Working remotely is the new normal for many of us. I authored this blog at home, for example! According to an Airtasker survey, remote workers are more productive and less distracted than their office-located counterparts. However, as a project manager, how do you manage your team effectively from a distance and ensure your projects stay on track?
Here’s some tips to help keep productivity levels high and stay in control of your work streams when you or your team are working remotely. We’ll also cover some of the key pitfalls to avoid as you navigate long-distance management.
Thorough planning is crucial
Your team needs a great roadmap to work from. Spent extra time planning your project to ensure everyone has clarity of your scope, the deliverables, responsibilities and deadlines.
Set clear expectations around objectives and benchmarks, and ensure your documentation is kept up to date as you move through the project. This task is made much simpler with cloud PPM software which we’ll discuss now.
Implement a centralised project management tool
Tracking your goals and progress, and enabling your team to do the same, is even more essential when working on a project remotely. Using a cloud-based collaboration tool make sense. Ensure all the team have the appropriate access levels and update their tasks in a timely fashion. This will enable you to report more accurately.
Circulate automated dashboards each morning or every week, depending on the flow of your project. A visual representation of how you’re tracking is motivating for your team. The ability to add comments and attachments to a task keeps all your activity centralised – no more time wasted searching through your emails!
Communicate clearly and regularly
Choose what technologies you will be using for video conferencing, instant messaging and collaboration and ensure everyone has access and knows how to use them. Then, consider the appropriate medium for your message. Not every issue needs a meeting! Remote workers say meetings reduce productivity 1.8 times more than on-site workers [source].
Keep in regular contact with your team members to avoid any isolation they may be feeling, as well as checking in on how they’re doing with the project. Again, choose the appropriate method of communication based on the employee’s individual preferences. Some people will want a phone call, others might only need an instant message.
Keep meetings at regular times to help workers keep routines at home. Circulate your agenda in advance and stick to it during the meeting. Encourage the team to show up on time and be respectful of each other’s time even when we are not physically together. At the same time, if someone must leave the meeting for a personal emergency, we can help them by keeping thorough minutes and distributing them promptly. Practise good meeting etiquette: turn off alerts and pop-ups, and mute when you’re not speaking. Ensure everyone has had the opportunity to speak during a video conference. It’s easy to be drowned out when multiple people try to speak at once. Team members can be allowed to leave a call if the remaining agenda items aren’t relevant to them.
Celebrate milestones and successes as you progress and give your team members regular feedback on their performance.
Plan around flexible hours and count on interruptions
Some workers may have family commitments such as school drop offs, while others may work best in the evening. Get to know your team’s habits and routines, and plan accordingly. Ensure meetings are at times which suit most people.
Trust your team members to manage their time effectively. Whether they start the work a little late or take frequent breaks, it shouldn’t be a problem as long as they are able to get the work done.
If you have established clear expectations, processes and deadlines as discussed above, they should be motivated to get the job done in their own time.
We’ve all seen that video of the kids walking in on the BBC reporter. It’s hilarious because it’s relatable. Any parent working from home has been there! It could be you or one of your team members suffering under the weight of the embarrassment, but we can just laugh at it and move back to the task at hand without further disruption.
As well as thinking about things you should do, here are some pitfalls to avoid:
36% of remote managers state that knowing what their team is working on (and when) is a challenge. It can be tempting to be in almost constant contact with your team members, perhaps to check that they have everything they need or to find out how they’re tracking towards that day’s goals. It can very quickly become overwhelming for your staff, and they may get less work done as a result. Trust your project team members to contact you when they need extra assistance.
Isolation and lack of community
“Without the usual amount of face time that many teams are accustomed to, some team members may feel isolated – be it socially or professionally. Managers should be sure to schedule a time to… foster a more personal connection, using video tools where possible to recreate the face to face experience.”
Michael DePrisco, VP, Global Experience & Solutions, Project Management Institute [source]
Whether it’s chats around the watercooler, catching up over lunch, or having a laugh over a drink – one of the main things workers miss when working remotely is the company of their fellow workmates. We can make up for the lack of face-to-face interaction, to a certain extent, by scheduling some time for the team to bond and have social time. Perhaps everyone bring their favourite snack and drink to a wrap-up session on a Friday, or you can have virtual lunch breaks. Not every email or message has to be work related!
Remote workers say their biggest struggle is ‘unplugging after work’. When you have the freedom to work at any hour of the day, some people find themselves casually checking their emails after dinner and then putting in another hour or two of work. If your team can’t disconnect fully and have proper downtime, they may go on to experience burnout. Encourage your team members to have regular breaks and log off completely at he end of the day. Make sure you regularly plan annual leave. A well-rested employee is a productive one.
And in conclusion…
Here’s how a cloud-based programme and portfolio management solution can help you manage your projects remotely:
- enables you to plan your project to ensure everyone has clarity of your scope, the deliverables, responsibilities and deadlines – and it’s real-time
- ensures your documentation is kept up to date and changes are real-time, so no more confusion over which version is the latest
- tracks your goals and progress, and enable your team to do the same
- delivers centralised information on automated dashboards
If you’re looking for a PPM tool to help you manage your remote projects sign up for a 14 day free trial of Psoda.