Before the outbreak of COVID19, some companies across the world had begun to make moves towards the possibility of some of their team members working remotely as an option of the last resort. In the post-COVID world, however, the ability to work remotely is no longer an option but a necessity. Lockdowns and restrictions of movement in many cities across the world have forced the hands of team leaders and organizational heads to actively pursue the course of working from home for many of their employees. Tech giants like Facebook have announced that up to 50% of the company’s employees could be working remotely within the next five to 10 years and it is expected that many other tech giants and organizations will follow suit.
It is crucial to note that it is one thing to be able to use tools such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams among others for teamwork, it is another thing to be able to do so effectively while managing projects. The prospect of remote work often excites team members – they get to save transportation costs, time on possibly long commutes to and from work, and the inconvenience of rising early in preparation for a workday is significantly reduced – and all of these can lead to a relaxed or detached sense of dedication to team tasks. This is why the project manager needs to find ways to keep their team members at their highest level of productivity even while they work from home or other residences. The following are tips in improving the effectiveness of your remote team as a project manager
1. Ensure Team Members are adequately connected: One of the most important tools you need is a broadband connection. Without reliable internet, you may as well end your plans to work from home. A poor connection can lead to delays, missed deadlines, falling behind other team members, different types of excuses, and general frustration. The project manager shouldn’t be in a hurry to procure the same Internet Service Provider for all team members, but rather should, together with the team members, research and identify the best quality internet for each team member’s location. You may conduct speed tests across different network providers to come to an informed choice of which to utilize for your project.
2. Use multiple Communication Tools: The project manager should ensure that the channels of communication available to the team member are robust. This allows for private messaging, transmitting different types of documents, and can serve as a backup if one channel of communication fails for any reason. These tools include chatting or texting tools, video calls, Document sharing platforms, etc.
3. Create and Stick to a Schedule: The fluidity that comes with working from home can be quite relaxing and may lead to more distractions than would normally obtain in the traditional office setting. This is why the project manager needs to create a schedule and ensure it is met. This will help the team separate their professional part of their day from the rest. This also means letting the team go at the pre-agreed time of the day for breaks or close of business. It should not be taken for granted that people are working from home and therefore kept for longer than necessary.
4. Use Video as much as you can: More than 50% of communication between human beings is nonverbal. Gestures, cues, and other body language are essential to gauging the reaction and mood of your team. While the Cost of the internet may be a concern especially if the video connections last for long periods, it is worth the cost in the long run as this helps to solve problems while they are small and get the team to be on the same page as much as possible. It also helps to make certain that everyone is actively participating in the meetings and tasks even if they are not speaking.
5. Build Rapport: The prospect of working remotely can make the Project Manager tend to stick strictly to only work-based contact, however, a critical part of management is building small talk, learning more about your team members and working through some of their challenges as much as you can without compromising professional boundaries. This interaction helps to build trust between the project manager and the team members thus yielding a higher level of productivity and enhancing the professional relationship. A good rapport also helps to keep every team member connected to the project at hand.
6. Set priorities and allocate work according to Strengths: It is known that planning is highly critical to the success of any project. However, due to the limitations that come with working remotely, it is best to set priorities of work so that team members can know what tasks to devote more attention to in the case that time or resources become unavailable. This also means that work should be allocated based on the strengths of each team member; for instance, a person with a small internet bandwidth may not be able to transfer large files and so would be best utilized in tasks that wouldn’t be difficult for them to carry out within the means of the resources available to them. This may also involve balancing work across different time schedules in a proper sequence so that it is carried out seamlessly.
7. Ensure timely Technical Support: Technical staff should always be on hand to resolve problems team members may be facing. This means granting them access to the team devices whenever a situation arises to minimize downtime which could otherwise cause missed deadlines and frustrations.
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