Remote work is on the rise. According to Gallup, 43% of Americans worked remotely in 2016, up from 39% in 2012. As remote work becomes more popular, consider how to do it better—particularly if you’re a project manager who’s virtually managing multiple staffers and projects.
Try out the tips below to cultivate a healthy culture and get the most from your staff when working remotely.
Communication is essential when working remotely and across time zones. Don’t let a misconstrued email lead to a missed deadline.
That said, have a defined communication system in place that specifies how staffers should communicate with you, other staffers, and clients, and how often. Should staffers hang out on chat all day? Should they check their email a certain number of times? Proactively answer these type of questions to eliminate ambiguity.
Then, be clear with the information you communicate—especially if you rely on text-based communication applications, which can easily be misinterpreted.
Find a time each day or week when you’re free to speak with staffers, and make your availability known. Maybe you’ll field questions Mondays and Wednesdays from 3pm to 5pm on Skype, or you’ll respond to emails each day around 4pm.
You want staffers to feel that can pop into your virtual office to ask a question or get clarification about an issue. When a staffer has a question in the office, they find the person they need to talk to and ask their question. Provide a similar level of access in the virtual world in order to prevent mishaps down the road.
Project managers sort through mounds of data to learn about staff and project performance, budgets, and billable hours, among many other metrics. Share this information with your staff!
Oftentimes people aren’t aware seemingly obvious details. Let Fred know if his utilization rate is 50% and devise a plan to increase that number. Inform your designer that the project deadline has changed. Tell your team that the website project is almost over-budget and share a report that shows where time and money are being spent.
What staffers don’t say is as important as what they do. When you’re in the office, it’s easy to pick up on nonverbal communication cues, like body language. This is largely missing in the digital world, even with video calls.
That said, do your part and get some feedback to find out what’s working and what’s not. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate process. Pose a question through email on Monday and ask for feedback by Friday, or create an anonymous survey. The options are many. The point is to keep on the pulse of the remote system that you’re building, and give staffers an opportunity to share what’s on their mind.
There’s a lot to like about remote work. Of the many benefits, research touts increased productivity, a reduction in employee turnover, and decreased overhead costs. But working remotely is different than working in an office. It’s worth recognizing this fact and modifying your workflow to cultivate a healthy remote culture. Implementing the tips above can help.