Why it is a problem
Despite the widespread adoption of remote work, many managers remain skeptical that their teams are not slacking off when they are not physically present in the office.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the way we work, many knowledge workers have successfully adapted to remote and hybrid work environments, and a return to fully in-person work seems unlikely in the near future.
A September 2022 survey of global knowledge workers conducted by Microsoft found that many managers struggle with trust when it comes to remote work. Of the 20,006 respondents, 85% of leaders reported that the transition to hybrid work has made it difficult for them to be certain that their employees are productive. Despite this, 87% of workers claim that their productivity has not been affected by remote work, but only 12% of employers said they have complete confidence in the productivity of their team.
The lack of trust between managers and remote workers, referred to as "productivity paranoia", is a significant concern. If managers are unable to trust that their employees or contractors can be productive outside of the company office even after years of remote work trend, it is unlikely that this mentality will change easily.
We decided to share our experience of managing the fully remote workforce in this article since our company successfully operates in this manner starting from 2020.
First of all, you might consider using a screenshot recording tool, or other tracking services which your developers will need to install. We don’t like this approach due to several reasons:
- It breaks the trust of your employees. We find that trust is crucial in many ways, especially for remote work. Actually, trust is one of the key points of our corporate values. This single reason is enough for us to not use such tools within What the Flutter.
- We consider software engineering as creative work. The feeling of being watched seriously harms creativity. Developers should think of doing the task, not moving the mouse.
- Screen recording software is a micromanagement manifestation.
WTF culture code
We mentioned our corporate values. Let us list them because that should be the first thing to do since it’s the foundation of all our decision-making.
- Customer satisfaction is the main mission of each of us.
- We are flexible and adaptable to new circumstances, ideas, and approaches. We are willing to accommodate the needs and preferences of every client, and every employee.
- By default, all employees trust the company, the company trusts the employees, and the employees trust each other.
- Continuous improvement of professional skills is an important task for every employee.
- A good remote worker is just a good worker: location is not found in professional skills and results.
- We do not care about nationality, gender, and other personal matters that do not concern the professional qualities of an employee.
- The health and emotional state of each employee are important KPIs for the company.
All values have the same weight. We don’t overuse some of them. For example, if a customer doesn’t share our values and wants our people to over time with screen recording software installed – we wouldn’t get along in the long-term, since the trust and well-being of our developers are important to us. Though we might meet a compromise by finding an additional workforce within the company because customer satisfaction is crucial for us as well.
Everyone has heard about Agile. We tend to use this framework for our projects as everyone else.
We consider the following four indicators to be more important than others:
- Velocity (gives us a picture of the team's productivity)
- Planned-to-Done ratio (pivotal for better predictability)
- Happiness metric (vital to assessing team stability)
- Escaped Defect Rate (helps to estimate the final product quality)
Velocity is a measure of how quickly a development team is able to complete work during a sprint. It is typically calculated by tracking the average amount of work completed during each sprint, and can be measured in either hours or story points, which represent the effort required to complete specific tasks. Velocity becomes more accurate when there are multiple iterations or story points to measure, as this allows for more data to be included in the calculation. Velocities are often used as milestones to track progress during a project, and can be helpful in identifying any productivity issues or bottlenecks that may be impacting the team's efficiency.
Agile teams can use the Planned-to-Done ratio to understand the likelihood of delivering on their commitments. This can be calculated by dividing the number of backlog items completed by the number planned for a given period, such as a quarter. For example, if a team commits to 100 backlog items in a quarter and completes 90, their planned-to-done rate would be 90%. This metric can help teams create more accurate objectives and key results (OKRs), improve planning, and better balance resources. It's important to budget for any additional deliverables that may arise during the period or to include them in the calculation to get a more accurate result.
The "happiness metric" is a way to measure the stability and productivity of a team by evaluating the "human factor," or the well-being and satisfaction of team members. It can be assessed through a survey in which team members rate their own happiness. This metric is important because a team that is burnt out or on the verge of burnout can have a negative impact on the other three metrics, even if they are performing well. The happiness metric can be used to identify and address any issues related to timings, resource allocation, and processes, as well as to improve team collaboration. It is essential for remote working Agile teams to prioritize the happiness of their team members in order to maintain high levels of productivity and stability.
Escaped defect rate
Escaped Defect Rate measures the quality of the products or software that a team is working on. It is calculated by tracking the number of defects or problems that are found in a product after it has been released to the customer. This metric is important because it reflects the satisfaction of the customer with the product. A lower defect rate is generally associated with higher customer satisfaction. To measure the Escaped Defect Rate, it is necessary to track the defects that are discovered post-release. This can help the team identify areas where they can improve the quality of their work and increase customer satisfaction.
Time spent reports
In addition to the previously mentioned metrics, we use timesheets to track the progress of individual team members. These reports are semi-automatically generated based on completed tasks and work, and can be used by the team leader to identify any potential issues for each team member. Time spent reports are also a useful tool for accountability purposes, as they can be shared with clients to demonstrate the team's progress and work.
Productivity paranoia is a common concern among managers of remote teams. To address this, it is important to establish clear values and principles for the company, and to use these values as a guide for decision-making on a daily basis. In addition, there are several crucial metrics that can be used to monitor the productivity and effectiveness of a remote team: velocity, planned-to-done ratio, happiness metric, escaped defect rate, and time spent reports.