The pandemic accelerated the transition to remote work for many tech companies and completely transformed the way developers work. Not long ago, talented developers were compelled to relocate as a condition of permanent employment, which led to losing talents for the companies. However, the tech industry found the solution in remote work and now is leading the way in progressive work-from-home (WFH) policies.
That said, since remote working still has its downsides, staying motivated as a developer can be challenging. Creative jobs like software development are highly demanding, and there’s always pressure to deliver high-quality products. This constant pressure can lead to burnout, which can kill motivation, a critical element for remote working.
When your development team starts to lose motivation, productivity suffers a lot, and this can adversely affect your business. So, naturally, you may be wondering how to stay motivated at work so that you can be more productive.
How to Keep Software Developers Motivated: Best Practices
Undoubtedly, you would want to ensure that your employees, despite their demanding careers, will do their best and deliver excellent results when working on projects. The good news is, there are several strategies you can employ to help keep your software developers motivated.
1. Set Clear Project Objectives
Nothing is quite the motivation killer as not knowing the direction to take as a team. If your development team is working on a project without clear goals or principles, they won’t deliver the best results.
It’s up to you to lay out the project’s ideals in a precise manner; otherwise, it may create conflicts and misunderstandings among the team members. The last thing you want is someone working on a piece of software only for it to be discarded later for not meeting the specifications.
Additionally, you don’t want team members working against each other. It will be a total waste of time and resources. That’s why it’s crucial to get everyone on the same page, especially with teams working remotely.
You must ensure that all team members have the same vision of the end goal to avoid confusion and poor productivity. Once they know the direction to take, they will be focused and motivated to complete the projects efficiently and on time.
2. Foster Psychological Safety
One area most managers don’t put much focus on is the importance of psychological safety in the workplace. This is the belief that one won’t be embarrassed, humiliated, or punished for sharing opinions, suggestions, ideas, or asking for help.
A dev team relies heavily on collaboration, and when there’s a high degree of psychological safety, they’ll know their contributions, no matter how small, will be valued. This creates confidence and trust among team members – the two qualities that can boost the overall team performance.
But, to create such a conducive environment, leadership plays a significant role. Leaders need to build the right mindset and behaviors within their teams. By setting the right tone, they will have a strong impact on their teams.
Additionally, leaders that demonstrate supportive and consultative behaviors help create a positive climate, which further promotes psychological safety. The leader can then challenge teams to exceed expectations and fulfill their objectives.
On top of that, as a leader, you must demonstrate these leadership behaviors:
- Supportive – showing sincere and authentic interest in those around you and being friendly and approachable;
- Participative – consulting with your team before making decisions;
- Directive – giving your workers a clear direction to follow (for example, how to perform a task);
- Inspiring – creating an inspiring environment that propels your team to see beyond their perceived limitations and step up to new challenges.
A McKinsey survey shows that leadership behaviors have a direct effect on the psychological safety of the team. A company that promotes positive leadership relations contributes to a positive team climate. Subsequently, the organization benefits from improved innovation and creativity.
To ensure psychological safety reigns supreme in your company, introduce leadership development programs that will help improve positive leadership behaviors at all leadership levels. Once team leaders develop these skills, they will be better equipped to create psychological safety within the team.
3. Involve Everyone in Decision Making
It’s important to make your development team a part of every decision-making. When you organize a meeting to discuss designs and architecture for the next project, ensure everyone is involved. This way, the team will feel valued and will be more willing to come up with better design decisions or ideas.
During meetings, don’t let it be only about the senior software developer presenting their ideas and solutions. Instead, ask for team participation to hear the different approaches of all the team members.
Keep in mind, introverts may not contribute unless asked. So, don’t be afraid to ask them proactively about their thoughts and ideas.
More importantly, appreciate the ideas of your developers. Being open to new ideas will encourage team members to open up and present their opinions. Not only will this help build better working relationships but also keep projects flowing smoothly.
4. Listen to Your Dev Team
Everyone has unique challenges and perceptions, both in their personal and professional lives. What motivates one individual might not make sense to another. Therefore, learn to listen to the specific needs of each person on your team.
Find a convenient time to hold one-on-ones, and make them a regular thing. Use this chance to address any issues bugging your team and solve individual problems.
Don’t stop there. Be actionable and follow up to make sure everything was resolved. During such meetings, you must learn to listen more than you speak. After all, it’s your employee’s opportunity to share their grievances, not yours.
5. Create Learning Opportunities
One thing for sure is that programming involves endless learning. There’s always some new code or new framework to work with. In fact, research shows that software development is among the fastest-growing occupations worldwide, meaning each employee you have is an asset worth keeping.
Providing paid-on-the-job time for learning new skills is fundamental not only for personal gratification but also for motivation. Find out if your developers have been taking classes on the side and offer to pay for them.
They will appreciate your interest in their career developments and will remain loyal to your company.
6. Help Teams Set Work-Life Boundaries
One of the top struggles with remote workers is the ability to unplug after hours. According to Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2021, 27 percent of respondents cited unplugging from work as their biggest pain point.
For most people, working and relaxing in the same room tends to be distracting, and even confusing. That’s why it’s a good idea to separate the space.
One benefit of having a dedicated workspace is that your mind switches to work mode as soon as you ‘enter’ the office. Likewise, your mind switches to ‘relax’ mode when you ‘close’ the office.
As a manager, you can help your development team create their own transition routines that signal to the brain about the end of a workday. Here are a few suggestions:
- Request your CEO or leaders to share publicly how they structure their day. This might motivate your remote teams to emulate their strategies to set work boundaries.
- Check your company holiday calendar and find if there are ways to offer extra all-staff off days outside of your general holiday calendar.
- Suggest they find an activity that can help the brain recognize the transition to non-work mode. This could be as simple as shutting the work computer and leaving the home office or turning on the radio or TV. Alternatively, one could go for a short walk or bike ride, to the gym, or for a swim – ideally anything that contrasts a workday.
Once your team knows how to set work-life boundaries, cases of burnout will reduce. Consequently, they will always start their workdays energized.
7. Encourage Better Work-Life Balance
Research by The Corporate Executive Board concluded that workers with a better work-life balance work 21 percent harder. Employees are also 33 percent more likely to stay at the company.
You don’t give your workers a reason to look for another job, and the secret is to encourage a good work-life balance. You can help your teams out by:
- Offering them more flexible work options;
- Encouraging them to set clear work boundaries, as pointed out above;
- Encouraging them to take regular breaks;
- Setting a positive example;
- Assessing team members’ workloads to avoid overload.
8. Prioritize Your Team’s Well-Being
Employers had started to show concern for their workers’ wellness even before Covid hit. However, since the pandemic, there has been an increased focus on the physical and emotional well-being of employees.
Why? The rate of stress and burnout was at its peak during the pandemic. For many employees, 2020 and 2021 have been the most challenging years, and companies are now devoted to ensuring their well-being.
A case in point is the dating app Bumble, which gave nearly its entire workforce a whole week off for ‘mental health’. According to the CEO, Whitney Wolfe Herd, the vacation was to help the workers recover from burnout.
Showing your employees that you care for them can be a huge motivator and makes them 3.2 times more likely to be happy. Well, you don’t have to go all big like Bumble Inc. and give your staff an entire week off. You can do simple things like checking in on them regularly to find out how they are doing.
Another thing that works really well is to send employees to care packages that will contain the things they love. It could be a murder mystery game box, treats they can share with family, or gift vouchers. You could also organize to celebrate anniversaries or birthdays as a team.
Additionally, as a part of the care package, you can sign them up for some activities like cooking, yoga, or meditation classes. Find something your employee has been wanting to learn and help them achieve that. The benefits will go both ways. The worker will feel valued and cared for, and in return, they will bring positivity and better work performance.
9. Maintain a Positive Atmosphere
Every developer has a different approach to how they work, and not all programs will function as expected. Accept that there are things you can’t control in the workplace, and sometimes your teams will be under immense stress.
Keep in mind, emotion has a direct impact on your employees’ motivation level. So, find ways to control negative criticism and avoid belittling the input of a developer. Apart from providing positive feedback for a job well done, be sure to offer constructive criticism.
As a software development team leader, you must learn to deal with varied opinions and conflicting viewpoints. Don’t let arguments ensue or team members clash over the best way to proceed.
Disagreements will be there, and it’s your responsibility to encourage healthy discussions. Eventually, this will promote sustained motivation.
10. Give Autonomy to Your Development Team
One thing software developers hate is micromanagement. Even the most engaged developer might lose motivation if a manager exercises excessive control. You might feel like you’re making them feel supported, but it’s actually the opposite.
Research shows that micromanagement can lead to low morale, reduction in productivity, and high staff turnover. It also contributes to a potential decrease in the overall growth of a company.
What’s more, when you micromanage your team, they get the impression that you don’t trust them or believe in their abilities to get the job done. The worker then feels powerless and may become disloyal or resentful. As a result, they may decide to take their talents elsewhere.
Learn to give your dev team space to breathe and make their own decisions. Not only will this boost their confidence, but it will also improve their creative development.
One way to avoid micromanaging your development team is implementing a work time tracker to manage all work processes. This will allow you to keep track of what tasks are being tackled and by whom.
You can even see the progress of each task and estimate how long it will take to complete. All you have to do is assign tasks, give clear guidelines, and let them do their jobs.
A time tracking app offers more than just tracking work progress. It records a worker’s performance and productivity levels that can help you manage their workloads better. Plus, the reports can reveal gaps in the work processes so you can reassess and make adjustments.
11. Offer Them Flexibility
Recent statistics by EY show that 54 percent of employees globally would quit their jobs if not given some form of flexibility. According to the survey, nine out of ten employees demand flexibility in where and when they work.
Flexibility in the workplace is vital to the health of a business, as well as that of employees. In fact, according to an article featured on Forbes, flexible workers are not only productive, but they are also happier and take sick leaves less often.
Flexibility in your development team’s work schedule can help reduce stress and anxiety, allowing them to manage their personal commitments when they need to. Of course, urgent job tasks, meetings, and the overall time plan should still always be a priority.
12. Encourage Your Team to Keep a Schedule
A LinkedIn report shows that top executives are focused on adapting their workplace policies to offer greater flexibility. However, even with flexible schedules, encourage your staff to keep a structured routine.
When working remotely, it can be tough to maintain a healthy work-life balance. However, with a fixed schedule, you’ll know when to wake up, when to start working, and when to unplug.
Making this a routine will help you manage your work time better, and you can enjoy your free time without worrying about work.
13. Rethink Your Recognition and Reward Strategies
First of all, if you aren’t recognizing and rewarding your software development team, you’re making a costly mistake. A lack of recognition was the number one reason 36 percent of employees said they’d consider quitting their jobs. As a leader, the last thing you want is a high turnover combined with the cost of hiring new employees.
Conversely, companies that implement recognition programs have 31 percent lower voluntary turnover, as one study by Deloitte found.
Meaningful recognition doesn’t have to be something fancy or big. It’s the small things that matter. A simple “thanks” from the manager can be all an employee wants to hear. On the other hand, you could arrange a private or company-wide video conference to express your appreciation to a team member.
Here are other recognition ideas you can implement with your dev team:
- Gift cards;
- Movie tickets;
- Bonus pay;
- Celebrating an employee’s years of services in the company;
- Recognizing your best performer on social media;
- Rewarding your star employee with a rotating trophy;
- Offering a surprise time off.
The key is to promote ongoing and continuous recognition. Make it part of your culture to appreciate all your staff, regardless of their level or position. They will work harder and be happier knowing that their efforts will be appreciated or even rewarded.
14. Ensure They Take Regular Breaks
We can’t stress enough the importance of taking breaks throughout a workday. No one can work continuously for hours on end, and trying to work when fatigued can lead to creativity deadlock and errors. Science agrees, saying that “excessive focus exhausts the focus circuits in your brain.”
The work of developers can be physically and mentally exhausting. Don’t wait until such exhaustion catches up with your developers to act. Encourage them to take regular breaks when working to give their brains time to reenergize.
For example, teams can work a 45-minutes block and take a five-minute break, or a 90-minute block and take a 17-minute break.
Ask everyone to find a rhythm for work and breaks that works best for them and implement it in their work routines. Additionally, consider organizing vacations at least once a year to help teams recuperate and “heal.” They will come back more motivated and ready to code.
15. Set a Good Example
Employees notice everything you do. So, as their boss, you better lead by example if you want to motivate them successfully. Keep in mind, your level of motivation as a leader is more contagious. Teams are more likely to follow your lead in everything you do.
If they notice you’re not that much into a project, they may lose morale. The same can be said about respect. If you want your team to respect you, respect them first.
Remember that every time you work with your team.
Motivate Your Development Teams to Improve Engagement
Over 60 percent of developers already work remotely, according to the most recent State of Remote Engineering Report. Of course, the benefits are numerous – flexible work schedules, improved work-life balance, and no need to relocate.
It’s not surprising, then, that developers are happier working remotely. A 2020 State of Salaries report shows that nearly a third of tech workers are willing to accept a reduced salary if allowed to work from home permanently. Of course, happier employees are more productive.
There isn’t a single solution to motivate a team of software developers and if you try looking for one, you will find numerous guides online explaining how to stay motivated as a software developer. In this article, we’ve outlined some of the best and most efficient strategies and ideas for staff motivation specifically in software development companies.
Find what works best for you and the team, and devise effective ways to implement them. If you manage a team, never forget to let them feel that you’re approachable, a good listener, and ready to offer support. If you are still not sure “how to”, you can always turn to specialists and get some professional advice to make sure you and your team are on the same page.
Jelvix has been a trusted software development partner for a great number of different companies. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you transform your business.
Sarah B. Blank is a business and management graduate writing about remote working, time management, productivity, and other similar topics. Her articles appear on various authority websites and get thousands of visits every month.
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