Thought Leaders

The Pain Points And Pitfalls As Project Teams Return To Work

This year has been full of transitions for project managers. Initially, there was a shift to a fully remote workforce, sparking a host of challenges for both PMs and team members as they struggle to promote (and track) productivity from afar.

For many, this remote work has taken on an extended duration to become the new normal. For those that are slowly returning to work, there are new challenges and pitfalls to avoid.

For organizations with the proper best practices, supported by project planning and management software, moving to a dispersed team is not necessarily negative.

But as companies and employees begin the transition to a steadier state of business, it helps not to lose sight of recent lessons and anticipate potential new pain points and pitfalls moving forward. Here are some suggestions.

Transition Slowly

Employees are used to being more autonomous after a long stint working from their living rooms. It might be tempting to fill their schedules with planning sessions and project mapping, but proceeding with intention is always the best bet.

As long as the employee has demonstrated productivity during a remote work stint, allowing them time to manage their project load (while still being communicative) may be one way to free up both of your schedules for more focused work.

If your team has been successfully collaborating and reporting through a project management tool, this self-management process should be seamless.

Define New Expectations

Remote work made way for many new concessions within the workday and may have meant extended deadlines for certain projects. It’s wise to make sure that everyone is aligned with any changes in expectations as the team returns to the office. Most importantly, these expectations should be realistic.

Planning and working around time frames – as opposed to rigid deadlines – gives the entire team a higher chance of success and helps project managers predict milestones more accurately.

The single-point estimates (10 days) are not as good as ranged estimates (8 – 12 days) because the range better captures the uncertainty inherent in any project.

Single-point due dates may seem concrete until they’re constantly shifting. Using a range to capture the best and worst-case scenarios will provide a more reliable delivery estimate and a realistic picture for stakeholders.

Ask for Feedback

Survey your team and determine what pain points they’ve experienced while remote and what things they’re nervous about as they return to the office. They’ll also have insights around which tools, technology, and habits were effective during the time away.

Make a list of the new processes that should be integrated as workers return to their desks, and plan out how and when to implement those changes. If nothing else, team members will feel better realizing that their concerns and ideas are being heard.

Returning to the office may pose several challenges to both project managers and employees. Embracing the change, adjusting to what worked/didn’t to produce results, and keeping the lines of communication open may help everyone transition seamlessly.

Charles Seybold is co-founder and CPO of LiquidPlanner.

Charles Seybold
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