Five Tips for Motivating Your Remote Development Team

Written by Santiago Mino
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It’s no secret that being a developer is hard work; it requires rigor, focus, attention to detail, long hours, and self-sacrifice. And it’s no surprise that working as a remote employee can make motivation a challenge: it can be isolating, lonely, quiet, and dull. 

So what happens when you’re a developer who works remotely? You need motivation, and bad! Being a dev doesn’t have to be frustrating, and being a remote working dev shouldn’t have to be dull. 

With the right action steps taken by team leadership and management, remote dev work can also be highly inspiring, giving devs a balance between personal life and work-life impossible just a few years ago. The difference? Motivation.

Here are Jobsity's top 5 tips for keeping your dev team motivated, so remote work does not feel like the hardest, but like the best choice ever for everyone on your team!

1. People work hard for the family--build dev relationships first.

We work hard for our mothers, fathers, kids, friends, and spouses. They motivate us because we care about them. Their happiness, success, stability, and ability to thrive is important to us, and so we are more able to withstand personal discomfort in order to help them succeed. 

It’s not likely we’ll feel this way about our employers or our professional teams unless these teams feel like family. And not in a perfunctory or rhetorical way.

Spend time building a culture of intimacy and meaningfulness among your dev team, and when it comes time to work together, it’ll feel less like a performance and more like a meaningful project that matters. 

This might look like taking time out of production to get to know people as they really are. This will likely look like social breaks, human activities, and really caring about well-being. If you want an engaged and motivated team, make time for this.

And remember: this can’t be an act. If guilt, manipulation, passive-aggression, or dishonesty is involved, family’s can easily become abusive. And that will have the opposite effect. 

2. Ask your devs what they want to work on--and let them work on that.

Let’s be honest: people become devs for plenty of reasons--they love technology, they’re talented coders, they don't want to work in a traditional office environment, they want to make things that change the world. Whatever it is, it’s not because they just want to follow orders and be told what to do!

If you want your remote dev team to be motivated, you need to give them ownership over what they do. How do you create ownership? Get buy-in. 

Ask your devs what aspect of each product they want to work on, and then let them focus on that aspect. Ask your devs what is wrong with your product, and then listen to their input. Ask your devs what else they think is missing, and then listen to what they say.

Devs tend to be whip-smart people, and just because they’re remote doesn’t mean you can assign them tasks without getting their investment first. We care about what belongs to us. Share ownership and your remote dev team will never slack off a day of work again.

3. Let your devs be leaders--and be OK following them.

Again, people are drawn to remote work and to becoming developers because of their independence and desire for project-based work. So instead of pushing against what’s natural in a remote dev community, work to harness what’s already there, and already powerful. 

Everyone loves to be the king or queen of their own domain, and we all want devs who are true experts in their language, technology, or field. So why go about hiring the best and brightest experts and then telling them what to do? 

Treat your devs like kids who need supervision, a checklist, and a hall monitor...and they’ll act like kids, goofing off and bunking work. Treat your devs like leaders in their own lane, and that responsibility and trust will have the effect of motivating them to become the motivated leaders you want working on, and leading, your team. 

4. Celebrate success--everyone likes a round of applause.

Over a dozen years, Jobsity has developed a signature method for motivating remote devs, and often it comes down to a simple dictum: make sure your people feel good. 

When your team has a big success: recognize it. When an individual accomplishes a great achievement: recognize them. When someone has a birthday: celebrate it. When someone else has a baby: send them a nice note. When a dev hits a lofty goal: let everyone know how amazing they have done. When a group of devs has an impressive breakthrough: make it a big deal.

These things cost your company nothing except for a little time and a little effort, but they pay off dividends. 

We come to work for a paycheck, but we stay to feel a part of something important. If we feel celebrated when we do well, we’ll continue feeling motivated to keep doing well. It’s simple--but don’t take it for granted.

5. Take your team seriously--professionalism goes both ways.

It’s a truism in the development space that devs are a lighthearted community: Peter Pan types. But this doesn’t mean your team hasn’t spent thousands of hours learning an in-demand skill that millions of people depend on to run websites, software, programs, IT, and the entire digital world.

Your remote dev team is a professional force of great innovation, intelligence, power, and prestige--treat them that way! 

What does this mean? It means giving firm deadlines and expecting them to be met. But it also means checking with your devs to understand if these deadlines are realistic and within reason. It means giving your devs the best tools, the best tech, and the access to the best learning around, and then and only then expecting them to provide you with the best results. 

It means treating your remote devs like the elite force of innovators and creative professionals they are so that they rise to the occasion, motivated to fulfill this expectation. 

It means treating your team like professionals so that they act like professionals. Because nothing is more motivating than knowing you have powerful expectations to fulfill, expectations you feel capable and excited to meet.


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Written by Santiago Mino

Santiago Mino, VP of Strategy at Jobsity, has been working in Business Development for several years now helping companies and institutions achieve their goals. He holds a degree in Industrial Design, with an extensive and diverse background. Now he spearheads the sales department for Jobsity in the Greater Denver Area.