Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Good Help Is Hard To Find - Tips When Hiring Remote People

Good Help Is Hard To Find.

This is the eighth in a series of articles which will summarise my last half decade of hiring/outsourcing/offshoring experience as Head of Technology.


Are you hiring remote developers? Your decision to do this might be due to cost (to save money), due to local skills shortage, or when you absolutely must hire a specific person and are willing to let them work remotely.

When hiring remote staff members, you need to keep in mind that it will not be as smooth as you might think. Humans are fascinating when you put them in different scenarios, and some people who were fine to work with in an office might not cope well when isolated.

In this article I will present a few of the challenges I tackled when dealing with remote staff members.



Remote staff members are isolated. They miss out on important information. They are not privy to cross-desk small-talk and banter. They definitely are not able to go for lunch with people. We all need the company of other humans.

You really need to figure out ways which you can help your remote staff feel like they have real human contact.

Limited Communication

In a physical office situation, staff members will interact at some point during the day. When you have remote people, this does not happen. Most of the time you only have the remote people interacting with their current project team, and sometimes just at a daily scrum. This is not much communication, and many people might not get the information they need to do well in their jobs without those extra office side-chats.

Quality & Performance 

When developers help each other then they will come to a consensus with their approach. They come to a solution more quickly, and there will be less bugs. The opposite is often the case when it comes to isolated developers.

In my experience, remote people are far less likely to ask for help. This has a knock-on effect of their quality potentially going down, as well as their speed.

Second Class Citizens

It's very easy to get in a habit of treating remote people 2nd class citizens. I have seen this in various companies, and decided very early that we must replicate in-office communication as closely as possible.

Tips to Improve Communication


Have you ever joined voice-only conference calls. They really suck. They really do!

Being able to see a person's face is very important. It makes the calls quicker and more efficient, while also giving you all a more human interaction. Slack conversations and email have their place, however they can take way too long. So I favour video as much as possible.

Tip: My top tip is to use always use video for all meetings and discussions. There are plenty of tools out there. Zoom is my preferred choice. There are other good options such as Slack video, and Google Hangouts.

Frequent Rituals

My most distributed team consisted of 2 offices and 4 remote developers spread across 3 countries. Very early on, I introduced daily all-dev standup where devs would talk about what they were doing, and would ask for help if required. Arguably, this might not significantly serve the projects in the short term. However, the interactions each morning did facilitate knowledge sharing across all devs. It was a great start to the day, and I personally really enjoyed the feeling of seeing everyone each day.

Tip: Strive for some sort of group interaction which can mimic a physical office environment. Make it frequent, and at least once per week.

Encourage Remote Questions

Remote developers do not have much interaction during the day when compared to developers who were sitting at the same desk.

I encouraged developers to avoid asking questions of people who were physically in the room. I told them to ask the remote developers were possible, as it would encourage them to do the same.

This dramatically increased the amount of communication. While this might sound a little inefficient at first, in the long term the communication tightened up, and video questions became the norm. Quality of work and happiness of remote developers increased as a result.


When I started to take on remote staff I insisted that they come to the office as often as possible. For people in the UK it was around once per month for a couple days, people in other countries around once a quarter. This is obviously an extra cost to the company, however the improvements in team bonding and efficiency are totally worth it.

Tip: Get your remote staff to visit the office as often as possible.

Final Thoughts

The world is modernising where people can work from anywhere. You need to be extra diligent when it comes to care for these staff members, as you can't actually see their physical conditions, and you have far less contact with them.

Video calls are critical in helping people feel less isolated, and you must develop daily and weekly rituals to keep the remote people engaged and in the loop. Encourage your office staff to engage frequently with the remote staff, and definitely try to have your remote staff travel to physically engage with everyone else.

I hope you found this article helpful.

Posts In This Series

  1. Interview Tips for Technical Leaders
  2. Tips To Ensure Quality Delivery When Outsourcing
  3. Tips When Taking On An Intern
  4. Tips When Hiring Senior Developers
  5. Tips When Hiring Junior Developers
  6. Tips When Offshoring Development Teams
  7. Tips When Hiring Digital Producers
  8. Tips When Hiring Remote People
  9. Tips To Improve Developer Retention (coming soon)
  10. Tips When Hiring Lead Developers (coming soon)

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