Conducting a successful project when your staff are working remotely

You can have it all. Staff working remotely does not mean you cannot launch or continue that big project! In the past several weeks, all of us have had to make major adjustments in our day-to-day lives. First, we had to shift the way we greet one another. Next, we had to listen to the experts about social (physical) distancing and the proximity between ourselves and others in queues, shopping, and in the office. Eventually, we had to isolate ourselves in our homes, which meant social purpose organisations could no longer conduct events or face-to-face fundraising, and we were forced into remote work situations.

Working from home

Working from home has presented a host of challenges for many social purpose organisations. The staff has had to learn how to create discipline in their work routine to remain productive. Management has had to reinforce the level of trust they have for their team. Leadership has had to create remote access to servers, CRMs, and needed to put other tools in place. All of us have been called on to develop ways in which to work collaboratively and creatively on current projects to achieve the same or better outcomes. Web conferencing has become the norm.

You might be asking yourself – how do I continue my key projects now? The world is upside down and my staff are working from home!

None of us know how long COVID-19 will impact our business. We may continue to face the strict limitations in place today for the foreseeable future. We may be lucky to find them eased somewhat in May. For the time being, we need to assume the restrictions will be in place for the longer term. Therefore, we cannot and must not put key projects on hold or cancel them. All of us in the social purpose sector must articulate the need to commence or continue projects despite the limitations we are facing with the change in our working atmosphere. Simply put: Don’t cancel or pause. Run. 

How do you make a remote project happen?

Spend an ample amount of time planning for the project

  • Like any good recipe in the kitchen, planning before you “bake” is essential. You do not want to start to bake and realise you are out of flour.
  • If your project has already commenced, go back to the planning phase and re-engineer the plan due to the sudden remote nature.

Re-energise your team

  • Working remotely does not mean we cannot achieve our common goals.
  • You may find the increased discipline required allows you to reach your outcomes even sooner.

Determine what can and cannot occur remotely

  • Despite the fact we are used to sitting across the table from one another, you’ll be surprised at what aspects of the project can happen remotely.

Develop a solid project infrastructure

  • Make sure you have the tools to collaborate, monitor and measure, and communicate throughout the project.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

  • Let people know what is happening and ensure you use tools to communicate effectively.
  • You cannot over-communicate during a key project.

Be creative

  • When you face a roadblock or dead-end, get creative.
  • Do not let a bump in the road cause you to suddenly change course or put the car in park.

Staff have been craving remote work. Managers have been unable to deliver on their team’s desire to work from home. COVID-19 pushed us all to take the leap and “allow” everyone to work from home all at once. Due to the urgent nature of the virus, the focus was on getting everyone established in their home office situations. 

Managers can now turn their attention to establishing or continuing the critical projects which will transform their organisations in the future. Remote project management need not be a daunting task. Proper project management and oversight, as well as utilising tools available in the marketplace, will ensure a smooth project and solid outcomes.

The content of this article was originally published by Pro Bono Australia on 15 April 2020.