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What To Do When Remote Projects Go Awry - Ambition & Balance

https://doist.com/blog/remote-projects/

doist.com

What To Do When Remote Projects Go Awry - Ambition & Balance
Remote projects can include communication challenges, collaboration issues, and accountability blunders. Here’s how to course correct when things go wrong.

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A Central Management Tool

A Central Management Tool

Physical presence does play a large part in moving our projects forward. Managing a project remotely requires a diligent and transparent approach to keep track and maintain the various tasks, deadlines and processes.

It's important to deploy a project management tool, assigning each different task to all the team members. Have regular check-ins and status update meetings. Having a singular place for distributing information ensures that team members do not complain that they were not updated or didn’t know where the specific file was.

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Keep teammates accountable

Creating accountability is a great way to manage the work remotely. Accountability is shifted to the teammates, who are now supposed to be responsible for their own work and decisions.

One way to build accountability in remote teams is to assign groups and let teammates hold each other responsible. Also make teammates share their work experience and any issues they face, publicly (within the team) so that it acts as a ready solution for others, reducing repeat work.

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Document Everything

Even if the team is small, document, formalize and map each process, making it scalable and automatic.

Standard Operating Procedures, if used correctly in a remote setting, can act like a central nervous system.

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Open Channels

Open channels of communication are imperative in managing remote work. Effective communication is the single most important part of handling a remote setting, and is also the most challenging.

Use your favourite software, like Slack or Microsoft Teams and ensure that everyone adheres to the same.

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Asynchronous Communication

Asynchronous communication happens when you are not forced to respond to each and every ‘ping’ in real time. Its benefits:

  • Communication becomes less ‘urgent’. It makes for less firefighting and more ‘deep work'.
  • Conversations are meaningful and are not ‘hurried’.
  • Quick movement of teams.
  • More transparency.
  • Less work stress.

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Best Practices for Communicating Asynchronously

  1. Allow Offline work, so that team members do some real work.
  2. Use the right communication tool.
  3. Minimize status meetings, as they are mostly a waste of time.
  4. Make Transparency the default setting.
  5. Overcommunicate to make sure all the pieces of information are in place and known to all.
  6. Adapt, as you grow in scale, as what is working for 5 people won’t work for 500.

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Overcommunicate and Trust

Trusting your remote coworkers is the only way for it to succeed. Trust the employees and use empathy. Do not assume the worst.

To avoid any communication breakdown, always overcommunicate and ensure questions are asked and answered.

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The "No Response" Situation

If there is no response to a request, it is crucial to figure out if everything is ok, after a stipulated amount of time( according to the urgency of the task). Many people can feel isolated and as monotony sets in, some can withdraw or stop contributing.

Regular interaction can minimize the ‘no response’ problem. Setting up partners to look after each other for a project completion is also a great way to ensure productivity.

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Conflicting Priorities

Multiple complex projects require juggling of conflicting priorities, making it a challenge to meet deadlines, and separating urgent work from important work.

The way to look at priorities is to step back and see a birds eye view of the overall objective that is to be achieved. Add resources or delegate as needed.

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The single biggest mistake companies can make is to opt to be remote-friendly instead of remote-first. Companies often accept the idea that remote is the future of work without creating an inclusive culture to ensure it works for everyone.

  • Remote-friendly environment: Employees are allowed to work remotely, but work is not optimized for it. There is a disconnect between office and remote employees and team meetings exclusively occur in a co-located time zone. Water cooler chat is a space for key decisions and presence is correlated with meaningful work. Communication is synchronous-first. Managers must work in the office.
  • Remote-first companies: Employees are empowered to adopt remote work. Real-time meetings are kept to a minimum and recorded. Decisions are made online and performance is measured by output, not by hours worked. Communication is asynchronous-first. Managers are encouraged to work from home.

Connecting a remote-ish team

Hybrid companies function best when the entire company is optimized for remote work. Successful hybrid teams set up processes to help their remote workers thrive alongside their office teammates.

Leadership must acknowledge the various challenges remote workers face and create solutions. Create a remote work policy that keeps remote workers and contractors from feeling like second class team members. Remote workers should feel fully connected and not missing a thing.

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Real-time communication drawbacks

While real-time communication inside of a team might lead to solving faster some issues, it also has various disadvantages. 

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The asynchronous workplace

When the employees are provided with control as to when they are willing to communicate with their co-workers, there are many advantages that emerge. 

For instance, having the freedom to decide exactly how your working day should look like leads to more satisfied employees as well as to better communication within the team. Further benefits vary from feeling less stressed due to better planning to greater transparency and more efficient work.

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Asynchronous Vs Synchronous Communication

  • Asynchronous communication is when we send a message (such as emails) without expecting an immediate response. The recipient can take hours to answer it.

  • Synchronous (or real-time) communication is when you and the other person are engaged in a face-to-face audio or video conversation, like a video call or a phone call. The information discussed is responded immediately.

Instant messaging tools like Slack or Teams are synchronous, and in some companies, email is also used as a real-time communication tool.

Communication Boom

Team communication has increased by 50 percent in the last 20 years. We spend an average of three hours a day working on emails. On an average, Slack users send about 200 messages in a day.

This near constant communication hampers work productivity, with video calls, one-on-one meetings, e-mail and team chat leaving little room for actual work.