The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we live. People are doing everything they can to adjust to the challenges of working from home. Distracted by kids and dealing with video connection issues is part of everyday life. Across the country, people working from home are dealing with stress and anxiety overload.

For project managers, this way of working is particularly challenging. Project management is all about fostering collaboration and communication. Not having the ability to meet in person is a killer. To add to this dilemma, most project managers are expected to hit their original project goals.

To help navigate these challenges, here are 5 tips for project managers:

  1. Trust your team members – The natural tendency for project managers during this crisis is to grip down on team members. It may feel counter intuitive but give your team members space and trust that they will complete their tasks. If you foster a sense of trust within the team people will deliver results.
  1. Use team working agreements – If your project team doesn’t have a working agreement, now is the time to create one. As a team you should agree and commit to how you will work together during this difficult time. You may agree that everyone should be available and working online by 9AM. You may agree that between 2-4PM, there will be no meetings to allow heads down working time. These are examples. It’s important that everyone on the team commits to a working agreement. For more on team agreements, check out this video.
  1. Use a tool like Hipchat or Slack – Chat tools like Hipchat or Slack are great for times like this. A chat tool gives you a virtual way to collaborate with your team. These tools go beyond instant messaging. Having a dedicated chat room for your team is like being in an agile pod with your team. The chat room is open all day for anyone to pop a question out to the team.
  1. Call and text people, but only when necessary – For project managers, having the ability to call or text people is critical, but use caution. Unless it’s critical, try not to call or text your team members. Instead, schedule times for calls or use email. People are under a lot of stress and having a project manager hound them with text messages and calls is only making matters worse.
  1. Only deliver high value scope – Put a hyper focus on backlog prioritization. Work with your product owner to ensure you are only working on the highest priority items. Now is not the time to be working on low value bells and whistles. Only commit to the high value items only during this difficult time.

Summary – We are going through an unprecedented time and everyone is under stress. Do what you can to empathize with your team and allow them to work at their own pace. Put a team working agreement in place and use chat tools to collaborate online. Do not micromanage. If you promote a healthy culture on your team and lead with empathy, you and your project will get through this.

About the Author:Mike MacIsaac is a principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. MacIsaac Consulting, based out of Minneapolis MN, provides IT Agile delivery consulting and staffing.