This is a typical issue with working remotely. In the 1990s, human-computer interaction research on “electronic communications” at work suggested that rather than trying to directly replicate “being there,” we might think about technologies that support us “beyond being there.” Tools that enable asynchronous social connection-building or novel participation of others in problem-solving should be our main focus. 1
A significant feature of technologies like Pluralsight Flow is this. Flow aims to boost productivity by fostering better teamwork and collaboration. People that need to write code frequently live apart from one another. Your remote teams benefit when you put your attention on decreasing KPIs like wait time.
WFH Challenges for software engineers
Digital “presenteeism,” which occurs when employees “perform” presence in distant offices, is a major time waster. According to research, it really hurts productivity when we feel the need to appear busy in order to please others.
The urge to engage in digital presenteeism has diverse effects on workers at various levels of the organization, which is another unsettling feature. This could affect software teams by preventing junior engineers from taking advantage of the advantages of asynchronous time because they feel under pressure to “perform.”
Observing whether you have established a performance culture for remote teams may help you comprehend why digital presenteeism occurs in your company. People develop a performance culture when they believe that they are not allowed to openly communicate and learn from one another, and that their interactions with teammates are mostly occasions for them to “justify” or “defend” themselves. People still learn and complete tasks in a performance-based society, but they also cooperate less, contribute less, and struggle more. And this can be particularly challenging for distant software developers. Active learning is an essential component of producing collaborative code, and when remote work limits this time, “performance” pressure robs your developers of crucial time. 2
For programming teams, maintaining employees in “performance culture mode” is psychologically unsafe. According to research, agile approaches are impossible to implement successfully without shared psychological safety. While it may be tempting to believe that requiring “digital presenteeism” will boost collaboration, teams that feel pressured to prioritize performance over genuine work time may stop having open and sincere discussions about their job. Demanding an appearance of perpetual activity has the unintended consequence of severing feedback loops, eroding team culture, and thereby lowering productivity.
What does research say about remote work?
How do we discover connection and collaboration in remote-first workplaces given all the issues with forced presenteeism? Despite the risks, there are many successful cases of people who committed to working remotely and enjoyed the freedom it provided. According to research, developers’ productivity is linked to their capacity to work remotely. 4
When they are able to cooperatively trade generative and collaborative code work across teammates who may be in various time zones or have diverse expertise to contribute, software teams in particular can flourish under the asynchronous and flexibility allowed by remote work.
The secret to success in remote workplaces is to make a commitment to meaningful interactions that put actual problem-solving at their core. Sadly, we frequently overlook this. Pair programming can disappear for software teams, according to research on teams dealing with abrupt shifts to remote work.
6 Remote pair programming during Covid-19: from collaboration to solitude and back.
Developer teams often lament the loss of unsupervised social time for brainstorming, which increased during the pandemic.
7 In this research of more than 600 developers, 65% of participants said they felt less socially engaged to their team. Additionally, lower productivity was linked to less knowledge of what colleagues are working on, which was stated by 58% of respondents.
The significance of the organizational transparency engineering insights platforms offer is highlighted by these research. Engineers can rapidly see what they are working on as well as a picture of cross-team connection and a comprehensive grasp of current team duties thanks to flow dashboards.
Remote work solutions
Making sure teams have time for the rituals that truly matter instead of promoting “presenteeism” is the key to making remote work successful for developers. It’s time to seriously consider meaningful presence rather than “performance presence.”
- Leaders should guard against digital presenteeism. Set quality targets, not quantity targets for teams. We all know total lines of code written does not equal productivity.
- Invest in time together that counts–rituals like retrospectives and mentorship are foundational for developers to both increase their knowledge base and feel more connected.
- Use software metrics to free people’s time to focus on the actual issues they’re experiencing within your software delivery process. When you have the metrics that show where the bottlenecks and blockers are, you can spend less time determining what the issues are and more time solving them.
- Hollan, J., & Stornetta, S. (1992, June). Beyond being there. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 119-125).
- Hicks, C. It’s Like Coding in the Dark: The need for learning cultures within coding teams [White Paper], Catharsis Consulting.
- Hennel, P., & Rosenkranz, C. (2021). Investigating the “Socio” in Socio-technical development: The case for psychological safety in agile information systems development. Project management journal, 52(1), 11-30.
- Murphy-Hill, E., Jaspan, C., Sadowski, C., Shepherd, D., Phillips, M., Winter, C., … & Jorde, M. (2019). What predicts software developers’ productivity?. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 47(3), 582-594.
- Masood, Z., Hoda, R., & Blincoe, K. (2020). How agile teams make self-assignment work: a grounded theory study. Empirical Software Engineering, 25(6), 4962-5005.
- Smite, D., Mikalsen, M., Moe, N. B., Stray, V., & Klotins, E. (2021, June
- Miller, C., Rodeghero, P., Storey, M. A., Ford, D., & Zimmermann, T. (2021, May). ” how was your weekend?” software development teams working from home during covid-19. In 2021 IEEE/ACM 43rd International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE) (pp. 624-636).