Challenges of Remote Project Managing

Here in the UK, since the 23rd March 2020 the impacts of Corona Virus has resulted in a significant number of us having to change the way we work; no longer commuting to the office we have been stuck in our homes undertaking our roles in a remote capacity. The way in which we run projects has had to change in order for us to adapt to this new situation and as a result, we have seen (and hopefully conquered!) many new workplace challenges.

Hubstaff Tasks have recently released their 2021 Remote Project Management Report in which they uncover the main challenges their respondents have seen whilst managing projects remotely.

They surveyed a total of 250 respondents across small, medium, and large businesses. Out of those, 40% were completely remote companies, and 31% were temporarily remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Another 19% offered partially remote or flexible work environments.

Here is what they found:

Lack of Communication is the Biggest Challenge

45% of the participants stated that lack of communication was their biggest challenge when working remotely. When everyone is co-located in a physical office it is easy to just get up and wander over to somebody’s desk and have a chat, and I think this has been something that has really been missed whilst working remotely.

Organisations that already had virtual lines of communication set up will not have struggled with this as much as those that did not. However, regardless of what software or apps you are running it doesn’t quite feel as efficient as face to face communication.

This is likely to be the main focus for many organisations who look to continue to run remote teams moving forward to a post-pandemic world.

Remote Workers Have Trouble Staying Motivated

The next big challenge respondents faced was staying motivated whilst working remotely and away from the company of their work colleagues.

41% said that they were having trouble staying motivated without interaction with their teammates.

The Harvard Business Review offers an opinion that lack of motivation whilst remote working may be due to:

  • Emotional pressure and economic pressure – people worry about losing their jobs, paying their rent, and protecting their health.
  • Play – the motive that most boosts performance. For example, people may miss the joy of problem-solving with a colleague, or the ease of making a decision when everyone is in one room.
  • Purpose could decline with the team’s decreasing visibility into their impact on clients or colleagues, especially if no one is there to remind them.

Knowing What Everybody is Doing and When

36% of respondents state that it’s difficult for them to know what each team member is working on, as well as when they’re working.

This particular challenge can slow down workflows and make collaboration more difficult, especially if team members have high levels of interdependency in their work.

34% of respondents also claim that checking in on people is a challenge when working remotely.

As mentioned above this may be more prevelant within organisations that were not prepared for remote working, who are still adapting to the new situation. Either way, it is clearly having a negative effect.

How Can We Tackle These Challenges?

The report shows that 39% of respondents were using multiple systems and apps to help with their project management.

There are many tools out there to support remote working which look to address the problems listed above (and others listed in the full report). Implementing the right systems for the right situations will certainly help with many issues that are being faced.

For those organisations coming in cold to this way of working, they will need to allow time for employees to get into the habit of using them. They will also need to recognise that whilst software will help, there will be things it won’t be able to fully replicate. Certainly not as efficiently.

Trust Your Team/Employees to do the Work

Leaders need to make sure that the culture and environment of working remotely are positive. Encourage informal communication within the team to build relationships. And most importantly make sure that you show trust in those you work with.

Respondents of the report claimed, “lack of trust is one of the main things that keep companies away from remote work success.”

Have faith that the work that is needed to be done, will be done. Set your expectations from each person from the start and make sure they have the right reporting channels so that you can keep up to date with your team without coming across as a micromanager.

This takes us to:

Make Sure There is a Sense of Ownership

This is a great way of making sure each member of your team works effectively. If everyone clearly knows what they are responsible for doing they will know what tasks they should be doing and the deadlines that come with them.

Adding a Trello board or Kanban system is a great way of making sure people know what they are doing and it also adds accountability.

Organisations Believe they are Handling Remote Projects Well Despite the Challenges

On a scale of 1 to 5, 45% of respondents rated their remote project management efforts a 4, while 24% gave themselves a 5 out of 5.

No respondent rated their company’s remote management as being poor (a rating of 1).

Whilst remote working for many was alien and proved to be more difficult, the results from the report suggest that despite the challenges, the respondents believe that remote projects can still work.

It will be interesting in the future to see how many organisations continue using remote project management in any capacity, once lockdown is fully lifted and they have the opportunity to return to traditional ways of working. At the same time it will be interesting to see how individual workers split between those looking to continue remote practices against those who yearn for a return to the norm.

The economic realities are really hard to measure as we are in a false state, where economic activity is generally constrained by the impacts of the pandemic. A return to normal levels of economic activity could increase the level of challenge for some organisations and individuals. Maybe that is the point where we will better understand if the current model of remote project management works?

If you would like to read the full report by Hubstaff Tasks you can do so here>>>

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