Written by: Jen Carlevatti // Oct 20, 2020
Last updated: Oct 20, 2020
If you’re a traditional project manager who recently joined the army of newly remote workers, trying to shepherd projects to completion can feel disorienting. In-person meetings where you can observe body language? Gone. Dropping by a colleague’s cubicle for an impromptu status check? Kaput. Taking the team out to lunch to celebrate a milestone? Not happening.
Some of the tools in your project management arsenal may have disappeared, but meeting deadlines, connecting with co-workers, and recognizing achievements doesn’t have to be a herculean task. Our six tips for remote project management can help you adjust (and dare we say, thrive) in the work-from-home world.
6. Define Roles and Goals Clearly
Although our first tip is a bedrock of traditional project management, it takes on added importance for remote projects. To set your team up for success, consider scheduling a video kickoff call where you outline the project, set expectations, and work through deadlines and roles.
It’s also a good idea to gather feedback after each project to continually improve on your processes and gather input from the team. After all, they’re new to working remotely, too.
5. Leverage Technology
It goes without saying that technology was THE critical factor that allowed business to continue uninterrupted during the transition to remote work in early 2020. Yet many companies still rely on spreadsheets and digital calendars to manage projects. According to a recent study, only 13 percent of businesses use some type of collaboration software.
Whether you eventually return to the office or remote work becomes a permanent part of your company’s culture, a cloud-based project management program can improve efficiency tenfold. Platforms like Jira, Asana, and Workday allow everyone to assign tasks, ask questions, check on the status of a project, get needed documents, indicate when tasks are completed and run reports – anytime, anywhere.
Conversely, nearly every remote company uses some form of video conferencing from Teams to Zoom and everything in between. Use it to check in visually with your team members. It’s a great way to cut through ambiguities that arise from emails and other forms of written communication. It also allows you to see how they’re doing and search out conflict before it impacts project timelines. If any issues arise, the strategies for solving it are probably the same as they were in the office.
4. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
One of the keys to successfully managing any virtual team, and virtual project teams in particular, is good communication.
To keep everyone on the same page even though they’re not in the same room, consider introducing a daily stand-up meeting. It should be short (around 15 minutes) and provide a regular touchpoint for team members to discuss what they have completed, what they are working on, and any issues or problems. Identifying issues allows the appropriate people to meet and resolve the problem outside of the stand-up.
During team meetings, make it a requirement to turn on video. From body language to facial expressions to stress cues, there are countless subtle ways we convey information, and the ability to see your team on camera can replicate some of that nuance in a remote setting.
Outside of meetings, make sure you are concise in your written communications. Everyone is distracted these days, and long treatises are likely to overwhelm your team. Also, in the absence of in-person meetings, precise written language that drives action is critical to avoiding confusion and conflict while moving projects forward.
3. Nurture Your Team’s Culture
Having a cohesive team is beneficial to your project. To help people connect outside of work roles, try scheduling digital meetups to foster community. You could pay for lunch and schedule a virtual meal so the team can hang out like they would in the lunchroom. Other fun ideas could include coffee chats, game nights, happy hours, or book clubs.
Above all, welcome home life into your activities (and formal meetings, too). If your kid crawls into your lap for a cuddle or your dog wants a sloppy close up with the webcam, embrace it. Bringing the personal into work builds culture and makes remote work a lot more fun.
2. Beware the Work-Life Balance Trap
According to Gallup's recent report, State of the American Workplace, remote workers can be 20-25 percent more productive than their onsite colleagues. Clearly, the notion that off-site employees don’t work as hard has been laid to rest.
Working too much, however, can be a bigger problem. With no clear lines between work and home, many people fall into the trap of being “on” 24/7. Encourage your team to set real hours, create a workspace or system that signals when they’re working, and stick to it. Overwork is bad for morale, health, and ultimately productivity.
1. Celebrate Success
When you share office space, it’s easy to leave a note or a cupcake on a team member’s desk to recognize a job well done. Working remotely means you’ll need to get creative to make sure your team members feel recognized and appreciated. The next time your team hits an important deadline or successfully completes a big project, consider:
- Announcing the achievement at a virtual company meeting
- Sending team members gift certificates for coffee, Amazon, etc.
- Springing for a virtual pizza party
- Recognizing the team in a company Slack channel
Showing individual appreciation in your project management app (Asana and other platforms have features that allows you to do it quickly and easily)
No matter what approach you choose, a little thanks goes a long way.
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