Successful Remote Team Working

SUGGESTIONS

When teams are no longer co-located there is the possibility of reduced cohesion and diminished team identity. Regular meetings should be scheduled to create a sense of order, providing opportunities to review progress. Meetings should have clear agendas and defined outcomes. Whilst regular contact is vital, meetings should not become an inconvenience, and hinder the actual implementation progress. A balance should be struck to not overload team members and also provide opportunity for informal conversations that will contribute to team morale.

There is a requirement to continually assess the project team structure, project roles and their expected output. This will provide opportunity to identify how team members are coping with their workload, if they are being overworked or have additional capacity. Junior or newly onboarded team members can feel a lack of support compared to being co-located. Identifying the team’s competencies can enable efficient allocation of work and reduce the likelihood of burnout. Continual assessment of the team, and organisation structure can alleviate pressure and complexities associated with a matrix structure.

Consider each other’s circumstances and the personal challenges created by remote working. There cannot be an expectation that team members will be able to operate exactly as they have done in the office. Acknowledgement of the new found challenges of working at home will help foster a stronger team identity.

Whilst remote working necessitates the need for communication to be through a virtual environment, do not revert solely to email and instant messaging. Richer forms of media such as audio and video enable team members to show expression and emotion. As Gardner and Matviak (2020) posit this humanises communication and lifts morale. This can improve the decisions making process, facilitating a more natural exchange of ideas in real time. Where possible all stakeholders responsible for the implementation should be present, virtually, at the moment of decision.

LIMITATIONS

Notably, the above recommendations are particular to project, sector and size, and cannot be generalised to all engineering projects. Caution should be exercised in trying to present universal recommendations, and contextual understanding of a project is required to exercise appropriate judgements (Snider et al., 2015).

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