Improving Remote Work with Project Management Skills

As the U.S. began reopening in June, a survey of 127 company leaders revealed that 82% planned to allow employees to work remotely some of the time going forward with many foreseeing a hybrid model of both onsite and remote work.

While efficiencies and cost savings can be realized when employees work from home, they often are undermined by challenges to employee engagement, communications and momentum. With this mixed bag of efficiencies and challenges, some organizations are responding by building project management capabilities in their workforce.

Specific assignments and responsibilities that have a beginning and end date, can be viewed as projects that need to be managed. Project management tools and skills can help employees plan ahead with greater precision, recognize deadlines, and communicate more effectively by defining and planning involvement in project work. Consider how a project management perspective can be used to guide the way forward.

1. Using a systematic, project management approach to tracking their own projects, employees can track progress and communicate efficiently. Momentum is less likely to be lost for employees with flexible workday schedules when work is well structured with specific milestones along the way.

Defining a project before it begins clarifies project goals, what it will cost, who will be involved and what the project will deliver

2. Unlike ongoing operational work, projects begin and end. By planning ahead, before implementation, employees have an opportunity to create a timeline of activity, consider if others are involved and when, and specifically describe the work that lies ahead.

3. Project management tools break work into smaller, manageable tasks. The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), aligns project work by integrating project scope, cost and schedules. For the remote worker, the WBS not only clarifies what needs to be done, it provides a basis for organizing and monitoring work and for sharing information about what is going on, what has been achieved and what lies ahead.

A learn and do approach to project management makes training relevant and eases the transition from learning new skills to actually using them on the job

4. Virtual project management training is available to help employees acquire project management skills while simultaneously integrating them into their workflow. From any location, during flexible hours, employees can apply skills as they learn them to their own projects.

5. A typical project scope will define five elements: what, why, how, when, and how much. In uncertain times, these elements may change due to events related to the pandemic, changes in the workforce, financial considerations and other disruptions. Organizing work into projects helps employees identify where they need to modify ongoing projects to meet these changes and communicate how this will affect the scope of a project

Good project managers closeout and evaluate projects when they have been completed

6. Rather than just moving on to the next responsibility, looming deadline, or unanticipated emergency, employees benefit by using project management skills to closeout a project. At this time, they can reflect on the challenges it presented and learn from them, become better prepared to plan and execute the next, similar project and share valuable project-related information with their project team members, stakeholders and supervisors.

Remote work continues to be the new normal in many organizations. Enhanced project management skills provide a valuable structure that supports remote work, clarifies deadlines and commitments, and offers a framework for communication and engagement.  As the effects on workflows from the pandemic continue a presence of transition rather than permanence this framework offers much-needed structure organizations can maximize to stay productive.

About Kepner-Tregoe

We all hope that you are well during this disruptive time in our world’s history.  For over 60 years our company, Kepner-Tregoe has had the opportunity to help major organizations navigate successfully through radical change, help solve intractable problems and increase incident and problem-management performance through tools, training and consulting – leading to highly effective teams ready to respond to your company’s most critical issues.

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