Due to the recent COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, many companies have enforced their employees to work remotely until further notice so as to avoid them becoming infected or infecting others.
While some companies offer employees the possibility to work from home several days a week, working remotely is not common practice in most companies. Therefore, Product or Project Managers who have not been in this situation before might find it challenging to adapt to this new way of working and, although it is only meant to be temporary, we still don’t know how long it will take until the situation goes back to normal.
Furthermore, considering that this transition to remote work has been applied in a hurry due to the special circumstances that we are experiencing because of the coronavirus outbreak, there will be a lot of noise on Slack, too many conversations going on on the side where decisions are being made and not documented, or the feeling that your colleagues are not working on what they are supposed to.
That being said, there is one skill which is crucial to have if you are one of those new PMs who have now transitioned to working remotely. This skill will help you act rationally amid the chaos and facilitate managing your project or product.
This skill is patience.
Although it sounds simplistic and, let’s face it, common sense, it will be difficult to keep calm as days go by. Your stakeholders will become more demanding, your colleagues will become more unreachable than when you were sharing an office with them and projects will feel like they are stuck.
Let’s see how to apply patience to these situations.
1. Trust your colleagues
Always remember that you and your colleagues are on the same team. If it looks like they are working less than when you were together in the office, notice that you’re being impatient and trust them. At the end of the day, ask them for an update and wish them a good evening’s rest.
2. You don’t need to be looking at Slack all the time
While Slack or your communication app of choice is the most important tool in your remote work toolkit, don’t overdo it. Although we’re used to always be on the lookout for new messages, it is crucial that you limit the notifications to mentions or special keywords – including your name. Also, even though you’ll be tempted to ask everyone how a certain task is going, refrain yourself from doing this and select special time slots to do so. Don’t be the annoying PM. No one likes the annoying PM.
3. Encourage your colleagues to document decisions in the respective Jira tickets
Making decisions in the office is simple. You get together with everyone involved, discuss the topic and decide the course of action. Making decisions while working remotely? Not so simple. Some decisions are discussed on Slack. Others on Zoom. Others on private channels. When was it taken? Who was involved? Who authorised it? Chaos.
Therefore, be patient and explain to your colleagues the importance of documenting the decisions on their respective task. It’s not only for you to keep track of the progress or evolution of the project, but also for other colleagues involved who will encounter that ticket eventually. You don’t want unnecessary friction while working remotely.
4. Don’t expect things to work perfectly
Chaos will ensue. Maybe even panic. Nothing will seem to work. You will be constantly asked from different channels about the status of a project. All this is normal and expected and, as you already know, it is the reason that we exist and it is the PM’s job to put order in chaos. Therefore, be patient, gather everything that needs to be done, prioritise and execute.
Finally, remember that this is a great opportunity to learn new skills as a PM if you have never worked remotely before. Make the most out of it and, as usual, have fun in the process.