31 Mar 2020

Remote Work: How to Manage Projects When You Work from Home

Remote work
Remote Work: How to Manage Projects When You Work from Home

Long before the coronavirus pandemic captured global headlines, companies across the world have offered remote working arrangements to their employees.

The freedom to work from the location of your choice and enjoy work-life balance are just some of the benefits of working remotely. There are also benefits for the employer, such as more satisfied staff members and reduced overhead costs.
 
However, remote work does have its challenges. When your team is working from home, delivering high-quality projects on time can be more difficult. It’s easy to feel behind-the-curve when you and your colleagues have only exchanged instant messages. So, how are successful project managers, managing projects from home?
 
We’ve put together a guide to help make working from home, work for you. Discovering the right way to work remotely as a project manager may take time, as you learn what works (and what doesn’t).

 

1. BUILD YOUR DREAM TEAM: A REMOTE WORKING PLUS

Building a remote working “dream team” without the ability to work face-to-face, may require extra focus on empowering your team members to work independently. When choosing who will work on what, keep these tips in mind:
 
Focus on skillsets
Creating a team with the right skills is extremely important at the beginning of a project. Having the right people from the start puts the project on the right track.
 
Empower your team

Encourage your team to work independently by designing their own schedule, identifying their project challenges and what their achievable deadlines could be. It’s best to avoid micromanaging how they complete their work from home. Instead focus on empowering them to find a way that works best for them.

 

2. REMOTE CATCHUPS: CONSIDER THE KICK-OFF MEETING 

We’ve all been in poorly run meetings or ones that should have been emails. The goal of your kick-off meeting should be to create a shared vision with your team. Create a project spec that covers the following four points:

  • What is the goal?

  • What is the desired outcome (scope)?

  • What is the timeline?

  • Who is responsible and for what? 

Share the spec with your team and then schedule a kickoff meeting to discuss. Utilise technology and video-conferencing applications to get everyone together. Stick to your agenda. Keep it concise. Document everything. You’ll be fine!

 

3. TRANSPARENCY: A REMOTE WORKING MUST

Making sure that everyone understands how they fit into the bigger picture is a must. Team members should know what their colleagues are working on and what work is the highest priority. Here are some tips to stay transparent:
 
Share your roadmap
If remote workers don’t know the destination, how can they help you get there? It also helps with buy-in from both team members and stakeholders. Making sure all parties involved, knows what’s next, is vital to the success of the project.
 
Focus on communication

Ensure you are having a two-way conversation with both your colleagues and any stakeholders, as project ideas and feedback should come from inside and outside the team. Ask open-ended questions to gain valuable insights and actionable feedback that you can use to guide your project decisions.

 

4. A CLEAR FOCUS: HOW TO MANAGE PRIORITIES 

When managing projects remotely you may need to make some hard decisions. When deciding what to focus on, return to these three questions:

  • What is the vision?

  • What do our stakeholders want?

  • What problems are critical? 

Here are some other ways to manage priorities, while managing a project from home:

Create a method of prioritisation
Conflicting stakeholder opinions, and gut reactions can muddle decision making. Build a standardised process for managing priorities.
 
Add a buffer of time in each project cycle

Delays are inevitable. Schedule them in!

 

5. ACCOUNTABILITY: ENSURE EVERYONE HAS OWNERSHIP 

Meeting deadlines successfully is the cornerstone to a project’s success.

Have thorough documentation
Keeping all assigned tasks, deadlines, and assignments in a shared location ensures that every team member has accountability and understands how they fit into the bigger picture.
 
Make sure every task has a deadline and an owner

Again when it comes to accountability it’s important that each team member knows what they have ownership over and when this is due.
 
Pencil in weekly status updates and check-ins

Some areas to cover in weekly updates include what each person is working on this week and whether they have any challenges.
 
Assign a decision maker

There should always be a DRI (Directly Responsible Individual) who has the final say. It is important for remote team members to know who has that accountability on a project.

 

6. LESSONS LEARNED: HAVE TAKEAWAYS FOR FUTURE PROJECTS

When you’re finished with a large task or project, it’s important to gather data to see what could be improved for future projects. This is especially important now that you’re facing a completely new way of working. Ask your team thoughtful questions at the end of every project. Here are some questions to try:

  • What went well during this project?

  • What could have been improved?

  • Do the tools we’re using help you work efficiently?

  • How can we improve communication?

  • Were you able to meet the schedule assigned to you?

  • How did you feel about the tasks and assignments for which you were responsible?

  • How can we make things easier next time?


 

REMOTE PROJECT MANAGEMENT: FINAL THOUGHTS ​

Working from home as a project manager can be quite an adjustment and there is no perfect way to manage projects. It’s about learning what works for you, your team members and stakeholders. Be open to learning from the mistakes made on a previous project and know what areas can be improved for future ones. You may find the old way of managing projects face to face, does not work when managing projects remotely. If you embrace the change and have the right strategy and tools at your disposal, you may find it leads to successful projects and wonder why you never made the change to remote working sooner.


 

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