Managing A Remote Or Distributed Development Team: Challenges, Do’s And Don’ts, And How We Do It At QArea

by Inna M. on Oct 11, 2022

Managing A Remote Or Distributed Development Team

The last two and a half years may not have had much clarity, but when it comes to the workplace, one thing is clear: remote work and its various forms are here to stay. So it’s not a question of whether you should consider allowing your team to work remotely — it’s a question of how to help your team have the best possible experience and ensure that the company still meets its goals.

Here at QArea, we consider ourselves to be somewhat of an expert in the field. With over 20 years of experience as a software development outsourcing company and a smooth transition to remote work since early 2020, we feel like we have a lot to share. Here is how we approach managing a software development team that is working remotely.

How the COVID-19 Pandemic Changed Work as We Know It

In March of 2020, when countries went into lockdown one by one, millions of smaller and larger companies around the world found themselves completely unprepared for the new normal. For them, the shift to the remote environment was a work in progress, as finding the right tools and establishing effective processes takes time. Now, more than two years later, these companies are definitely in a more confident position, with 77% of US employees anticipating most of their employees to work remotely at least once a week.

This is not to say that the issue of remote work is completely sorted out and there are no challenges whatsoever. The workplace is constantly evolving, and the job of a forward-thinking CEO, project manager, or team lead is to stay on top of the remote work trends. With 51% of the world’s knowledge workers expected to work remotely by the end of the year, more and more companies are going to consider adding remote work options, whether it’s hybrid work, fully remote work, or hiring distributed teams.

Remote team vs. distributed team

Before we move any further, let’s make a clear distinction between remote teams and distributed teams — the former term is far more commonly used while the latter term only started to gain traction last year.

In short, a team that works remotely is a team that works predominantly from home but has an opportunity to work together from a physical location — an office, a coworking space, etc. A distributed team is a team that consists of members working in different geographical locations. They can work within the same country, but it’s not uncommon for the team members to live and work in different countries or even continents, which creates a string of additional challenges for the person managing the team.

Why Communication Matters When You Are Managing A Remote Team

In short, good communication allies people to work more effectively and to get things done. This is even more important for remote teams, who often rely on written communication and are deprived of many means of communication office workers have come to treat as default. 

Facial expressions, body language, and gestures are just some of the things you can share with your office coworkers without thinking about them twice. This is not the luxury you can afford with the team members you mostly communicate with using live messengers or emails. This is why best practices for managing remote teams should always heavily involve communication aspects.

Synchronous vs. asynchronous communication

If you’ve never heard the term “asynchronous communication”, you are definitely not alone. The concept of asynchronous communication is not a brand new concept, but there have been more and more discussions around it since remote and distributed work became a more significant part of our lives.

Synchronous communication is the way we have been doing things in the corporate world for a long time without even thinking about it. Messaging someone and getting an instant response is exactly what synchronous communication is all about. And at first glance, it seems like an efficient, smart way to tackle issues.

Asynchronous communication essentially means sending a message to someone and not expecting an immediate response. Emails are one of the most common examples of asynchronous communication. With this type of communication, you give the other person — in this case, your team member — an opportunity to avoid interruptions in their workflow.

Other reasons to consider asynchronous communication for your remote or distributed team include:

  • You and your team get to fit the communication into your individual schedules.
  • The difference in your time zones does not disrupt your productivity.
  • No one has to think of a perfect solution on the spot.

Your team may already be using some asynchronous communication tools. However, you should definitely consider a switch to a completely asynchronous communication environment. This will take the pressure off your team members and will allow them to communicate at the pace they personally find comfortable without losing any of the productivity.

How To Successfully Manage A Remote Software Development Team And Achieve Seamless Communication

Setting up a remote development team, let alone achieving the desired level of communication, is often the journey of trial and error. And while there is no universal approach that works for everyone, here are seven steps that will definitely help.

1. Optimize the processes within your company

A successfully operating remote software development team starts with a finely tuned hiring process. You need to make hiring the right people your top priority. When you hire remote team members, they have to be:

  • Able to self-manage and have above-average self-motivation skills;
  • Driven by the results and be fine with being assessed using KPIs;
  • Have excellent communication skills and be open and honest.

On top of that, you may need to optimize other processes in your company to help your whole team achieve more with the same amount of time spent. For example, the Capability Maturity Model Integration, or CMMI, is a model that has helped countless companies, including ours, streamline their processes, significantly decrease all kinds of risks, and achieve a not only better quality of work, but also a more productive work environment.

2. Choose the correct methodology for each project

If your role involves project management, then there is an important step you need to take when preparing for any new project. This step is choosing the right methodology, and it can influence everything, from the end result to the comfort of your team. This is particularly important for teams working remotely, as everything needs to be precisely tuned for maximum efficiency. Here are some of the factors to consider when choosing the methodology:

  • What is expected of the product in the end;
  • Your team’s skill set and experience;
  • The anticipated budget and deadline;
  • The availability of resources for the team;
  • Whether the project may need to be scaled.

3. Pay maximum attention to security

When your whole development team is working from an office, they typically use company equipment and there is usually a system administrator who takes care of things like passwords, data storage and exchange, and so on. So while security is still a concern, it’s far less of a concern than it is when development teams are working from home, let alone using their own equipment.

There are numerous aspects to consider when ensuring the security of operations at your company. Being proactive when it comes to security can help you avoid many of the potential issues. Investing in secure centralized storage solutions and corporate VPN services is a good place to start. You should also take the time to educate your remote employees about the many digital threats such as social engineering and phishing. 

You may need to consider introducing the ISO 27001 security standard at your organization to further protect your data assets. Here are our best practices for setting up a secure test environment with an offsite team. 

4. Be extra clear when explaining the goals and expectations

One of the reasons why an employee may not be particularly comfortable with working remotely is because not every project manager or team lead has the ability and desire to clearly explain the goals and expectations. This, in turn, leads to different approaches in assessing results and further miscommunication about performance.

In order for the task to be done well, an employee must know the following:

  • What the task entails for the company in general;
  • What the stages of working on the task are;
  • What the employee’s individual objective is;
  • What the due date for the task is;
  • What the specific guidelines, tools, and methodologies for the employee to use are.

With the variety of task management and project management tools available today, giving out tasks and tracking their progress should never become a problem. And various messengers and other communication tools can always come in handy when you need to go over the details in person.

5. Establish a comfortable feedback routine

In an office environment, we often don’t pay a lot of attention to how we give and receive feedback. A project manager can walk by a developer’s desk and stop by for a few seconds to say that the developer did a great job with the latest deployment. And for many employees, that amount and delivery of feedback were consistent with their needs.

This is one of the things that is missing when we are working remotely. And every remote employee has different needs when it comes to receiving feedback. Many will be perfectly satisfied to receive feedback as a team, especially if they delivered the work as a team. Others, especially the ones who tend to work independently, would prefer one-on-one feedback sessions. Your job is to notice what your employees are comfortable with and use it in your planning.

6. Don’t push the company culture, but don’t completely ignore it

With plenty of challenges in remote work already, company culture is often treated as an afterthought. However, it can often turn out to be the glue that keeps the whole team together. At the same time, it’s very important not to overdo it when you are trying to introduce everyone to your corporate culture. Forcing employees to spend time together simply to prove a point about your company culture isn’t going to do a lot of good for the team.

If your team used to work from the office and now switched to remote, you can continue doing the things you were doing and simply move them to a virtual realm. For example, taking lunch breaks together can be a good informal way to strengthen your bond.

For a remote-first team, you can start by demonstrating in person what your company stands for. If your company promotes flexibility, then your remote team needs to be actually able to take advantage of it. If you say that you care about mental health, then no employee should feel alone and isolated, especially in the already challenging remote work environment.

7. Consider creating a virtual water cooler

For many employees, informal communication is what they miss the most now that they are working remotely. Establishing a virtual water cooler with voluntary participation can help those employees fill that informal communication gap. 

It can be a general chat with occasional video calls to talk about each other’s lives outside of work, or a series of smaller chats where people talk about their specific interests: games, TV shows, pets, sports, baking, gardening, and anything that makes their lives more meaningful. Again, this is not something that you need to force. A gentle suggestion is more than enough — your team will take it from there.

Potential Challenges Of Managing A Remote Or Distributed Team

Development teams often consist of strong personalities who don’t necessarily work well together naturally. This is why there are plenty of possible pitfalls even when you are sitting in the same room day in and day out. Combined with a remote work environment, achieving the desired level of productivity and communication can be even harder. These are the five biggest challenges you may face along the way.

Healthy team dynamics

With development teams working from an office, it’s usually easy to tell when the dynamics within the team are healthy and the employees are satisfied with their work conditions. However, this is not something you can easily measure with remote work. Here are some telling signs that the dynamic within your remote team have shifted for the worse:

  • The team members are there during the working hours, but the output is low;
  • The employees seem indifferent to everything that’s happening within the team and the company;
  • There are little to no new ideas even when you specifically ask for them;
  • The emails and messages between the team members are getting abrupt and impersonal;
  • The team members are looking for every possible way to get out of phone calls or video calls.

Some of these things can be explained if your software development team has been recently assembled or if the switch to remote has just happened and everyone is still adjusting to the new reality. Otherwise, a new communication strategy may be urgently needed.

Work-life balance

When talking about the benefits of remote work, people often say that it improves work-life balance. However, it can sometimes be a double-edged sword. Sure, you don’t spend time commuting, and you get to spend your workday where you feel most comfortable. 

At the same time, when working remotely, there is often the temptation to answer an email or do an extra bit of work outside of the work hours. The solution for this problem is simple: there should be clear boundaries between work time and personal time, both for you and your software developers. Everything besides those regular work hours should be discussed well in advance and compensated accordingly. 

This is a risk you are more likely to face when managing a distributed team or when your remote team is located several time zones away from you. The situation where your workday is just beginning and your team is about to clock out is very common in remote and distributed work.

There are two possible solutions to this problem. One is to make adjustments in your and your team’s schedule to find an hour or two when you can work together in real time. Two, when the first one is not an option or is not enough, is to introduce more asynchronous communication channels for non-urgent matters.

Time zone differences

This is a risk you are more likely to face when managing a distributed team or when your remote team is located several time zones away from you. The situation where your workday is just beginning and your team is about to clock out is very common in remote and distributed work.

There are two possible solutions to this problem. One is to make adjustments in your and your team’s schedule to find an hour or two when you can work together in real time. Two, when the first one is not an option or is not enough, is to introduce more asynchronous communication channels for non-urgent matters.


“When you are routinely working with teams that are located in different time zones, the key is to ask your questions with maximum clarity. This allows the other party to answer them without the constant back and forth, and issues are resolved much quicker.”

Anastasiia Bulbiak, Manual QA Lead

Trust issues

When left unattended, remote work does not always promote the culture of trust, and it works both ways. The person managing a remote team begins to doubt whether the employees are really doing their best, which leads to constant and often unneeded check-ins. The employee, in turn, starts thinking that the company is only interested in their contribution to the project and nothing else.

Creating a culture of trust in remote development teams takes time and effort, but it’s worth it in the end. This can be achieved by giving your employees as much autonomy and space to self-manage as possible. It’s highly likely that they are perfectly capable of using their time wisely when given the opportunity.

Onboarding new team members

Introducing new employees to the way things are done at your company and, specifically, within your team, is not easy even in an office setting. With remote work, it can be even more difficult. Without a finely tuned onboarding process and with your existing remote employees having enough on their plate as it is, new recruits can have trouble fitting into the team and risk feeling isolated.

A tried and tested way to onboard employees working remotely is to heavily use more personal means of communication during the first week or two. That, of course, should come in addition to having text guides for every possible task and challenge your newest team member may face. 

One-on-one video calls, as well as video conferencing with the whole team, will help the new employee feel more comfortable in a new work environment. A good strategy may also be to also introduce the new team member to the executives of the company via a video call to demonstrate the way the company values its staff to the employee.

Things To Avoid When Managing Remote Teams

No one ever said that managing a remote team was easy. Even when you are trying to do everything by the book, some mistakes are bound to happen. However, when you know about the biggest pitfalls of working remotely, you have a better chance of tackling the issue before they do real damage. These are the three things to avoid when managing a remote software development team.

Focusing on the working hours instead of the output

Even though companies around the world are experimenting with 4-day work weeks and getting more flexible when it comes to the start and end of one’s workday, office work still largely means a standard 8-hour day. This is not as easy to instate or control with remote work, although some remote development team leaders never give up on their attempts to do so. 

What they need to focus on instead is each remote developer’s contribution to the process. Of course, it may not be as easy to measure as the number of hours logged by each of the developers, but this is why different project management tools exist and continue to evolve.

Trying to have as many meetings as possible

If you have ever sat in an online meeting and thought: “This could have been an email”, then you know exactly what we are talking about here. Sometimes, in an attempt to recreate the level of involvement of office meetings, remote team managers will insist on having too many meetings and demand everyone’s participation.

Needless to say, this strategy rarely pays off. Instead of building up the team spirit and corporate loyalty, these meetings cause nothing but irritation and cause the team members to get more creative in their attempts to avoid participating in the calls. Settle on a schedule that is both comfortable for your remote development team and allows you to build transparent communication.


“Our team has daily morning meetings where we report on what we did during the previous day and what our plan for today is. These calls usually don’t last for more than 10 minutes and they are not disruptive to our schedule, but they allow everyone to know where the team stands.”

Anton, Junior QA


Since the 1960s, micromanagement has been one of the most debated topics in the corporate world. The concept of micromanagement has its supporters, and even some of the most famous names in business, from Steve Jobs to Jeff Bezos, have admitted to being micromanagers to an extent.

Managing remote development teams means a lot of responsibility. Ultimately, you are responsible both for the success of the product and for the satisfaction of your team. However, micromanagement is never the answer. Collaboration and delegation are the right way to build your long-term strategy.

Tools To Help You Set Up And Manage Your Remote Team

Whether you are a project manager, a CEO, or outsource your development needs to a company that works in a different location, you don’t always need to rely on the same old messenger or task manager you’ve used for ages. We have prepared a list of convenient, innovative tools that will help you manage your team, build effective communication, track progress, and collaborate on projects. Here are those tools.

Assemble the perfect remote team to start your project or give it a quality boost.

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Our Experience Of Working As A Remote Team

In the spring of 2020, many companies viewed remote work as completely uncharted territory. Here at QArea, we already had plenty of experience working remotely for clients located all over the world. Being a software development outsourcing company for over 20 years, we had the processes, tools, and mindset ready to excel in the remote work environment.

Still, for all those years, our work was centered around our four offices around Ukraine. So when the first lockdown happened and hundreds of our employees had to work from home, we also had to adjust to the new reality. This is where our experience of working remotely for all those years came in handy. 

Out of all projects in our portfolio, one is a particularly good example of how we get things done at QArea. Not only have we been involved in this project for more than 5 years remotely due to the client operating on another continent, but our team has been working exclusively from home ever since the first lockdown in March of 2020. 

We spoke to two members of that project’s team: Anastasiia Bulbiak, Manual QA Lead, who has been working on the project since its launch, and Anton Anikeev, Junior QA, who joined the team less than a year ago when it was already in a fully remote mode. More than two years later from the beginning of the pandemic, here are our main takeaways.


Having worked on a project for over five years, we have felt that the relationship between the client and the team changed as we started getting more and more responsibilities. What started as a small regression testing project evolved to our team updating testing documentation, doing bug verification, testing a wider range of the product’s functionality, creating test plans, monitoring regression, and so on. We really feel like we earned the trust of our client despite never meeting each other in person, and recently our scope of responsibilities increased further as the client entrusted us with a newly developed product.

Anastasiia says that instead of passively waiting for the client to pass the tasks to the team and simply doing a good job, we took a different approach. We actively tried to make the testing process more efficient and to use industry best practices in our work. And what was particularly important to us is that the client was open to our suggestions and was quick to implement most of them. 

In turn, Anton recalls that the team management is always ready for the feedback and suggestions from remote team members. For example, Anton started as a QA trainee on a completely different project, but he always wanted to work on this specific one. So he communicated his wishes to his supervisor, and as soon as there was an opening, he was able to join the team.


Onboarding and mentoring new members of the team is one of the work aspects that definitely were affected the most by the switch to remote work. Still, we are not letting our new employees feel like they are left to comprehend everything on their own. 

Every new team member receives a personalized onboarding plan with a list of things to do every day. And by the end of each day, the team member has to report their progress to the team lead.

Anton recalls that in addition to the reading materials and basic information needed to start, he also got to apply his newly acquired knowledge on a real-life project. This, in his opinion, was one of the most valuable lessons from the onboarding process. Both Anton and Anastasiia also point out that even though the team does not physically work from the same location, the more experienced members of the team are always there to help the newer ones with any work-related challenges.


When working remotely, the two available communication methods are messengers and calls. According to Anastasiia, messengers are the preferred method of communication within the team for one simple reason: times may change, team members may come and go, but chat logs and other forms of written communication will remain. It means that you can find the necessary piece of information even years after it was discussed in a chat. This is not something that you can usually experience with a team working from the same office, where issues are often resolved simply by talking about them in person.

Both Anton and Anastasiia agree that the communication within the team is mostly synchronous because everyone has a similar schedule. Whenever anyone has a question, there are dozens of team members ready to answer it. At the same time, everyone on the team respects each other’s boundaries and personal time, so you will hardly ever see a message on the team chat after 8:00 p.m. unless it’s truly urgent.

When it comes to the communication between the team and the client, it’s also mostly synchronous, especially when we and the client’s team are in the same time zones. However, there is definitely space for introducing more asynchronous communication to the mix. It often gives an opportunity to provide higher quality answers simply because there is more time to think, so the team would definitely be up for it.

Time zones

In our day-to-day work on this particular project, we mostly communicate with teams working in Israel and the United States. And while Ukraine and Israel share the same time zone, the time difference between Ukraine and the US is 8 or more hours, depending on the exact location of the client’s team. In theory, this could create another roadblock, but we managed to make it work.

When we have an item to discuss with the US-based team, we simply try to schedule the discussion at the most convenient time for both teams. For example, Anton tries to move these conversations closer to the end of his shift. This is when the workday only begins for the people on the other side of the planet and when they are at their most productive, so every issue tends to be resolved on time and in full.


Productivity is often a concern for newly remote teams. And even though our situation was different, Anastasiia admits that there were concerns about whether the team would be able to maintain its productivity levels when working entirely from home. 

We are happy to say that those concerns turned out to be unfounded. The productivity of the whole team not only did not decrease, but actually showed a tendency to increase. This is because the team understands the responsibility we have and what we are trying to accomplish, and that only the whole team’s contribution can get us there. In other words, we are feeling accountable for the work we are doing and we know that our work has a direct impact on the quality of the product, which is why doing it well is a priority for us.

Team bonding

Anastasiia says that the lack of face-to-face communication is what makes things harder, as those little coffee breaks and other forms of informal communication really helped with team bonding. Even though the team operates from the same city, working on the project full-time and having personal lives outside of work does not create a lot of opportunities for informal interactions.

Still, the team uses every little opportunity to bond even with the limitations of working remotely. There are occasional offline team-building activities, such as go-karting. And whenever it’s someone’s birthday, it always gets mentioned in the team chat and everyone can add their birthday wishes, either in public or privately.

When Should You Consider Outsourcing?

If you are working in an IT-related industry, then we probably don’t need to explain what outsourcing is. As one of the forms of remote work, outsourcing has also started to gain more recognition since early 2020. Anything from software development and quality assurance to project management can be outsourced these days, and the most obvious benefits of outsourcing don’t require an explanation either. 

You get to save money without sacrificing the quality of your project because the cost of development in different parts of the world can be several times lower compared to hiring an in-house development team. Here are a couple more less-obvious reasons why your company may benefit from getting a tech partner:

  • You need specific expertise for a specific task. Sometimes you have a task that only an industry expert with a niche experience can complete, but it doesn’t make sense to hire that expert full-time. Outsourcing can be your perfect solution in this case. 
  • You need to quickly scale your team. Outsourcing software product development allows you to adjust the size of your development team in both directions without any fundamental changes to the structure of your company.
  • Time is a concern. Hiring and onboarding new team members can take weeks, so if you don’t have that time, outsourcing is the way to go — you can go from the initial consultation to beginning the work in just a week. 

Final Thoughts

More than two years into the global pandemic and the subsequent shift to remote work, it’s safe to say that even post-COVID, we are not returning to the office in the traditional sense of the word. So instead of reminiscing about the good old days, you need to learn to adapt and make the experience of working remotely comfortable both for you and the members of your team using the most suitable tools, techniques, and industry best practices.



Effective communication, quick onboarding, flexible conditions, and outstanding quality of work are just a few of the things you get when working with our development and QA teams.

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Written by

Inna, Technical Writer at QArea

Inna is a content writer with close to 10 years of experience in creating content for various local and international companies. She is passionate about all things information technology and enjoys making complex concepts easy to understand regardless of the reader’s tech background. In her free time, Inna loves baking, knitting, and taking long walks.

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