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Managing projects remotely: weighing up the pros and cons

Thanks to the accessibility and relatively low cost of our modern communications technologies, working away from the office just got a whole lot easier. Managing projects remotely is now perfectly possible in any sphere, thanks to all the instant messaging, video conferencing, remote desktop software and other high tech gadgetry around.

Having the freedom to work from anywhere is highly appealing to many project managers. Envisioning running projects in their PJ’s at home, holding a meeting in their local Starbucks or checking emails on a sandy beach somewhere has led to many PM’s looking for reasons to work remotely. However, before you jump in and declare you will never be going into the office again, it is important to weigh up the pros and cons of managing a project remotely.

The pros

There is a definite benefit to remote working. Here are just a few of the pros you could consider when deciding whether to work away from the office.

  • Timesaving: When you have to go into the office to work, for many people this will involve an hour or more travelling to get there. At the end of the day there may be another hour or so to travel back home again. Imaging putting all those wasted hours into actually working on your project instead of sitting in traffic or waiting for busses.
  • Money saving: Alongside the time cost of taking a car or public transport to work, there is the financial cost to consider too. Putting fuel in your car or paying for your travel ticket on the bus is all money that could stay in your wage packet if you didn’t have leave the house for work.
  • Health benefits: Swap out your time on the road for time at the gym and watch the pounds drop away. As well as having extra time to exercise, home workers will be more in control of what they eat each day as they won’t be relying on packet sandwiches or being tempted by office doughnuts that are doing the rounds.

The cons

Alongside the benefits of remote working, there are some downsides that you will need to be realistic about before jumping into working from home.

  • Loss of social interaction: It might not seem like a big deal right now, but when you’re working from home you’ll discover that there is a distinct lack of social interaction over the course of your day. Apart from the feeling of isolation and missing your friends, you will also be losing a certain amount of insight into the business in general, and will lack someone to informally bounce ideas around with.
  • A struggle to switch off: When your home is your office, and your office is your home, you’ll find it incredibly difficult to switch off. In the office, there is a need to leave by a certain time to avoid getting even more held up in traffic, but at home there is no such cut off. You could find yourself working and working and before you know it, its 9pm and the kids are in bed and your spouse is thoroughly ticked off.
  • Distractions: You need to realise that other people live in your office, be they your kids, your spouse, your dog or your neighbours. Despite your best efforts, distractions will occur, from ringing telephones to kids’ TV programmes or delivery guys ringing the doorbell. When you need to be on conference calls or just get your head down into a complicated delivery schedule, these minor interruptions can be a major annoyance.

The working world has come a long way in the past couple of decades, and the ability to work from home is something every project manager should open their mind to and seriously consider for their future. Going into remote project management with a clear understanding of the benefits and drawbacks will ensure you are successful in your efforts.

About MS

The author is a freelance consultant with many years experience in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking on complex global projects and managing outsourced project teams.

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