Project management is challenging enough in normal office surroundings, so imagine the potential problems when it is done remotely! Read this article to discover the main challenges remote team leaders face and how to overcome them.
Global project teams are becoming much more common. Imagine working from your comfy flat in London, whilst one teammate works in Thailand and another works from a New York coffee shop. An attractive prospect? Yes! Easy to manage? Not so much.
This article examines the challenges remote teams face. After reading this article, you might even be inspired to check out our one-day leading remote project teams course!
Remote teams lack the benefits of face-to-face communication. No more lively discussions in meeting rooms or chats with teammates over coffee. So, to counteract the lack of direct and frequent conversation, it is vital remote teams have an effective communication strategy.
Whether your remote team decide to use email, phone or Skype to keep in touch, you must decide when and how you will communicate, using software if possible to keep you all on track.
Dave Nevogt, co-founder of remote team software Hubstaff, says remote leaders must set expectations for communication. He says staff must: ‘update you frequently on their progress - preferably on a daily basis. With good task-tracking software, this doesn't need to be time-consuming or complex. It only takes a few seconds of their time.’i
Divided we fall?
As remote teams work alone without face-to-face contact, they will inevitably miss out on that keen sense of camaraderie and trust found in an office. Going for a drink after work isn’t possible and neither is the annual Christmas party.
The first step to achieving team spirit is building rapport. Teams enjoy working for managers who care about them. Jason Evanish, CEO of management software Lighthouse, says: ‘demonstrating you care is important to them and essential for you to truly understand their motivations. Taking the time to do this will also make them like working for you more.’ii
So, don’t just talk about work – make time for small talk! Ask your remote team about their family, weekend and hobbies.
Another way to keep your remote team happy is to provide perks. Daniel Threlfall, writer at TeamGantt, an online Gantt chart program, suggests providing goodies such as gym memberships, gift cards, office swag, paid time off or paying for remote office space/upgrades to home offices.iii
Software for remote teams
Working remotely is only possible because of technology. Luckily, there is a lot of software available these days to help you manage remote teams effectively.
As a remote team, you’ll no doubt want to use messaging and video/voice calling software for communicating. Everyone knows about Skype, but do you know about Sqwiggle, Google Hangouts or Slack? Try them out and see what works best for the team.
Better team rapport can be achieved with Lighthouse, a program that helps you create personal growth plans, have one-to-one meetings and remember your staff’s key details, such as birthdays and hobbies. WooBoard and Awesome Boss are also worth trying out for a happier team.
To help you manage projects, check out Trello, KanbanFlow or Asana. For tracking the team’s activity levels and keeping an accurate payroll, try Hubstaff.
Remote teams will become increasingly popular due to globalisation. As humans create better software for this style of working, talented people from different countries will end up working together. Financially-speaking, remote work is also popular for employers wanting to keep overheads down, as there is less need to pay for things such as office rental.
Because of the clear benefits and inevitability of remote teams, it is time to ask yourself – are you prepared?
iDave Nevogt. (2013). Managing A Remote Project In Six Steps. Available: https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2013/10/04/managing-a-remote-project-in-six-steps/#267c204a6b4d Last accessed 17th October 2017.
iiJason Evanish. (2017). 10 Essential Tips for Managing Remote Employees. Available: https://getlighthouse.com/blog/10-tips-manage-remote-employees/ Last accessed 20th October 2017.
iiiDaniel Threlfall. (2016). Four Common Mistakes of Remote Project Managers. Available: https://www.teamgantt.com/blog/four-common-mistakes-of-remote-project-managers/ Last accessed 20th October 2017.