Managing project timelines and deliveries has always been a daunting task for most managers and team leads. To make things worse, the novel coronavirus hammered another nail in the coffin by forcing remote work upon us. Now that the gateway to work from home has opened, not even Eleven from Stranger Things has the power to close them down.
While working from home has been pure bliss for most employees, it was (and still is) a nightmare for managers who need to track billable hours, monitor work progress, coordinate with their teams, and deliver projects within deadlines.
For starters, while your team is working remotely, shift timings are nothing more than a policy buried inside that 200-page long employee handbook. It is almost impossible to monitor whether an employee online on Skype is actually working, let alone track the progress on each task.
Furthermore, there is no way of knowing if your team is following the allocated timeline for each project unless you use a dedicated time tracker for the job.
While humans may not be as flexible as Reed Richards, we do eventually come around with solutions. So here are a few tips for managing your remote team and ensuring on-time project delivery and overall better productivity.
1. Play With the Right Tools
The word manual is becoming synonymous with sluggish old-school methodologies, cheaper cars, and pointlessly laborious work. For example, nobody likes to drive stick anymore since it is too much of a hassle. No one maintains manual ledgers because they are too time-consuming and prone to error. And no one (and we mean NO one) likes to brew coffee manually – coffee machines for the win!
The point is everyone prefers ease, swiftness, and simplicity. In our context, by everyone, we mostly mean remote team managers. These poor souls have 9 hours to understand project requirements, align resources, allocate tasks, and perform a gazillion other tasks, only to end the day knowing that another resource could have done a particular project more efficiently.
It’s just sad, tiring, and sad (we said sad twice because it’s that bad).
So, what’s the solution?
Use tools that:
- Foster collaboration
- Streamline task allocation
- Provide insights to utilize your remote resources efficiently
Let’s take a few examples here:
Managing dozens of projects with several sub-tasks each, and that too with a remote team, can be a greater challenge than catching Jerry. It can take an eternity to get things organized, and you might still end up losing track of that one critical module that was to be completed days ago.
This is where tools like JIRA can help. This project management tool has already been a hit with Fortune 500 companies, where hybrid and fully remote teams always have multiple projects with countless sub-projects on their active task list.
Quick note: Don’t confuse JIRA with Genie. JIRA can help you get a lot done, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be the end of all your worries. That’s because although organizing projects and monitoring their progress becomes manageable, time-related insights, i.e., actual vs. estimated time to complete a task or project, will still be an issue.
This is where solutions like timegram jump into the picture with their simple, easy-to-implement, and rules-driven time tracking capabilities for remote teams.
Then there is good ol’ Trello. It offers a simple and holistic approach to managing projects and tasks. You have Kanban boards where you can pin projects, and then you have multiple columns within those boards to divide projects into smaller milestones.
Unlike JIRA, which gets the job well done with larger teams, Trello has been excellent on the departmental level. But (there’s always a but) it doesn’t have a time tracking feature, which means you’ll miss out on critical insights about each project’s and team member’s performance.
You don’t want your remote employees to take advantage of it while reporting, now would you?
P.S. You can integrate both Trello and JIRA with timegram to get the best of both worlds. And it will also tell you whether your employees really have spent those 10 hours working on the project.
2. Use Your Employees’ Strengths to Your Advantage
Spiderman wouldn’t be able to do much with Thor’s Hammer.
As a manager, you want maximum efficiency for all your projects. Better productivity can only be achieved if each employee is working on areas they’re good at. But how can you get insights into the strengths of your workforce?
Privacy-first time tracking solutions give you a peek into this without having to keep a watch on anyone. It offers your employees the freedom to give the best possible proof of their work and productivity for all their projects.
How does that benefit you as a manager?
For starters, it will instill a sense of trust and reliability among employers, which has been proven to significantly improve employee productivity and job satisfaction.
When you receive the timesheet, you can analyze it and identify patterns leading to fluctuations in productivity. You can use this data to assign tasks based on your employees’ strengths, thus elevating performance levels and ensuring faster project completion rates.
3. Spying Vs. Supervising – A Critical Difference
We live in a world where privacy has become a major concern, whether it is in using an application on your phone or a tool on your computer. You may have super clear intentions to only monitor the work activities of your remote employee, but that’s not what it seems like to them.
When employees know that their managers are spying on them (or have the capability to do so), it makes them uncomfortable and induces anxiety.
In contrast, the Hawthorne effect states that if an employee is trusted to complete a task within the given deadline at their own pace, chances are they will put in more effort to achieve better results.
Read more about this here: Employee Surveillance: Is it Actually Affecting Work Productivity?
What can you do?
You can supervise instead of micromanaging every single move of your remote employees. The confidence you put into your team will eventually reflect in their work. All you need is a non-invasive activity tracking tool that provides relevant insights into each project, like the hours worked by an individual team member on a project, team capacity and its utilization, the areas where certain employees do better than others, etc.
4. Allow Flexibility Where Possible
Let’s make the facts transparent. We both know that your remote employees are not following the shift timings they adhered to back when they were coming into work. The truth is that remote work is popular majorly because employees get to work on a flexible schedule.
So unless you have an urgent meeting or project, expecting employees to be online at sharp eight in the morning may not be very accommodating.
Here’s a bonus tip: Try doing audio calls instead of video conferences, as things can get really ugly really fast, if you know what we mean.
For more tips, read this blog post: Going Remote? These 4 Tips Will Help Manage Your Team
timegram Your Way to Remote Project Management
Modern project management approaches are based on a holistic view where you are able to track and tally all the KPIs that lead to winning outcomes. timegram offers you that, plus a bit more.
It is a smart, simple, and effective time tracking and resource-planning platform that operates on a zero-surveillance policy to promote a trust-based work environment.
It’s not like other trackers – it’s different!
Tracking time spent on projects is important, but that should not be your primary focus while working. We believe that areas of secondary focus must not be time-consuming or hassle-filled, which is why we’ve made timegram.
For employees: It is easy to set up, takes a mere few minutes to log time, and does not disturb them while working. All they have to do is focus on their work, while the Highlights desktop app automatically records everything they have worked on during their shift.
And the best part? Employees have complete control over which Highlights they want to log in their timesheet. This gives them the peace of mind that no unproductive (or embarrassing) activities are shared with managers, and only their best work goes forward.
For project managers: You don’t just see how an employee worked for a million hours on a Monday. You get precise times an employee spends on each project, allowing you to determine actual project completion times and the costs associated with them. You can also compare them with the progress of other workers to generate more realistic project deadlines in the future.
In short, it’s a win-win for both, managers and their remote teams.