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The Codility marketing team began an experiment last year to improve how we work together when we’re not together. 

This was when I learned that effective remote teams don’t just happen by accident…

Split across San Francisco, all along the East Coast, London and Warsaw, the time differences between our colleagues at Codility routinely limit real-time communication to the essentials only. We’re used to this, and have spent many a quarterly review talking about how to improve asynchronous collaboration across teams. In the marketing team however, we decided to take things a little further.

Inspired by Upwork, we launched Work Online Wednesdays where the entire team worked from home, or a cafe (!) and we embarked on the journey to discover what worked, and what didn’t. My personal first realization gave me empathy to the fact that not all roles are designed for remote work out-of-the-box.

Women in front of her laptop.
Collaboration is the key to building a successful remote engineering team.

Engineering roles have not always been considered to be remote-friendly, but the past month has
required many engineering teams to work together while apart. Making the transition has been a challenge especially where employees have standard operating procedures and special ways of communicating with each other like daily stand-ups and pair programming blocks. And while establishing and supporting remote teams requires some differences in communications and operations, the core goals remain the same.

At the onset you can ask some basic questions in order to understand the full scope of directing a distributed engineering team:

  • Does everyone on the team understand the broader strategic plan?
  • Is there trackable progress from all members on the team?
  • Do team goals take precedence over other issues?
  • Are there productive conversations and differing views from team members?
  • Is the communication space tolerant of all opinions and feedback regarding engineering, product and design spaces?

What’s the big deal with collaboration?

Working together and sharing information is critical for remote teams. One of the first things that remote workers notice is the loss of hallway conversations.

Gone are those snack-able moments in time where a run down the hall to get a cup of coffee ends up in a deep dive conversation on a project. 

This is just one scenario of collaboration at work, and it’s easy to see how the right communication at the right time can facilitate the completion of a project. Collaboration is all about more productivity and efficiency as well as better workflow and remote team relationships. Drilling even deeper, it’s easy to identify some serious benefits to collaboration.

  • More innovation, faster. Problem solving hinges on great communication so when team members share appropriately, there will be upticks in problem solving, new opportunities and solution design and implementation.
  • Shared work experiences and training. Work may become more visible for remote engineering teams which now have to share updates and project specs and deliverables. Working in this type of environment opens up more work experiences from which other team members can learn. There may also be further opportunities for collaboration when teams interact with other teams as they work toward project completion. This will go a long way toward moving employees from a siloed situation to feeling more a part of a team. 
  • More efficiency with collaborative tools. Online tools are imperative for remote workers because of the consistency of information updates as well as the familiarity of shared digital solutions.
  • Helicopter view. Directors can gain insight of project progress across the scope of the remote team. Strengths can easily be viewed and areas of improvement can be identified easily with course correction and minimal impact to the project flow.
  • Better satisfied employees. When employees work in a collaborative environment, they will perform better because they feel heard and valued. This satisfaction will lead to better projects delivered quicker which makes customers very pleased. Satisfied employees and customers usually leads to more retention and loyalty which is a win-win for everyone.

Dedicated collaboration tools

Most remote engineering workers are self-motivated with excellent communication skills and appropriate skill sets. But no one can be the best at everything so when it comes to collaboration, there are tons of digital tools to facilitate remote work. Categories of collaboration tools can include:

  • Team communication tools
  • Remote access tools
  • Design tools
  • File sharing tools
  • Project management tools
  • Documentation tools
  • Remote team games

Codility’s platform enabled fully remote hiring processes. From running engaging online recruitment campaigns with CodeChallenges, to realistic and flexible technical interviews via CodeLive — we’ve got your remote hiring needs covered.

We’ve also released a Guide to Going Remote for recruiting and engineering leaders filled with actionable tips and advice on how you can smoothen the transition for your engineering teams.

There are so many benefits to creating a collaborative environment for remote engineering teams. C-level and HR support are critical as are putting the right leaders in place to build a team foundation. Establishing an engineering remote team environment can be challenging, especially for those new to this style of work, but the benefits are clear—happier employees who work quickly and in unison to create solutions for satisfied, loyal customers.

Rachel Whitehead is VP Marketing at Codility.

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