As a startup owner or individual consultant, you must have already spent several months working from home, with some excellent and many forgettable memories, hoping things would go back to normal soon. However, with COVID-19 cases continuing to rise and economies tumbling, you might have to wait for a little longer.
Does that mean your business should also stay in a holding pattern and wait for the good old days when your team would sit together in a cosy office and outperform competitors month after month? Certainly not.
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The sooner you adjust to the current reality, the easier it will be for you to adapt to the new normal and change the way you operate for maximum productivity and work from home is that new normal. The only question is — how can you make sure your business runs as well as it did before under these conditions?
The answer is simple. It requires some adjustments to the way you manage projects – in the form of a project management software solution – and some upskilling to prepare you for the task at hand. Here’s a look at the work from home landscape and what you’ll need to succeed.
Work from Home: Pre COVID Vs. Now
Earlier, companies in the US, Europe, and other parts of the world allowed employees to work from home as part of their work-life balance policy. They believed employees could be more productive by working from home, and at the same time would have enough time left over to spend with their families. Since employees didn’t have to travel, this claim made complete sense. WFH was a cool concept, and working professionals, especially those in tech jobs, loved it.
Then suddenly, COVID-19 happened. What was once an option became a requirement. Work from home became the norm across the globe almost overnight. Many employees liked it, and some didn’t. But in the end, everyone had to make do as best they could.
And since then, many businesses have decided to make work from home a permanent part of their post-pandemic operations. It saves them money, keeps employees happier, and even seems to be creating productivity gains. For that reason, it’s unlikely that things will ever go back to the way they were – at least not completely.
Growing Your Business by Working from Home
But that’s not bad news for most businesses. That’s because it’s happening at a time when most workers have access to the tools and technologies they need to thrive outside the office. And anyway, it’s cheaper to get them what they need rather than shouldering the cost of a conventional office.
All you and your employees need to do is wisely use the resources available around you and make some home-office adjustments to enhance productivity. The first step in this direction is to purchase essential tools that make work from home more productive and comfortable.
To get the same feeling while working from like you used to get at your workplace, consider buying accessories, such as
- A suitable desk that has enough space for your laptop, hard disks, and books
- One or more highly comfortable desk chairs to keep your back straight and enable you to work for long hours.
- Good headphones to not disturb other family members during client calls, zoom meetings, and video editing.
- An HD monitor for those who prefer to use desktops rather than laptops for work-related tasks.
- A printer — just in case you need printouts frequently.
- A whiteboard — for taking notes or giving presentations to your teammates over zoom calls.
- An Air Purifier to keep the air around you clean and healthy
- A coffee machine — If you are a caffeine addict and need it during late-night work sessions.
Some of those who couldn’t go to the gym due to forced lockdown have set up home gyms with a few cardio machines and weights to keep their body in shape. You can also do the same if this new lifestyle is causing unexpected weight gain.
Once you have all the necessary tools and accessories in place, you can finally take the next step, which is to organize your projects so that you don’t miss deadlines.
Managing Projects in a WFH Environment
Suppose you run a web development agency, white-labelled SEO business, content marketing firm, software development startup, or any other business that involves working with multiple clients simultaneously. In that case, you must have already dealt with specific project-related issues that impact the business. Some of them include delegation of responsibilities to team members, keeping a constant eye on the progress, supporting subordinates whenever necessary, managing the project delivery pipeline, and then delivering it on time.
As long as you have just one or a couple of projects, manually managing them might seem easy. But the moment your company starts growing and you get dozens of projects to be worked upon simultaneously, the problems start showing up.
Delivery delays, unclear communication among teammates, and below-average results are some of the main issues that businesses face while managing multiple projects manually. The truth is — you can’t get phenomenal results when the company starts getting multiple big-ticket projects and you still choose to handle everything by yourself.
At some point, you have to find a way to automate the process so that your focus remains on growth while the operations are taken care of with minimal oversight from your side. This is where good project management software can come in handy.
What Is Project Management Software?
Consider project management software as a tool that offers a centralized dashboard to track all your projects in the most straightforward possible manner. Since most PM software systems are cloud-based, your team members can access the dashboard remotely, make changes according to the tasks accomplished, and update the status without any hassle. It not only enables everyone to know how others are doing but also ensures that team communication doesn’t stop due to location or time constraints.
Nowadays, almost all businesses, regardless of their team size, prefer to use project management software to complete large & complex projects on time and with 100% efficiency. Their goal is to stay ahead of the competition, and good project management software helps them achieve this feat effortlessly.
Why Should You Use Project Management Software?
You may wonder just because others use project management software doesn’t mean you should also do the same. That’s true! You don’t need to follow the pack. But what if this one step can help grow your business 10X or more in a matter of a few months?
Understand the importance of project management software this way. Once a project gets through its initial phase and becomes complicated, relying on traditional methods like emailing to team members at odd hours, asking for informal meetings, making hand-scrawled notes, etc. won’t work. These methods stop serving any purpose after a certain point.
Besides, you can’t always remember everything. There are always tiny details here and there that can affect a project’s success, and you might miss them by relying on ad-hoc methods. If you continue making the same mistakes over and over again, chances are your team’s combined efficiency and productivity will reduce significantly. Moreover, you may also face conflicts among team members over petty issues.
Project management software can save you from all this hassle by ensuring that everyone remains on the same page. This is why every business, be it a small startup or a large company, is a candidate to use project management software. And in a work-from-home context, it’s essential.
Besides keeping everyone on the team informed about the progress, project management software also helps you save money. Typically, it isn’t easy to give a cost estimate of projects that last for years. If by any chance, the entire project gets delayed due to a problem, its overall budget can increase.
It’s tough to pinpoint an exact issue manually due to the size and complexity of the project. Still, if you use good project management software where all the details are logged correctly, it’s effortless to figure out what’s causing any problem. It helps you finish on time and within the allocated budget every time.
Is Training Required to Use Project Management Software?
Project management software may look complicated to use initially, so you need to get some training. It can be done through online video modules or written manuals and requires no more than a few hours. And as you start using it more often, you’ll find it easier to log details, track progress, post comments, discuss with team members, and hand over the finished work to your customers.
Main Features of Project Management Software
The most notable feature of modern project management software is its cloud-based ecosystem. Earlier, companies used project management tools that were locally hosted. They worked just fine as long as all the team members were in the same office. Remote collaboration wasn’t possible in such project management software. Now, with readily available cloud features, all project management systems allow you to work from home or any other remote location as long as you have a stable internet connection.
Another feature of good project management software is customization. Most premium software systems come with features like Gantt charts and Kanban boards that make it possible to set auto-responses, auto-reminders, conduct time-tracking, etc. That means they’re adaptable to almost any kind of project your business might take on.
You can also save crucial documents and files on the cloud so that others can access them through the PMS whenever they need them. These files may include hiring contracts, business logo design, CAD models, invoice formats – anything connected to your work.
If you have notes that should be read by only those team members involved in a specific project, you can easily pin them along with tasks in the project management software. Whenever a team member checks out tasks assigned to them, they can read the attached files. It saves time and ensures clear communication among team members regarding the project.
These days, many project management software systems can also be integrated with your company email account or third-party email services like Gmail and Outlook for a custom email experience. Finally, most premium project management software systems come with reporting features so that you can identify key performance indicators and share them with the rest of the team members right in the beginning. It boosts team performance in the long run and helps individuals achieve their targets smoothly.
Choosing the Right Project Management Software
There are many options available in the market. So, you don’t have to be at the mercy of anyone provider. You can choose the one that fits your budget and work requirements. For starters, basic project management tools like Trello, Asana, or Click Up are good enough.
Those who have large projects and need specific custom features to run business operations can look for premium tools. In that case, a solution like Microsoft Project might be the way to go. But because more complex software carries a steeper learning curve, it’s best to opt for the simplest solution that fits your use case.
Upskilling to Increase Efficiency
Those who want to take a step further can search for various other ways to improve their management and administration skills. These days, it’s possible to earn a master’s degree in management without ever leaving home, so upskilling isn’t as difficult and costly as it once was.
And by adding a higher degree of management skill to your repertoire, you’ll be able to get the most out of your employees in any situation, remote or otherwise. And you can help your employees work smarter by getting them access to some additional training, too. Time management and digital skills are essential to success in a work from home setting, and helping your team master those skills will help carry your business to success.
COVID-19 can be cursed for a million reasons. Still, it has allowed working professionals and business owners to get out of the rat race and focus on the work they do best. And with the addition of project management software and a few skills upgrades, it might be a transformative event.
Businesses that do what it takes to optimize their operations to maximize work from home’s inherent benefits will come out of the pandemic in a position to thrive. So, keep in mind the points shared above to make sure you and your business come out of the lockdown with better skills, higher profits, and a clearer path to success in the future.