I’ve been managing projects and consulting engagements remotely, virtually and with distributed teams for about ten years now. While it is very rewarding and I’ve saved countless hours of my life by not commuting in a car and saved the ozone a bit by not polluting the environment further – keeping my carbon footprint to a minimum (is that still a thing?) – there are still many things you need to consider. It’s not for everyone and it is certainly not without challenges. So, I hereby present a few key tips to consider for remote project managers (and consultants working remotely in any virtual position, basically). Please read on and be ready to provide your thoughts and additional tips for discussion.
Find your right work time. Figure out when you are most productive. A lot of project management work is performed independently without communication to team members and calls from your PMO director or accounting department or even your project client. So figure out when you are at your creative best and do status reports then, update your project schedule then, reforecast your financials at that time, etc. If you’re best from 1am to 4am, then try to do some of your work then and take some time off during the day when possible. Your project customers, team and management don’t need you 24/7. They need you for regularly scheduled meetings and tasks and they need you adhoc at times. You’re still going to pull 40-60 hour weeks no matter what. But if you are at your productive best in the middle of the night – go ahead and make that part of your work time. You may want to let others know you’re doing that (and I don’t just mean your family – but they should know too or they’ll think you’re weird).
Make sure you have two extra go-to spots. You have a very nice isolated home office spot that is sound proof and equipped with everything you need. Great. But you need to have at least one – preferably two – other spots in your house designated as go-to spots in case you have an emergency call and someone happens to be in your comfort zone at that most inopportune moment. You think it will never happen, but it will. Be ready and make sure your family knows where these spots are so you can go there fast and be undisturbed there if your “spot” is for some reason being used.
Get used to the odd schedule. Undoubtedly, you’ll be managing someone in a time zone far enough away that you’ll need to be calling, texting, emailing or skyping at strange hours sometime during your remote career. Get used to working at 3am. I have – as a project manager and as a consulting standpoint working with clients in the UK, Macedonia, Russia, and Iceland…to name a few. And I’ve worked with developers in India off and on since 2006. It’s part of the process, so you’ll need to be able to be awake and productive at odd times. Not all the time and not necessarily every week…but be prepared.
Have more than one laptop. It’s ideal to have more than one laptop when working in the remote project manager role. And by this I mean you should probably keep your personal equipment separate from your work equipment. As I’ll state in the next tip, your employer should be providing you with some home office equipment or at least a budget for procuring your own home office equipment that will be dedicated to doing your job for them. Keeping personal and direct hire work on separate laptops is always a good idea for identity protection purposes if no other reason. Unless you’re working remotely as a consultant, use two laptops – and even then you should probably have two.
Get what you can in home office funding from employer. Certainly, if you’re a self-employed consultant you are probably on your own on this one - though not necessarily. But if you’re direct employee working remotely then you should be able to get some sort of annual compensation for home office equipment. And they should be providing you with at least a laptop, printer and possibly a large screen monitor. Most employers have a set asidefund for the remote or virtual worker – take advantage of it.
Summary / call for input
For those of you working remotely, managing distributed teams and engaging clients from afar, what are your top tips? Not just with how to best engage team member and customers but also things to consider in general when working remotely....because there are always challenges.