Remote project management tools can make or break team engagement

If you’ve spent any time working remotely, you’re almost certainly familiar with remote project management tools. These tools can help you communicate with the rest of your team, organize your files… but what about tools that actively improve your (and your team’s) engagement?

Working from home involves exposure to a great many distractions. Your family is likely to be a source of distraction (not that they’re unwelcome… usually.) There are also the typical day-to-day experiences of being at home: pets that need attention, people at the door, phone calls to the house, etc. And the causes aren’t always external: it’s easy to come up with your own ways to procrastinate on occasion. Hey, you’re only human, right?

These distractions can either lend some much-needed inspiration or throw your project completely off the rails. And which of those things will happen rests largely on one factor: how engaged you are with the tasks at hand.

The right project management tools can go a long way toward helping avoid these productivity pitfalls. There are tools that can help your improve your teamwork and efficiency, but true engagement is harder to master. Only people can accomplish that.

Let’s discuss a few of the most essential qualities of remote management tools and some fundamental tips to maximize engagement, not only for you but for your whole team.

1. The Three ‘I’s’ of Remote Project Management Tools

Choosing the right project management tools for remote teams for your team can be a daunting task at first. You want to make sure the tools you’re using fulfill the “Three “I’s” by being:

  • Instant: Lag-free and ready to go.
  • Intuitive: A clean, user-friendly UI that doesn’t require a computer science background to navigate.
  • Integrated: Tethers seamlessly with other project tools like Google Drive (team collaboration) and Dropbox (file sharing).

2. Remote Teams are Made up of People

It’s rarely (if ever) intentional, but working with a distributed team can leave you feeling pretty alienated—like you’re just some unimportant cog in a bigger machine. This is especially true if you’re working in different time zones across different cities (even countries!) and don’t keep the same working hours.

How do you avoid this? Always remember that you’re working with people. Set up dedicated times to socialize with your remote colleagues, even if it’s only a few minutes each day. Get to know them on a personal level. It really does go a long way toward bolstering engagement.

The right project management tool should have communication features that help with this, but only if you fully implement and utilize them.

The right remote project management tools will facilitate communications

3. Clearly Communicate Objectives

Following that same line of thought, team communications should be clear, easy to find, easy to follow, and well organized. If you’re collaborating internationally, they should be as localized as possible.

Miscommunications or poorly-articulated directives can lead to obfuscated project goals. That may be more true with distributed teams than their on-site counterparts, in fact, since so much can be lost in translation with text chat.

Adopting a “measure twice, cut once” philosophy to project objectives can go a long way toward establishing goals and ensuring everyone is on the same page regarding their assigned tasks, and the overall targets of the whole team.

Know the differences between a “boss” and a “manager”

4. Engagement from the Top Down

A boss is someone who doles out orders and expects employees to respect their authority. A manager? That’s something different.

Management should spearhead projects and delegate dynamically—not order people around and demand perfection.

They should know their team, understand and appreciate the work they do, and take the time to offer—and take—constructive feedback.

Your team will be more engaged when management is leading by example rather than fiat. That’s a pretty basic caveat of management, of course, but it can sometimes happen unintentionally when working with distributed teams. Being mindful of that risk—avoiding the potential of accidentally sliding from “manager” to “boss”—is a surefire method of maintaining team engagement.

5. Watch for Morale Changes

Shifts in team morale can have detrimental impacts on engagement, but monitoring discussions and communicating with your team can help cut these issues off at the pass. It’s not enough to simply be open to feedback. You sometimes need to proactively seek it out.

Of course, the best way to counteract morale issues is to prevent them from developing in the first place. Be sure to watch for and note performance and growth, particularly when it relates to skills. Applaud positive outcomes and constructively discuss negative ones.

As we’ve already mentioned, be sure to socialize with your team and get to know them on professional and personal levels, too. The most powerful tool in your war against low team morale is how well you know the people you’re working with.

Camaraderie can’t be purchased. It has to be built from the ground up

6. Remote Project Management Tools Don’t Make the Team Engaged. People Do.

Remote project management tools can do a whole lot, especially when they’re as feature-rich as Gryffin. But It doesn’t matter how comprehensive a platform is, or how many handy tools it offers … at the end of the day, engagement begins and ends with the people who make up your team.

Remote work can be rewarding. It can be challenging. It can be fun, and it can be the polar opposite of fun. But a good team should experience these ups and downs together, and that camaraderie can’t be purchased. It has to be built from the ground up.

Remote project management tools can help keep everyone connected and communicating. But in the end, it’s on your company to promote policies and a culture of social interactivity.

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