Reviving Motivation: Strategies to Re-Engage Remote Developers | DistantJob - Remote Recruitment Agency
Managing Remote Developers

How and Why You Should Re-Engage Disengaged Remote Developers

Ihor Shcherbinin
VP of Recruiting at DistantJob - - - 3 min. to read

When an all-star employee strikes out, you have two choices. Either let them go and start over with another developer. Or re-engage them.

Finding a replacement for an expert developer is not easy – even if we make it look that way.

A disengaged employee will cost your business. But an increased turnover rate will cost even more.

If you think that’s not a suitable conversation for this blog, you’re mistaken. We’d sooner you had the right candidate who worked long-term and contributed to your growth than push a new candidate to benefit us.

We can help you find a great developer at any time. But if you’re having problems with a current employee, we suggest taking notes.

Recruiting a new developer VS re-engaging a disenchanted employee

I know what you’re thinking, “I’m not worried about hiring a new dev, I’ll just ring up DistantJob, and they’ll sort me out pronto.” Yes, true.


If you’re thinking about taking the old-school-hiring route (why?), let’s consider some facts.

The average cost of hiring a new developer in the US:

Time: 43 days

Productivity loss: $33,251

Recruitment cost: $20,000

Cost to train: $34,000

Business overheads for in-office employees: $15,000

Total: $102,251

Worse, there’s no guarantee that your new hire will not lose their mojo and prompt you to start the cycle again.

Let’s see how much your disengaged employees cost.

A whitepaper from Achievers says only 21% of employees are highly engaged in their work. 

Disengaged employee means more absenteeism and less productivity/profitability.

According to the Gallup State of American Workplace report, the above factors translate to about 34% of an employees’ salary.

So if a developer makes $120,000 a year, then your company is losing $40,800 per year.

But the silver lining is that a disengaged employee doesn’t have to stay that way. You can turn the situation around and stop wasting your resources.

Signs Your Remote Developer is Underperforming

If there’s a sudden change in employee performance, you can most likely point to a specific reason or incident.

But disengagement doesn’t happen like a cloudburst. It’s a slow process that takes hold and adds up over time.

In a distributed team, there may be signs to help you detect those subtle changes sooner:

  • Shift in attitude – doesn’t want to get involved or volunteer for a project/team
  • Fewer inputs in meetings or doesn’t contribute unless asked
  • Lessened responses on Slack and other channels
  • Doesn’t help other teammates regularly/willingly
  • Struggling to meet deadlines or saves work for the eleventh hour
  • Increased mistakes in work
  • Avoids socializing with teammates

Root Causes of Disengagement in Remote Work

While it’s impossible to pin down a complete list, here are a few concerns that may be getting in the way of your remote developer’s work performance.

  • The rift between the position advertised and the current role: If there is a considerable mismatch between the job description and the current function, employees will be disillusioned. Maybe you can explain the change or reassign them to other projects that suit their skills.
  • Stagnation and no growth potential: According to a HackerRank report of what developers want most from their jobs, career growth is #1. Consider giving your remote developer more challenging problems/responsibilities.  
  • Increased workload stress and fatigue: If developers are carrying extra responsibilities for an extended period, it’s sure to catch up with them. That’s why helping them find a balance is so important.
  • Feeling sidelined: In a distributed team, this problem occurs frequently. Include your remote developers in the decision-making process, give them due responsibility rather than just grunt work, and support their efforts.
  • Excluded from the team: Again, remote teams face this problem. And building a strong remote work culture is the solution.
  • Personal factors: While employees separate the personal from the professional, some critical events may make that difficult. Offer your help and see whether taking some time off could work.
  • Not having the proper resources: An employee can resent anything that gets in the way of their work. Sounds priggish, I know. Communicating with them and providing them the support they need is the way to go.
  • Conflict with other team members: Jealousy, bullying, carrying someone else’s workload, and not getting credit will disable a distributed team’s performance. Building camaraderie where everyone inspires everyone else is the only answer to this problem.

How to Unearth the Root Causes of Why a Developer Working Remotely is Underachieving

Trying to guess the root cause is useless, but the wrong approach could make matters worse.

So, you may have to do a little detective work to get to the problem:

  • One-on-one meeting with the employee: This head-on approach is probably the best. Mention what sort of changes you’ve noticed in their performance and ask why. However, don’t make it sound confrontational. Let them know how valuable they are to the team.
  • Monitoring distributed work platforms: A disgruntled employee may vent or leave clues in the regular course of work.
  • Speak with colleagues: It may be easier to confide in a colleague than open up to a boss.
  • Listen to client feedback: If the employee interacts directly with clients, they may be able to clue you in about changes in the employee’s work behavior/quality over time.
  • Work reviews: If you notice that the employee is struggling with a certain kind of work, you can come closer to finding the problem.  

Employees want to see the big picture, want to be in on things and see themselves as a part of the company’s future. Clear organizational communication, individual counseling, and the right resources are the stepping stones to keeping employees motivated and performing well.

So, is it worth it in every instance to re-engage a disenchanted employee? No. If an employee has demands or goals that you feel confident you can’t meet—such as a pay hike or promotion—and you’re certain their performance wouldn’t get better without those incentives, you may have to look for their replacements.

Thankfully, for those times, DistantJob’s services are wide open to you.

Ihor Shcherbinin

Ihor, is the VP of Recruiting at DistantJob. He specializes in sourcing and placing top remote developers for North American companies. His expertise covers the entire recruiting cycle, from pinpointing job needs to finalizing hires. Known for his skill in remote staffing solutions and offshore team integration, Ihor excels in matching the best tech talents with U.S. organizations. His approach to virtual developer hiring is marked by insightful candidate selection and strategic offer negotiation, ensuring the right fit for every role.

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Let’s talk about scaling up your team at half the cost!

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