Effective ways to work with remote project teams
In my twenty-years of project management, I have seen significant changes in the way we engage teams and hold them accountable. Remote work in the face coronavirus disease 2019 has been a more dramatic and immediate evolution than any other. COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. (SARS-CoV-2). It originated in Wuhan, China in December 2019. It then spread to other parts of the globe, resulting in the ongoing 2019-20 Coronavirus Pandemic.
Nearly nine out of ten US companies have required or encouraged employees to work from home in response to the pandemic.
Since March 16th, teams in San Francisco have been absent. The measures were initially enforced for three weeks. They were then extended for four more weeks and will likely be extended again. We don’t know what lies ahead so we have to let go of the rules and just follow our instincts.
Remote work success conditions
Remote work is not a new concept. In fact, nearly 99% of people want to work remotely at least part of the time.
Remote work has more than tripled between 2005 and 2017. Remote project managers have more to do than ever with entire workforces working remotely for unknown reasons.
Here are 15 success factors for managing remote teams.
Make sure everyone is equipped with the right software, devices, and internet access. You can check in with each member of the team to verify how they are set up and how comfortable using the tools.
Establish daily checkpoints and clearly define output expectations for everyone. Instead of counting hours worked, monitor productivity.
Differentiate engagement tactics. There will be different preferences between introverts, extroverts regarding how to connect. Send out a survey to show the options and let employees choose the best method for them.
Reset ground rules and allow flexibility where possible. Early birds are more productive at 5 a.m., while night owls are most productive at 8 p.m. Give them the freedom to decide when to buckle down and show that you trust them.
Facilitate the facilitation of overlapping connection times to communicate across time zones and with employees who work at different times of day.
Reexamine strategic focuses and validate what can still be run as it used too, and what might need to pivot. Ask your team for their input, and show them how it impacts the decisions being made. Let them know they are valued and heard.
At least one videoconference per day. The body language communicates 55% of communication. Voice tone is 38% and words are 7%. Visual clues are vital. Seeing your team members in their own home environment fosters vulnerability which leads to trust and closer relationships.
Chats are a way for people to share updates and questions throughout the day. Keep them focused to avoid distracting teams and slowing down productivity.
To facilitate progress tracking, break down tasks into smaller parts. Identify the areas where performance is below or above expectations and determine which approaches are most effective for each employee.
It is important to emphasize that work should be shared while it is still rough, so that the team can guide direction while outputs can still be malleable to improve accuracy.
Don’t assume that people know what is expected of them in remote places. Socialize and create a visual one pager that clarifies communication expectations and meeting rhythms, etiquette, as well as conduits for feedback.
To share new ideas, set up informal video chats among distributed team members. Water cooler conversations are often the best place to find innovative ideas.
Discuss your goals with your team members and determine the skills they will need to achieve them. Arrange video-based coaching to help those with c