Category Archives for "Remote Work"

Why I Created a Remote Mentoring Service for Project Managers

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“I’m in over my head.”
“I’ve had no support since lockdown started. None. At. All.”
“I’m managing a massive project that’s due to be delivered soon. My milestones are critical, and I can’t afford to get this wrong in any way.”
“I need someone objective to bounce ideas off of.”
“Everything feels chaotic, and my success in managing stakeholders has deteriorated overnight.”
“I really need someone to run things by when they go wrong. Which at the moment, is daily!”
“I didn’t appreciate how much of a difference not seeing people face-to-face would make to my work.”
“Communication has been a struggle, and it turns out no one is clear on what they’re supposed to do.”

These are just some of the comments I’ve heard from Project Managers since the start of the pandemic.

(Source: getstencil)

Working from home 5 days a week for an extended period of time has taken its toll on all involved and ultimately, on the end results. This means that the quality of projects is missing the mark, and achieving completion on time and within budget is becoming a rarity as opposed to a certainty.

Reading between the lines, what Project Managers have really struggled with these past few months is the lack of support.

Granted, no one foresaw the pandemic, and there is no rulebook.

But the Project Managers I’ve spoken to feel they’ve been left in the lurch in what are unprecedented circumstances, to come to terms with everything on their own.

It’s not that they are inexperienced; quite the opposite. They are seasoned professionals who have managed and delivered more than their fair share of projects and programmes in various industries in the past.

What’s different is that where previously, they and their stakeholders worked from home one or two days a week, doing so has been a constant feature since lockdown restrictions were announced in March.

(Source: getstencil)

And until the coronavirus is under control, it looks like movement will remain restricted in one form or another. One thing is for sure, there will not be a return to offices en masse for quite some time. How long that is? Nobody knows…

…so while Project Managers and all the people they need to provide input and contributions to projects work from home for the foreseeable future, it’s important to acknowledge that:

The shift to working remotely for the foreseeable future has had – and will have – an impact on their working dynamic and ultimately, how they perform.

This previous blog post examines why your Project Managers are struggling during this pandemic, and goes into more detail about exactly how that shows up and the effect it has on project outcomes and results.

Essentially, some of the signs include tension in the Project team that didn’t exist before, communication just doesn’t seem to run smoothly.

And crucially? Delivery timelines and milestones have been missed.

These observations and the feedback I’ve had from Project Managers are why I created a Remote Mentoring Service for Project Managers.

What Is It?

(Source: getstencil)

My Remote Mentoring Service is a one-to-one, individualised service that helps Project Managers address the complexities that arise from the fact that they, their Project Team and stakeholders are working from home for the foreseeable future.

Those unintended consequences of working remotely take their toll on team morale and their ability to deliver. The Remote Mentoring Service provides crucial support and the opportunity for such consequences to be addressed in real-time.

Who is It For?

The Remote Mentoring Service is for experienced Project Managers who are busier than ever!

However as they navigate the murky world of remote work, they need support to ensure they continue to work effectively and efficiently.

How Will You Benefit?

You’ll get 5 things from my Remote Mentoring Service:

  • Crucial support.
  • An experienced and objective sounding board.
  • A place to seek counsel.
  • A safe space to discuss the issues you are experiencing while managing your project(s).
  • Recommendations on how to resolve these issues and tackle roadblocks.

What Support Will You Get?

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Each week we’ll review specific issues and challenges you highlight in detail.

As well as being a safe place to discuss them I’ll work with you to address each one, so you can feel better equipped to do what you do.

How Does It Work?

This blog post explains how my Remote Mentoring Service for Project Managers works but essentially, there are 4 weekly sessions.

Each one lasts between 60 and 90 minutes.

How Much Does It Cost?

The service costs £2,500 + VAT for 4 weeks.

Can I Have More Than 4 Sessions?

If you wish to continue getting support after the initial period, you can!

Each additional session costs £500.

How Can I Book?

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Send me a message with your details and I’ll book you in!

How My Remote Mentoring Service for Project Managers Works

(Source: getstencil)

In my last post I explained why your Project Managers are struggling in the pandemic.

I also wrote about how my Remote Mentoring Service will help them overcome the added complexities that arise as a result of them working with teams and stakeholders who now have to work remotely for the foreseeable future.

Here, I go into more detail about how my Remote Mentoring Service for Project Managers works:

What Is It?

My Remote Mentoring Service gives Project Managers the support they need to deliver crucial pieces of work in this climate.

Since the start of lockdown, I have noticed that:

Project Managers are finding it a real challenge to deliver their projects as normal in this climate.

Since restrictions started in March forcing everyone to work from home, the assumption was that a switch would be flipped, and projects would be automatically continue being managed, run and implemented as usual. Only remotely. But unfortunately, this has not happened.

Company bottom lines have been affected.

You wouldn’t have thought working remotely would have such a significant impact, but it has. Key milestones and timelines are routinely missed, causing costs to overrun. Which, even if your business is doing well in the middle of this pandemic, you cannot afford.

Key stakeholders have raised complaints about several things that are not going well on projects they are involved in.

And rightly so!

These complaints have cannot be ignored any longer, and the growing feeling of dissatisfaction and discontent needs to be addressed.

In response to these issues and many more, I created the service to help Project Managers overcome these obstacles and deliver their projects efficiently.

I’ll help you address the added complexities arising purely from the fact that you, your team and stakeholders have to work remotely for the foreseeable future, so you can deliver your projects successfully.

Who Is It For?

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You’re an Experienced Project Manager.

You already have the “hard” skills, so this isn’t about teaching you how core Project Management.

You’ve coped with managing your projects and meeting those deliverables in the months after the pandemic broke out back in March 2020.

But the truth is that it’s been anything but smooth sailing. And now with a second wave afoot, your business has announced that everyone should work from home until 2021 at least. Maybe even indefinitely…

…and you are busier than ever!

While that’s a good thing and you’re grateful to be busy when so many have lost their sources of income, you’ve found that working remotely involves a lot more than having a good WiFi connection, finding a pretty backdrop, and running your meetings on Zoom.

You’re finding it increasingly difficult to complete standard tasks such as running workshops, getting feedback and approvals on essential elements, and managing stakeholders to your usual standard.

Since the plan – inasmuch as you have one – is for you and your delivery teams to work remotely for the foreseeable future, you’ve to this conclusion and are having to admit the inevitable:

You can’t do it without support.

Whereas the pattern was for people to work from home mainly on Fridays or for a couple of days during the week, your working world is now fully remote and virtual. And you need guidance on how to translate what you used to do into that world.

You need a sounding board that is experienced and objective. A place to seek counsel when you feel like pulling your hair out!

How Long Does It Take?

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The Remote Mentoring Service takes place over 4 weeks and over that period, we’ll meet at an agreed day and time every week.

The sessions will take place on Zoom.

What Sort Of Support Will I Get?

Each week we’ll review specific issues and challenges you highlight in detail.

As well as being a safe place to discuss them I’ll work with you to address each one, so you can feel better equipped to do what you do.

How Long Are The Weekly Sessions?

(Source: getstencil)

Each session in the Remote Mentoring Service lasts between 60 and 90 minutes.

How Much Does It Cost?

The Remote Mentoring Service costs £2,500 + VAT for 4 weeks.

Can I Have More Than 4 Sessions?

If you wish to continue getting support after the initial period, you can!

Each additional session costs £500.

What Should I Do Now?

My advice?

You can’t afford to drop any more balls, miss any more crucial deadlines or overshoot your budget. There just isn’t the bandwidth to do that in this current climate…

so book your place on my Remote Mentoring Service now.

And if there are any more questions you’d still like to ask before you sign up, send them through to me here.

Are Your Project Managers Struggling In The Pandemic?

(Source: getstencil)

You head up the Delivery function in your organisation, and one of your responsibilities includes managing a number of Project Managers.

They are a team of experienced women and men who have previously delivered various initiatives successfully.

Whether those projects were to deliver commercial outcomes for the Senior Leadership team, or implementing systems in the IT space, you were secure in the knowledge that your team was capable, dependable, and reliable.

Every Project Manager in the team was a safe pair of hands…

…but along came 2020!

(Source: getstencil)

And with it a global pandemic of epic proportions; the kind we have never seen or experienced before.

The lockdown and restrictions on movement followed in March, and that meant working from home was no longer a perk or optional extra available to those privileged enough to have it.

Or, those who had the choice of working flexibly to improve their work-life balance.

Because of the pandemic working remotely – from home – became the enforced status quo.

The “new normal”, if you will.

So, working from home became the norm for your Project Managers, and they had to adapt quickly to the change.

At first, the switch to long-term home working appeared to be smooth.

All the team needed were tools such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, and access to wi-fi.

Right?

You thought your Project Managers would get by easily.

But as the weeks and months rolled by, you started to notice a few things:

Delivery timelines and critical milestones were being missed.

And this happened more often than you’d like or can afford to tolerate.

There was tension in the team that hadn’t existed before.

This surprised you, as the core team know each other well and had a good rapport pre-COVID.

Communication was a major sticking point.

In the sense that in spite of all the technology and tools, it’s been obvious that it’s not working smoothly. Which is having a detrimental impact on efficiency.

In summary, things haven’t been the same since your Project Managers started working from home earlier in the year.

And with the latest set of restrictions announced by the Prime Minister, it’s anybody’s guess how long it will be before the team can go back into their offices.

Can I tell you what the problem is?

It is not about your Project Managers needing more training to hone their core project management skills. They are seasoned professionals who know their stuff, so the current disruption you’ve noticed isn’t down to a lack of having those skills.

The problem has to do with the shift to working remotely indefinitely.

(Source: getstencil)

We may not want to acknowledge it but human beings are made for social interaction, and even the best apps and technology cannot act as a substitute.

While such disconnection is fine for a few days or weeks, dealing with it consistently over a long period – or even indefinitely – introduces a different dynamic to working relationships.

Which subsequently has a negative effect on productivity and project outcomes.

So, how can you tackle this problem?

How can you get your critical projects delivered successfully – so, on time and on budget – when your Project Managers have stakeholders who are all remote?

I have something that can help.

Introducing my Remote Mentoring service for Project Managers.

Over a 4-week period, I will work with them to:

Develop the skills they need for successful project delivery in the current climate.

Implement that project that’s been dragging on which you urgently need to get over the line right now.

Tackle the specific challenges they are facing when it comes to delivering the outcomes your business needs on time and within the set budget.

Because now more than ever, you can’t afford for either of those to slip!

There’s more detail on how my Remote Mentoring Service for Project Managers works here; contact me to book your spot.

9 Ways Being Mindful Can Improve Your Productivity While Working From Home

(Source: getstencil)

Many of us had worked from home in one form or another before March 2020.

However, the start of the pandemic ensured it was no longer an optional extra or a perk that companies offered, and remote working quickly became the status quo.

Organisations which had previously baulked at letting their staff work from home occasionally, were suddenly forced to adapt business models and infrastructure to facilitate their entire workforce working from the safety of their homes.

Businesses like Google and Uber announced that their teams would work remotely for at least another year – or in the case of Facebook and Twitter, indefinitely.

This may have been an answer to prayer for some: no more early morning starts, long commutes, exorbitant transportation costs and busy trains are just a few benefits.

But while remote work enables flexibility, is convenient and saves a bundle on travel costs, it has its downsides.

For example, working from home was supposed to facilitate work-life balance. And in a world where we were mainly based outside our homes, having the option to do so a few times each week helped us achieve that.

But now that we are based at home? There have been references to the fact that we are now living at work.

The boundaries between work and home have been blurred and, in some cases, disappeared completely. Work now encroaches on our lives in a way no one anticipated at the start of the year, and until the public health issues with coronavirus are resolved – a vaccine is probably another twelve months away – it will stay that way for the foreseeable future.

There are ways to mitigate the downsides; it’s all about being aware of them and taking the necessary steps. So here are 9 ways being mindful can improve your productivity while working from home.

1.      It Helps To Have a Routine

(Source: getstencil)

Your commute has been reduced – significantly.

Instead of travelling for an hour (at least!), you only need to travel from your bedroom to your home office or desk.

Don’t get into the habit of rolling out of bed and logging onto Zoom with your pyjama bottoms on. While you no longer need to wake up two hours before work starts, setting your alarm to go off at a set time helps. That, and taking the time to prepare yourself mentally for the day ahead.

2.      Dress For Work

No one is expected to wear a suit at home, but deliberately dressing for work is a useful practice.

Comfortable clothes in the smart-casual category send the message both to yourself and others you’ll encounter in the course of your virtual working day that you’re in work mode.

3.      Designate a Work Space

(Source: getstencil)

As much as you’re able and depending on how much space you have available, assign an area in your home to be used specifically for work.

That will help establish the “I’m going to work” prompt in your brain, and is great for setting boundaries between your home and work lives.

And if possible, avoid working from the sofa or your bed. Doing so doesn’t help with those blurred boundaries and if nothing else, curling over your laptop while slumped in those locations isn’t good for your back!

4.      Watch The Clock

It’s no surprise that we’re all working longer hours. Since we’re saving hours on commuting, we’ve shifted to starting work earlier and finishing later.

Reports confirm the length of work days has gone up by an average of two hours, which is a significant rise.

Clock-watching is usually frowned upon – we all know that person who always made a beeline for the day at 5.00pm and wouldn’t stay a minute later. But, useful practices such as taking lunch and coffee breaks, and consciously shutting your laptop after a certain time are healthy ways to enforce boundaries and stop work encroaching on the rest of your home-based life.

5.      Watch What You Eat!

(Source: getstencil)

You’re at home, and the fridge is right there.

You have back-to-back calls to get through, and grazing while you sit mindlessly through them might help you get through the day…

…the convenience of having food and snacks within reach makes snacking and constant grazing tempting!

But it’s useful to be aware of how much you’re eating and when. Remember that you’re probably less active than you were six months ago; sticking to fixed mealtimes and being conscious of snacks and portions will help ensure you don’t end up with a significant increase in your calorie consumption.

6.      Make Exercise Part Of Your Routine

And linked to point 5 above, keep moving!

Now more than ever, it’s crucial to make exercise a part of your daily routine. There is more tendency to lead a sedentary lifestyle, which the World Health Organisation warns could be among the ten leading causes of death and disability as it increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and high blood pressure, among others.

So make a conscious effort to go for a run or walk before you start work in the morning. Or if you can make it to a gym after you’ve shut your laptop for the day, even better. Gyms are open and obliged by law to follow official guidelines to make their spaces COVID-secure, so call and ask what safety measures they have in place first.

7.      Take Breaks Between Calls

(Source: getstencil)

If you can, take breaks between Zoom calls.

It’s easy to go from one call straight onto a series of others, and before you know it, you’re left wondering why you feel drained and exhausted. After all, it’s not as if you’re doing anything other than sitting there, right? Regardless of how widespread the technology is, staring at small squares of ourselves and our colleagues is not normal and Zoom fatigue is real.

One way to guard against it is by taking breaks between those calls. Block out between 10 and 15 minutes in your diary, so anyone view your availability when trying to book a meeting will see that you are unable to meet at those times. This will force your colleagues – and you – out of the habit of booking and sitting through back-to-back calls.

8.      Switch On Your Camera

The majority of business meetings are being carried out via video conference, but it appears many of us aren’t comfortable being seen by our peers and so, decide not to switch on our cameras.

And it may surprise you to learn that only 55% of women enable cameras on video conference calls, compared to 65% of men.

While there is unspoken pressure to act a certain way when visible – not to mention that your colleagues can easily spot when you’re multi-tasking! – speaking to a series of dark squares is de-motivating and doesn’t do much for building rapport. Which is already hard enough to do virtually.

So if you accept an invitation to a Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams call? Switch on your camera and prepare to be seen.

9.      Use The Phone

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It’s easy to forget that all meetings don’t have to be video conferences.

You can use the good “old” phone instead, or schedule a conference call if more than two people need to be in that meeting.

As mentioned above, there is an unconscious pressure to perform when you know we’re going to be on display, and that extra pressure can be taken away by having voice calls only where appropriate.

These tips should help you increase productivity while looking after your mental and physical health in this season.

And if you need more support as you make that transition to working from home long-term?

I offer a Remote Mentoring service which will help you tackle that inertia you’re feeling, and give you practical tools to get back to delivering on your targets.

Contact me to discuss your specific challenges and how I can help you.

Everything You Need To Know About My Microsoft Teams Workshop

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I’ve previously extolled the virtues of Microsoft Team as a collaboration tool, and explained why I think it’s the best one for you.

If you missed it or would like a refresh, you can read my blog post on why Microsoft Teams is the best tool for you here.

I’m running a workshop on Friday 10 July help you hit the ground running with the tool, so here’s everything you need to know about my Microsoft Teams workshop.

Who Is The Workshop Aimed At?

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This workshop is for you if:

1. You have never used Microsoft Teams before, and don’t know where to start

It can be confusing, overwhelming even. Especially if you have a deadline by which you have to get your head around it – to accommodate a client request, for instance.

Instead of adding “learning Microsoft Teams” to your to-do list and battling with it on your own, attending my workshop will equip you by giving you the knowledge you need.

2. You use the tool, but are not confident with it yet

Do you use Microsoft Teams already, but are still unsure of what to do? One this is clear to you, you definitely aren’t using the basic functionality properly!

Then, this workshop is exactly what you need.

What Topics Will Be Covered?

Here are some of the themes I’ll cover:

  • I’ll give you an overview of Microsoft Teams
  • How to set it up
  • How to manage teams and team members
  • How to work with people who are external to your business (such as clients, partners and suppliers)
  • Collaboration and document sharing
  • Breakout rooms
  • How to view other participants in a meeting.

Is Any Extra Support Available?

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Yes!

When you book your place you have the option to include a private consultation call with me, which will take place after the workshop.

As part of that call you’ll have the opportunity to ask me any further questions you may have about using the tool.

I recommend scheduling this call to take place at least a week after the workshop, you’ll have had some time to practise what you learned and can ask questions that relate directly to that experience.

Will It Be Recorded?

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Yes!

While I would prefer you attend the live workshop and it would be great to meet and interact with you there, I understand that life happens.

So if it turns out that you are unable to do so, don’t worry. The session will be recorded and sent to everyone who enrols on the workshop.

How Can I Book My Place?

You can book your place on the workshop by clicking here and making a payment.

I Have More Questions About The Workshop. How Can I Ask Them?

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You can contact me here.

Why Microsoft Teams Is The Best Tool For You

Lockdown restrictions are easing, and different sectors of the economy are set to reopen over the coming weeks.

However, many businesses are reluctant to go back to “normal”, as various research shows that the majority of workers are anxious at the thought of returning to their previous working hours and office environments.

What’s more, there is concern that doing so will have a negative impact on their mental health and productivity and as a result many business leaders have announced that their teams will continue to work from home for the time being.

While working remotely for the foreseeable future will allay some very important public health concerns, there are downsides which have to be carefully addressed. Using the right technology and tools to facilitate remote working and collaboration between individuals and teams in a business, or with clients and suppliers can make all the difference when it comes to whether you make a success of this “new normal” or not.

One tool I would highly recommend for collaboration is Microsoft Teams. The service was launched in 2017 and has grown in popularity in the last three years. Since the start of the pandemic in particular, the count of daily active users has hit a record 75 million.

If you don’t use Microsoft Teams already, here are some of the reasons why I think it is the best tool for you to use when working remotely with your clients, partners and suppliers, and also internally within your business:

Online Meetings

With Microsoft Teams, you have the ability to host and attend webinars and online meetings.

You can have a one-to-one meeting with someone else, or a video conference with as many as 10,000 people!*

They could be your colleagues, or people from other businesses and organisations.

Regardless of the number of participants you’ll get to see and hear everyone clearly, and also have the option to record it so anyone who misses it can watch the replay.

*Depending on your price plan.

Chat

(Source: Brooke Cagel at Unsplash)

While we never appreciated the significance of water cooler conversations, the lack of them since the start of the pandemic is having a detrimental effect on morale and driving an increase in isolation, as well as affecting how bonds are developed and trust is built among colleagues.

While there is no direct replacement for that kind of physical and social interaction, I’d argue that the chat function within Microsoft Teams is as close as you can get to that informal manner of communication.

The chat function works for those times when you need to send a quick message, and do not require the audit trail that email provides. You can ask your colleagues about their weekends, a quick question about a piece of work, or when they are available to talk, for example. All without leaving the tool.

Call

You can make audio calls from within the tool, either by clicking on a saved contact or typing in a phone number.

So if you decide not to use or enable video, you can speak to your teams using the call function.

Collaboration

Collaborate on projects and joint pieces of work. Multiple people can work on documents, without worrying about version control or corruption.

Privacy & Security

As the use of the internet and collaboration tools has risen during the pandemic, it is no surprise that cybersecurity issues have risen as well. For example, the video communication and chat tool Zoom has had a number of well-publicised incidents highlighting its vulnerabilities. While the company quickly sought to address these and continues to do so, in many ways the damage had already been done as many organisations warned their teams off using the tool, and declared Microsoft Teams to be their preferred tool instead.

For Teams, Microsoft recommends a number of best practices to ensure that you are able to work efficiently and safely. These include:

Using two-factor authentication; giving your team members the correct level of access they need to complete their tasks and no more; and conducting careful assessments of what features are required (and enabled) for people outside your organisation.

Their Customer Base

Microsoft Teams is used by organisations as diverse as Accenture, the Metropolitan Police, schools, universities, hospital networks and the NFL.

But it isn’t just for large organisations. Smaller businesses – even if you only have one employee – can also make the most of the functionality. You wouldn’t be the only one: thousands of small businesses have recently migrated to the tool, and Microsoft has practical guidance to support small businesses that are having to adapt to working remotely.

New To Teams?

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If you’re new to Microsoft Teams and need to get your head around it quickly, I’m running a workshop on Friday 10 July which will help you hit the ground running. I’ll give you an overview of the tool and how it works, explain how to set it up, manage communication and collaborate with your clients and teams.

It’s on sale now, so secure your place today. Click here to book.