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Tips for Managing Hybrid Development Teams Effectively

Engineering Management

Time to get back to the office? For many, working in person is a thing of the past. Others are itching to leave their home set-ups and get into a team workspace.

Engineers can dictate where they want to work, whether in the comfort of their home or a sleek office. Amid today’s historically competitive hiring market, you can’t afford to lose out on talent by sticking to policies that don’t offer the flexibility engineers now expect. 

Enter: the hybrid team. This model mixes aspects of remote and in-office work to give engineers the freedom to choose what fits best. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for the future of engineering organizations, the hybrid arrangement is here to stay. Our 2022 tech hiring survey showed that the majority of engineering teams now feature both in-person and remote-first software developers. Further, 51% of recruiters see hybrid arrangements as more productive overall. 

At CoderPad, we now have a team of 40+ engineers distributed across 11 time zones featuring both in-person and remote-first engineers. We’ve learned firsthand that hybrid work presents challenges, but we’ve also seen how it can help you innovate and bring together talent across continents. Here are four proven strategies to manage hybrid teams effectively.

Minimize proximity bias 

Proximity bias in modern companies refers to favoritism of employees who have actual “face time” with team members and managers. This leads managers to inflate the performance of those they interact with in person each day while downplaying the contributions of remote staff.

Like other biases in software engineering organizations, it requires a conscious effort to move past location as a source of unfairness. The good news is that you can begin with a few simple measures.

The first step is to establish norms from day one that cut down misalignment between remote and in-person engineers. We recommend the following:

  • One screen per person in hybrid meetings, no matter what. Even if a group calls in from a conference room, each person should use their own device. This way, remote employees can see everyone’s face (or profile picture, if cameras are off), and no one takes up more space than anyone else. 
  • Everyone communicates as if they are remote-first. Limit in-person “hallway conversations” about work that exclude remote-first developers. Send a recap of the conversation to the entire team when they do happen. Document decisions and make sure everyone gets a chance to participate in meaningful conversations.
  • Spend the same amount of time with your direct reports, whether in the office or remotely, for both 1:1s and social activities. This could include hybrid-friendly bonding exercises like team trivia or virtual scavenger hunts.

Where group work and meetings are concerned, the transition to hybrid work can make it easier to engage with everyone equally — that is, if you use the right tools. At CoderPad, we run most of our meetings through Notion, which also has features to let engineers ideate asynchronously. In our experience, Notion makes meetings more efficient and organized through its built-in documentation features. It allows everyone contribute equally without elevating only the loudest voices.

Centralize information and document best practices in your engineering career ladder. The more documentation you can provide surrounding your hybrid operations, the easier the transition for new hires and experienced engineers alike.

Make onboarding remote-first 

Let’s face it–onboarding can be a little awkward even in the best of times. Add a mix of new engineers starting in-person and some starting hundreds (or maybe thousands) of miles away. Things can get chaotic quickly. 

But if you take action early, the experience doesn’t need to be impersonal or inefficient. To bridge the gap between team members across locations, familiarity is the name of the game. 

With a remote-first approach to onboarding, you have the opportunity to plan out and deliberately schedule check-ins before a new eng’s first day on the job. At Slack, they recommend a comprehensive set of onboarding meetings like:

  • 1-on-1s with all direct managers
  • tools training sessions
  • check-ins with HR and people ops

For your hybrid team, these should all take place via video call.

Beyond putting faces to names and getting a feel for your company’s infrastructure, new engs should have a “go-to” buddy to ask questions. This mentor can answer quick questions, help work through unexpected roadblocks, and, all in all, ensure new engineers get in the swing of things. You should also schedule 1:1s for new engs with everyone on their direct team.  

One last unconventional tip: don’t start new employees on a Monday. Though it might seem insignificant, setting official first days later in the week makes it easier to welcome new engineers. With fewer deadlines to worry about, team members can actively build relationships. New hires then enter their first full week of work with confidence and a few extra helping hands. 

Build team culture deliberately

Your company’s culture is a critical differentiator in a crowded software engineering market. A positive culture not only attracts new developers, but also helps with retention. Yet, with the paradigm shift to hybrid development teams, even tech behemoths are grappling with how to adjust their culture and offer perks that make sense

So how can you keep everyone involved and engaged when some team members sit side by side and others are peering through webcams?

In our experience, one irreplaceable strategy is holding offsites. CoderPad’s Global Head of Engineering describes the benefits of meeting offline for hybrid teams like this:

It’s basically unlocking the ability to read a person’s words like they were talking in front of you.

Loick Michard, Global Head of Engineering

Hold at least one fully in-person offsite each year if your travel budget allows for it. But even if this isn’t in the cards right away, there are still other ways to create a positive team culture. You can encourage growth and collaboration among ICs by scheduling a remote-friendly calendar of events. These might include

  • Company-wide hackathons
  • Webinar panels to discuss industry trends and new tools
  • Team escape challenges, such as Codingame Escape, that bring engs together through competition

When it comes to your office space itself, you should focus on using it as a supplemental tool for collaboration. When your team does meet face to face, spend time on cross-functional work that can solidify bonds between engineers across the organization.

And just because your company’s culture exists in a hybrid world, it doesn’t mean the daily interactions that add color to your org need to disappear. Take advantage of apps like Confetti or Donut to facilitate interactions. With Donut, you can create virtual watercoolers to spark new conversations and automatically generate lunch pal pairings.

Hire for hybrid work by standardizing technical interviews

For fast-growing companies, interviews and assessments are quickly becoming the defining aspect of the hiring process. Our industry report showed that 30% of recruiters are already prepared to ditch CVs and base their hiring decisions on technical assessment tests or online coding interviews.

If you want to stay ahead of the curve for hybrid work trends and streamline your interviewing, start by introducing a live, virtual coding platform like CoderPad. With the same tools and protocols for in-person and remote candidates, you have the power to create a standardized experience, minimize bias, and hire more efficiently. 

Virtual whiteboard sessions for both remote and in-person interviewers let you see how candidates think things through and understand their problem-solving skills in real-time. They also make your company’s interviewing more accessible by removing the need to navigate unfamiliar hardware or learn new platforms in the moment. And with CoderPad, your hiring team can even integrate technical interviewing sessions or assessments into your applicant tracking system (ATS) of choice.

A shared assessment environment means you have a way to move past “going with your gut” on a candidate. Now, you can focus on what matters most in the moment then dive into the details later. Using our Playback Mode, for instance, lets you jog your memory, dig into key moments, and craft clearer feedback reports. 

Don’t let the engineering management norms of yesterday hold you back. By updating your best practices for the age of hybrid work, you unlock the flexibility to attract top talent, push your products forward, and maintain your development team’s unique values.