by Luke Smith
Fear, stress, and discomfort have dominated the workforce throughout 2020. Initially, the fear of a missing paycheck kept many furloughed or temporarily unemployed workers up at night. As remote work increasingly became an option for many employees, the anxiety shifted to the challenges of working 100% from home.
As the pandemic has created a “new normal,” employees the world round are grappling with change. Either they must continue working from home indefinitely or they’re facing largely reconfigured and discombobulated physical offices that have been rejiggered to follow new COVID-19 protocols. Some cannot wait to return to the office, while others are afraid to leave their homes.
As a project manager, it is your responsibility to lead your team through the chaos. Here are a few suggestions for ways to curb the fear and provide a sense of calm and focus for your group in the months ahead.
First and foremost, you and your team must remain closely connected throughout this remote-work-heavy time. Even if you’ve managed to reconvene at a physical office, chances are many of your team members are fearful of excessive face-time and may still choose to work multiple days a week from home.
If that’s the case, it’s important to set up tools like Slack, Google Hangouts, and Zoom to keep everyone connected. It isn’t enough to simply set these up, either. You must also require your team to use them at least occasionally, such as keeping an IM app open throughout the day or setting up a Slack channel for regular communication. Make your choice of a tool about what will best support you and your team and your organizational culture.
Your goal is to build community and keep in-touch without micromanaging or holding too many virtual meetings. Let people know you care and let them have the space they need to do their work.
Additionally, use cloud-based project management software, like Trello or Asana, to track your progress, share files, and ensure that you’re all collaborating effectively.
Focus on Performance Management
If you want to keep your team unified and centered throughout the pandemic, avoid focusing solely on output and results. Instead, as a project manager, take time to specifically address performance management as well.
The definition of performance management can vary. However, it typically addresses the concept of identifying common expectations and goals that can be easily shared by employees and employers alike. This provides a benchmark for the assessment of employee performance, focus, quality of work, and so on.
Rather than being used purely as a measuring stick, though, performance management also provides the ability to encourage employees and teams in various ways, such as:
- Demonstrating and quantifying the value of employee contributions.
- Communicating and providing encouraging and constructive feedback.
- Helping to knit together a team towards a common goal.
With so much in flux, adopting a clear performance management formula can help to bring a level of focus and motivation to a team, even if they’re physically scattered to the four winds.
Make sure that your team knows the goal of the project and how they will reach it. Recognize the completion of milestones and phases, as these show clear progression toward project success.
Remember What Truly Motivates
Finally, remember that true motivation often has nothing to do with proximity. It’s completely possible to encourage your team to perform even if you aren’t able to assemble in the same room (or need to do so while remaining six feet apart.)
Motivation can take many forms, but it must be carefully thought out if it’s going to be effective. Find ways to keep the work interesting. Try not to have too many procedures and rules. Encourage team members to be creative and allow time in discussions for people to share tips with one another. Find ways to remind everyone why their work is important. Painting a picture of how they contribute to the final outcome.
Even if you’re not working directly with financial compensation, you can still reward team members through recognizing achievement, showcasing work, assigning greater responsibilities, and providing other opportunities for advancement and growth, even from afar.
Pandemic Project Management
Pandemic or not, remote work or in-office, getting results from your team is why they pay you the big bucks. Nobody told you there would be a crisis, but you were not hired because managing projects is easy. Each day on a project can be different, and 2020 has proven to be extremely interesting.
Take the time to encourage and cultivate your team. This is always the best practice. Now it is critical. You need to find the right combination of motivational factors, performance management, and connectivity. And be willing to fine-tune your approach. Keep an eye on your team, look out for their wellbeing and celebrate every success. And together you will create reasons to look back on this time and know that together you did amazing work.
Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college, he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics, but business and digital marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.