How Developer Teams Can Succeed in a Hybrid Work Environment
August 22, 2022

David Torgerson
Lucid Software

Developers have been more productive than ever during the past couple of years due largely to the shift to remote work, as they often thrive in isolated workspaces and need long periods of uninterrupted focus. Though, regardless of how much developer teams may want to stay remote forever, 74% of US companies are using or planning a permanent hybrid work model. So what does this mean for developer teams in today's work environment?

Hybrid work will likely be more beneficial for them than they think. By focusing on three key areas — in-person and virtual gatherings, refreshed training and visual collaboration — developer teams will thrive more than ever before as they transition to this new environment.

Revised In-Person and Virtual Gatherings Are a Must for Common Goal Setting

While remote-friendly environments have enabled more focused work for developers, as they often thrive in isolated workspaces and need long periods of uninterrupted focus, they can deteriorate team alignment around common goals. Working in settings that lack organic conversations that encourage camaraderie, innovation and new ideas often causes a collective mentality to quickly degrade.

For hybrid teams to successfully work together, leaders must incorporate intentional communication that both replicates and improves on the natural social interactions that come with working in an office every day (i.e. bumping into someone in the hall or seeing coworkers at lunch). However, there's a fine line between natural and forced opportunities to do this. Instead of creating mandatory virtual meetings that typically consist of managers talking and their team listening, leaders have an opportunity in the hybrid workforce to plan in-person gatherings again — something that should be championed as a way to build developer team culture.

If in-person gatherings aren't feasible, there are also ways to refresh virtual ones that encourage more organic social interaction. For example, virtual games, 15-minute meetings that have no topic aside from something like "favorite hobbies," and fun Slack channels like "personal projects" can all encourage developer teams to socialize and bond from behind a screen.

Another way to keep team camaraderie alive is through service opportunities, and there are many ways to collaborate virtually — including virtual letter-writing campaigns or fundraising competitions between teams or departments. Changing the mentality that doing good only happens when going to a soup kitchen or volunteering in person is key to successful hybrid workplace service campaigns.

Manager Training Needs a Refresh

In general, employees have a lifetime of experience and libraries of books about how to manage people in person. Unfortunately, many of these principles, such as organizing team priorities, working with different personalities or managing communications across stakeholders, don't translate well in a hybrid or remote environment. If managers and leaders are unwilling to adopt the mentality that remote work is different than in-person work, they won't be effective in teaching developers how to overcome the challenge of self-isolation. By implementing trainings for managers on how to use SaaS management software, visual and whiteboard collaboration and video conferencing, managers can work to eliminate communication gaps, keep employees informed about the solutions available to them, and provide a clear landscape for employees to navigate the hybrid environment successfully.

Visual Collaboration is Key to Communication

Over the past couple of years, companies were forced to pivot away from accidental communication to intentional communication. When physical whiteboards went away, organizations switched to collaborative software to improve how they convey complex information.

As the world opens back up and physical meetings become more common again, there is a strong desire to keep the visual collaboration solutions that we have all come to rely on. Visual collaboration has proven to be a successful tool in keeping developer teams connected while working in a hybrid environment, as it helps preserve emotion and removes the ambiguity in communication: rather than relying on a language that's imperfect due to its versatility, teams can rely on graphics. If a teammate is talking about a direction or path they want to follow for a specific project, they can use visual collaboration solutions to show a workflow and what they're thinking through diagrams and graphs.

If properly implemented in a hybrid work environment, visual collaboration solutions will help ensure developers continue to have the time and space for focused work and the important team-building opportunities and friendships foundational for strong team culture.

Hybrid Work: The Best of Both Developer Worlds

A hybrid environment can become the best of both worlds for developers: they can shift into "focus mode" when working remotely (which is why so many organizations saw an increase in productivity at the beginning of the pandemic), but also have opportunities to make meaningful connections in-person or through more natural social interactions from improved virtual gatherings. Not only do these connections lead to stronger work relationships, but they also often lead to productive brainstorms and new ideas. By implementing a few key changes, developer teams have the potential to reinforce friendships, foster collaboration and be more successful than ever during this change.

David Torgerson is VP of Infrastructure and IT at Lucid Software
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