With many of us working from home for the majority of 2020, we have had to adapt to new ways of managing a remote workforce and implementing remote project management strategies. It is estimated that over 70 percent of people work remotely at least once a week, and in our new normal, the number goes even higher. Remote work has become a necessity, but it also come with big benefits, like better retention rates for employers, and increased work/life balance for employees. On the flip side, managers and supervisors taking care of the team’s deliverables are left short-handed if they do not have the right processes, workflows, and tools to manage their remote workforce. This is especially true of project-teams in professional services. Here, we’ll take a closer look at remote teams, the challenges remote team managers have to face, and the best practices can be followed to make sure the professional services teams are highly productive and effective.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF REMOTE TEAMS?
While employees are generally happier working from home, there are some challenges that come with managing a remote workforce. Let us first look at the types of remote teams before looking at challenges:
● Fully Remote: teams that fall under this category are 100% remote. In many cases they never have to go into the office and may even live in different parts of the country, or the world, operating from multiple time zones. As of 2020, many companies are looking at this including Twitter, Facebook, Amazon have given this option to all employees for the next year.
● Flexible Hybrid Remote: teams that are hybrid spend some time in the main office, and other times are allowed to work remotely. They may go into the office for larger-scale meetings or projects and may be remote for all other occasions. An example of a company that operates this way is Netflix. Employees are allowed to come and go as they please, may opt to dial-in by phone or video to all meetings from anywhere, and have unlimited time off. Some people need to be in the office more than others, depending on their role and organizational structure.
REMOTE PROJECT MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES
Managing a remote workforce is a bit of a learning curve. Consider this your project management guide to getting you and your team on the same page to communicate and operate at top capacity. Some challenges that may arise when managing a remote workforce include the following:
- Delayed decisions as project, resource and billing-related information is spread across siloed systems and multi-location remote teams
- Miscommunication or lack of efficient communication that can directly affect project delivery
- Lack of accountability for employees who need more management, leading to reduced productivity and utilization
- Fear of isolation at work, as some people don’t feel they are a part of a team when they don’t see coworkers in person
- Difficulty managing global resource pools and the skills needed for projects
If you are leading a remote project team, this project management guide will help you to learn the best ways to optimize your team and your skills as a manager.
HOW TO MANAGE REMOTE WORKERS
When working from home, it’s important to keep your space organized in order to be less stressed and more efficient with your time. As a project manager, you will have a lot to keep track of and need to access tools quickly and easily. To organize your professional services work in a single location, utilize an online tool that meets your project management needs. Having full visibility into all activities is critical for any professional services organization to manage delivery and keep resources and finances on track. With a product designed with real-time, work-from-anywhere capabilities, your leaders and managers will get full visibility into projects, resources, time spent on projects, costs, and billing information.
Trust your Team And Always Be There to Enable Them
When first adopting a work-from-home model, some project managers struggle to trust that their employees are getting their work done, but managing a remote workforce requires it. You may have to manage members working from different time zones. Invest in tools that help you manage your resource availability and utilization. Good resource management helps you find and assign resources to projects faster so that you can be assured that you have the right team for the job. Understand that some may have families while others live alone. Not everyone will be available at every second. People work better when they are trusted and given the space to do their work instead of being micromanaged. If you are concerned about reaching someone, be sure to discuss needs and schedules in advance so expectations are clear.
Set and Communicate Clear Targets
As a project manager, you will need to set clear expectations for all of your remote workers. If you are the type of manager who wants a daily status check-in at 5 pm, make that known and give them easy options for participation. Create a document of team expectations to streamline workflow processes and be clear with everyone. If you have specific metrics and project deliverables, like hours or tasks due on a certain day, keep your team aware well in advance to ensure they are on the right track. This way all goals, deadlines, and expectations are laid out.
Provide Active Feedback
It can be tricky for remote workers to know where they stand with their team or boss. Without constant face-to-face interactions, work praise can go uncommunicated, and so can work issues. Before teams went completely remote, task and project updates happened at coffee tables or water coolers. But now, you need a solution that will help you get input and provide feedback to your team members on work done, remaining work, and estimates to complete. Be clear with your team that you are open to discussing their work with them. Don’t hold your feedback till the end of the day or week. Provide instant feedback. Let someone know when they have done a good job, or when you need to discuss some constructive feedback for their future performance to improve.
Establish Work Boundaries
Without setting clear expectations and boundaries with your project team, it is possible for managers to think they can access teams at any hour of the day, and vice versa. When this happens, there is no line between work and home life, and stress increases for everyone. Be clear with your team on hours of availability. Be sure to also set clear boundaries for yourself at home to help establish a routine and a sense of normalcy around your workday
Keep Your Communication Lines Open
Working from home can be really lonely for some employees, especially if it was an abrupt change in operations. Encourage your teams to continue having conversations just like they would if they were at work. Establish some routines for communication with your team. Take virtual lunch breaks together to catch up on things other than work. Set virtual happy hours once a week. Find a way to help your team members connect and feel like part of the team.
When you have an organized workspace and the right project and resource management software in place, being consistent with your practices of managing a remote team becomes second-nature. Projects will get done and you and your team will be satisfied with the process. To see how we can help your remote professional services team work together seamlessly, we recommend exploring our mobile-first lineup of services you can access anywhere, anytime.