Many companies were forced to switch to remote work because of the 2020 pandemic. Some have flourished with remote work, while others have fallen behind because they did not have the right tools and leadership to manage projects remotely. By carefully managing remote projects you can eliminate workforce confusion while ensuring everyone is happy, healthy, and safe. Below are five top tactics to help manage your remote project team.
1. Establish Clear Boundaries
It is crucial to set clear boundaries early in the process to minimize any possible future confusion. It’s a good idea to create documents that will guide those boundaries and ensure they are accessible to everyone involved with the project.
What boundaries should I set?
An excellent place to start is constructing work hours. It’s important that your team knows you value their time and do not want to intrude on their personal time. Just because they’re working from home 24/7, doesn’t mean they’re available the same amount. However, they should know that an end-of-day deadline still means 5 pm, a morning kickoff meeting still happens at 9 am, and the time in between they’re to be relatively available.
Consider shifting from the old way of monitoring everyone’s hours. Before, while in-office, an employee would clock in and out, or you can look around the room to see if everyone is present at their workspaces, in order to manage your team members. Now with remote work, your employees are no longer physically present, which at times can make a team challenging to manage.
Many managers have benefited from gauging productivity with their remote teams. Evaluating team members’ work utilization and what they produce allows a manager to view their output rather than tracking every hour in the day, making sure they are working a typical 9 to 5. It’s essential to give your employees the ability to complete tasks on their terms because not everyone works in the same way. The only thing that should truly matter is that projects get completed on time, and on task. It is up to you as a manager to trust employees and give them the tools they need to complete projects.
Tips on establishing daily and project calendars:
- Create a virtual daily meeting that everyone attends.
- Add a weekly project status meeting for specific project teams.
- Set up milestone meetings for every project (monthly, quarterly, etc.).
Lastly, it is vital to set guidelines for what team members can expect. Being very transparent with team members is key to being a successful manager, as is letting them flourish on their own. It is a good idea to set up feedback processes to allow anyone on the team to give and receive feedback. Also, consider setting up an anonymous submissions chat so that everyone can have a sense of safety and assurance of care; this can help establish trust between the team and management.
2. Create Expectations
Despite initial misgivings, remote workers have proven to be just as, if not more, productive, but that does depend on the management style. As long as the manager creates a specific outline of each employee’s expectations, there will be clear benefits for a very productive project team. This needs to be a positive exercise for everyone. If a manager sets the expectation that they’ll be keeping an eye on everyone, and emails/direct messages are to be answered immediately, so it’s not assumed that they’re slacking off, things won’t go well.
Shift expectations to output metrics, meaning you should reward your team members for the output they produce. This gives employees the freedom to work at their pace and on their terms. As long as they complete the work on time, it shouldn’t matter what hour of the day they are working.
Not only should you outline what is expected of every team member, but you also need to let them know exactly what they can expect from you. You are their guide; they look to you for help and answers. A good idea to establish expectations is creating virtual office hours. Let employees know precisely what they are expected to complete and ensure you can offer some form of assistance if they need your guidance.
3. Setup Protocols
Not only should your team understand the project specifications and expectations, but they should be well aware of what procedure to follow and when. Consider creating a central document guide or cloud drive where you can post detailed instructions for every actual project situation. It is also a good idea to create a document of what to do if an unknown situation arises. Before all parties begin to panic, they can look to your document to try and figure out the situation and how to handle it.
If managers are unavailable, team members can have guides to know who is responsible for what parts of the project. This can also notify your team members who will be next in line if a manager is not present. You can choose to follow the RACI model that outlines the best practices for project management, which includes:
- Responsible: Each person’s tasks associated with the project.
- Accountable: The person who has the answers for the proper completion of tasks and the overall project.
- Consulted: Others whose input is sought during the project.
- Informed: People who need to be updated on project status and final completion.
RACI ensures that every step of the project has a responsible individual who will monitor and help with any concerns an individual may have with their tasks. This guide can help alleviate concerns, as team members can swiftly access this information to figure out who they need to contact, no matter the issue.
4. Use the Right Technology
The internet is pretty much available everywhere and anywhere, meaning it’s no longer hard to ensure your entire remote team has access to work. Having the right hardware or software right off the bat at home isn’t as commonplace unless your team members regularly take work home with them. In order to facilitate a smooth transition process in making the switch to becoming a remote business, there are some key factors you need to take into consideration.
First, you should find the right project management solution for your project and team. It’s a good idea to find one that will satisfy your current needs and be scalable so you can add components and upgrade features, as needs may shift in the future. A fair amount of project management software offer free trials, so you can test them out with your team to see what works for everyone.
If you decide to have a recurring scheduled team meeting, then be sure to provide the right links within your team’s calendar to allow employees access to the meeting. As well, ensure that your messaging platform is in good order and create different chat rooms so employees can have conversations that do not regard work; this will help them build relationships and blow off a little steam. These chat rooms are made to replace the typical break room conversations. Conversations are still happening; the only difference is they just take place over a screen.
Lastly, it is a bright idea to have a robust cloud-based collaboration tool. Your team can work together and make edits in real-time. Since cloud solutions do not rely on device processing power, the most significant benefit of these tools is that team members can use their phones, tablets or older desktops and remain just as productive as physically in the office.
5. Lead by Example
This is a crucial tactic, and some may even classify this as the most powerful tool for your remote project management. Teams rely on leadership for more than just guidance on the project. They look to managers who can actually ‘manage’ and support the team, diving in where necessary. If you want your team to feel empowered to make decisions and take ownership of their projects, regardless of good or bad outcomes, then you need to demonstrate leadership.
Below are tips on how to get your team to view you as less of a boss, and more of a leader:
- Don’t send work messages after office hours.
- Show up in group chats to show you are also human and like to play just as much as you want to work.
- Dress appropriately for video meetings and try to have a smile on your face.
- Prepare for every meeting no matter the size. Provide helpful milestone reports and ask questions that will keep your team on their feet.
- Be available when needed (within the boundaries of your workday)
- Guide, train, and support your team.
K2 Partnering Solutions
Whether you already deploy and manage your own remote team, you’re making the move to remote work permanent, or just want to outsource to a Managed Service Provider (MSP), making sure you’re set up for success is critical.If you need a new project managed and deployed by a team of experts, with very little setup time or hiring, it’s K2 Partnering Solutions can help. We have a wide range of specialists, technical experts, and enterprise solutions consultants, with a proven remote working success record, as well as years of experience in delivering software development projects, custom solutions, and complex migrations. Our project managers thrive on delivering to KPI’s and raising the bar higher with every project.
Having been at the forefront of technology and talent for over 20 years, with world-class solutions at our fingertips, we help businesses to innovate and grow via our worldwide network of locations. This offers us an unparalleled global reach, offering local expertise to deliver first-class technology solutions and unparalleled industry knowledge to our clients.