Regardless of whether your team had some form of remote work before the pandemic began, it’s safe to say your remote practices have risen dramatically these past few months. Now that this adjustment to full-time remote work no longer feels temporary, you’re looking at ways to effectively manage your operations in a remote work environment for a prolonged period.
What is a project manager to do?
Successfully managing a team and prioritizing their workloads in an entirely remote situation requires a shift in tactics. Here are a few ideas you can implement today.
Establish a new communication pattern
Communication is a vital component of your new, remote work lifestyle. Impromptu meetings require more work, so formulating a comprehensive meeting schedule is a great way to maintain relationships and hold everyone accountable while pushing a project forward. In addition to your one-on-ones, hold weekly meetings that bring all team members together. Here you can discuss project hurdles your team has cleared as well as obstacles that still remain. This is also a great opportunity to brief team members on any new changes to the project.
These virtual meetings can also provide team members with an opportunity to collaborate and simply be around one another again, improving everyone’s motivation and morale.
Identify your team’s new capacity
In many instances, the capacity of individual remote employees will mirror what was expected of them in the office. In some cases, however, it will not — particularly if you have team members juggling work from home and distance learning with children.
To identify your total and individual capacity for your team, start by chronicling all projects your team is currently responsible for. This should include the total scope and estimated due dates. Then break each of these projects down into a series of smaller work streams or individual tasks. These may all be assigned to one or multiple team members depending on the size of the project and the capacity of those on your team. Finally, balance capacity issues and team member time by scheduling these individual tasks and workflows. Your priority system could be based on capacity, due dates, or another metric that works for you and your team.
Chronicle these tasks in your project management software and adjust workloads as needed when new capacity problems or opportunities arise.
Create effective schedules
Now that you’ve evaluated your team’s capacity, you’ll need to develop new strategies to accommodate different schedules and avoid missing deadlines. People can be less responsive and work at different times, so it’s up to you to create a plan that solves these challenges.
Start by working with your team to manage schedules and availability in order to support due dates that are beyond business hours. As we’ve pointed out, people are struggling to accommodate family life in new ways, and the traditional 9-to-5 is not always going to be feasible. Employees can then use their email chat status to update fellow team members on when they will be available and programs such as Slack can support communication and let everyone know when someone is out to lunch, available or unavailable.
All of this will allow you to work with your employees on a new set of expectations that adapts to their schedule and helps them to be productive. If that means taking longer breaks midday and checking tasks later, work to accommodate that and ensure those adjustments are communicated to all.
Monitor your workflows
Next, to support efficient workflows given these fluctuating timelines, ensure you have overflow backups for any task that you can, especially tasks that only require review. If there is a project being held up by someone’s untraditional schedule, try to secure another resource that can tackle those tasks to keep work flowing. Project management software solutions like RoboHead can help make these and other bottlenecks more obvious while identifying risks and inefficiencies that exist in your workflows.
By attaining total visibility into your project you’ll be able to spot delays before they become a major problem as well as identify the causes. Robohead also allows you to customize project request forms, workload prioritization, file store and collaborative review and versioning to make sure your project and its workflow are as efficient as possible going forward.
Managing your risk
Managing risk as a project manager or any kind of manager is about seeing problems before they happen. It’s great when everything is going well, but it’s those times especially that you should be thinking about what could have gone wrong and making a plan or process to prevent it. Do you have an employee that has a weak spot? Do you have a bottleneck in your process that is just waiting to be clogged? Are there backups for all your employees?
Now is the time to solve these issues and ensure that the potential problem is gone before it has a chance to hamper your workflow.
Always reward good work
Finally, let’s end on a positive note. While your staff may not be with you in the office, their work ethic hasn’t faltered, and you’ll still see plenty of examples of their great work throughout the course of a project. Don’t ignore these opportunities to celebrate.
Recognizing individual employees’ good work during your weekly meetings or holding a team virtual happy hour to celebrate the completion of a large project can help everyone on your team feel better about their role and the work they are doing. It shows them that you’re paying attention and that, while they may be working remotely, they don’t need to feel isolated.