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How to manage projects and teams in times of remote work

Remote work is a part of our reality. It has become more and more evident with the spread of COVID-19, and the on-going state of quarantine we find ourselves in.

This trend, which has already found its niche in several organizations, has now become an absolute necessity for millions of companies that stopped their regular operations in order to help flatten the curve.

But how is one supposed to properly manage projects and teams remotely?

Here, we will give you an overview of what the experts have to say on the subject. We will show you some tips and tricks to help your teams stay productive while working on projects remotely. 

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Firstly, we need to point out that remote work brings uncertainty to many organizations and not just in the current “curve flattening” scenario either. It breaks the traditional operating model therefore we need to redefine our ways of working and management style to ensure business continuity. 

In many cases, work management needs to be completely redesigned and this is where things can get a bit complex.

When teams are located around the world it adds significant complexity to projects, requiring techniques, tools and social skills that may be outside the traditional reach of team leaders and/or project managers.

The future is remote work

It is also important to accept that the future of work is remote. “Leaders who want to attract and retain the best talent on the market must know the importance of flexible policies for the workforce,” says a global report by Gallup, Inc., one of the most important public opinion polling companies.

In a survey released to the public in January 2020, Gallup points out that 54% of respondents would leave for a job that offers them flexible hours and 37% for a job that offers the option of working remotely at least partially.

This has to do with a new social movement which, according to Gallup experts aligned with other researchers is anchored in the existing technological improvements.

The movement is even more noticeable among Millennials and Centennials – generations who have become accustomed to using technology in their day-to-day. The younger generations are also more critical and more eager to participate in initiatives with a socio-environmental concerns – therefore, they require mobility and respect for individuality, among other things.

Transition to decentralized models

Remote work management requires decentralized models of control. This means giving more autonomy to professionals who, knowing clearly what they must deliver, can make their own decisions about how to work.

Decentralizing management is no easy task for most traditional leaders.

In this practice, general authority is still maintained by senior managers, who make the policies that influence the company’s main decisions, but most responsibilities are delegated to the team itself.

Remotely carried out projects need to be designed and executed in the same decentralized fashion where everyone can report on the progress of their own activities.

The use of agile methodologies, such as SCRUM, can help to decentralize project management. Scrum provides a set of tools and functions to help teams structure and manage their work. This method is perfectly suited for remote work.

→ You can also check out: “Remote team management: how agile practices can help!

Distributed leadership

Another important tip for the proper management of remote work is distributed leadership. This concept focuses on the emerging phenomenon of groups with multiple potential leaders, distributing knowledge and decision making responsibility in order to amplify their efficiency.

As projects become more and more complex, leadership needs to be more widely distributed. This means responsibility must be shared amongst leaders and team members. In other words, they proactively and collectively lead the project rather than the team being passively led by a single person.

In this view, leadership is treated as a group burden and not as an individual one. When people work in unison to bring their initiatives and knowledge together, the result is a product/service that is greater than the sum of its parts. 

However, we still need leaders in distributed leadership. It is clear that the role of the project manager is to coordinate and facilitate. Although individuals can assume the role of leading a project, in general, leadership is done by the group, not by individuals.

The power of collaboration

Finally, we also need to talk about collaboration. It is the link that unites all remote work efforts in order to ensure that projects are carried out successfully. 

Even though home office work has a certain appeal to individualism, it must be remembered that everything tends to be more productive and efficient when teams are engaged and collaborate.

According to a study by social psychology experts at Babson College, teams that work collaboratively spend 64% more time on a task than those where individuals work alone and companies that promote collaborative work are five times more likely to achieve high performance.

In short, as you have seen, there are challenges related to remote working. Managing projects and teams in this model requires decentralization of power, distributed leadership and a strong sense of collaboration.

Is your company already leveraging remote work in a profitable way? What did you think of the insights brought up in this article? Contact us!