Remote project management requires tools and interpersonal skills. You need to choose a project management tool that can handle all your project’s needs. When combined with excellent communication and time tracking, your project management tool will set you up for success.
It’s not rare to see things go off the rails when managing remote teams, but you can avoid this with a few techniques. That’s why it’s essential to improve your project management skills.
Many remote employees spend most of their work hours performing unproductive activities. As a remote team manager, you have to ensure that everyone is on track.
This article will provide you with insights into the best ways to manage remote teams. With the tips we provided, you’ll be able to reach your remote project management goals on schedule and budget.
Let’s get to it!
1. Choose the right remote project management software
First, you need to find the remote project management tools that work best for your team. The software you choose will assist you with all tasks, including file sharing and everything related to the project.
With the numerous project management tools available, picking the right tool for your remote project management can be overwhelming. The best way around this decision-making process is by asking yourself what you need from your project management tool.
Once you understand your needs, you will make an excellent choice. Start by asking the following questions:
- Do I need an industry-specific project management tool?
- Does my team rely on specific tools to do their jobs?
- Should my project management software integrate with some critical applications?
- Is it necessary to include functionality that allows your remote team to invite outside collaborators (like consultants)?
A clear wishlist will help you make a better choice of a project management tool. You should go for the tool that checks the most boxes in your list.
Below are the characteristics of a good remote project management tool.
It has all the functionality you need
Your ideal project management software must possess all the features you need. To ensure this, you need to create a list of all required components. Also, make a list of features you think would be nice to have.
These two lists will come in handy when you compare different solutions. They will help you choose the right tool to handle all your needs.
If you’re managing a sales team, check out these project management tools.
Customizable to suit your workflow
You need a project management tool that you can customize to suit your remote team’s workflow. If you go for a tool that is not flexible, your team will need to change the way they work to use it. So, you need to ensure that your desired tool is flexible enough to meet your needs.
For example, an engineering team could use GanttProject for scheduling and project management. Here are more project management tools for engineering.
It is easy to use
A complex project management tool will have you spend money and time training the team to use it. For this reason, it’s best to choose an application that is easy to use.
Fits your budget
Go for a project management tool that fits your budget. Some tools are designed for big teams with big budgets, while others are best suited for smaller groups with smaller budgets. Try to consider your budget when deciding on the tool to use.
Check out our top free project management tools.
2. Designate a project manager
After selecting a well-suited remote project management software, the next step is appointing a project manager, preferably the one who has earned a PMP certification.
Make sure you select one point person for each project. This way, you will avoid confusion about responsibilities and keep everyone on the same page. Also, your team will have a place to go when they have questions or concerns about the project.
Alternatively, you could take the role of project manager.
Here are some things that your remote project manager will need.
Also, the remote project manager will need to create an effective project specification document.
Here’s how to create a project specification document
Project managers need to gather requirements from stakeholders and analyze them for consistency and completeness. Once they are particular about the conditions, they can start your project specifications.
Involve the team
The project manager has to write the project specification document, but they should work with the other remote employees along in the process. This way, the project manager will be able to create a well-detailed project specification document.
Project managers need to ensure that project requirements and deadlines are realistic. They should consider other projects and deadlines the team needs to meet. It will be easier if the manager has managed similar remote projects in the past.
But if they’re managing a remote project for the first time, it’s best if they consult more experienced project managers. They should be able to provide sound advice.
Make it easy to read
Project managers divide the project specification document into logical sections to make it easier to read. Using a table of contents makes the document easier to navigate.
Keep it short
It’s better to keep the project specification document brief and straight to the point. A document of three pages maximum should suffice for most projects. The project manager should ensure that the instructions on how to complete the project are clear.
3. Do a proper launch
The first two tips will help you lay the groundwork, but you will need to kick off the project once you are done. Start by setting up a synchronous kickoff meeting led by the project manager. It will help you begin on the right foot.
During the meeting, ensure that you cover everything your remote team should know about the project. See the meeting as an opportunity to define what success means for your project and when it is completed. You can start with big-picture items such as your overall goal and how it aligns with your organization’s broader strategy.
Don’t hesitate to go into details. Try to cover the specifics involved in using the remote project management software. Let your team know the kind of updates you’ll be expecting from them throughout the project.
Also, inform them about where you will be sharing information, updates, and more during the project. Before ending the meeting, give your team some time to ask questions. This way, they will feel heard right from the start, which is good because they won’t hesitate to come to you if a problem arises during the project.
However, you should avoid micromanaging your remote team. There’s no way you can manage all the aspects of your team’s work. If you try to do so, it will slow down the entire team and cause mistrust.
Here’s how to avoid micromanaging your team
Explain benchmarks, objectives, and due dates clearly to your remote employees. Let them know the results you expect. Being clear about this ensures that your team members strive to achieve the expectations.
Avoid being a perfectionist
Nobody is perfect! So, don’t expect your remote employees to complete tasks perfectly. They don’t have to perform tasks exactly the way you would have done them.
What matters is that the results are good and your team goals are met. Expecting perfection from your remote team will only reduce their productivity. So, trust your remote workers to get the job done in their way.
Ask team members how they would like you to manage them
The only way to know what task management style your remote team prefers is by asking them. Don’t just micromanage based on the assumption that your team needs extra attention. The best practice is to develop a specific approach to manage each remote team member.
Focus on tasks only you can do
Delegate all tasks that don’t require your attention to someone else and let them complete them. This way, it’s easier for you to focus on tasks that only you can handle. It’s also an excellent way to avoid micromanaging your team members.
Trust your team
Ensure that all your team members are adequately trained on doing their job and trust them to do it right.
People with trust issues tend to micromanage their team. It’s hard for them to believe that someone else performs a task as well as they can.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use the tools you need to ensure effective work hours such as screen recording software, just be open about it.
4. Keep communicating
Communication is crucial when you are managing projects, more so when you’re working with remote teams. Unlike the office setting, you can’t see what your coworkers are doing when working remotely. The only way to tell what your remote workers are doing is if they tell you. That’s why you must keep communicating to keep everyone on track.
You don’t need to have numerous meetings, as this will reduce the team’s productivity. Remote work means more flexibility, which in turn means increased productivity.
Instead, you will keep tabs on what your remote team is doing using your remote project management tools.
With a project management software like Trello, you can see what tasks are in progress and the completed tasks. You can also leave comments and get replies on the tasks. Many project management tools come with such useful functionalities and more.
With suitable project management tools, you can keep communication flowing within the remote team without becoming obtrusive.
Nonetheless, a few meetings will help keep everyone in touch with the remote project goals and progress.
Here’s how to make your meetings productive
Prepare an agenda
If you want to host a productive meeting, you must prepare a plan that clearly states the meeting’s goals and objectives. Select topics that are relevant to the entire team. This way, you will carry everyone along throughout the session.
Minimize the number of invitees
If some people’s presence is not needed in the meeting, don’t include them. Some sessions are not for every team member. So, consider leaving out those who don’t need to attend.
Minimizing the number of invitees is a great way to speed up the meeting and make it more productive. You will be saving everyone’s time.
Keep it short
Go through the schedule you have prepared for the meeting and estimate the amount of time you will be spending on the topics. Knowing the time required to cover all the subjects will help you determine how long the entire meeting will last.
Scheduling a 30-minute meeting to last for an hour does not make sense. It will leave you looking for a way to fill up the remaining 30 minutes. Try not to waste your time and that of the remote team members too.
Carry everyone along during the meeting. Let team members share their ideas and collaborate to find a solution. Make sure every remote team member contributes.
Conclude with clear next steps
At the end of the meeting, your remote team should have something to take home. Otherwise, you have failed at conducting a productive discussion. So, once you conclude a meeting, assign action items.
Need more tips for organizing a remote meeting?
Check out these best practices for remote teams.
5. Find the right communication mix
When you’re working remotely, your team members are likely located across different time zones. As mentioned earlier, communication is essential. But for it to be great, you need to find the right balance between synchronous and asynchronous communication.
Here’s how to find the right communication mix during your remote project management:
Consider each team member’s time zone and schedule
You need to consider each remote team member’s time zone and schedule when deciding on the synchronous/asynchronous balance. When your team members live in different time zones, it makes scheduling real-time meetings difficult.
Set a pace for synchronous meetings and stick to it
You must specify a pace for synchronous sessions and keep it consistent from the beginning of your project. Whatever you settle on, try to stick to it. Your team should know how to use the different types of communication.
Set some guidelines
There are many different communication tools for remote work, such as phone calls, video calls, email, messaging platforms, and project management tools.
With these many options, your team might get confused when everyone starts sending messages everywhere. To avoid confusion, you need to set some guidelines.
For example, you can reserve in-person meetings for significant updates and troubleshooting. Let your remote team members know where they can find updates on specific tasks.
You can place specific updates only on your project management tool. Slack is perfect when you want to get immediate help from colleagues. On the other hand, you should reserve emails for communications outside your primary remote team.
When you set these guidelines, everyone will know where to find any particular piece of information they need. It is an excellent way to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks.
Keep as much of your communication in public channels as possible
It’s best to communicate in a way that allows team members to have visibility into the happenings at work. Slack and other project management tools are an excellent way to keep your communication public. Team members who are not affected by the communication today might need the information in a week.
Any conversation you have using remote project management tools is searchable. Team members can quickly get the information they need in the future by revisiting the conversation.
6. Provide regular updates
Good project managers ensure that all remote team members are kept in the loop. You can do that by providing regular updates. The last thing you need is your team feeling underappreciated because you failed to keep them posted.
Make sure you update everyone about any change in direction, scope, or overall project timing. While providing updates on the big things, don’t also forget to share small wins. Also, you should provide regular shout-outs along the way.
When you run into any problems during the project, address them as soon as possible. It’s not uncommon for things to go off the rails. So, provide feedback as soon as you notice any issues to prevent them from escalating.
Here’s how to provide effective feedback:
If you want your remote team to improve, you must provide clear and detailed feedback when needed. Avoid giving generic feedback, as it does not help your team get better.
For example, instead of saying, “I need you to be more reliable,” you should say, “please inform me at least a day ahead of time whenever it seems like you won’t meet a deadline.”
Focus on performance
Instead of criticizing your team members based on their personality, focus on their performance. They can’t change who they are, but they can learn to do things differently.
For example, instead of telling your remote team member that he is disorganized, you should say that he needs to improve his organizational skills. Tell your team members the actions they can take to enhance instead of judging their character.
Keep it private
Giving critical feedback in private is better as many people don’t like being publicly criticized. Writing your feedback can be helpful too. It gives you time to think the situation through and come up with a thoughtful response.
Don’t wait for performance reviews.
Most companies carry out performance reviews quarterly or annually. Don’t allow your remote team members to go this long without any indication of how they are doing. Instead of relying on performance reviews, try to share appreciation and feedback more often.
Your job is not complete after giving feedback. You need to follow up with your remote team members to ensure that they have taken your advice.
This way, members of your team will know that your comments are essential. Also, following up allows you to clarify things or provide help to people who need it.
7. Use time tracking for remote task management
You’ll be surprised to find out how unproductive people can be when working remotely. Studies suggest that an average team member is only productive for about 3 hours in an 8-hour workday. You will often find employees performing unproductive activities like reading news websites, checking social media, and chatting with coworkers.
You need to build accountability when managing remote projects. Team members must spend their time performing productive activities during working hours. An excellent way to ensure this is through a time tracking tool like TimeCamp.
TimeCamp allows you to see how members of your remote teams spend their work hours. This way, you can quickly boost productivity by identifying bottlenecks and improving your project estimates. Time tracking makes managing complex projects more manageable.
The following guidelines will help you get started on time tracking:
Write a time tracking policy
Firstly, you need to develop a time tracking policy for your remote teams. The policy should outline how team members should follow their time when working. You should also provide information about how to use the time tracking software and what tasks to track.
Choose a time tracking solution.
Now, you will need to choose a time tracking solution that works for your project. To decide on the perfect solution, you must consider one that integrates with the project management tool you’re already using. Fortunately, TimeCamp integrates with many other project management tools.
Additionally, your desired solution should have an intuitive interface, so you don’t spend too much time training your remote team to use it.
Get team members to track their time
Lastly, you need to get everyone on your remote team aboard. Let everyone know why time tracking is essential and why everyone should use it.
There’s no point in implementing a time tracking policy if your team does not know how to use the software. Train your remote team members to use your time tracking software.
8. Work on improving company culture
Remote teams can’t thrive without a healthy company culture. That’s why you must aim to improve your team’s culture. This way, you will attract top talent to your team and boost productivity.
Improving company culture also allows you to increase team member retention. Let’s look at the guidelines to follow if you are looking to improve your company culture.
Make a culture deck
You should create a culture deck to help your team members understand the culture you want to develop. A culture deck contains detailed information about your company’s culture. This document will help your employees understand the mission and values of the company.
It’s among the best ways to attract top talent to your team and retain them. Here are a few guidelines to help you get started on creating a culture deck:
Start with your mission
Your mission should give insights into what you are looking to accomplish and why. You also need to describe who your customers are and what you do for them.
Describe your values
Your values should provide insights into your strategy toward achieving your mission. Also, you should state how you want your employees or remote workers to treat one another. These are necessary information that must be available in your culture deck.
Involve the team
Since everyone on your team contributes to the culture in your company, you should involve them when creating a culture deck. Getting inputs from them will help you determine other things to include in the document.
Get inspiration from other companies.
Many top companies out there have excellent culture decks for your inspiration. You can check out companies like Dell or Amazon and get inspired by their culture decks.
9. Schedule social time
Building rapport and developing meaningful relationships is not very easy among remote workers. The reason is that they don’t work in the same physical space, which hinders communication. Remote teams don’t socialize or communicate as often as people who work in the same building.
Remote team managers need to be intentional about socialization. They must make an effort to socialize by scheduling social time. It could be daily or weekly and should allow team members to perform social activities.
Here are some creative ways to have a great social time with your remote teams:
Organize virtual lunch breaks
Remote teams cannot meet up for lunch breaks at the local restaurant. But they can certainly have virtual lunch breaks. You can schedule daily video calls in which your team members eat lunch together and discuss.
Create non-work-related Slack channels
While Slack is great for work-related conversations, you can also use it to discuss things unrelated to work. You can create some channels for your team members to talk about topics they find interesting. They can discuss movies, books, video games, and more.
Pair your remote workers randomly
You can pair different team members weekly. Let them know each other by scheduling a one-on-one call.
Some tools allow you to do this seamlessly. For example, RandomCoffees (a Slack app) automatically pairs your team members so they can get familiar with each other.
10. Organize virtual team building activities
Virtual team-building activities are not only fun, but they also help your remote team members to build rapport. There are different options to try out, and you can do it using remote project management tools.
Here’s a list of great virtual team building activities for your remote project team:
Virtual book clubs
A book club makes an excellent social activity if you have avid readers in your remote team. Your team members can discuss a book they have read over a video call. You can schedule it once every month.
Virtual movie night
Everyone enjoys watching movies, which is why movie nights are a great social activity. Not only does it appeal to the movie buffs in your team, but even casual viewers will have a good time. Let your team members decide on which movie they would like to watch.
Once they have chosen a movie, you can organize a virtual watch party. Solutions like Teleparty will enable you to do that seamlessly.
Weekly gaming sessions
You can organize gaming sessions for your team members every week and have them compete in their favorite games. People who work in a tech-related field will find gaming an excellent team-building activity, as they are likely to have many gamers in their team.
Don’t leave the non-gamers out. You can have them play casual party games such as Pictionary.
Remote team members can have a fantastic experience answering trivia questions. You can host a trivia quiz weekly or monthly to test your team members’ knowledge. To make it even more fun, you should include a prize for the winner.
Murder Mystery parties
Murder Mystery parties are exciting and easy to host. You don’t require any special tools to host these parties. All you need is to get your team members on a Zoom call.
Once you have a scenario online, you are good to go. Assign a character to each team member. They can even dress up as the character to make it more fun.
11. Collect feedback from your remote workers and act on it
You can’t improve your company’s culture without understanding how your team members think. You need to collect feedback from them to know how they feel.
Here are some guidelines to help you do that:
Team member satisfaction surveys
If you want to gauge how happy your remote team members are, you should carry out satisfaction surveys. These surveys will also provide insights into your team members’ likes or dislikes about the project and your remote project management strategy. Since satisfaction surveys are anonymous, your team members will be more likely, to tell the truth about how they feel.
Virtual suggestion box
Suggestion boxes are not only applicable in offices. You can also have a suggestion box when working remotely. The only difference is that the suggestion box will be a virtual one.
You can collect suggestions through dedicated services such as Suggestion Ox and Free Suggestion Box. You can even do it through your website.
While collecting feedback from your team members is essential, there’s no point in doing it if you don’t take any action. You need to act on the feedback you have collected from your team members.
Take out time to review all the feedback thoroughly. It will help you to implement an effective strategy for improving company culture.
Have the members of your remote teams fill out pulse surveys regularly. You can do it once every week or month. This way, you will gain insights into the state of the culture in your company at a particular time.
It is best to perform pulse surveys regularly, but you must try to make them short. Nobody enjoys filling long surveys all the time.
Remote project management can be challenging. Team members may find it hard to build a rapport because they don’t work in the same building. Also, it can be tricky to ensure that nobody is left outside the loop with members from different time zones in your team.
With the right project management tools, you and your remote teams will cross the finish line on your projects. Make sure you create a clear wishlist to help you choose the suitable remote project management tools to use. Use time tracking to ensure that all team members are productive.
Instead of giving generic feedback, you should be more specific when communicating with your team and avoid micromanagement.
TimeCamp is an excellent remote project management software that allows you to track your remote team’s productivity. It has a very intuitive user interface and integrates with other project management tools.
What’s more? TimeCamp has a free plan that supports unlimited users on mobile and desktop. Sign up for TimeCamp today to start tracking time!