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Remote Project Management: How to Manage Remote Teams Effectively

How to Effectively Manage Remote Teams

With many companies going fully remote in the post-pandemic world, remote project management has become a standard in business. The ability to manage remote teams is no longer a nice-to-have quality in a project manager. It’s an essential skill to master.

If you aspire to become a project manager but are concerned about the role in a remote work setting, this article is for you.

Read on to explore the basics of managing remote teams, the benefits, best practices, and the top tools. You will also learn how reputed project management courses can help you rise to the top in this field.

What is Remote Project Management?

Remote project management is all about connecting remote and in-office teams to ensure that the team members work congruently to achieve the project’s goals. It involves the application of all the elements of project management to a remote environment.

Types of Remote Project Teams

Remoted project teams are formed based on the requirement of skills and delivery times of the products and services. There are three types of remote project teams.

Fully remote: A fully remote team has all the team members working remotely. However, they are connected via a common project management system and may have fixed working times for some operational tasks.

Hybrid: Some members work remotely in hybrid teams, while others work from the office. Typically, those employees who need to handle data management and utilize resources, such as specialized software, will work from the office. This also includes the teams involved in the manufacturing sector, where the employees’ physical presence is required to produce the goods.

Flexible: Flexible teams can work remotely or may choose to work from the office. Some of them may be freelancers who work on their own schedules. Others who are employed full-time may have a fixed working schedule.

Why Remote Project Management?

With 27 percent of the US workforce working remotely as of 2023 and an expected 32.6 million remote workers by 2025, remote project management is here to stay.

Here are some of the biggest benefits of managing a virtual team.

  • Remote project management enables managers to assign tasks and monitor the progress without spending time in meetings on every small change.
  • There are substantial cost savings on office space, with the major investment being the remote project management tools.
  • The team members can plan their tasks and keep the manager in the loop with the help of a good project management tool that can automatically adjust the timelines and subsequent steps. This reduces unscheduled absences, saving US companies almost $300 billion annually.
  • Flexibility enables a decent work-life balance, especially by reducing the hours spent commuting to the office and back. Almost 71 percent of employees attested to this experience.
  • There is improved productivity with reduced distractions such as lunches, coffees, corridor discussions, and unnecessary meetings, as testified by about 35 percent of employees who feel satisfactorily productive when working remotely.
  • The managers can interact one-on-one with each employee without relying on the seniority chain and gain a much more transparent and lucid interaction with the team members.
  • Without the restriction of location, highly skilled people from any part of the world can be hired with the help of remote project management. For example, Nortel saves almost USD 100,000 for every hire they do not need to relocate.
  • Professionals who are managing remote teams can delegate smaller and simpler tasks to short-term freelancers without going through the hiring process.

The Challenges of Remote Project Management

Despite the preference of many employees for working remotely, almost 59.1 percent of the employees still work from the office. This is due to certain challenges faced while managing remote employees. Here’s a quick look at some of them—

  • Obtaining timely responses is difficult if the team members work across different time zones and only one person works for each task.
  • Not everyone likes to work from home. Some people thrive on social exchanges in the office, demotivating many employees due to a lack of team interaction.
  • Some methodologies used for managing remote employees may be closed-loop, with no way to contact the concerned people outside of the software. For example, the support teams may be working remotely, and a freelancer may not get a timely response if the only way to connect with them is via the project management platform.
  • Lack of knowledge about the profiles of other team members may result in missing out on or duplicating certain tasks not included in the remote project management workflow.
  • A quick talk with the project manager and its immediate resolution is not always an option if the project manager’s schedule does not align with the team members.
  • Team building takes time as the team members only interact with the tasks. So, several of them may never meet each other face to face.

Assembling and Managing Remote Teams

Great management begins with good team assembly. If being an efficient project manager is your goal, here are a few pointers on how to seamlessly assemble a superlative remote project team:

  • Finalize the type of remote project team most suitable for your project.
  • Establish the project’s goals, determine its workflow, and divide it into tasks.
  • Determine the talent requirements for each task, including education and experience, and establish the work profiles.
  • Scout and hire talent that matches the requirements and fits into the budget.
  • Use suitable remote project management and collaboration tools to integrate the team information, enable efficient document access, and allow for seamless future addition of tasks and personnel.
  • Ensure each team member is briefed on specific tasks and trained on the project management software.
  • Finalize each team member’s communication channels and timelines to ensure a smooth information transfer.
  • Choose and implement a project management methodology such as Six Sigma or Agile to track the progress, productivity, and project issues.

Now that you have assembled the team, your role as a project manager has shifted to management and completion.

Let’s look at how to manage a remote project efficiently:

  • Explore the project management software for its features regarding keeping track of the key tasks, milestones, and deadlines.
  • Define your responsibilities as a project manager in reviewing the daily progress without leaning into micromanaging.
  • Communicate regularly and note the slip-ups in the task transfer from one team member to another.
  • Provide objective and concise goals. Instead of, ‘The financial overview is expected by next week,’ say, ‘The data analysis is expected by <date> <time>, and the report by <date> <time>.’
  • Provide clear feedback in an amicable manner. A hostile short email is a demotivating factor and does not help solve the issue.

Thus, a remote project manager has a dual role to play, as they have to accomplish the project’s aims and keep the team in a coherent and collaborative spirit throughout.

Tips to Ace Managing Remote Teams

While an in-house project manager may not interact with some team members, a remote project manager has to interact with every team member.

Here are a few tips to succeed in this role:

  • Trust yourself and your team members to complete the allocated tasks. The sense of being trusted by the boss has a significant positive impact on enthusiasm and productivity.
  • Be courteous and understanding of the problems of the team members. The line ‘Do not worry about it, take care of your problem, we will reconvene tomorrow’, works as a great motivator.
  • Be accessible to the team members, who can approach you for any and every issue without being judged.
  • Stress the accountability of each member and set an example by calling out the members who are lacking in their work.
  • Ensure each team member knows the source and destination of their work input and output, respectively.

By enrolling in a good project management bootcamp, you can gain technical expertise and polish your soft skills for this role.

Best Practices for Remote Project Management

As per a study by PwC, about 77 percent of successful teams utilize project management tools. Remote project management tools help to plan, track, execute, and accomplish all the aspects of a project remotely. They enable collaboration and dissemination of information regardless of the time zones and locations of the team members. The team members can utilize the tool to personalize their individual task flow and complete the tasks while adhering to the deadlines.

The delivery timings can confuse a remote worker, especially in different time zones. A good tool to manage remote employees facilitates task planning and conclusion while keeping all the members in the loop regarding the various pending and completed tasks without relying on a constant stream of emails.

Certain best practices can help in managing a vitual team. Here are some of them:

  • Conduct informal team meetups to introduce and check in with the team members.
  • Acknowledge task completions by sending physical gifts to the team members so they know they are not ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
  • Be in touch with the IT team to resolve any technical issues they may face with the remote project management tool.
  • Ensure your team members know each other and have had one-to-one interaction, even if they are working on a minor aspect of the project. This empowers the members to take the initiative and discuss difficulties and queries directly with each other.

Top Remote Project Management Tools

Several remote project management tools in the market are developed with these goals in mind. While each has advantages and disadvantages, the chief requirement is for the manager to control and manage the project easily.

A helpful tool ensures accurate time logging, automated invoicing, and seamless payouts. This reduces the tediousness of asking for invoices and following up on payments. The project manager can also view the project progress based on various metrics such as time spent, percentage of tasks completed, etc. Here’s a quick list of the top remote project management tools:

  • Microsoft Projects
  • Jira
  • Slack
  • Zoho Projects
  • Monday.com
  • Trello
  • Wrike
  • Asana
  • Basecamp
  • Height
  • MesiterTask

Start an Exciting Career in Project Management

Are you all geared up to begin your journey as a project manager? If yes, you have stepped in the right direction, as project managers earn an average annual salary of USD 99,433 with provision for an additional average compensation of USD 7,206.

Enrolling in a comprehensive project management program will equip you with leadership, design thinking, Lean Six Sigma, agile management, and project risk management skills. You will also be trained in the top project management tools and will work on industry-based case studies. Guided by expert instructors, you will be well on your way to the top of a lucrative career.

FAQs

  1. What is remote project management?

Remote project management is the practice of planning, managing, and completing a project whilst some or all the team members work remotely in some capacity.

  1. What are the advantages of remote project management?

The main advantages of managing remote teams are reduced costs, improved productivity, greater flexibility, higher work-life balance, better access to top talent, and superior collaboration.

  1. How do I become a remote project manager?

You can become a remote project manager by acquiring an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in project management, gaining considerable experience in the field, or enrolling in online project management training.

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