Here Are 5 Tips for Managing a High-Performance, Distributed Engineering Team

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, remote working became the norm for many businesses. After two and a half years, the introduction of vaccinations has allowed us to cautiously resume in-person meetings, however remote working is expected to remain an integral part of corporate life.

A recent study by Mckinsey revealed that 87% of those who had the choice to work remotely opted to do so; this figure rose to 35% for those who had the option to work remotely every day of the week. This is a widespread trend, occurring across a range of professions and demographic groups.

It is evident that remote workers benefit from greater autonomy and flexibility compared to those in traditional office environments. Nevertheless, managing a team from a distance can present a unique challenge to executives.

At Fluxx, I have had the privilege of leading a distributed team of engineers. During this time, I have gained invaluable knowledge which I believe is useful for any team leader. Here are five of the most important lessons I have learned, as well as potential pitfalls to be aware of.

Always make sure you have all the facts before employing someone.

When looking to hire someone to work remotely, it is important to thoroughly research them beforehand. It is also essential to be aware of how well they will integrate with the rest of the team.

It would be beneficial to pose the following questions in order to gain further insight into the professional success of others: What factors contribute to their success in their job? What are the expected working expectations? When reflecting on their professional lives, what have been some of the most challenging and rewarding experiences?

Now that you have the answers, you can determine whether they align with your company’s values and the values of your staff.

Put your faith in your employees and give them freedom of action.

Trust in your judgement and the abilities of your team members now that you have recruited the right people. Remote work makes it difficult to monitor the progress of each team member all the time, and attempting to do so could lead to intense anxiety.

In order to achieve long-term success, it is essential to grant team members substantial autonomy in their managerial roles. Allowing employees to feel a sense of autonomy in their workplace can significantly increase their engagement with their work and career.

The trick is to offer your staff the freedom to solve problems on their own while yet being there to intervene when necessary.

Your department’s contribution to the company’s broader objective is the only lead you need to follow. It’s not worth getting worked up about.

Guarantee parity among staff members.

At Fluxx Labs, we strive to ensure that all engineers, both within the company and external, are made to feel both welcome and valued. All employees have full engagement rights within the company, from access to data, participating in company-wide meetings, and utilizing all available Slack channels. Tasks assigned to both internal and external staff are seen as equally important and complex, and we encourage everyone to make their voice heard.

During the pandemic, this democratic approach proved to be invaluable for my department, as we made the transition to a paperless and remote working environment. This enabled us to continue making decisions and maintaining our momentum with ease.

It is important to maintain professional communication within the team by referring to embedded engineers as ‘they’ and external team members as ‘them’. Effective interpersonal communication is essential for successful collaboration and achieving results.

Work together to maintain innovation.

Gallup’s research has revealed that remote teams are more susceptible to burnout due to factors such as physical distance, increased personal pressures, and a lack of direct contact.

I emphasize the importance of collaboration, even among remote teams, during the onboarding process. It is not acceptable to ignore everyone else and focus solely on your own tasks. Therefore, I urge my team to reach out for help whenever they feel it is necessary.

It is undeniable that the term “collaboration” has become overused in business, yet it remains an essential element for keeping teams motivated and dedicated, especially when they are first becoming accustomed to remote working.

Tune in, take notes, and adjust

Introducing a new system often requires a period of experimentation. This is especially true when collaborating with people outside of your timezone, even if they have a good understanding of the same programming language as you (as is often the case with engineers).

If the methods passed down by your colleagues are not proving effective for your initiatives, take advantage of the changing environment and seize new opportunities. Show your remote staff that you are open to suggestions and willing to make necessary adjustments to accommodate their needs.

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