Navigating Project Management in Remote Teams: A Practical Guide for Project-Based Businesses

Whether you’ve been the project manager of a remote team for many years or are just diving into these uncharted waters, it’s wise to explore ways to create a thriving culture in the virtual space.

Working from home has become a part of our new normal. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people working from home tripled throughout the pandemic. While some organizations have struggled to reimagine the workplace, others have embraced this change, investing in the technology, resources, and training to build productive, unified teams. 

If you’re looking for practical ways to more effectively manage a remote team, don’t miss these tips that will make your job - and your team members’ jobs - a lot easier. 

  1. Recruit & Retain

According to a survey from the GovCon industry, finding and keeping skilled workers is the number one issue keeping project managers awake at night. Turnover doesn’t just affect the project manager; it’s a hardship for the entire team. While there’s no single solution that works for every organization, project managers can consider proven strategies for recruitment and retention. These include:

  • Using the best technology to enhance workers’ engagement levels and ease of communication
  • Providing the right balance of structure and flexibility, creating a healthy culture for remote workers
  • Prioritizing DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging), which can be measured by anonymous surveys, focus groups, and 1-1 conversations with team members

Read more about recruitment and retention strategies in the 2022 GAUGE Report — Reimagining the Workplace and Workforce. 

  1. Leverage Technology

Technology is the glue that holds remote teams together. If your tools are clunky and outdated, chances are you are living in a state of spreadsheet chaos, and your team members are frustrated and struggling to reach their potential. 

Modern technology drives remote work in so many ways, from providing greater visibility into projects, to tracking progress in real time, to staying on budget through project completion. Without integrated tools, you may experience deficiencies in forecasting costs, managing schedules, and allocating resources, to name a few. 

Learn more about how technology plays a role in project management maturity, and download the 2022-23 edition of Unanet’s Inspire Report —  The Ascent of the Tech-Forward AEC Firm.

  1. Communicate Well 

When it comes to remote work, strong communication goes a long way. Whether you’re providing clarity around a project or simply ensuring team members don’t feel isolated, reaching out regularly is one of the most important parts of a project manager’s job.

Step one is scheduling this into your day. Decide what makes the most sense for you, whether it’s daily check-ins, weekly team meetings, or combination of 1-1 and group communication. 

Step two is finding the most helpful tools and technologies to support ongoing conversation. Ask your team how they prefer to communicate (phone, video chat, instant messaging), what they find least disruptive, and how you can support them with regular check-ins.

When communication is clear, concise, and continuous, remote teams thrive.

  1. Go Agile 

Agile is a proven project management approach for mitigating risk and delivering consistent value. It has become a popular methodology across many different industries, especially government contractors and architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms. 

Remote project managers can implement agile practices by:

  • Breaking larger projects down into shorter, more manageable “sprints”
  • Anticipating change and embracing flexibility 
  • Asking for feedback regularly, fostering a collaborative, discussion-rich environment 
  • Focusing more on people, and less on process

Read more about agile project management and how it benefits remote teams here. 

  1. Anticipate Issues Before They Occur 

Everyone wishes they could see the future and help their team members solve problems before they delay progress. While there’s no crystal ball for project managers, kanban-style task management has been a game changer for anticipating issues before they cause hang-ups.

Kanban is a highly visual project management method that helps ensure minimal downtime between tasks. In addition to the ability to foresee issues and avoid delays, project managers who’ve adopted a kanban system are able to identify patterns that foster growth. They begin to avoid the misunderstandings and miscommunication that often plague remote teams, and create a culture of continuous improvement. 

Move Your Remote Team Forward With the Right Technology 

Regardless of your industry, most project managers have the same goals — bringing projects to the finish line, on time and on budget. For further reading, download Inspire, Unanet’s 2022 annual benchmarking report for AEC firms, or our GAUGE Report for GovCons. Both publications are filled with invaluable insight for project managers of remote teams.