Tips for Making Remote Project Management Work
By Brad Egeland
I’m a big believer in managing projects remotely and using virtual teams on projects. In fact, i’ve been managing projects and consulting engagements remotely, and using remote and virtual teams successfully on project and consulting engagements successfully for more than ten years. While it is very rewarding and I’ve saved countless hours of my life by not commuting in a car and saved the ozone a bit by not polluting the environment further – keeping my carbon footprint to a minimum (is that still a thing?) – there are still many things you need to consider. It’s not for everyone and it is certainly not without challenges. So, I hereby present a few key tips to consider for remote project managers (and consultants working remotely in any virtual position, basically). Please read on and be ready to provide your thoughts and additional tips for discussion.
Have back up work spots ready when you need them. You have a very nice isolated home office spot that is sound proof and equipped with everything you need. Great. But you need to have at least one – preferably two – other spots in your house designated as go-to spots in case you have an emergency call and someone happens to be in your comfort zone at that most inopportune moment. You think it will never happen, but it will. Be ready and make sure your family knows where these spots are so you can go there fast and be undisturbed there if your “spot” is for some reason being used.
Figure out what work times work for you. Figure out when you are most productive. A lot of project management work is performed independently without communication to team members and calls from your PMO director or accounting department or even your project client. So figure out when you are at your creative best and do status reports then, update your project schedule then, re-forecast your financials at that time, etc. If you’re best from 1am to 4am, then try to do some of your work then and take some time off during the day when possible. Your project customers, team and management don’t need you 24/7. They need you for regularly scheduled meetings and tasks and they need you adhoc at time. You’re still going to pull 40-60 hour weeks no matter what. But if you are at your productive best in the middle of the night – go ahead and make that part of your work time. You may want to let others know you’re doing that (and I don’t just mean your family – but they should know too or they’ll think you’re weird).
Know the schedule will be a bit inconsistent. Undoubtedly, you’ll be managing someone in a time zone far enough away that you’ll need to be calling, texting, emailing or skyping at strange hours sometime during your remote career. Get used to working at 3am. I have – as a project manager and as a consulting standpoint working with clients in the UK, Macedonia, Russia, and Iceland…to name a few. And I’ve worked with developers in India off and on since 2006. It’s part of the process so you’ll need to be able to be awake and productive at odd times. Not all the time and not necessarily every week…but be prepared.
See what $$ your employer will provide. Certainly, if you’re a self-employed consultant you are probably on your own on this one – though not necessarily. But if you’re direct employee working remotely then you should be able to get some sort of annual compensation for home office equipment. And they should be providing you with at least a laptop, printer and possibly a large screen monitor. Most employers have a set aside for the remote or virtual worker – take advantage of it.
Have separate work / home equipment, if possible. Finally, I think it’s a good idea to have more than one laptop when working in the remote project manager role. And by this I mean you should probably keep your personal equipment separate from your work equipment. As I’ll state in the next tip, your employer should be providing you with some home office equipment or at least a budget for procuring your own home office equipment that will be dedicated to doing your job for them. Keeping personal and direct hire work on separate laptops is always a good idea for identity protection purposes if no other reason. Unless you’re working remotely as a consultant, use two laptops – and even then you should probably have two.
Summary / call for input
Remote work like this is not for everyone. You have to be organized and you definitely have to have designated space for the work. Analyze your own situation and see if it is right for you.
Readers – if you’re working remotely, what are your top tips? It’s not for everyone, and there are always challenges. What keeps you motivated and on track? Please share and discuss.