As we begin to branch out and terraform other planets (water on Mars? Yoink), remote teams will become ever more normal. Whereas just a decade ago having even one remote team member on a project might have been unusual, now it’s not uncommon for projects to rely on fully remote teams across different time zones, countries, or even continents. Working with remote employees has heaps of benefits, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. Firstly, it can be hard to get team members engaged and build their trust. Communication and conflict resolution can be more complicated. And, in terms of the actual project deliverables, it can be difficult to monitor progress on the work that needs to get done. This is tricky even for a Bona Fide Project Manager — so you can imagine how daunting it can feel if you’re not a PM in the traditional sense, but rather, A Person Who Suddenly Finds Themselves Needing to Manage a Project (Oh and Also Most of Your Team Is Remote). So how can the non-project manager learn from the best to ensure that their project goes well? Here are a few key things you can do at the outset to help build team morale and keep everyone on track.

If you can bring everyone together to meet face-to-face at the beginning of the project, or even a few times throughout — excellent! If that’s not an option, using video calls to communicate (instead of simply audio or text) helps everyone to get to know each other better and eases conversation. Don’t underestimate the power of “face-to-face.” And on that note…

As the project manager, it’s just as important for you to consider the individuals as well as the collective team. At the beginning of your project, try to get to know each team member personally, so you can get a sense of their strengths and how they like to work. This will be invaluable down the line when you’re assigning tasks or resolving conflict. You might find that one person on the team might need more encouragement, while another might get stressed if they’re given last-minute deadlines. Knowing in advance helps you to plan more efficiently.

Set up processes at the outset of your project and stick to them as much as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t tweak your process if you see that it needs improvement (you can and should!). But when you’re working with remote team members, building a reliable routine is essential, especially if you’re all scattered across different time zones.   

Make sure to schedule regular team meetings and check-ins with set agendas at least once a week. This can be as simple as a 15-minute “stand-up” every morning in which each team member updates the rest of the team on what they’re working on and their goals for the coming day. Giving team members an insight into what their colleagues are working on helps to keep the team in sync, provides greater transparency, and gives everyone an opportunity to ask for input if they’re struggling.

To help your team collaborate effectively, you need the right tools. Everyone needs to have the ability to access the data they need to empower them to work independently. The last thing you want is for someone to have to wait 12 hours every time they need information because the only person with access to it is on the other side of the world — or for them to embark on a complex task using outdated information. Using project management software means that everyone has access to the resources they need, and provides clarity and transparency on key decisions by keeping them all in one place. Managing a project is complex, but once you get your remote team on the same page — literally and metaphorically — you’ll be able to work better, together. Want to pick up some more tips? Download our ebook below for more insights about managing a project even if you’re not yet a Project Manager.