The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Managing Projects from Afar

5 minute read

Sara Whitwer

I have long been a proponent of managing projects remotely and utilizing the concept of virtual teams for efficiency and performance.  I have managed projects remotely as well as virtual teams and team members successfully for many years as well as consulting directly for clients as an IT consultant from a home office – often without ever talking live to a customer and rarely seeing any of them face to face.

There is no question that it is not for everyone and that you need a good setup, a willing family and some alternative work areas should something fall through with plan A at the last minute when you’re finding a very quiet place for a conference call.  It isn’t all fun and games and I don’t recommend working in your pajamas.  There are pros and cons with most things – and working remotely definitely has its pros and cons.  Lets consider a few of each…

 

The Good

 

There is a cost savings. No matter what anyone says to the contrary, there are cost savings to be realized on both sides when someone goes remote.  The remote worker saves money – obviously – in not having to drive to work and back daily.  They also save in wardrobe and food and probably numerous other ways.  The organization saves in not having to provide office space and office equipment, though most will give an annual allowance for purchasing certain necessary office supplies and will likely still be providing a laptop unless the remote worker is a consultant…and I still believe they should provide consultants with laptops.  And usually they will either provide a smartphone or pay part of the remote worker’s monthly mobile bill.  They may even be able to save money on salary if the remote worker works out a deal with them on a slight pay cut in order to be able to work from home.  It’s a growing trend and you heard it here first.

It’s easier to get the best talent.  Allowing remote work means you eliminate the barriers that may exist in getting the best talent if that talent is halfway around the world or possibly living in New York with absolutely no intention of ever relocating to Los Angeles.  Let them work remotely and everyone is happy.

The remote PM can work hours that make projects more successful.  The remote project manager is more likely to be ok with a 10am team call or a 6am client call because they haven’t already put in a 10 hour day plus travel.  They can plan accordingly…possibly even sleep during the day if they have to so they can schedule some regular night time meetings to accommodate team members and clients in far away timezones.  Also, staying up late the night before the big formal weekly project call with the customer in order to ensure that the latest info goes into the schedule and status report may make the project more successful.  And if you have a project manager working from home who is willing to do this, then it’s win-win.  I’ve always done this and it works great.

 

The Bad

 

The work schedule is often inconsistent.  The work schedule has never been a problem for me or for an employer I worked with, but it can be a problem for some.  Remote can mean a very flexible work schedule, but if that flexible schedule becomes a bit erratic and the supervisor doesn’t know where or when to find the remote worker during normal work hours and they need to get in touch with them quickly, that can be a problem.  The remote work needs to be consistent as much as possible – possibly including a specific set of “normal daytime” work hours so that management and co-workers can get in touch with the remote worker and schedule meetings.

Domestic interruptions will happen.  If a family exists, even the most rigidly schedule-adhering professional is likely to flex when family emergencies arise…and rightly so.  But for those less organized individuals, being readily available to their immediate family and every request that might come up as opposed to being a 30-60 minute car ride away could lead to a very frustrating day of interrupted work and meeting issues.

You’re not present if you need a quick face to face meeting.  I’m not sure why, but there are those times when the remote worker’s supervisor, a co-worker or a project team member may get frustrated at not being able to have a face to face meeting with the remote co-worker.  Skype, video conferencing, social media and other avenues exist to bring remote co-workers together, but some co-workers still feel the need to connect in person.  Is this a valid need…?  I guess it is if they feel it is, but as long as everyone remains productive, it shouldn’t be an issue.

 

Summary / call for input

Ok, there is no ugly – and in my opinion the pros definitely outweigh the cons for the right person, the right project, the right project team, and the right organization.  But it isn’t for everyone.  It takes planning, dedication and organization to be successful.  It is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Readers – what are your thoughts and experiences with working remotely?  How does your organization work with the remote and virtual team concept?  Please share your experiences.

 

About Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at http://www.bradegeland.com/

 

 

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