How Great Project Management Can Help Keep Staff on Track

When we’re all out of the office, it’s really easy to fall out of sync with colleagues and clients. It’s completely understandable.

Apr 2020 - 4 minutes read

We’re all working remotely, and many of us are dealing with taking care of young children who are out of school, or elderly parents who are at increased risk for illness, especially in our climate right now.

However, if you’re fortunate enough to still have a job, there’s work to be done. Setting up your team for working remotely isn’t as simple as making sure everyone has file access or the right software installed on their laptops or home desktops. That’s just the first step. Once everyone is online, the hard work begins- figuring out how to work together, and stay motivated as a team while everyone’s in quarantine in the middle of a global health crisis.

Fortunately, many companies already have staff members who are perfectly placed to spearhead this challenge. Your project managers are ideally placed to help keep staff on track, even when they’re working remotely.

Here are some reasons why your project managers are the perfect people to handle this challenge, and how you can encourage them to take action and make a difference in the lives of your team.

The Ideal Project Manager Skillset

Unless you were already using remote workers regularly, chances are you hired your project management team without knowing how they would cope with remote work. Hopefully you’ll find they’re up to the challenge!

Fortunately, the project management skillset is generally one well-suited to adaptation on the fly. In addition, your project managers should have a great understanding of the subject matter they’re working in- whether it’s PHP development, or something else entirely. They should understand team composition, as well as the basics of the hardware and software used by their team. They should also understand how to work with clients, as they’re usually the link between developers and programmers and the client team.

In addition to these qualifications, project managers should also communicate well with others, and display the types of empathy and leadership we expect from people in management positions.

How They Can Help a Remote Team

When the team is in the office together, a project manager’s job gets a lot easier. The entire team is right there, and project managers can see exactly how much work is getting done. Instead of tracking work output, they can turn their attention towards other big-picture tasks like client relationships or risk assessment for new projects. Now, project managers will be forced to put all of their leadership and communication skills to the test in order to work with their team remotely.

Fortunately, once they get the hang of it, we believe that project managers will be key in keeping remote teams on track. Here are some ideas for just a few ways that they can step up and show leadership during this crazy time.

Check in on team members

One challenge that a lot of managers are having is that they aren’t able to casually check in on their staff anymore. In an office, you can swing by their desk to have a quick and casual chat, or get into a discussion about a project in the break room.

When everyone is at home (and especially now that we’re literally not allowed to see each other closely face-to-face), project managers can be a valuable resource to their team by checking in with staff regularly.

They’re uniquely placed to already have a personal rapport with their team, and will hopefully be able check in on both their work and personal lives. The more project managers know about their staff and how they’re coping, the better placed they’ll be to offer assistance.

Serve as a mediator between management and staff

In addition to checking in on their team, project managers can serve as a valuable resource for senior managers who are likely anxious for news and updates about projects and staff. Project managers ideally placed to mediate between management and staff, to make sure that everyone is getting the information they need and fixing lines of communication if they break down.

Help with setting clear expectations

One key struggle that many people are having with the sudden switch to remote work is the change in expectations. At the office, most people know exactly how to fill their time. They have their roster of projects and set work, and if that runs out, most people are able to knock out long-term projects, help their colleagues, or even organize their desk.

At home, the expectations may be different, and distractions are everywhere. Project managers can help make it clear what the expectations are, and enforce them once they’re in place.

Keep track of milestones and deadlines

When you’re around your colleagues all day, most people don’t find it difficult to keep track of project milestones and deadlines. That’s because in the office, reminders are all around you. At home, there are a lot of other things to focus on, which makes it really easy for deadlines to slip by unnoticed.

A great project manager will be proactive in warning their team about deadlines, and can act as a central keeper of a project’s status. Especially on complex, multi-stage projects, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when everyone is working remotely.

Serve as a safety net for staff falling behind or having a hard time

With staff working from home and only connecting over the phone or on massive Zoom calls, it’s easy for someone having a hard time to slip through the cracks. Not everyone is forthcoming about their feelings, especially with work colleagues. Project managers are ideally placed to be a check on team members, both in their work performance and emotional life.

Project managers are often the first to spot a team member falling behind in work, or acting quiet, sad, or out of character. By intervening gently sooner rather than later, they can both keep projects on track, and ensure a happy, healthy team.

We All Rely on Project Managers

It’s important to keep in mind that everyone is struggling right now- even if they aren’t talking about it. A great management team, spearheaded by project managers, can demonstrate the kind of empathetic leadership that’s the driving force behind so many successful companies. Without this type of leadership, companies forced to undergo these rapid changes will quickly fall apart.

Apr 2020