What’s next? Life after COVID Webinar on Projectmanagement.com

On 8th September 2020, I presented a topic on projectmanagement.com all related to how to work and excel in a COVID environment. This webinar originated from an article that I wrote in July 2020 and I asked the PMI team if they would be interested in me pursuing this topic further.

I regularly receive emails from Project Management Professionals asking how they can work effectively in the ‘new normal’, so I was excited to be able to review this topic further. It is really important for me to share knowledge with the community and during this webinar we focused on the following topics:

  • What tools are we using to remain productive at this time?
  • Reviewing virtual working practices
  • How to work virtually/ ensure that your home office is up to scratch
  • Mental health support for you and your team
  • How to evaluate your work/life balance
  • How the project landscape is changing and what we can do to remain relevant and more employable
  • Lessons Learned from the Corona period

The webinar had a live session viewing of 1200 participants and it was great to have such active involvement from the community and afterwards, I’ve had a lot of feedback and suggestions for what others are doing to remain sane and productive in this new environment.

After every webinar, I like to ensure that all of the questions asked get answered and I wanted to share it here so others can take advantage of the knowledge.

QuestionAnswer
What are your suggestions for managing projects where you need to do physical activities e.g. construction projects? What tools can be employed in a COVID-19 environment to avoid impacting the project schedule?The main thing with any physical/onsite activities is to obey the local laws around social distancing and ensuring that wherever possible, you maintain the strictest hygiene controls.   From my discussions with peers in the construction industry they are adjusting the schedules of people so that they are not working in the same areas as others or moving around tasks within the critical path to support full social distancing.   In our office, we have strict rules around which direction to walk in the office, hand sanitizer etc.
The no-vacation situation that you describe in Europe under COVId-19 sounds like the normal situation if the US, as it has always been. Do you have lessons from the comparison of US vs, European practice?I normally allow my team to self-determine their own working schedules but if I feel that they’re getting stressed/ online too long, I make a point of encouraging the team to take breaks/turn off their PC on time.   I also like to provide the team the flexibility to take overtime off during quiet periods.
How do you adapt to the changing conditions and uncertainty? What would you suggest we do now with current projects who have been run using other methodologies?It’s important to analyse the change on your team/ project and adjust your management style accordingly.   Additionally, I think you need to be aware of the changing risks that may appear as a result of changing conditions and additional uncertainty
what do you recommend in case the next disaster is lack of electricity for a prolonged time period? not every individual can put solar panels or similar on their place of livingI have seen colleagues and peers in Africa have independent electrical generators available at their homes due to the unstable electrical connection. There are also devices (e.g. Uninterrupted power supplies) available that can provide shorter term power supplies.   Solar panels are also an option.
I was on a recent webinar and the speaker said there would be noticable decrease in PM roles in the next few years.  Do you agree? What are your thoughts on this?I think that all project management roles will evolve but I think that Project Managers will be needed in the next few years.
How would you suggest reconnecting with stakeholders after all this time?I hope that you’ve been keeping in touch with your stakeholders throughout the last few months but if you are struggling, then consider arranging a ‘virtual’ coffee/drink or call them for a regular informal catch up.
Do you think that COVID will create new jobs and organisations?I think there is a chance that roles will be evolving and there will be new roles created to fulfil the requirements of an evolving and changing workplace.
How do you make sure to keep the team engaged during a conference when they are based virtually?I try to involve the team on a regular basis. This can be through polls, questions/answers. I also try to delegate specific parts of the presentation to different team members as it can help keep the team focused.
How would you recommend to take the discussion to Upper Management that the company culture needs to change and adjust to support employees? Employees are not going to get better without genuine support from upper management.I would involve your HR or boss in this discussion. Many organisations have been extremely proactive in supporting employees both with mental and physical support.   I agree that company culture is extremely important for employee wellbeing.
How can you get recognition for Knowledge Sharing?You can do this through your organisation or alternatively within the community itself. Some organisations are promoting or giving employees the time and resource to knowledge share within their own organisation.
Do you maintain daily contact (e.g. whatsapp) with your team members in order to keep them “together”?Yes, I do tend to reach out to team members at least 2-3x a week. We have a Teams group per project. We used to have a WhatsApp group where we’d share messages/photos/ memes.
How frequently do you recommend that I take a break in order to minimize burnout?I think you need to see what works for you. I think that you need to ensure that you having a break every day, week and month to ensure that you’re giving yourself a chance to recover.   I also recommend ensuring that you keep your stress levels under control, are sleeping, eating and keeping active. These can all help reduce the chance having a burnout.
I work in an organization where we cannot have cameras on during meetings. How can we get over this?You could consider sharing pictures on a regular basis or try to ask for the rules to be changed for specific meetings/circumstances.   There are some instances where cameras are kept off for connectivity issues.
When we work in an office, we can plan our daily work but working from home, isn’t the same. Do you have any suggestions for being productive working from home?This can be difficult! I would suggest planning your next work day before you finish the day before. I like to plan out a list of tasks and put priority against them so I can start productively in the morning.
What do you think is your greatest skill as a Project Manager during this time?I think communication skills and team building are invaluable at this point in time.
We have a wide range of personalities on our team–from very outgoing to very reserved. After going virtual, we’ve tried to keep up team camaraderie by doing things like fun Zoom sessions but it can feel awkward. Any other suggestions to build that team camaraderie?We have arranged team activities and ‘challenges’ that have kept the team entertained and working together on an informal basis. We have done quizzes as well.
As a project manager, what do you recommend to keep all the members of your team motivated when they are already a little depressed?I try to keep the team talking as well as ensuring that I can give team members a break where feasible. I think a lot of depression is caused by isolation, so it’s important to give your team the human contact/ communication
How can we ensure that Team Members remain engaged and productive?Look at how your team works, what motivates them and adjust your management style accordingly. Every team is unique so knowing and understanding how they work/what is important for them is critical for a successful project.
How can we make upper management aware of Burnout and the emotional toll on our team members?I think being an open and communicative leader is critically important. I would ensure that if there is risk of your team burning out that this is raised to your management in a timely manner and you can plan and react accordingly.
How do you require accountability while still being flexible with schedules, etc…?I trust each team member to manage their schedule and tasks assigned to them. Within this, my team also take ownership for their tasks and are empowered to ‘own and deliver’ the assignments. This also helps with team motivation.
We are struggling with slower internet download speeds for heavy files/software. How can we handle this on a longer term?If you can arrange to download larger files at the office/in good connections, that would be advisable. In many areas, the infrastructure of countries is being improved with the installation of 5G, fibernet etc.
How can we effectively manage change in a COVID-19 world? Especially where we lack the opportunity for face to face contact?Managing change is definitely more complex but it’s not impossible. It will involve more management and an additional responsibility to your team to notify if there is any potential for scope creep. I would also consider having an agenda point on team meetings/meetings with the client to validate and ensure that change management is being managed accordingly.
How to manage family and employee relationships when they have to return to the office?Firstly, you need to ensure that all legal advice and rules are followed when returning to the office/clients. I would only return to the office when it is safe to do so. Returning back “to normal”, I’d manage the risk and take time to work on the relationships with colleagues, clients and people that I have missed since the start of COVID-19.
In the last few months, we have been spending 60-80% of our time in meetings. We have a lot of challenges in managing our working time to actually do all of the work that is needed. How can we manage this?I think there needs to be a balance between meetings and work. Identify if you need to have a meeting/ need to have all of these people attending or if it can be done in a shorter time etc.   I would also look at managing your time efficiently and see if you can work differently (e.g. taking notes during a meeting and sending them straight away, looking at what needs to be done to achieve the objective).
What’s the best way to support vulnerable colleagues at this time?I would keep in contact with the team and ask them: what is the best way to check in on you? Weekly call? Email? Etc.
What skills do you look for when hiring a Project Manager?I focus on soft skill experience and then look at what is “in their toolbox”. I value the skills that people can bring to the role and not just core project management skills.
How can Project Risks be addressed in Risk Identification during COVID-19?I hold online workshops and risk identification and use this to identify and manage Risk. I use tools such as Trello and Microsoft Teams Whiteboard.
What is the best way to handle this new working style and still deliver projects on time?Look at the objectives and goals that you need to achieve and look at the best way to achieve them.
What tool do you use for online quizzes?Hubspot, Microsoft Forms or Survey Monkey but it depends on the quiz that we’re doing.
How do you handle the scope creep due to COVID situation. do you accept the scope creep or insist on scope change / modification to contract?I think you need to manage this situation very carefully and I would be insisting on scope change/modification as necessary.   Whilst these are extraordinary times, it does not mean that there should be a complete disregard to your contractual rules and obligations.

If you have any questions about how to work or excel during this period, feel free to comment or message me.

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