An illustration depicting a modern workplace, next to an illustration of Bit the Raccoon.

As developers, we tend to work very collaboratively within teams or pods and thrive on the interaction with our peers. However, we currently don’t have the ability to have in-person connections, so we’ve had to find new ways to work together and collaborate, remotely.

Here’s how we’ve made the successful shift to remote working while staying on top of workloads and keeping the team together.


1. Adopting a virtual team culture

While it’s now natural for dev teams to work together through distributed version control systems like Git, we have to remember the importance of the cross-functional aspect of development (the product manager, QA manager, developers, and business owner) are also critical to the process.

This also means that collaboration in the human sense as well as the technical needs to be maintained.

As a developer, we can often be quite single-minded and utterly focused on shipping a feature, crushing a bug, or making a solution more elegant. We need to be aware that while we’re no longer physically interacting with our colleagues or friends, we ensure we mix up coding with peer interaction via chatting, video calls, or meetings in Teams.

Whilst I now work in the Business side of Azure, people I work with across the company have invited me to their ‘no work’ get-togethers (the virtual water cooler) to just chat and catch up. My Australian colleagues have a ‘bring your dog to Teams meeting’ once a week, and last week my team had a virtual pub quiz.

We all want to be that 10x developer, but it’s really important that we take care of ourselves and check in with others during what a lot of people find is a very isolating time.


2. Communication and transparency

Our modern workplace tools provide the ability to be in the room and communicate efficiently, but it’s important to take time to read, go for a walk, and have a break. You and your manager should be able to set the expectations and allow you to carry on enjoying what you are doing.

If people feel out of the loop, they won’t feel connected as a team. Keep everyone informed of the latest news and helpful information – everything from remote work tips, tech resources, and guidance. Share what works for you or what you struggle with, and encourage others to do the same. Supporting each other will keep your team feeling connected.


3. The right mix of tools and technology

Our Microsoft 365 engineering team ships software at what feels like a constant pace. As the way we worked moved to a total virtual environment, we heavily relied on Teams to carry out daily stand-ups, and Azure Devops to co-ordinate work through Azure Boards.

If you participate in peer reviews or pair programming, remote working can be a challenge. Where you normally would sit side by side and learn from one another, try using Visual Studio Live Share for joint debugging sessions and peer learning. Live Share allows developers to work both together and independently, and feels a lot like in-person collaboration. If you want to upskill or gain new skills, we have Microsoft Learn and virtual events to help learn how to use new tech, improve your knowledge, or learn something new.


An ongoing challenge

I’ve found maintaining this collaborative culture has helped ensure my team stays productive. However, enabling your team to work remotely isn’t a one-and-done job. You may find you and your colleagues will need to adapt to changing needs. But if you have the right tools, a collaborative culture, and transparent communication, you’re team will be able to respond and work together quickly.


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About the author

Justin is the Application Innovation Business Lead at Microsoft UK. He helps customers, employees, and partners to adopt PaaS, DevOps and GitHub services to drive innovation through their business. Before this, he was the Technical Sales Lead for Kubernetes workloads, where he helped customers adopt cloud native technologies.