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By now, many employers have had the opportunity to test the effectiveness of work-from-home as much of the workforce needed to do so during the pandemic. While only 16% of chief information officers surveyed were working remotely before the pandemic, that jumped to 72% in September 2020 and was still at 70% six months later in March 2021, per Statista. 34% of those surveyed thought that working remotely would be permanent in the future.
While employees are able to communicate online and run all the same tools and platforms remotely, there are still areas where remote work can cause issues for project managers. Here are some key ways that project management is significantly impacted by work-from-home, and how they can respond.
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- Loss of Employee Interaction
The Agile Epic methodology has been hugely influential on workplaces, and it shapes how companies develop projects over time and flexibly assign tasks to individuals. While Agile takes several forms, the popular Scrum model requires regular meetings in order to keep track of what employees are doing at any given time. Remote work means meetings will be less orderly and more likely to be done directly between supervisors and subordinates, leaving less opportunity for employees to share what they are working on with one another.
Group video conferencing can address this to some extent, but employees need to be actively encouraged to coordinate more closely with others rather than doing it on their own as a result of Agile structure.
- More difficult collaboration
Some tasks can be assigned to be completed by individuals, and then passed on to those with other skills for the next stage of project management. Others benefit from close collaboration and can involve multiple people contributing equally to a task at the same time. Even if project management tools work remotely, they can make it hard to contribute on a shared basis and log your tasks as a group. Efficiency can go down and individuals may not be using their time as effectively.
- Tracking Productivity
With fewer interpersonal interactions, it can be difficult to check on employees and track their progress on tasks. Managers are more reliant on remote employees using project management tools to mark tasks as completed. More time may be spent checking to see the exact progress of a task if its status is not updated frequently
- Changing Tasks
In addition to creating a challenge when tracking productivity, relying on a project management platform to see when tasks are completed can add to minor delays as other employees take time to recognize that the tasks have been reassigned to them for their role. These minor delays can build up over time, leading to less productivity due to lack of coordination. Even if users are notified by email about tasks being completed and reassigned, they can still be slow to adjust to a new assignment when receiving it remotely, then needing to digest what they are being asked to do next.
Employers’ Thoughts On Work-From-Home
Employers have had mostly positive opinions on the success of work-from-home and how it has affected their project management and productivity. 83% of employers, compared to only 71% of employees, said that remote work had been successful in March 2021, per Statista. However, they were not necessarily in favor of fully remote workplaces going forward. Executives that were surveyed about how many days work in the office were needed to keep a strong culture, only 5% said they did not need to be in the office at all. The highest amount, 29%, favored 3 days a week, and the next-highest, 21% said they should be in-person 5 days a week.
While obstacles to certain areas of agile project management exist when working remotely, productivity benefits, convenience, and other positives make remote work advantageous to companies. New methods of tracking tasks and improving the flow of communication are needed if managers want to provide the best possible project management environment remotely.