10 Tips to Better Remote Project Team Management

#RemoteWork is here to stay. And not only is it going to stay, but it’s also going to be the go-to for most companies that can enable a remote workforce. Of course, there will always be industries that require on-site workers, but office work as a whole can almost complete go #virtual or adapt into a combination of on-site and work-from-home (#WFH). Remote options not only alleviate overhead costs, but it also eases the recruitment of top talent from just about anywhere in the world. You are no longer locked in by state or city borders. And that opens up a whole new world of possibilities not only for you as a company but for you as an employee. Remote work has fundamentally changed everything. 

But not all virtual teams actually work without some education on how to make them work. And that’s mostly due to the lack of training users on how to manage a remote team, most especially project management. If your management team doesn’t know how to best manage their remote teams, the blame is often put on the method (remote work) rather than the people (team managers). And that’s simply not fair. It’s not fair to the methodology nor to the people. It’s not even management’s fault either, it’s the lack of provisioning tools that enable and enhance remote work and educating managers on how to use said tools. In essence, it’s about Adoption and Change Management (#ACM).  

When it comes to remote teams, I speak from experience. I have managed virtual teams from very small, a team of two literally, to teams of over a hundred in my long career in Information Technology, where I have served as Director, Principal, Team Leader, etc. etc. And to be frank, I’ve had to adopt remote work into my everyday out of necessity. See, I have #CysticFibrosis which is an invisible illness that leaves me #immunocompromised — bacterial infections colonize and stay inside my very weak lungs. Going into an office, especially one that is rather old and accumulates a lot of dust, just isn’t an option for me every day. I could get easily get sick, and that often leads to a multi-week stay at the hospital due to such a weak immune system. Because of this situation, I have been touting the benefits of remote work for over a decade, way before it was ever cool to be remote. 

So, what did I learn all this time as both a manager and a remote worker? I am going to share that here with you and obviously a lot of the tools that I use are all part of the Microsoft 365 stack of applications and some are also part of the Microsoft Viva platform. I am after all a Microsoft 365 Evangelist. However, I can and often do recommend tools outside of Microsoft (Ssshhh! Don’t tell ’em!). In addition, you could certainly sift through the multitude of tools out there and pick ones that align or do similar things as those that I recommend here. Let’s dive in!

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The Importance of Enabling the Disabled at a Corporate Level

Since the announcement of Broadcom’s takeover of CA Technologies in July of 2018, I have applied at nearly 1,000 different jobs. Many times I have gone through several interviews over the phone and/or via Skype and they absolutely love me, my talents, and my achievements. However, when I get to that face-to-face interview, I often either have to walk from a parking lot that’s pretty far away and then walk through a big office building to get to the interviewer’s office, which 9/10 times leaves me either a) gasping for air or b) having to tote my portable oxygen concentrator with me. Either of those two things always ends up in the company, that until that moment loved me and was definitely interested in bringing me on board, never calling me back. 5/10 of those times I get a courtesy email that says they’ve chosen another candidate…. the other 5, in absolute silence.

Every company that operates out of the United States is bound by the laws set forth in the American Disabilities Act of 1990. So they cannot by law discriminate against you based on your disabilities, but does that extend to the interview process? I am not sure it does in practice, even though the Act does include job application and hiring processes. Besides, does anyone know how hard it is to prove discrimination? It’s nearly impossible!

But… that’s neither here or there. What I want to talk about is educating our US-based companies to think differently, think outside of the box, and instead of “just complying” with the laws, do more than just be compliant. How can we start to educate the corporations of America to do more? By talking about it! That’s one sure fire way. Another is to provide tools (like videos, ebooks, checklists, classes, etc.) to corporations that can be easily accessed and distributed.

One of the best ways to accommodate our disabled brothers and sisters is to provide a strong remote-work program as part of your hiring process. Almost every job, with the exception of construction work, landscape design and maintenance, and a few others, can be done by use of a strong internet connection. The problem there is that this is what corporate executives think remote work looks like….

… but in fact it actually looks more like this….

… yes, most if not all remote workers I know will work way past that 6 o’clock clock-out time and into the wee hours of the night. Why? Because we’re hyper focused on the work we’re doing? Yes… and no…. mostly it is because our brains associate the drive home with a clear separation and as remote workers, we don’t have a commute to keep that delineation alive. So sunset comes and we don’t even notice. ESPECIALLY when it’s work we enjoy doing. But most of us are in fact much more productive in a work-from-home environment than we ever are in an office setting. There are Stanford University studies to confirm that.

At this point you might be asking yourself, “Well, what can I do? I already have a job.” Or “What can I do if I am looking for a new job?” Simply talk about it. Even if you do not have a disability, but maybe you know someone that does. Talk with your HR department and ask them about referrals for people you may know. Talk with your disabled friends, maybe help them put together a resume. A lot of us are AFRAID to get out there and look because rejection has become such a part of our lives. If you are bold enough and have a good relationship with your HR representatives, ask for a meeting to talk about your disabled colleagues and forward some information over to them.

If you happen to be in my same boat, where you are disabled and have been unable to find new opportunities, join me in posting articles, perhaps writing an ebook or hosting a class here on LinkedIn Learning. Just keep talking about your experience! If you brave enough, get on the TEDx talk circuit and give public speeches on how to enable the disabled. We are not the sum of what we cannot do, we’re the culmination of the vast things we CAN DO. Remember that!