day.

They are used to managing the day so that everyone arrives at nine, leaves at six, and is at their desk, head down, working hard between those two times.

Managers must do the following to successfully manage a remote software engineering team: Praise hard work, but don't push too hard.

It doesn't mean your team is slacking off because you can't walk by their desks every five minutes to make sure they're there.

The reality is that they're probably overworking, not underworking, especially if they're in different time zones.

As you walk through your home office on your way to the bathroom and a spark of an idea strikes, it's too tempting to just check your email on your phone.

The idea of dedicated, hardworking grafters exceeding their duties might seem good to you as a manager.

After all, who wouldn't want such grafters on their team?

Actually, you shouldn't, to be honest.

Burnout is the result of someone constantly thinking about work and never leaving it behind.

A burnt-out team member is not productive.

You should however schedule meetings with your remote teams if you feel they aren't performing well.

You can either schedule them face-to-face or remotely.

They may not be thrilled with their current project, they may be having personal issues, or they may be burnt out and overworked.

If the project is not exciting to them, you can give them some time off to help resolve their problems, or let them rest.

When it comes to taking a break, the best companies offer employees sabbaticals after they have worked for them for a specified number of years.

There may not be a good fit for all employees after all, because sabbaticals can range from a few weeks up to a year, and it can be difficult for a company to function without a valuable employee, but for burnt-out employees, it can be a lifeline, giving them the time they need to recharge.

When they return to work, they'll be refreshed, motivated, and ready to do their best.

It is important to trust your team to do their job and focus on results instead of spending too much time at your desk.

When they needed to be supervised, why did you hire them in the first place?

"People will give everything back if you give them flexibility and treat them as adults," said Sir Richard Branson when asked about his employees wanting to work remotely or take time off.

Establish A Four-day Workweek

Remote workers can sometimes become distracted by non-work tasks such as mowing the lawn, cleaning the washing machine, or other distractions at home, leading their procrastination to get the better of them.

Implement a four-day workweek as a possible solution.

Perhaps at first, this idea seems absurd to you after all, how can working fewer hours improve productivity?

According to Dutch author and historian Rutger Bregman in this Ted Talk, the Netherlands has the shortest workweek in the world and the highest productivity.

What makes this happen?

Fewer hours at the office means less work, right? Not necessarily.

Adam Grant tells us, "Psychologists have found that being busy motivates us to finish tasks faster. We procrastinate less when we are busy."

Instead of counting hours spent at a desk, measure productivity by how much work is accomplished.

A four-day workweek would increase productivity while reducing employee stress.

This would be a true win-win situation for both companies and employees.

Fewer Meetings And Interruptions

In order for software engineers to concentrate and focus, they need not be interrupted every five minutes.

focused

A study found that when programming is resumed after an interruption, it usually takes the programmer between 10-15 minutes to edit code, and the average programmer gets only one uninterrupted two-hour session a day.

This demonstrates that people in the office do not get any work done.

If the question can wait, then make a note of it for later.

It is hard to resist asking questions or asking where they stand, but your silence is essential for their productivity.

If the matter is important and urgent, use an email if it can wait, an instant message if it can wait, and if it's really urgent, pick up the phone and call.

It's okay to let your software team get on with their work, but don't treat them like they're not important to the company just because they're remotely based.

At the end of the day, remote teams need to be respected just as much as their office-based counterparts.

A satisfied employee is a motivated employee.

Many believe that software engineering is an art, not a science, and can't be measured.

Nonetheless, you can choose the right metrics to keep your remote software engineering team productive and your projects on track.

Our team doesn't measure productivity based on a team member's number of hours at their desk, for example.

It is an arbitrary and meaningless metric, which is why we don't use it here.

Metrics triggering productivity are what we prefer.

As part of our interview process, we inquire about our engineers' satisfaction, motivation, personal growth, and relationships with their colleagues.

The metrics listed here are ones that are effective for us, and they can also be effective for you.

Whether you have always had remote software engineers or COVID-19 forced you to do so, there's no reason why your team should be less productive because of a remote software engineering team.

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How To Improve Your Productivity When Working Remotely

February 16, 2024

Consider building your software engineering team with the ability to choose from the entire world's talent pool.

Doesn't that sound incredible?

The reality is that thousands of companies of all sizes and in all industries employ remote workers every day.

Those days are gone when you hoped the right candidate lived within a reasonable commute of your office and stayed with you for many years.

You also hoped your competitor was not wooing your best talent with the flashier office, on-site gym, and subsidized restaurant just a few blocks away.

A remote worker isn't enticed by a shiny office or on-site perks to nourish their body and spirit.

In terms of loyalty, remote workers have been proven to stay with a company longer than their on-site colleagues.

COVID-19 is forcing companies to adopt remote working in 2020, where they had been reluctant until now.

Surely your company is not an exception.

There is no denying that remote working is here to stay, regardless of whether you've embraced it or not.

You need to put your head down and understand there are things you can do to improve your remote software engineers' productivity if you want to get the best out of them. Here is how you can do it.

Why Is Working From Home Beneficial to Productivity?

Let's begin by highlighting the benefits of remote work.

If you know why you should improve something, it's easier to see how to improve it.

Thanks to today's technology, working closely together doesn't have to mean physically being in the same office.

Many studies have shown that remote working improves productivity. Why?

Consider this: Every morning you get out of bed at the same time, get on the same train, see the same faces, arrive at your workplace, and sit down at the same desk.

This seems like a menu for productivity and inspiration, doesn't it? Personally, I don't think so.

People burdened with that much routine and repetition will not be at their most productive.

Nevertheless, remote working does not mean simply swapping your office for your spare room.

Working remotely is convenient if lockdowns are taking place in their area: the beach, the park, the cafe, or wherever else suits them.

A change of scenery can spark new ideas and spark creativity.

Getting things done at the office can be a hassle, as people constantly come over to ask questions.

Most people will tell you they get their best work done "first thing in the morning" or "after everyone else has left." Basically, it isn't at work.

Working remotely has its downsides, and working from home can be distracting.

Whether it's the kids coming in every time with something serious/funny/disgusting that can't wait, or the new series of your favorite show has just begun, and you're dying to watch it now.

However, your remote workers can deal with all of these distractions by themselves.

They're adults, after all, and they know how to work best for themselves.

Some productivity guides recommend that you tell your team to put on their work clothes and not lounge around in their dressing gowns, but I'm guessing that everyone over five knows when pajamas are appropriate.

In light of these considerations, let's now focus on improving the productivity of your remote software engineers.

No matter how well established your remote team is or how new you are to the remote world, you want to know how to succeed.

Be Confident In Your Team

confident

Your managers will struggle to manage a remote team when they can't see the team at all times throughout the day.

They are used to managing the day so that everyone arrives at nine, leaves at six, and is at their desk, head down, working hard between those two times.

Managers must do the following to successfully manage a remote software engineering team: Praise hard work, but don't push too hard.

It doesn't mean your team is slacking off because you can't walk by their desks every five minutes to make sure they're there.

The reality is that they're probably overworking, not underworking, especially if they're in different time zones.

As you walk through your home office on your way to the bathroom and a spark of an idea strikes, it's too tempting to just check your email on your phone.

The idea of dedicated, hardworking grafters exceeding their duties might seem good to you as a manager.

After all, who wouldn't want such grafters on their team?

Actually, you shouldn't, to be honest.

Burnout is the result of someone constantly thinking about work and never leaving it behind.

A burnt-out team member is not productive.

You should however schedule meetings with your remote teams if you feel they aren't performing well.

You can either schedule them face-to-face or remotely.

They may not be thrilled with their current project, they may be having personal issues, or they may be burnt out and overworked.

If the project is not exciting to them, you can give them some time off to help resolve their problems, or let them rest.

When it comes to taking a break, the best companies offer employees sabbaticals after they have worked for them for a specified number of years.

There may not be a good fit for all employees after all, because sabbaticals can range from a few weeks up to a year, and it can be difficult for a company to function without a valuable employee, but for burnt-out employees, it can be a lifeline, giving them the time they need to recharge.

When they return to work, they'll be refreshed, motivated, and ready to do their best.

It is important to trust your team to do their job and focus on results instead of spending too much time at your desk.

When they needed to be supervised, why did you hire them in the first place?

"People will give everything back if you give them flexibility and treat them as adults," said Sir Richard Branson when asked about his employees wanting to work remotely or take time off.

Establish A Four-day Workweek

Remote workers can sometimes become distracted by non-work tasks such as mowing the lawn, cleaning the washing machine, or other distractions at home, leading their procrastination to get the better of them.

Implement a four-day workweek as a possible solution.

Perhaps at first, this idea seems absurd to you after all, how can working fewer hours improve productivity?

According to Dutch author and historian Rutger Bregman in this Ted Talk, the Netherlands has the shortest workweek in the world and the highest productivity.

What makes this happen?

Fewer hours at the office means less work, right? Not necessarily.

Adam Grant tells us, "Psychologists have found that being busy motivates us to finish tasks faster. We procrastinate less when we are busy."

Instead of counting hours spent at a desk, measure productivity by how much work is accomplished.

A four-day workweek would increase productivity while reducing employee stress.

This would be a true win-win situation for both companies and employees.

Fewer Meetings And Interruptions

In order for software engineers to concentrate and focus, they need not be interrupted every five minutes.

focused

A study found that when programming is resumed after an interruption, it usually takes the programmer between 10-15 minutes to edit code, and the average programmer gets only one uninterrupted two-hour session a day.

This demonstrates that people in the office do not get any work done.

If the question can wait, then make a note of it for later.

It is hard to resist asking questions or asking where they stand, but your silence is essential for their productivity.

If the matter is important and urgent, use an email if it can wait, an instant message if it can wait, and if it's really urgent, pick up the phone and call.

It's okay to let your software team get on with their work, but don't treat them like they're not important to the company just because they're remotely based.

At the end of the day, remote teams need to be respected just as much as their office-based counterparts.

A satisfied employee is a motivated employee.

Many believe that software engineering is an art, not a science, and can't be measured.

Nonetheless, you can choose the right metrics to keep your remote software engineering team productive and your projects on track.

Our team doesn't measure productivity based on a team member's number of hours at their desk, for example.

It is an arbitrary and meaningless metric, which is why we don't use it here.

Metrics triggering productivity are what we prefer.

As part of our interview process, we inquire about our engineers' satisfaction, motivation, personal growth, and relationships with their colleagues.

The metrics listed here are ones that are effective for us, and they can also be effective for you.

Whether you have always had remote software engineers or COVID-19 forced you to do so, there's no reason why your team should be less productive because of a remote software engineering team.

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