If you’re managing a team of software developers, you’ll want to create an environment that allows them to do their best. The right workplace can help your most passionate workers reach the height of their potential, and help your underperformers catch up to the rest of the crowd. The question is, what makes a work environment ideal for a software developer?
Obviously, every developer and every business will have slightly different needs, but there are some key universal points to address.
The Physical Environment
First, let’s discuss the physical environment, since the physical layout and features of the workplace can have a massive impact on both morale and productivity.
- Offer options. Everyone likes something different, so try to offer multiple workplace options for your employees. For example, some developers will want a big, open environment where they can collaborate with others and feel like they’re a part of a team while others will prefer the privacy of an office. Some will prefer to work outside under a retractable awning, while others will want to stay inside all year round. Providing multiple types of work stations, and the ability to float from place to place, can help each of your team members find the environment that works best for them.
- Upgrade equipment regularly. Nobody likes to work on an outdated PC, or likes being stuck with an old monitor that barely works. Make sure you’re upgrading your team’s equipment on a semi-regular basis. You don’t need to buy new models of everything every year, but pay attention to your devices once they get to be a few years old. Not only are newer machines faster, but they’ll also help keep employee morale high.
- Change things up occasionally. Software developers probably got involved in the career because they like solving complex problems and working on lots of different projects. If you force them to come in to the exact same environment, day after day, eventually they’ll grow bored of it. Introducing more novelty, by rearranging the furniture or offering new working options, can have a massively positive benefit on employee morale.
- Offer a break space and encourage its use. Breaks aren’t a waste of time; they’re a valuable opportunity to rest your eyes, decompress, and potentially engage with your teammates. Try to include at least one attractive break space in your office environment, and make sure your software developers feel free to use it at their discretion.
In addition to physical factors, you’ll need to think about how your brand culture, and other intangible factors like rewards impact software developer productivity.
- Grant more flexibility. The more flexibility your software developers have, in general, the better. Assuming they’re still hitting productivity targets, flexibility allows them to rearrange their working and personal lives in a way that allows them to do their best (while bringing them the most happiness). For example, allowing them to work from home or accommodating a flex schedule can allow developers to find the approach that works best for their productivity and morale.
- Set team and individual goals. Different types of goals work well for different people, so it’s good to have a mix of goals available as motivation for your developers. Try to set goals for an entire team, to encourage collaboration, but also individual goals to help your developers learn and grow.
- Encourage a positive atmosphere. Attitudes in a workplace environment are highly contagious. One extremely vocal negative person can poison the entire atmosphere. Conversely, one very positive person can make everyone feel better. Try to encourage positive contributions whenever you can, and downplay the negative voices to reinforce a more supportive, content environment.
- Set a good example. If you’re leading this team of software developers, people are going to be looking to you to set an example. If you want your employees to show up on time, communicate clearly, keep a good attitude and remain calm under pressure, you have to do these things yourself.
- Publicly recognize exceptional achievements. When an employee does something exceptional, like solving a problem that had everyone stumped or completing a project a week ahead of the deadline, take the time to publicly recognize that achievement. This not only makes the employee feel more pride in their work, but also gently incentivizes other employees to follow in their footsteps.
While there are some general rules and general improvements that can work for most software development teams, much of your success is going to come from the unique accommodations you make for your specific team. There isn’t a “right” way to approach brand culture, but knowing what makes your business different from others can help you accentuate those perks.