COVID-19 has ushered in the era of remote project management. These three tips will help you become a more effective project manager so that your team works well together across different locations.
Working remotely, telecommuting, or leading a distributed workforce might be your “new normal” as a small business owner. Since the global pandemic triggered lockdowns and social distancing all over the U.S., millions of people have had to work from home to weather the pandemic.
Global Workplace Analytics estimates that by the end of 2021, 25-30% of the workforce may continue to work from home multiple days a week. Project managers everywhere have had to troubleshoot their way through a mountain of fresh challenges, obstacles, and unknowns.
Become a more competent remote manager with these three remote project management tips. You’ll soon be productively managing people in the virtual space, with plenty of time to spare.
#1: Embrace Deliberate Communication
The three challenges that most new remote employees face are focused on communication. Your team members have lost the ability to speak to you face to face, they’ve lost casual chatter, and everything they know about on-location feedback that keeps them on track has suddenly stopped.
They need to know:
- How are we going to communicate?
- When are we going to communicate?
- What are the different communication styles, and when should they be used?
- How will we maintain our working relationships?
- When will we get feedback on the work we’ve completed?
As the project management head, you’re responsible for eliminating the stress of these questions and processes by embracing a deliberate communication style. It’s just not the same as being on location. In fact, your leadership style is amplified when you transition online.
- Introduce your employees to your new website design and the tools you’ll use to communicate during remote work. If you need a website redesign or a website migration—get one. Working online is easier for everyone with the right platforms.
- Maintain daily communication with your team and be available to employees if they need your help or guidance. Set a time slot each day for this to make it productive.
- Pick the right communication tool—email, text, instant message, or video/audio call.
- Video calls and face-to-face communication are key for orientation, project beginnings and endings, summary updates, and serious issues. If it would take longer than 500 words to write, call using a seamless platform like BlueJeans.
- Video calls are also great for clarification (much can be lost in text messaging). Create blocks of time for specific concerns to make sure meetings don’t take up your entire day.
These remote project management tips teach you to be intentional about how—and with whom—you communicate every day. Have an open communication policy, but use deliberate timeslots.
#2: Establish Clear Guidelines
Remote project management tools can facilitate productivity, but they can also lead to burnout from employees working too much. On the flip side, a remote project manager that doesn’t establish clear guidelines faces a team that might become unmotivated and unproductive.
Your employees need:
- To know what you expect and when
- How to correctly contact you and others using the right channels
- A functional, transparent schedule that is also flexible (things happen at home!)
- A fully-stocked business website with crisis planning resources
- A super-clear hierarchy that focuses on agile output
- A sounding board for concerns if things aren’t going well
It’s important to give each employee their independence and make them accountable for their deadlines, meetings, updates, and milestones. Written reports make workflow check-ins easy, and you should create simple consequences for poor work ethic or lack of engagement.
Remote project management is best when it sees employees as individuals. The need for this is even greater with COVID-19 and the challenges that come with it. Kids at home, health issues, stress, and adjustment time must be handled with empathy and fairness.
For your company to succeed, you need remote work as a functional part of your business crisis management plan. Start your day by checking in with your team and end with something similar so that there are clearly defined start and end times.
#3: Lead With Connection and Engagement
Work-life balance is not possible at home for your team members if you don’t enforce it. That means you must lead with your employees’ health and wellness as a key consideration at all times. Be careful not to overwhelm them or confuse them with ever-changing processes.
Your remote team needs:
- You to be the driving force behind relationships and workplace light-heartedness.
- You to schedule one-on-one chats and group chats for casual engagement (during work time, not after hours!).
- To be led by example. You should be vigilant about times, dates, and workflow but flexible and agile enough to adapt to change, delays, and every-day life events.
- Transparency about expectations. When your team has to push hard, give them light at the end of the tunnel (not just more tunnel).
- To be given ways to keep things fun and casual (check-ins, memes, funny videos, personal photos). Encourage people to be themselves online.
Your small business website will be a hub for your team. There, you’ll share a wide range of resources, crisis management strategies, and personal stories. It can’t be all about work, or people lose touch with what is important. Colleagues are essential support during tough times.
When you show your employees you care, morale remains high. After a hectic week when you know your team has gone above and beyond—send them gifts. A snack box or a birthday gift for their spouse goes a long way to making them feel valued.
Some experts say that leading online is more challenging than leading in person. But challenges like distance, disconnection, and confusion can be overcome with the right remote project management strategies. It also helps if you have a robust website and other tools for communication.
Deliberate communication, clear guidelines, and leading with connection, engagement, and empathy as your core drivers will help you overcome any obstacles. Use these tips to become more effective at remote project management today!