As the number of remote engineering teams grows, managers are increasingly looking for ways to increase their team’s productivity without increasing the cognitive load placed on them. According to a study conducted by The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the percentage of remote engineering teams has grown from 13% in March 2020 to 74% in March 2021. This rise has created a global demand for managers to discover the most effective techniques for managing their teams.
This article examines the challenges faced by remote engineering teams, and provides guidance for managers on how to help build relationships, increase transparency, and improve productivity when their team members are not working in the same physical space. It looks at how managers can foster bonds, promote clear communication, and provide the necessary resources and support to enable their teams to work effectively from a distance.
Prioritise videoconferencing over messages for relationship building
One of the most challenging elements of remote work is the absence of the chance encounters that can occur when working in an office setting. These impromptu conversations often serve to bolster the relationship between employees and also contribute to the company culture. Without them, communication between engineering teams can be impaired, leading to a decrease in efficiency in the design, development, testing, and release of products. To mitigate this issue, organisations must invest in effective communication tools that will facilitate a more streamlined process.
Although face-to-face communication is irreplaceable, video conferencing is much more effective than merely exchanging text messages as it allows for the transmission of body language and tone. Therefore, for remote engineering managers, it is essential to encourage team members to switch their cameras on during video meetings in order to allow for better interaction and collaboration. Through consistent video conferencing, a culture of connectedness and cooperation may be cultivated among distant teams, helping to remind all members that they are part of a unified effort.
Everything must be documented for clarity
Due to the technical nature of remote engineering jobs, it is essential to provide clear guidelines in order to prevent errors, particularly when team members are located in different time zones. Without precise instructions, the engineering team may be required to take a day off to wait for further clarification, which is both wasteful and disruptive. Provided that all details are documented as accurately as possible, standard instruction manuals with explicit instructions can help to avoid such scenarios. Additionally, replacing whiteboards with document-based processes can ensure that distributed members comprehend the organisation’s objectives and goals. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that written instructions are concise and clear.
The importance of clear and concise written communication for remote engineers cannot be overstated. Not only does it help to reduce the amount of wasted effort, it is also a valuable skill that should be actively encouraged, developed and nurtured. One way to ensure that all potential questions are answered before the written communication reaches a larger audience is to encourage engineers to share their instructions with their peers, and to request honest feedback. This helps to anticipate any questions that may arise and can help to ensure that the communication is as clear and concise as possible.
Plan meetings with a detailed agenda
Holding video conference calls or meetings is often seen as the most convenient way to communicate with people located in different places. Nevertheless, remote-first organisations tend to send out generic invitations that may not be relevant for all recipients. If too many of these meetings are back-to-back, it can become very draining. Therefore, remote teams should take the necessary time to prepare for video conference calls to make them as effective and result-oriented as possible. It is also essential to evaluate current progress towards meeting objectives and other assigned tasks. Prior to the scheduled meetings, all remote members must provide an explicit agenda which includes an overview of the meeting for the attendees and a set of expected results.
Employees who are not able to physically attend a certain meeting can still stay informed about its purpose and provide feedback or queries to the organiser without being present. This can be helpful in ensuring that in-person meetings are conducted more productively and efficiently, thus reducing the need for additional meetings. Furthermore, remote teams are able to hold only the meetings necessary to complete tasks that cannot be accomplished through asynchronous methods.
Constructing a dependable, entirely remote engineering team requires careful planning and hard work. A successful remote manager must have a strong belief in their team’s capabilities and be ready to offer any necessary assistance. Engineering managers can become more effective in their management of distributed teams by regularly arranging video calls for team building, creating clear and concise documents for processes and communication, and scheduling meetings with specific objectives.