The majority of companies today are allowing, if not encouraging, their workforce to work remotely. Remote work promotes flexibility and autonomy, enabling team members to work more productively and comfortably. But, while there are countless benefits to working remotely, it can be challenging in terms of project management. When team members are divided into different routines and locations, it can be difficult to manage the success of your project. Fortunately, there are some best practices that project managers can implement to ensure a seamless and successful remote project.
1. Adopt Project Management Tools
A common challenge when managing projects remotely is task management. Within any project, there are a number of team members, all of whom have several responsibilities and tasks that must be coordinated and completed. With so much going on, it can be challenging for team members and project managers to keep track of it all, yet it is necessary for the project's success. Fortunately, your team can adopt several project and task management tools to better manage your project while working remotely.
Perhaps one of the most beneficial project management tools is a time tracker. Companies are often hesitant to adopt time tracking into their business as it can feel like they are micromanaging their workforce. In reality, time tracking serves more to keep team members organized rather than monitor their every action. With the right time tracking application, team members and project managers can benefit from:
- Improved organization
- Accurate billing
- Progress and milestone tracking
- Deadline management
- Team collaboration
With a time tracking system, project members can assign specific tasks to team members, including deadlines and descriptions. This helps team members to stay organized with an explicit assignment of their tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities. As such, other team members can view the current status of a task, aiding them in collaborating and meeting deadlines. Such a feature is particularly beneficial to remote teams, as, without scheduled time, they will not run into each other as they would in the office.
Hand-in-hand with a time tracker is a shared calendar. Utilizing a shared calendar between team members allows team members to schedule meetings, check in on one another, and determine availability without directly communicating. If one team member is looking to meet with another, they can easily view their schedule, find an available time, and request a meeting with a description and additional members. This method of scheduling is vastly more efficient than playing phone tag or emailing back and forth to find a time that works for both parties.
Shared calendars are also beneficial for team members as individuals. Individuals can block off time for their tasks if they need uninterrupted time to work. Furthermore, they can easily block off any time-off, letting other team members know that they are not currently available. Through shared calendars, project managers and team members can easily schedule meetings and organize their time in the way that best allows them to meet their goals.
2. Balance Accountability and Trust
As mentioned, many project managers worry that implementing tools such as time-tracking systems and shared calendars will make team members feel micromanaged. If monitored too closely, this is a possibility, which is why it is critical to balance accountability with trust. Project management tools are instrumental in keeping a project organized and on track, but you also need to trust that your team members are doing what they should be while working from home.
As a project manager, it is important to trust your team members (until they give you reason not to). A surprising discovery made from the increase in remote work is that most professionals are more productive when working remotely. Keep this in mind for your own team, and remember that allowing breaks and personal time actually promotes productivity rather than diminishes it.
In building trust, it is crucial to respect the boundaries of your remote team members. Many project managers make the mistake of thinking that because an employee is home and in reach of their work, they are always available to work. This is not the case. Respect when your team members are off the clock, for if you infringe on their personal time, they may be less engaged and productive during their professional time.
Fortunately, you can hold employees accountable for their tasks by using project management tools while trusting that they understand their responsibilities and deadlines. Unless your team members are missing deadlines or showing clear drops in productivity, you can monitor their gradual progress and check in with them casually. This demonstrates that you trust your team members while still ensuring that the project is on track.
3. Communication is Key
While trusting that your team members are on track is important, it is equally important to hold them accountable for their actions. That being said, your team members need to understand what is expected of them in order to fulfill their responsibilities and be held accountable for their actions. They cannot be held responsible for incomplete tasks if they were not aware of them in the first place. This is why communication is essential, especially for remote teams.
From the start, you should communicate with your team, explicitly outlining the expectations and goals for the project. Making this clear as soon as possible is essential to keeping the project on track and building accountability and trust with your team.
As the project goes on, you should continue to regularly communicate with your team, whether by video conference, instant messaging, email, or any other means. Creating a standing meeting for your team can be highly beneficial in tracking progress and keeping all team members in the loop. It can also be helpful to set an agenda beforehand and use this meeting to review milestones and deadlines.
4. Set Clear Expectations and Goals
As mentioned, setting clear expectations and goals from the get-go is vital to keeping your team members and project on track and helping you to avoid any confusion in the future. This is also beneficial in introducing team members to project management tools, discussing the expectations to track their time on tasks, and utilizing the shared calendar. If these expectations are laid out initially, team members can prepare for them accordingly and avoid getting caught off guard.
Setting quantitative expectations for KPIs can also help team members to stay on track and measure their progress. Tools such as CRM software are excellent in tracking a project’s success and status, in addition to countless metrics and workflows which all team members can access. As KPI-related goals are easier to evaluate, they can help team members to check their progress and discover areas for improvement.
It is also important that team members understand one another's responsibilities so that tasks are not duplicated or ignored, which is where task management tools and communication can be instrumental. As team members may not speak every day as they would in the office, setting expectations for communication can also be beneficial in maintaining positive collaboration.
Remote Project Management Requires Tools and Trust
While remote project management introduces new challenges, its leadership tactics are very similar to in-person project management. No matter where your team members are located, it is essential that while they are monitored and held accountable, they are trusted and allowed some autonomy. Trust that you have chosen the right professionals for the job, and unless they are missing deadlines and producing low-quality work, give them the time and space they need to be successful.
That being said, no successful leader works entirely alone. In utilizing a few highly lucrative project management tools, you can equip your team with the means to communicate, collaborate, and stay on track with ease. It can be challenging to maneuver the newly remote business world, but with the right tools, trust, and communication, you can find success through remote project management.