How to manage remote project teams during the COVID-19 outbreak

The coronavirus is having a devastating impact around the world, and it is affecting how teams work and communicate. Here are three ways your project management office can help teams stay in sync.

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Many companies are letting staff work from home for fear of spreading the coronavirus COVID-19. The virus could fast-track the remote hiring trend. As the World Health Organization (WHO) works with leaders from each country to find ways to accurately diagnose, effectively contain, and develop a solution for this virus, project management offices (PMOs) are starting to struggle with ways to successfully manage their project portfolio. 
 
SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium)
 
COVID-19 isn’t an isolated event but rather the largest outbreak to date that could change how we work, propelling us toward an increasingly remote workforce. How will your PMO meet project goals while your team is working from home? Your project management office can do these three things to keep your teams in sync and projects moving along during the coronavirus outbreak and beyond.
 

Trust team members and provide timely, clear communication

If you’ve never worked with or managed a remote team, it will require transitioning yourself away from being a hands-on leader; for some project managers, this can be difficult, especially for those who tend to micromanage. Remote project managers understand that they need to develop a strong sense of trust in their teams and each member’s capabilities. The key is making sure you hire team members who are highly disciplined, have strong communication skills, and are self-motivated. You must also possess these skills and be able to take a step back to allow team members to do their work.
 
In addition, timely and clear communication is key when working as a remote leader trying to keep up with project tasks and ensuring everything is on track.

Develop and implement clear remote work policies 

Your PMO must identify and develop clearly defined policies to address virtual work concerns and best practices. The policies should cover how to address security issues, logistics, workflows, and methods for interactions. 
 

Use online project-collaboration tools to stay in touch

Remote project teams must have access to the right cloud-based tools, provided by the  PMO. Here are some of the things that online project management, conferencing, or work-collaboration tools can help you and your team handle, especially as COVID-19 continues to pose a threatto face-to-face meetings and in-person collaboration

  • Virtual meetings and video conferencing: It takes deliberate effort to plan interactions with remote workers. Video conferencing tools help team members stay connected to each other, not just for projects, but also to discuss the general company-wide topics and events. Some tools that offer video conferencing, video chat, real-time and private chat, presentation streaming, and screen-sharing, include GoToMeeting, Zoom Meetings, and Cisco Webex.
  • File sharing and synchronization: Sharing files online will become a necessity, and luckily this has never been easier or more affordable. Cloud-based tools like Google’s G Suite, Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, NextCloud, Wimi, and Samepage, offer your teams peace of mind with access controls, audit trails, messaging, and collaboration. Some of these tools also provide encryption, search filters, and workflow management. Your teams can share files from anywhere around the globe in seconds.
  • Project status tracking and status reporting: There are many cloud-based tools that give remote teams around the globe the ability to communicate, track, collaborate, report project status, share files, video chat, and do all of the regular face-to-face activities required. Many project portfolio management (PPM) solutions like Changepoint, and project management tools including Trello, and Wrike, also offer apps to facilitate on-the-go activities to help remote teams get their projects completed on time from anywhere and from any device. 

  
Remember, when planning for remote team collaboration and workflows, make sure to develop policies and select tools that factor in cloud security and data storage to ensure your information meets governance and compliance rules. 

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