Project management can be challenging in multiple ways in traditional office settings, and the task becomes much more complicated and stressful when you handle a remote team.
Often times, virtual teams have members in different time zones, which increases the challenges that you and your team members may face as you work toward the completion of a project. Typical project management challenges related to collaboration, communication, and overall teamwork are magnified when there is a physical distance between team members.
By combining excellent management, a skilled and devoted team, and the use of technology and software solutions, your remote team will be able to tackle any challenge. Here’s how you can achieve this:
1. Invest in Excellent Communication Solutions
Communication is essential for the timely completion of projects, and it can be challenging with virtual teams. Keep in mind that communication does more than keep the group on the same page. It also connects your team so that they feel included and important. You need all members of your team to be in the loop so that they are motivated to continue to work hard for the team and so that they are effective in their positions.
There are various forms of formal and informal communication methods that can bring your team together in different ways. For example, Skype can be used to connect team members with face-to-face interaction. VoIP technology can be used for live communications. There are also various chat programs, such as Slack, that enable the entire group to remain connected in real-time.
2. Use Tools to Track Efficiency
One important requirement for a project manager is to track employees’ time worked as well as their efforts and results. This is a very tricky part of managing a remote team because it can also be stressful for your team members.
Consider that your team members may easily feel micromanaged, or their time, energy and focus may unnecessarily be diverted as they try to provide you with information related to their work hours and completed tasks.
Technological tools can improve your tracking efforts and facilitate greater productivity with less stress for your employees. There are several programs that you can research more closely, and some even offer a free trial. Top options include Hubstaff, actiTIME, Forecast, and Timecamp.
3. Use Collaboration Suites
While each member of a virtual team may be assigned different tasks to complete, they will also need to work together on certain tasks and projects. Collaboration is the most challenging aspect of running a remote team because the physical distance often makes it hard to collaborate effectively. Sharing files, avoiding duplication and redundancy are primary goals in the area of collaboration.
Google Drive offers some great collaboration features: your team can share and edit files, work on the same file together and assign members of the team to specific files. Office 365 is another option to consider here since the apps are well known to everyone. Now that Word, Excel and all the other apps are available as online versions too, they help improve productivity as they can be accessed at any time, even when team members are using a device that doesn’t necessarily have them installed. There are also native mobile apps available to use on phones and tablets, which makes working on the go much more efficient.
4. Have Clear Policies and Procedures
Managers and employees alike can become frustrated and disgruntled when they are not on the same page regarding expectations and requirements. A clever way to tackle this potential challenge, which often happens with virtual teams, is to create a set of policies and procedures. Employees should receive these guidelines as an easily accessible document that they can refer to whenever they are not sure how to proceed.
As you prepare a written handbook or update an existing handbook, focus on details related to expectations regarding work hours and availability. If you will require employees to use tracking software, the requirements for this should be outlined as well. Procedures related to documenting that virtual employees are away from their desk should also be clearly detailed.
5. Promote a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Remote workers may have greater flexibility to manage a healthy work-life balance. After all, they will not waste on commuting. They also have the ability to manage home-related tasks during work breaks. However, remote workers often struggle to turn off their switch at the end of the day. Because of this, employees may feel as though they are always working, and this could lead to reduced productivity, higher levels of work-related stress and even burnout.
As a manager of a remote team, you must monitor work hours carefully. Pay attention to team members who may be working much longer hours than expected or required on a regular basis. Promote a healthy work-life balance by encouraging them to switch off when they are done with the tasks for the day. If they have ongoing tasks, let them know that it’s okay to leave them for the next day. Take care of your employees: always ensure nobody is overwhelmed with their workload, and let them know they should speak up if they are.
While project management can be stressful and challenging in many ways, it also may be frustrating and chaotic for your team members. Identifying common challenges that can impact you and your team members is an important first step toward more effectively managing the team. Once challenges have been identified, you can explore technological and managerial efforts that may improve your project management efforts and help your team to be more productive and successful in their positions.