Working from home is standard practice for many around the country, as well as the world. Global Workplace Analytics analyzed the data of the 2018 American Community Service (ACS) and concluded that 5 million people turned their home into an office. This is 3.6% of the workforce, which is not an insignificant number. What’s more, this number has significantly grown since 2005 – by the staggering 173%.
And then, COVID-19 hit at the beginning of 2020. It forces many people from the workforce, and even more, had to relocate their offices to their homes. If your company is one of these, then you are faced with many challenges.
Sometimes, you will have to deal with hundreds of smaller projects and tasks – and doing all of this at this time can be pretty hard. To do it correctly and still keep running your business (or doing your job as a project manager) you need good project management techniques.
Only with the right management and organization can this process become easier for everyone.
Can You Use the Crisis to Boost Project Management?
However, there is a silver lining to this whole chaos. Working from home can actually help your business run more smoothly and efficiently, both during this hard time and after everything is over. The crisis does so by putting a spotlight on smaller issues that you might have ignored in your project workflow. This is the perfect time to examine the whole process, address the issues and find smarter project management solutions.
For example, now you have the opportunity to examine the time your teams take to complete projects. You can see just how much time they spend on each task, what you can correct there.
Furthermore, you can get a better overview of the resources you are working with, as well as how much you are spending on each project. Recognizing the problems and understanding what you can change will make your business run more smoothly and increase your productivity.
Find the Right Way to Manage Projects Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis
However, it’s important to note that different solutions will work for different people. For some, milestones in project management are essentials, while others do better with Gantt charts and similar time scheduling options.
What you need to keep in mind, though, is that the issues that happen when working remotely do not differ too much from those that happen in the workplace. So, solving one type of issue will help solve others. The question thus becomes how to fix your biggest issues, and what to pay attention to.
1) This Is the Chance to Improve Your Teams’ Communication
One of the first issues that you need to take into account is the way in which your team communicates. The COVID-19 crisis forces us to confront this more than anything else since working remotely means we need to rely on different ways of communication and collaboration.
Gone are the days of chatting while working or taking coffee breaks. Instead, we need to focus mostly on the work when communicating, while still facing physical obstacles. Now, creating an office meeting is not only hard to do – but also dangerous and a health risk. The first question to answer then is how to keep your teams’ collaborations running.
2) Make Sure You Do Not Relax Too Much
With everyone working from home, you might be tempted to try and relax some. You might want to let the reins and simply check in with your team from time to time. After all, letting them take charge is one of the best project management tips. You empower your team this way, give them a chance to prove you right for trusting them and let you also reduce your work.
However, this is not enough. Just like you are tempted to ease off on work, so will your employees be tempted too. There are just way too many distractions when working from home. These can be anything from family members and pets to TV and cellphone. And so, you need to create alternative means of communication in order to stay in touch with your team and keep everything running smoothly.
3) Find the Communication Balance
The main thing that you need to remember is that finding the right communication tool will take some work. There is a thin line to walk – and you will need to find a balance between letting your team do their job and bombarding them with messages.
Simply put, sending millions of emails will work as much as sending no e-mail will – that is, will not work at all. Instead, the best idea will be to find a useful tool where you can send messages and set up tasks from your team – tools like Nifty, Slack, Trello and similar project management software have finally found their time to truly shine!
Your main goal, though, when looking into what to use is to get immediate response from your team. And this is why emails are never the best option here. People often read them only a certain amount of times per day, no matter how many notifications they set up. That is the reason why chat tools can help. With them, your employees can manage time better and answer at their own pace – but you will still get a fast response.
4) Setting up Meeting in the COVID-19 Crisis
After you successfully set up good team communication, you should start thinking about the way to hold team meetings. And just like before, tools like Skype and Zoom are in their prime here!
A lot of software allows you to create a conference room feeling, which still lets you use their free version.
The thing to note here, though, is to remember your coffee breaks. Yes, people are working from home and can rest at ease. However, you shouldn’t try to only talk about the projects – but let casual topics into the conversation as well. This will keep the morale up and help better collaboration within your team.
5) Focus on Controlling and Monitoring Your Data Better
Another problem that we face when managing projects in the COVID-19 crisis is missing or incomplete data. This isn’t to say that your workers are doing it on purpose, though! Understanding what happens is the key.
When working from home, people have different office setups. Different machines use different tools – even when users are unaware of it. And once your teams send documents to you, you might find it difficult to organize everything well. However, as a project manager, it is your task to collect all data and synchronize it correctly. There are many solutions for this – but again, the best ideas are project management tools and good cloud storage.
6) Create a Centralized System of Data
The goal here is to create a hub for data that all members of the team can access. This includes, but it is not limited to, team communication, the way they share resources as well as reporting and feedback. A system like this is important because it will allow you an easy way to collect all data in one place, which makes synchronizing it further even easier.
An important issue here is that your team will then need immediate access to all the resources – which might take some time to set up. Furthermore, you should also think about including ways for them to track and update their progress, so you can follow through with them easily.
This will give your team some responsibility that they might feel like they are lacking. We already talked about empowering your team, and this is one good way to do it. Once your team knows that they are all working on the same database, they will have to take responsibility to update it.
7) Get More Knowledgable About Centralized Data Systems
Other than enabling access to all your employees, there are a couple of things that you should also do. First, you should make sure to keep everyone’s tasks up to date. Otherwise, this can easily create a mess in your company where some people are doing the same thing, and some tasks are left undone. What’s more, this will stop people from claiming they didn’t see a task – and thus keep the efficiency up.
Then, you should worry about the size of your teams. If you create a centralized data system for the whole company, this can cause a lot of trouble. Depending on the number of your employees, the number of files they are working on can skyrocket. Ensure that the whole data space is streamlined and simplified. Creating a subspace for each team or department will do wonders to solve this problem!
Finally, we already mentioned this, but it is your job as a good project manager to keep everything up to date. When you are planning out your week, make sure you leave some space in your schedule for updating the data unit. You will want to check deadlines and resources either daily or weekly – depending on what projects you are dealing with.
8) Time Management Skills Are Essential in This Time Period
When you are setting a remote work office, you need to make sure you have a way to control the time you and your team are spending on projects. Again, when working from home, a sliding time scale can be quite tempting. You or your employees might want to postpone things and believe they will be able to do it at any time, but once the deadlines start hitting – they will hit hard. Thus, schedules and timetables are a must-have during this time!
There are different time management tips that you should think about the following. Of course, you will have to adjust them based on your team – we already talked about how various teams will have different needs.
Simply put, some things will work better with to-do lists, while others find their tempo best with Gantt charts or Kanban tables. Thus, knowing your team, how they function and collaborate is important. It will also be a good idea to consider other project management tools you are using since some of them will offer time management tools as well.
9) Monitoring Your Team Is Important for Project Management Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis
Finally, we need to address how you will review your teams and give them feedback when working from home. Setting up timetables and schedules is an important task, but if you do not find a good way to monitor your team, then it is as if you have done nothing at all. You will want to monitor them for other reasons, too. No business is able to – nor wants to – afford delays or missing resources. Monitoring the teams’ progress is a great way to stop this from happening.
Luckily, once you start creating a centralized hub of information, you can include space for reporting the progress as well. This will make it easy for your team to work and report – but it also makes the ending phases of project management more efficient.
10) Remember to React Immediately to Less-than-stellar Reports
During this time, it is important to carefully review your teams’ progress and react accordingly. If the team is running late, you will notice it and be able to correct it. Talk to them and see what they found difficult and try to change it up. Similarly, if they report earlier than expected, then maybe they can revisit some parts of the project and improve it even more. This way, you not only get a more efficient team but a better quality product as well.
At this point, you should also start thinking about your KPIs. Make sure you define them clearly. This way, you can plan ahead and work towards meeting your goals. With them and clear monitoring tools, you will be able to visualize your progress with ease. Then, letting clients or stakeholders in with this system in place will only serve to boost your business even further.
11) Do Not Stop Working on and Improving Your Project Management
If you have been reading carefully, then you might have noticed that all of the main focuses we outlined are actually fairly interconnected. Good communication is essential to quality collaboration, which you can then easily control, plan and correct with smart monitoring.
Afterward, you can edit your plan back through communication. Finally, a centralized data system will help monitor and collaborate – and allow business flexibility.
In the business world, this flexibility is really important. Things can often change – and change fast. The COVID-19 pandemic is a clear proof of this. Being able to switch up the focus and structure of your business to accommodate these changes will help you keep everything on track.
Of course, the COVID-19 crisis makes this difficult. To fight these difficulties, you need to remember to constantly work on your business structure and systems. The moment you notice that something just isn’t working, analyze it and correct it as soon as possible.
This way, you will manage to weather the storm and come out of it as a much better company. Once the crisis is over, you will have a strong project management system that will make work in the office space easier and more efficient.
12) Be There and Reassure Your People
Solving all the problems and addressing all the issues of project management amidst the COVID-19 crisis is worthless if you forget about the people you are working with. If we can say so, they are the biggest and best resources you have. Without them, there simply is no company.
And a pandemic like this can make people very scared. They are not only fighting for their health, but they are struggling for their jobs and their careers. Thus, one of your priorities is to protect your employees and be there for them.
Depending on the type of your business, it is possible that you have already adopted work from home policies. If this is not the case, we encourage you to consider this. We already showed you that a business can function pretty well even in the crisis, and this will also help your employees stay safe and healthy.
If it is impossible, you should also cut out the non-essential travel and expenses. This will make this hard easier for the people, and thus less stressful too.
It is imperative that you also keep all your talents with you. The economy is leaving many people left out, so by doing this, you will gain a lot of worker loyalty. Once the COVID-19 crisis is over, you will have a strong footing and a loyal and happy workforce. This way, you will be able to push past your competition and become a much better business, just by following simple project management steps!