Straight Talk on Project Management

Returned to the office?

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Not so fast Rishi – A return to the office? A remote possibility for IT Project Talent

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has given a clear signal that he is keen for staff to return to the workplace.

During an interview with LinkedIn News, he highlighted the benefits, especially for young people. of being in the workplace and said that it was ‘really beneficial’ at the start of his career.

This prompted an acceleration in the debate among fellow IT Project professionals. This may have been right for Rishi, but is it necessarily right for IT Project talent?

Sure, it was weird for many at first, but as all Stoneseed’s Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) resources are available onsite or remote, we knew that after the initial scramble things would settle and that for most remote or hybrid working would be better. In fact, at Stoneseed, we are experts in Remote Access Project Management, offering rapid response resources meaning that you can align resources as and when you need them, on a cost effective, part-time or even full-time basis – so we were ‘remote ready’. 

The Chancellor spoke of the helpful relationships he had made, and the mentors who he has remained in contact with and while I think we all missed the social interaction of working together in the same place and the water-cooler conversations, there have been some stand out benefits in working remotely – especially in IT Project Management.

1 – More Productive

Who knew!!! Ok, we miss those office interactions but it’s so much easier to concentrate at home without the distractions of office politics, the gossip, the inefficiency that is the exhausting morning commute in and back home in the afternoon!

Remote IT Project professionals say that they have higher levels of concentration and that they are able to get more work done remotely as they would within the same period of office-based worktime.

Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom carried out a robust two-year study and found that “work-from-home” or remote employees not only put in a true full-shift, they often go over and beyond. They’re less likely to be late to the office (no traffic between the breakfast table and the laptop!), they’re less likely to leave early multiple times a week and they also found it less distracting and easier to concentrate at home. 

Additionally, they took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days, and took less time off generally!

You can watch Bloom’s Tedx Talk “Go Ahead, Tell Your Boss You Are Working From Home” here

2 – More Cost-Effective

All Stoneseed’s PMaaS services are available remotely. You can align resources with your demand, on a cost-effective, temporary or permanent basis. Remote Access Project Management is one of our specialities, and our rapid response resources can eliminate the lag between urgent needs arising and your response – reducing costs.

Clients who were previously unaccustomed to a work from home or hybrid workforce are reporting early gains from adopting the practices that were forced upon them by the pandemic and lockdown. Office space and office equipment costs are reduced or eliminated, remote workers usually have their own home offices, their own computers, tablets and laptops and their own software.

Remote workers too are reporting cost efficiencies to they no longer have to find money for commuting costs or the temptation to buy takeaway coffee or a supermarket lunch (those meal deals add up!).

3 – Greater Flexibility

In-house project managers have a working day. Maybe it’s not a traditional 9 to 5 day, but they have a set time to arrive at the office and a set time for heading home again. The trouble is that most project challenges don’t respect this and what my friend Malc calls “5.01 problems”, because they always wait until you’re ready to leave work behind for the day, can really sap value from a project.

Remote project managers have more agility to flex and adapt to unexpected challenges, bottlenecks and issues when they happen out of hours.

Projects don’t work 9 to 5, even the best managed IT Projects have a life of their own, they have a natural ebb and flow and the flexibility of remote working helps project teams to respond to this.

My friend Malc noticed that working remotely, he was likely to attend more effectively to a problem at 5.01 pm – than if he was in the office. He told me, “Responding to a challenge when I was about to leave the office meant either catching a later train home or trying to deal with it from the train with intermittent phone signals and wi-fi. If I’m at home I can sort an issue and still have fish fingers on the go for the kids’ tea!”

4 – Quicker Meetings

One of the greatest office frustrations, for me, is a meeting that’s scheduled for an hour being padded out to last for an hour. Or worse – overrunning because of all the pleasantries and small talk that proceed the business of the meeting!

Have you noticed how much more efficient some meetings are since we started Zooming or using Teams? I thought, at first, that it may be the awkwardness of being on camera but, as we’ve all got used to the tech, meetings done remotely are still benefitting from increased brevity!

5 – More Reactive Meetings

I remember a project that I parachuted in to help with a few years back that was being strangled by a recurring bottleneck – getting together the necessary executives and stakeholders to discuss a problem could take 24 hours and by this time a small pothole in the road could have developed into a canyon! The solution was to convene virtually.

When virtual meetings became the only meetings, most people noticed how much more reactive and responsive they could be.

You could arrange a meeting to discuss a problem within minutes that previously might have taken days! This has always been the case with remote project teams: an issue arises; a meeting is set up; a solution is discussed and agreed, and it’s put into action.

6 – New Paradigms and Perspectives

A client told me that using Stoneseed’s remote project services during lockdown had “opened her eyes”.

Working with project managers from outside of your organisation or company can give your project team a fresh perspective. The breath of fresh air that a pair of objective, independent eyes can bring to your project portfolio can deliver success way beyond the confines of the specific project you hire them to work on.

From smaller teams that often miss out on new thinking and paradigms to larger outfits with “a way that things should be done”, during lockdown I’ve seen the benefits of remote project talent helping organisations assess everything from team and company culture to protocols and practices. Stoneseed’s IT Advisory Services, for instance, can deliver advice pre-project launch that can deliver huge changes in the way you work and the results you enjoy.

 7 – More Job Satisfaction

The Stanford research referred to earlier demonstrated what we all probably already knew – working from the comfort of home delivers greater satisfaction than schlepping into the office every day.

I heard an interesting perspective from a colleague the other day who said the ‘work-life balance’ had become a ‘life-work balance’. A small shift in semantics perhaps, but a huge shift in lifestyle where work is no longer the be all and end all that it was – when an 8-hour day could easily become 10, 11 or 12 hours thanks to overtime and commuting. 

In conclusion, for a lot of IT Project talent, the positives of remote project management may outweighed the negatives, and the benefits are such that, the much-spouted cliché “the new normal” actually is just that – normal. They don’t want to go back fully to the old, less efficient ways!

Personally, I think a range of hybrid project management work methods will be the answer. My experience tells me that a combination of ‘office hours in house professionals’ and remote project talent works, and so does a full end to end ‘as a Service’ approach! They can both deliver great results. Increased remote working has only amplified this truth!

Turn it on, turn it off, turn it up or turn it down. Stoneseed’s approach to ‘Effective Resource Management’ has always been a solution for planning, managing and deploying the right people skills, at the right time, on the right projects. Covid and lockdown really brought the benefits of doing this remotely to the fore.

So, thanks for the input Rishi, but for many of us, a full-time return to the office and ‘the old ways of doing things’ would be a big step backwards. This maybe a controversial view, but I think hybrid work patterns are here to stay.  Even if we do miss those supermarket meal deals!


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