Managing in a Virtual World: How PMs can effectively manage remote teams

The demand for more flexible working arrangements, the rise of freelancing and the advent of virtual collaboration technology has made remote working and virtual teams commonplace in today’s workplace. 58% of the American workforce works remotely, at least part of the time, which can make it challenging for managers to keep teams organized and motivated. How can project managers effectively manage both remote and on-site team members to achieve project success?

To learn more, checkout the infographic below created by Brandeis University’s Online Project Management Masters Degree program.

Managing Virtual Teams

Remote Worker Advantages for Companies

Project managers must learn to live with the new reality of remote workers. Now they cannot insist on the presence of all workers in the company’s office. Many companies realize the benefits of employing remote workers. They can avoid expenses related to IT setup and office infrastructure. They do not have to regularly train their workforce in new technologies. They can simply hire the best professionals. Remote workers can be hired as and when needed.

Remote Working Advantages for Workers

Many talented professionals now prefer working from home. They avoid the problems of commuting to the workplace. In most cases, there are no set hours for work. It gives them lots of freedom and flexibility to manage their work and life. A freelancer enjoys the advantage of working for the highest paying clients. Remote working is now beneficial for both remote workers and companies that employ them.

Developing the Setup

There are some challenges in developing a setup that can handle both office employees and remote workers. Some companies now work with hundreds or even thousands of remote workers. A few office workers are needed to manage those independent workers. A good workforce management system is needed to manage both permanent employees and remote workers. When such a setup is in place, it becomes easier to organize and manage remote workers. Completed works can be received and organized in the required format. A reliable workforce and project management software program helps handle all such processes and issues without any problem.

Different Types of Remote Workers

Independent workforce is not limited to a single type of workers. There are employees who are directly employed by the company but given the choice to work from home. They enjoy all the perks and benefits that a regular employee is entitled to receive. There are part time workers who may work a few days a week or a few hours every day. Freelancers form the largest number of remote workers. There are different types of freelancers. Some freelancers remain committed to a single company as long as its project lasts. Other freelancers work for different companies at the same time. It all depends on how many projects they can handle at a time. Many freelancers do multiple part time jobs. Freelancing for these workers can be a full or part time job. It can be the main source of income or a side income. Project managers need to understand these nuances related to independent remote workers.

Handling the Virtual Team

A company may have regular projects that require a dedicated team of professionals at all times. On the other hand, some companies need workers only after receiving an order from the client. In the first case, remote workers can be guaranteed a regular source of income. In the second case it can be tricky to retain freelancers when they are not assured of regular works. Project managers have to develop efficient remote workforce management solutions to retain talents. They have to take into account the frequency of orders received from their clients.

Challenges Faced in Handling Virtual Teams

There are specific challenges that project managers face when handling virtual team members who work from different locations. It can be difficult to schedule a meeting of all members at a fixed time. It impacts decision-making process negatively. Some members may be quick to follow the direction while others may face difficulty in understanding what they are required to do. Problems arise if the project manager is unable to arrange face-to-face meeting with every team member. It can be difficult to communicate a message correctly to remote workers. They may fail to understand the context or cannot grasp specific issues related to a project. In an office, a team member can consult the project manager immediately when faced with a problem. This may not be possible in a remote work group setup. These issues can be resolved by developing and using the correct collaborative systems. It is easy to find solutions when problems are identified.

Use Latest Technologies

There are a wide range of solutions for all types of problems associated with virtual team management. An efficient setup can be established to organize and manage everything. From traditional email to the latest interactive chat and file sharing programs, there are various technological solutions. There are many IT vendors that offer such solutions. These solutions help organize online virtual meetings. All types of files, data, messages and information can be shared with the team members. Messages can be communicated through voice, text, images and videos. Files, folders, documents, videos, images, and details of projects can be stored in the cloud and shared with team members when needed.

Using Mobile Technologies

Now digital data is stored in such a way that it can be accessed through all types of devices from anywhere. Remote workers do not sit in front of their computer at all times. Now they access project related data even when they are on the move. They can use their laptop or smartphone to access important project information on the go. There is increasing use of such mobile technologies to increase efficiency of project management processes. It ensures fast turnaround and timely delivery of projects to the clients.

It is important for the project managers to take advantage of all these solutions. They must understand the limitations and advantages of a remote workforce. Proper guidelines and rules should be established from the start. It is imperative to communicate directions correctly and at the right time. When people are working in different time zones and during different working hours, there should be someone in charge at all times to solve problems faced by remote workers. Effective planning and use of right tools ensure success of projects that involve working with remote workers.

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