The Best Practices in Managing Remote Teams During COVID-19

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The COVID-19 crisis has had a significant impact on not just the day-to-day lives of common people but also the working of organizations.

As many countries have implemented a lockdown to prevent the spread of Novel Coronavirus, several organizations all over the world have turned to WFH (Work-From-Home) policies to comply with the lockdown guidelines while also continuing business operations.

Unfortunately, not a lot of organizations have experimented with remote teams in the past. While hiring remote employees is a growing trend, with an Owl Labs report suggesting 64% of their respondents working remotely at different frequencies, it is still a fairly novel concept for most organizations.

But what if your organization has adopted WFH, and as a Project Manager, it is your first time working with remote teams? How are you planning to manage them in a way that the team members continue being positive and productive? Here are a few practices that can help-

  1. Communicate Your Expectations
  2. Accountability becomes a primary concern for project managers when they have their team members working from home. But look deeper, and you will see that expectations are a necessity for accountability. Things generally do not work unless there is someone who is expecting you to do something.

    Irrespective of whether you have people working remotely or from their workplace, they can only be held accountable for things that are expected from them. In other words, your team members should have a clear idea of what you are expecting from them. Project managers should try to be as clear as possible in communicating the roles and responsibilities of every team member.

    This will ensure that the remote workers are aware of what is expected of them and that they can be held accountable for the success or failure of their tasks.

  3. Regular Engagement is the Key
  4. Even when your team members are working remotely, you need to ensure that you have a high-performance team that positively contributes to the growth of your organization. As per a Harvard Business Review report, around 71% of the respondents agreed to the fact that employee engagement is integral for achieving overall business success.

    However, only 24% of them agreed that they do have highly engaged employees. Project managers have a role to play in this process. You should look for effective ways to help increase engagement with and within your team members. For instance, you might have the habit of greeting your team members when you walk into the office every day. The same could be adopted with remote working.

    While it might not be possible to engage with every team member on a daily basis, you can still pro-actively search for such opportunities as this can help improve their performance.

  5. Build a Transparent Working Environment
  6. Transparency is all about sharing important details about your organization and projects with your team members. The knowledge can help the team members make better decisions with regards to their work and the success of the projects. They will also understand the overall objectives of the organization in a better way when they have access to such critical information.

    Having open communication channels is also necessary as it makes the team members feel comfortable about reaching out to the managers and even other team members. Managers can also focus on building transparency about the strengths and weaknesses of every team member so that they are encouraged to share such skills with others.

    Try to lead with transparency, understanding, and compassion so that you, your team members, and your organization can function efficiently during and even after the end of this pandemic.

  7. Hold Regular Virtual Meetings
  8. Thanks to modern technologies, you can hold meetings with your team members irrespective of whether they are in the same city, country, or continent. There are several video conferencing tools that you can use for such meetings. Create a well-defined schedule for such virtual meetings. Most remote team managers prefer weekly or bi-weekly meetings.

    While these meetings don't need to be very formal, make sure that they are important and unavoidable. To make these meetings successful, have a clear idea of what you will be discussing with your team members. It could be the overall progress of a project, collecting inputs from the members, or informing them about the future course of action.

    Regular meetings help minimize miscommunication and also make the remote workers realize that they are out of sight but not out of mind.

  9. Help Team Members Establish Remote Working Boundaries
  10. As per a report by HR Exchange Network, as many as 44% of the 7,500 full-time employees interviewed agreed to feeling burned out at some point when they are at work. But while burnout seems like a problem related to working from an office, it is a possibility even for an employee trying to adjust to a remote working schedule.

    WFH is not easy, and definitely not something that comes naturally to a lot of people. This can be a cause of concern, especially for team members who have never worked remotely in the past. So, to prevent burnouts and help the employees adjust to their new schedules, project managers can focus on more communication.

    They can talk to the team members about effective WFH practices, share helpful blogs and articles, and help them establish boundaries so that they remain productive without risking their physical or mental health.

  11. Make Good Use of Technology
  12. No remote team is complete without a suite of powerful business tools. Apart from using a good video conferencing tool for regular meetings, there are several other software categories that you can consider for managing your remote team. For instance, there are software solutions and tools for online file management, data storage, team collaboration, messaging, and more.

    Businesses can consider off-the-shelf products, or they can work with a software provider to get themselves a custom solution designed as per their specific needs. This can help them make sure that the software solutions effectively meet all of their custom requirements.

    Also, a common pain point for project managers working with remote teams is resource management. With organizations now spread across multiple locations and having employees from all the different parts of the world, tracking and managing resources could be challenging. Resource management software solutions are now available to help businesses in this regard.

How Can Resource Management Software Help?

Having your team members working remotely can present a host of serious challenges, especially in case if you and/or your employees have never worked remotely in the past. But in this age of technology, there are software solutions for almost every challenge faced by organizations.

With regards to managing remote teams, one such effective solution is using a Resource Management Software, like eResource Scheduler. Available in on-premise and cloud versions, the software helps project managers profile, identify, and schedule human and non-human resources irrespective of their geographical location.

With features like Drag ‘n’ Drop Resource Scheduling, Management Reports, Finance Reports, User Access Rights, 100% Configurability, and Open REST API for Integration, the software solution is an affordable and hassle-free way for project managers to schedule and utilize their resources in a time and cost-efficient manner.

Some of the top benefits of resource management software are as follows-

  • Maximizing resource utilization
  • Balancing workloads of your resources
  • Tracking availability of the resources
  • Forecasting resource shortages and excess
  • Tracking project progress
  • Accurate financial reporting

Managing Remote Teams: The Present and Beyond

The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the rate at which remote working was growing across the world. So, if your organization has currently adopted WFH practices, as a project manager, you should start building strong foundations for it as remote working will only get more popular with time.

Owing to the benefits that remote employees can offer, a large number of organizations might switch to only working with remote employees or at least adopt a hybrid model with remote employees as well as office employees even after this pandemic is over.

So, it’d be wise for the project managers to start adopting the practices discussed in this post as this can help them in the present situation as well as in the future when remote teams might become a necessity to remain competitive.

Consider investing in a reputed resource management solution like eResource Scheduler as it can add more transparency and efficiency to your resource management practices even when your resources are located thousands of miles away from you.

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