With working from home becoming the new norm, project managers are facing new challenges in order to lead a successful global team. The following article will provide 15 useful tips on how to successfully manage remote teams and what to keep in mind when doing so. The guide is particularly suitable for junior project managers.
One thing is for sure - remote work is definitely here to stay.
Working from home, flexible schedules, the ability to work from anywhere and spend more time with friends and family are just some of the reasons why workers prefer to work remotely rather than invest time and resources into travelling to the office.
It’s not just workers who are benefiting from the new work from home norm. Companies are embracing remote work and are reaping benefits such as reduced costs, less time wasted and increased employee productivity.
Remote work is great overall, however it does not come with an entirely new set of challenges. Projects still have to be delivered on time, team meetings still have to be held and communication between team members is still a priority. With flexible schedules and assembling global teams, however, it’s easy to feel out of the loop and lose track of responsibilities. For managers or team leaders, working remotely has introduced various obstacles that prevent them from properly assessing the productivity of the team members.
So, how are project managers handling teams and projects successfully and developing the right project management steps in a work-from-home environment? The following article will try to provide an answer to that question by focusing on some of the best practices project managers can apply to remote teams.
Of course, there is no such thing as an universally accepted “right way” of managing projects remotely. Each company, business or team has adopted their own project management style and process. Still, there are a few things that are generally helpful and will certainly come in handy to young project managers around the world.
How to Manage Teams Remotely?
As briefly mentioned, there are advantages to remote project management and establishing virtual project teams. Some of those include:
Assembling a virtual team is no different than assembling a team for a newly-founded project at your company’s location. Seek for dedicated, results-oriented and highly-adaptable workers who possess the right technical expertise for your project goals and objectives.
Once you have your team, you should set your expectations. You have to make sure that your team is well-aware of them too. Expect and work towards building high-performing teams with high levels of professionalism and integrity.
Define the roles of each member clearly. Establish schedules that will work for everyone and monitor the status of assignments and tasks. These days, with project management tools like Trello or Asana you can make sure that nothing will fall through the cracks. This is of utmost importance - project managers with virtual teams may experience obstacles like distance, time and language barriers. However, with the help of the right project management tools, some of these obstacles can be removed.
Schedule team meetings when needed but don’t overdo it. If you’re working with a global team, scheduling meetings across different time zones can be a challenge so before going through all that trouble, make sure a meeting is needed. Determine a reasonable time and schedule for a weekly team meeting that will be reasonable for everyone. Remember, team meetings are effective and needed, especially when managing projects online. Regardless of how difficult it might be to schedule one, insist on it. Virtual or not, interaction with team members that goes beyond the project management tool is essential for progress, moving things forward and most importantly, for showing that you, as a project manager, are ready to listen to what they have to say.
Have an agenda and make sure you stick to it. Send it out before the meeting to make sure people can prepare questions and input ahead of time. Utilize meeting management software like Mombit for increased productivity and efficiency of your meeting. Document action items and decisions. Communication is the lifeblood of any remote team. To make sure every important project detail is communicated and delivered, you can use a meeting minutes template which represents a written record of everything that’s happening during a meeting.
Make sure all remotely located team members have access to technologies needed to complete the required project. Communication software, key contacts, email, etc. - it should all be available to them to fulfil their obligations. If team members ask for a work laptop, for instance, make sure your company can provide equipment too.
Managers who are handling projects remotely have to work harder to establish trust, loyalty and great team relationships using only what technology offers. To do so, they have to build a team that feels connected and stays connected regularly. Try to find out more about your team members and don’t just talk about the upcoming tasks and project updates on your next Zoom meeting. Break the ice by finding out what their hobbies and interests are, what they did during the weekend, etc. Establish a safe environment where everyone’s individuality can shine. Learning how to manage team meetings effectively is a challenge but in a couple of months when you witness how well your virtual team is doing, it will all make sense.
During the project kick-off meeting, as well as the weekly or bi-weekly meetings, encourage everyone to turn on their camera. Team members will feel more connected when they can see each other while talking. Don’t underestimate the importance of a video call. Require everyone to turn on their cameras.
Establish clear security protocols. You might be a virtual project manager with an online team but rules should stay the same. Utilizing company information, resources, technologies, equipment and other devices should be strict and confidential.
Remote project success is still a success. Reward your team based on performance. Complement their efforts and encourage them to do better next time. In addition to successes, you may realize that your team has made some mistakes too. Address them and find ways to fix them. Dedicate some one-on-one time if a certain team member is falling behind.
Post a weekly project update. This is important so that everyone can be on the same page with tasks and responsibilities and monitor the overall progress of the project. Include the following in your weekly project update: - What was done during this week? - What are the upcoming tasks for next week? - Is there anything behind schedule or any changes in schedule? - Are there any issues or problems that are blocking the project?
If possible, try to tackle a single project at a time. If you’re dealing with multiple projects, though, make sure you have a different team for each project. In a remote-work environment it’s quite difficult to check if a team is overwhelmed. Therefore, your role as a project manager is to make sure that team members are not swamped with tasks coming from various different projects.
Document everything on a shared tool like Google Docs or Dropbox paper. Whether it’s article ideas, bug reports, new product ideas or just general comments or notes, create such a document and make it available for all team members.
Remote work is not traditional and you can’t make it feel like such. Remote teams need transparency, communication and to work when it’s best for each one of them. There’s a reason why people want to work remotely and you as a manager should not rob them of this. Work-life.
Learn and adapt as you grow. Being a successful project manager means improving your technique and approach as you grow, regardless of the circumstances. Whether you are in charge of an online or an offline team, you should always be ready to learn, adapt and eliminate methods that no longer work.
Managing projects and teams remotely doesn’t necessarily mean inviting more stress and work-related anxiety into your life. With today’s technology and the development of numerous useful tools for project management, communication, meeting management, etc., you will have a functional team no different from your in-office team. Moreover, working remotely fosters an environment that promotes autonomy and flexibility which makes employees more productive and dedicated to achieving the goals of the project.
Velina is a content writer with keen interest in business management, communication, marketing, social media and software that improves our work and personal lives. Currently, she is developing content for various promising startups.