In My Project Manager’s Opinion – Technology has changed the landscape of how we do business today. The evolution of smart phones, tablets, video conferencing, social media and mobile devices have created a global economy. The result is more business being conducted remotely. You no longer have to be in the room or even in the same city with someone to conduct business with them. A recent article by Fast Company indicated that 50% of the workforce will be working remotely at least half of the time by 2020. Some statistics have revealed that remote work can increase productivity, yielding higher results due to less distractions. Working in your own environment also has been shown to reduce stress and in the process, increase morale.
In the business landscape, as our global marketplace keeps expanding, so do the opportunities for business growth. It is no surprise that project managers should capitalize on managing virtual teams, especially when specialized skills may not be physically close by.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about managing virtual teams and would like to share some of my insight on the best ways to maximize results to remotely manage a virtual team.
Team building: Contrary to your initial impression, team building is possible when managing a virtual team. Since your team is not physically present, I would say this component is necessary. This requires taking the time to organize virtual group activities that will engage the team and allow them to gel with one another. Use of live video conferencing is an excellent tool to help facilitate team building.
Consistent communications: Just because you do not see each other all the time does not mean you cannot communicate consistently. At the outset of the project, identify the best communication tools and put a system in place. If your staff needs training on these tools, make sure to provide that support too. It could be email, instant messaging, or you might like to use some nifty application tools. The most important thing is that you establish an open line of communication where your team can share ideas and ask questions as much as they need.
“Open door” policy: As the project manager, I want my team to feel comfortable reaching out to me with any needs or concerns. If someone needs to discuss their role or portion in the project more in depth or offline, they are always welcome to schedule time on my calendar. I found it important to ensure my team feel at ease asking for my time without apprehension.
The common denominator that you might have noticed when managing a virtual project team is communication. Keeping the lines of communication open among the team establishes a level of accountability because your team will come to expect communication on a consistent basis on the progress of the project until completion.
Managing virtual teams is becoming the norm. You would be wise to start developing strategies to effectively manage such a team within your planning of human resource needs.
Vanderkam, Laura. “Will half of people be working remotely by 2020?” Fast Company. August 14, 2014. https://www.fastcompany.com/3034286/will-half-of-people-be-working-remotely-by-2020
Crystal Richards is the Principal & Owner of Mosaic Resource Group, a consulting firm dedicated to helping project management professionals better themselves in all things project management, communications, and leadership. Crystal provides training and professional development for people who manage projects from the novice project manager to the senior project leader.
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