I spent many years managing virtual projects and have discussed on previous posts some of the best practices that need to be followed on these initiatives as they are different from project teams that are collocated.  These projects typically include team members in different geographies and in many instances these people are spread across many time zones.

Part of the fact that project team members are scattered means that the practitioner is likely going to be spending countless hours on the conference calls while using a wide array of technology tools that are aimed at making up for the lack of face to face interaction. In the process of participating in these types of activities, it is important not to forget that we have to take care of ourselves so that we remain healthy and our work does not suffer.  For instance I’ve found myself on several occasions a lot more physically exhausted after participating an an 8 hour conference call as opposed to a face to face meeting.  This is also true on calls where we have to accomodate other team members due to time zone changes so we might opt for a time that is in the middle of the night in our time zone.

So in the vain of ensuring that we take care of ourselves not only for the same of personal health but also for the sake of the health of the project, here are my top ten points of advice for those individuals who lead virtual teams and participate in countless hours of conference calls.

  1. Make sure that you have a comfortable chair.  Don’t be too cheap when it comes to selecting the right seat because your back will pay the price later.
  2. Buy a good hands free phone, otherwise your hands and neck will be tired.  Make sure that the speaker is clear and those on the other end of the line can hear you well.  Don’t forget that “mute” button!  It can come in handy every once in a while.  I was on a call once with a guy who was changing a flat tire in his garage.  Another time a guy was washing his hands and it sounded like he was taking a shower.
  3. Good connectivity is a must for those participating in net meetings so make sure your internet provider is trust worthy.
  4. Establish a schedule and a routine.  Work with your team to identify a regularly scheduled time for calls that are at a time that works best for everyone.  If you are unlucky enough to be 12 hours apart from some team members, a rotating schedule may be needed.
  5. Geting enough sleep, even if it is not during “normal” hours is critical so that one can pay attention on those calls.  Its hard enough to concentrate when we can only use 1 out of our 5 senses.
  6. Maintaining a good diet is critical to heightening focus and providing needed energy.
  7. Working out regularly can also be tremendously important as it helps with relieving stress.
  8. Make sure there is good lighting in your office.  If sun light does not get through into your office don’t stay in doors the whole time.  There is no reason that your office should feel like a prison.  This can help with avoiding potential depression, especially for people who need that fresh air and sun light.
  9. Give yourself time between conference calls to allow for your mind to relax and so you can clear your head prior to the next call.
  10. Don’t be afraid to say “sorry I did not catch that” if you find your mind wondering off after a long day on the phone.  Sometimes you miss a very critical point and there is no shame to say “I was not paying attention!”

Those who are veteran virtual project managers feel free to add more on this topic from your experience.  What do you do to help be more effective in this area.