Flexible and Remote Working

If Covid has taught us anything, it is that we cannot predict the future, and we need to appreciate what we have now. It has led many of us to reassess what is important, and particularly our work-life balance. It has also shown us how resilient and flexible we can be.

In the corporate world, I worked for 16 years as a part-time Project Manager, so that I could be around for my boys as much as possible.

What did I learn?

  • Being flexible works both ways

    • If I needed to be at school then I could do that but also
    • If I needed to be available for a 7am meeting with Singapore, or a 9pm meeting with Houston, I could do that too
    • As long as you are completely transparent about your boundaries, most people will respect them
  • It is perfectly possible to have great relationships with people you've never physically met

    • I've spent the last 16 years working in a global organisation but doing very little travel
    • I made a point of being in contact with my team members individually, and in our teams, regularly - think instant messaging, phone calls, video calls, emails
    • We had informal "coffee machine" chats, catching up on weekend plans, kids, family etc as well as work discussions - we are all people with lives outside of work
  • It is perfectly possible to have highly functioning virtual teams

    • I've run successful projects with team members on multiple continents, serving customers at even more locations
    • We were open and honest, I facilitated great collaboration, I encouraged everyone to raise issues and I supported the resolution of those, so we all trusted each other. No blame or judgement. 
    • They knew how to get hold of me, and, if I wasn't available, who to talk to instead
    • I regularly recognised people for their hard work
    • I always shared positive feedback from customers and stakeholders - and tried to shelter them from unhelpful information as much as possible, so they could concentrate on getting things done
    • I constantly raised awareness of whether what we were asking was realistic - in terms of effort and availability, but also timezones, cultural holidays etc. I made it clear to everyone that, for example, booking frequent meetings in the Asia evening times was not acceptable, and should be limited - and that our colleagues were entitled to decline requests.
  • It is perfectly possible to do all of that when you are part time

    • I was always transparent about my availability and my boundaries - and encouraged everyone to do the same
    • I empowered my team to have meetings and make decisions when I was not available, so that it did not impact schedule - also letting them know who to turn to if it needed escalating or more support
    • I kept constant communication with teams and stakeholders so there were no surprises, and encouraged the team to do the same
    • If there was something major happening when I was unavailable, I talked to a specific person before I left, so they knew the exact situation and what support the team might need, and made sure the team knew who to turn to

All of these come down to one main thing - purely and simply: excellent communication.

I proved time and again that you can be an amazingly efficient and effective project manager, with an empowered and collaborative team, effective communication, and run multi-million dollar projects, in multiple time zones, touching up to 95,000 users - and do it all part time and remotely.

Imagine the difference this knowledge could make for businesses around the world, if they could just stop making assumptions about what people can and cannot do, and just let them prove it instead!