Project managers in times of pandemic

As a project manager, I have to examine central issues of project work and also constantly find answers to newly arising questions. I have compiled some of the questions that are concerning me today.
A man takes part in a video conference.

To what extent do I have to be physically present? How much virtual collaboration can my projects cope with?

The good news is that the first vaccines for the Coronavirus are expected to be approved by December 2020.

The bad news: Vaccination of a huge number of people is subject to physical and logistical limitations. This means that we will have to deal with the virus for a comparatively long time, maybe even for years. It is plainly utopian to expect a quick termination of the pandemic. In recent months we have been told over and over again that the physical distance between us humans must be kept as large as possible. This way, infections can be kept to a minimum. And that is how it will remain for the time being.

How and with whom do I want or have to work more closely in future as a project manager or team member? In which situations can I work with other people in a more distanced way?

As a project manager I can carry out a stakeholder analysis for the project, set up the project organisation and create a communication concept. Here, initial important answers to this question are identified. These steps will provide initial answers to the aforementioned questions. It is also possible at this stage to identify key personnel and create alternative positions for quarantine or disease situations.

In the future, where and how will we have or need social interaction and human proximity within a project? However, do I need this social interaction and human cooperation?

If I can answer the latter question with no, it means self-occupation, i.e. individual work, taking into consideration self- and time management and setting priorities properly.

If I do need the social interaction, the next question arises: Is it possible to conduct this interaction in a remote way?
Based on the experiences of recent months, this is likely to happen more often than ever expected prior to the pandemic. So, we start with remote interaction and shift operation. Communication is carried out as usual via e-mail and telephone, but increasingly also in the format of telephone and video conferences. Also using the right tool is important when working in remote teams. If I'm not sure yet which tool is most suitable for me and my team, I need to get an overview of all available project management software
But be careful! As a project manager, I have to pay attention to network security and also comply with data protection regulations.

If it is not possible to work remotely, I have to follow distance rules, I need to wear a protective mask and observe hygiene rules, fresh air supply and air circulation.  When entering the work area, temperature is taken, and a rapid test is performed as soon as permitted and available. This must be organised, documented and permanently guaranteed in the project. This is my new challenge as project manager!

How will we organise mobility in our projects in the future? Does mobility have to be guaranteed during project work?

If we don't need to travel during the project, we will work in the office and laboratory, and in the workshop, in compliance with the hygiene and distance rules and, this is also new to me, possibly in shifts. Here, too, temperatures are taken upon arrival and a rapid test is carried out as soon as available.
When going to work and when travelling is necessary, the rules of hygiene and distance are of course to be observed.  I take my temperature before I go to work or before I start my travels, and as soon as available I will conduct a rapid test.
The progress and prospects of success of my projects depend on the answers to these questions. I hope that through good, comprehensible communication and the involvement of my team members, I can ensure the continued acceptance and the sustained will to implement all necessary measures and activities.

Dear fellow project manager, please ask yourself exciting questions and feel free to share your insights with the community of IAPM project managers. We will be grateful, because every inspiration is valuable!
Dr. Roland Ottmann

Key words: Home office, Virtual teams, Project management, tips, guide

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