5 ways to solve communication problems in remote software development teams

One of the questions on the minds of many leaders in this new age of working from home is how to ensure adequate communication and engagement between remote employees.

Shifting from a physical shared workspace to a collection of virtual offices scattered in different locations can be challenging for even the most experienced manager, more so when you have to lead a team of software developers. Many of the biggest challenges technical engineers face while executing their daily responsibilities relates to communication.

Understandably, adapting to the dynamics of remote work and communicating effectively takes some time. The days of waltzing into a co-worker’s office to get information or seek guidance are gone and for software developers joining a new remote team, there’s the tendency for them to want to be seen as highly self-sufficient—thus, failing to seek support or ask questions from others when faced with a problem.

Fortunately, several proven tips can help improve communication within remote software development teams.

1.  Showing empathy

When communicating with co-workers, it is important to listen with empathy and try to understand their perspectives. Doing this would allow you to easily identify different challenges they may be facing and how to easily solve them.

Additionally, empathetic listening is great in building a rapport with your development team, which is important when you’re collaborating closely with them on a project, either to deploy code to production or meet to meet a product launch deadline.

2. Using the right collaboration tool

There has never been a more suitable time to invest in a collaboration tool than now. As a manager, ensure that your team has their most preferred collaboration tool to communicate quickly and efficiently amongst themselves.

No one likes back and forth communication via email particularly developers. Therefore, find out which collaboration tool they’ll prefer, be it Microsoft Teams, Slack or Jira.

3. Encourage developers to always ask questions

Many developers working remotely, particularly those who are new on board, would most keep quiet and try to figure things out on their own when they’re stuck.

This mistake can set a project back by several days and even weeks. Therefore, as a manager always encourage developers to ask questions whenever they feel stuck. Do this before the end of every meeting and follow up personally which each developer afterwards.

4. Avoid overcommunication

While communicating with your team is important, over-communication can quickly lead to micromanagement and many software developers don’t like that.

Set defined limits and boundaries when it comes to messages, emails and calls. A great way to avoid overcommunication from turning into micromanaging in remote software development teams is to give them an “off-switch” that they can use when they don’t want to be disturbed. One example would be having them set their work status on Slack or Microsoft Teams.

5. Involve developers in planning

There’s no quicker way to improve communication than to start from the very beginning. Business planning and software development need to go together, and it is important to include the development team when discussing technical parts of the business.

By doing so, everyone clearly understands what is expected of them and what role they play in the success of a project.