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How to manage remote project teams

The way we get things done today looks very different to how we got things done a few years ago; a few months ago, even.

Our lifestyles are continually being shaped by technological advancements, as are our jobs. High levels of connectivity mean that in many industries professionals no longer have to be physically present in an office space to get the job done. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, published in 2017, remote working is on the rise.

Gallup data shows that the percentage of employees who work remotely in some capacity rose from 39% in 2012 to 43% in 2016. The report also revealed that 37% of employees say they would change jobs to one that allowed remote work at least some of the time.

There are obvious perks to this kind of setup – flexibility, and the potential for improved productivity and less stress – but it does require individuals to plan well, remain diligent and have access to the right tools. When it comes to collaborative work, this becomes all the more essential.

To ensure progress and success regardless of individuals’ locations, leaders need to manage remote project teams with an effective strategy.

Here are some tips on how that can be done.

1. Get everyone on the same page

To drive a project forward, with everyone going in the same direction, team members need to be sure that they’re on the right track. Before starting a project and with each phase, it’s important to clearly define and communicate the objectives with your team. While this needs to be done in an office scenario, it’s even more critical when team members are expected to achieve certain outcomes working independently. It’s also important to set clear expectations with regards to work hours, availability, communications strategies, meetings and the like.

2. Ensure frequent communication

Working remotely does have the potential to make team members feel siloed or perhaps even forgotten. Of course, this is the last thing you want for your team who is working towards the same goals. When members are spread out across various locations, sometimes operating in different time zones, process-driven communication becomes an essential element in maintaining cohesion, as well as ensuring momentum on your project. Scheduling routine meetings sets a positive expectation of availability, offering you and your team the chance to discuss plans, progress and challenges. Online tools like Slack, Skype and Zoom make it easy to stay connected with your entire team, beyond emails and phone calls.

3. Trust your team

While it’s important to remain in communication with your team, setting the tone that you’re constantly checking in on them will no doubt make them feel micro-managed. Remote work does require a level of trust, which is why it’s important to hire the right people, but that doesn’t mean leading blindly. Policies and procedures – or at a minimum, guidelines – need to be outlined from the outset to ensure that your team members understand their roles and responsibilities, as well as the tasks they need to complete to meet near-, medium- and long-term objectives.

4. Keep morale high

Let’s face it, working remotely requires discipline and motivation levels can easily subside. To keep your team working towards your goals, it’s important to keep morale high. As Justin Perun shared in a recent blog, much of this rests on leadership: A good leader is one who can move other’s emotions in a positive direction to get the best from their people. Although you might not be able to participate in team building exercises, you can still lead by example, give team members recognition where it’s due and allow them the opportunity to expand their skills – just a few of the ways that morale is boosted.

5. Make your project plan visible

Perhaps most importantly, it is essential to have a visible project plan in place to manage remote project teams efficiently and successfully. Find out what makes a good project plan here. Thanks to cloud-based project management platforms, like Viewpath, you can be sure that everyone on your team is looking at the same version of the project plan.

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