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How to Motivate a Geographically Distributed Team

Mesut Celik

Team Lead at Hazelcast

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Problem

A distributed team generally requires a higher level of motivation due to everyone being virtually connected. This detachment contributes itself to communication problems. Possible issues like over-communication or lack of communication might increase the chance of heated discussions within the team or minimize daily productivity of the employee.

Actions taken

As those items are not one-size-fits-all, you can always pick the one that works for you and your team.

  • Create temporary sub-teams based on task implementation so that people does not feel alone. Pair Programming can be a good option.
  • Advise the team to jump into a video call if typing doesn't help out.
  • Encourage them not to skip company-wide offsites,Dev Days or team gatherings. That is where people meet in person.
  • Organize mini development days for your own team if a budget is still under control.
  • Avoid dry and boring standups with funny comments and easy conversations about family life or hobbies.
  • Suggest team members work from different places if they experience better productivity in this manner.
  • Each person has different productive routines. Ask them to create habits out of them. Books like The Power of Habit can help on that subject.
  • Do not start your workday by checking emails directly upon waking up.
  • Although this is not for everyone but leave home before beginning to work and work from somewhere outside of the home environment like co-working spaces.
  • Create rules like waiting at least 24 hours before answering an email, comment, or any other async interaction if you are angry or unhappy about a communication.
  • Try to understand the cultural background of every remote employee and take actions based on that if needed.

Lessons learned

Every engineer is different, but a constant that remains true for all is that most people love talking. No matter what the topic, it is important to get the conversation flowing. The pay off will be apparent if actions are properly implemented. Choose the ones that are suitable for your team or create your own version. Company Culture in Geographically Distributed Teams is an important subject and new to the most of the companies but you will enjoy low employee turnover if you take it serious


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Mesut Celik

Team Lead at Hazelcast


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