Brookings Institute estimates that up to half of U.S. workers are now telecommuting and that this trend will likely continue even after the pandemic subsides. This will present unique challenges for project managers. While working virtually can help attract and retain top talent from anywhere in the world, managing remote teams often adds significant complexity to projects. It also requires project managers to employ new techniques and tools to overcome the challenges. Also, just because people are working in separate offices doesn’t mean projects don’t have to be delivered on schedule. Here are some recommendations as to how managers can help their dispersed teams overcome challenges and create successful outcomes.
Clear and open communication has always been a key strategy for effective project management. Use tools like Microsoft TEAMS or GoToMeeting to facilitate face-to-face communication. Direct communication provides a much better way to establish rapport as well as creating empathy than either emails or voice calls. Additionally, to prevent team members from becoming siloed, make sure that not all your communication check-ins are about updates and reports. Team members need to be able to share ideas, concerns, questions, and even jokes.
Lean on Technology to Collaborate
Before you start working with remote teams make sure you have the tools you need to keep them in the loop. If your teams are disconnected from the rest of the organization and are not able to effectively share files and collaborate then they will not be nearly as productive. Using tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams can really help make remote teams feel that they’re at the heart of the operation, and aid remote collaboration and communication.
Set Clear Expectations
For remote teams, work hardly ever begins at 9 a.m. or ends at 5 p.m. especially if you are working with people in different time zones. Establish clear expectations and make schedules readily available. Setting expectations will reduce the likelihood of assumptions and miscommunications that can break down the team relationship.
Foster a Community Mindset
Remote team members miss out on the water cooler chat, the office birthday parties, or team lunch outings. Create a dedicated digital space to celebrate things like birthdays and anniversaries to make team members feel connected. Send out a recurring check-in that’s not work-related to help facilitate personal interactions and bonding.
Remote project teams have already become an important component of the work style and even corporate culture of many organizations. If you focus on building a team that supports one another, then you’ll develop a team that excels.