As the trend towards a remote working setup continues to grow, managing such teams has become pivotal to successful business operations and continuity. Remote project management can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, you make the most out of a global and diverse workforce, but on the other hand, you need to be on your toes to unlock maximum value from this model.
On a scale of 1 to 5, 45% of respondents rated their remote project management efforts a 4, while 24% gave themselves a 5/5 – Hubstaff
With remote teams comes a unique set of challenges, but with the right strategies and tools, these challenges can be overcome to achieve tangible results. The key to remote project success lies in devising the best blueprint for remote processes. In this guide, we will explore the best practices to effectively manage remote teams to maximize the benefits of this flexible and productive work model.
1. Establish clear communication protocols: Correct communication guidelines from the onset allows managers to effectively manage remote teams. Emphasize how often team members should check in, how to escalate issues, and how to prioritize tasks.
Best communication practices help remote workers stay updated and synchronized with the project’s milestones. Avoid banter, stay agile, communicate in real-time, encourage knowledge transfer, and lower repetitive activities to optimize delivery.
45% of respondents said a lack of communication was one of the biggest challenges when managing remote work – Hubstaff
Encourage remote workers to be more responsive and participative. Establish a common workbench where workers can ideate and discuss solutions, besides keeping a weekly progress report on objectives. Create a group, tag everyone on emails, stay organized, relay alerts on a centralized platform, and deviate from secrecy. Furthermore, stick to principles that promote efficiency to unlock optimal performance at all levels.
2. Invest in the best collaboration tools: Investing in the right tools is pivotal for managing remote teams effectively. The right tools help bridge the gap between remote team members, facilitating seamless communication and collaboration. These tools offer real-time messaging, video conferencing, and file-sharing capabilities, allowing team members to stay connected and informed, reducing the time on administrative tasks, and helping increase productivity.
80% of workers used collaboration tools for work in 2021, up from just over half of the workers in 2019 – Gartner
The right tools allow members to focus on their core responsibilities. Such tools help you stay organized, track progress, prioritize tasks, coordinate schedules, and work more effectively to shape the project and meet deadlines. Use Podio, Airtable, Trello, Asana, Zoho, or Basecamp for task management, Teams or Zoom for Video communication, Slack for instant messaging, and other tools like Google Suite, Miro, InVision, GitLab, GitHub, Zapier to improve collaboration.
3. Foster a culture of Flexibility, Trust, and Accountability: Trust promotes honest communication, reducing the risk of misunderstandings and promoting a positive work environment. Transparency and accountability help foster a frictionless and open environment where workers don’t second-guess each other’s decisions or motives. If anyone makes a mistake, accountability follows immediately, without engaging in back-and-forth heated discussions.
A remote team would need to have absolute faith in each other. When you aren’t physically around each other, the likelihood of clarifying things upfront is hard. In such a scenario, trust gets you moving forward, working toward a mutual goal as a team, and keeps toxicity and disagreements at bay. Avoid an atmosphere of cynicism and distrust, respect personal values, show humility, maintain a positive outlook, and look approachable.
4. Team Engagement Exercises: A mundane team environment leads to stressful and disconnected dynamics. Interpersonal team engagement exercises act as building blocks to forge a sense of camaraderie among remote workers, promoting collaboration, trust, and accountability. Such activities elevate bonding and help elevate connectedness, build relationships, boost morale, make workers feel valued, and enable a better understanding of our working dynamics.
26% of respondents ranked regular small team-connectivity events to facilitate social cohesion in the top 5 policies they were most excited about – McKinsey
Group activities, albeit online, allow every member to be more open, transparent, and expressive, fostering a sense of belonging that inspires more enthusiasm to chip in and do more. These sessions dilute the work-related pressure and break barriers to enable a positive energy of cohesiveness and inclusivity. Team engagement exercises are the best way to relax, step away from routine activities, and lighten the mood.
5. Get Explicit and avoid vague Instructions: Vague instructions can lead to confusion and decreased productivity. When providing instructions, be clear and specific, about the deadlines and expectations for the task. Clarify instructions, encourage questions, and practice elaborate drafts to avoid confusion and ensure that all members are on the same page. Follow a visual aid methodology of diagrams and flowcharts to break down the objectives.
26% of respondents ranked clear guidelines and norms for documentation for remote employees in the top 5 policies they were most excited about – McKinsey
Provide resources, manuals, tutorials, or reference points of similar work to better understand the task at hand. Specify principal details, secondary requirements, and other inputs to help them get started. Holistic and straightforward directions play a critical role in expedited project completion with fewer iterations. Practice show and tell, articulate well, avoid vague information, and show how the task connects to the overall project.
6. Define Roles & Responsibilities, and Monitor KPIs: By defining responsibilities, each remote worker gets a clear understanding of their expectations. Each worker can focus on their task; instead of getting distracted by unnecessary duties. Assigning work helps them stay within their defined space, makes them accountable for their deliverables, and makes it easier to track key metrics. Use Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based (SMART) goals.
When employers set clear goals and expectations for employees, they are 2.8 times more likely to be highly engaged – Quantum Workplace
Schedule tasks, develop a plan of action, organize sprints, track progress, and allocate additional work as and when they finish earlier work. Use project tracking software to oversee task completion and monitor productivity. Collaborate with the members to finalize their unique objectives, eliminate bottlenecks, develop the overarching agenda, and visualize the result.
7. Gather constructive feedback: Timely and constructive criticism of the work brings about the best for the individual and the entire group. Feedback cycles can help managers identify improvement areas, promote a culture of accountability, provide valuable insights, and stimulate better performance from each individual. Ensure it’s a 2-way road; remote workers shouldn’t hesitate to pitch ideas and suggest changes.
4 out of 10 workers are actively disengaged when they get little or no feedback – Officevibe
Listen to your team members; incorporate their inputs to transform your project framework. Consolidate the feedback in a single report for the group or take it up individually. Either way, communicate the strengths and weaknesses to keep them in the know-how. Focus on specific behaviors or actions, stay professional, be clear & concise, avoid ratings/points, and be consistent and immediate.
Managing a geographically dispersed team is not the easiest. The flexibility of remote project management can go haywire due to unavailability, miscommunication, conflicts, and other distractions. Following the best practices helps manage remote employees effectively and keeps the project on track. BorderlessMind offers competent experts who fit in fast, stay agile, keep in touch, provide incremental value, and show heightened productivity for an early finish of your project.