The Summer of Freedom: Why the Next Few Months of 2021 Pose a Unique Challenge to Project Managers

The Summer of Freedom: Why the Next Few Months of 2021 Pose a Unique Challenge to Project Managers
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The last year-plus has been a challenge for employees, employers, project managers, and their teams. Changes in the workplace, offices closed altogether, kids home from school, limited travel and many other challenges have forced people and companies to adapt to the new normal.

While many in the project management field are looking forward to working with their teams for a summer in person, this summer 2021 actually presents an entirely different challenge for project managers – the summer of freedom. After a year of massive limitations, cancellations, rescheduling of events, and lockdowns – people just want out in the world, want to do more things, or simply have a lot of things to do.

Some just want to check the NBA and NHL lines at, bet on the games and head out to as many sporting events as possible this summer. Others have rescheduled weddings and concerts or flight vouchers that will soon expire. There is a lot of stuff coming up at once – so you need to make a plan with your project team to maximize efficiency and happiness (otherwise, in markets with labour shortages, you risk people leaving for other opportunities).

With a lot coming up, you need to start planning as soon as possible. As we said in the earlier paragraph, people will want to come back into an office where the team is willing to work together so everyone can keep their plans and the team can reach their goals. Here are some ways the project manager can make that happen.

Get a Team Calendar

Suppose you have a calendar that has everyone’s availability and set plans on it. In that case, it will make it easier for everyone to plan and realize why later plans cannot always be accommodated.

With most people still stuck in their countries (or at least in their continents), most plans will not be extensively long quite yet. For those without too much on the docket for the summer, they may be the ones you give preference to taking off longer stretches in the fall and into the holiday season. Compromise is key.

Rotate Working from Home

Working from home has had mixed results – depending on the person, the team, and the company.  While most would prefer having their entire team return to the office at once (or at least as many as possible to start), some employees may not yet want or be able to commit to a full-time return.

If these employees have shown they can remain productive team members, you can use your best project management judgment to determine their work at home eligibility.

If your whole team has shown it can work well on project tasks remotely, you can consider rotating the time people spend in the office, which can help people ease back into their everyday routines while also getting a chance to work with different team members in person.

Communication is key to project manager's success

Communication is Key

Ensure your employees are all in the loop when returning to the office on what is possible and what is not. Organizing meetings before and once returning, sending out emails on details, and of course, the calendar mentioned above idea will all help you share all necessary information on the project.

Also, consider some social outings with the team. As much as Zoom and other video conferencing applications have done to keep our lives relatively stable the last year, a fun outing with the team outside the office could help your team reconnect and work better together if scheduling conflicts do arise.

Set or Redefine Goals

Whether it is deadlines for clients, sales targets, or production quotas – make sure the goals of the project team are clear. If team members can achieve these goals while working part or full-time from home, encourage them to do it. If some people cannot do it remotely, encourage them to come to the office – and give them the flexibility to work off-hours and extra hours to reach goals and hit deadlines.

Once your team is back to maximum efficiency, you can give each member or group some more autonomy, which they should view positively and keep them working towards their goal.

Make Sure the Office is Ready

If people want to stay working from home as it geographically is better for them and their summer plans –  make sure the office is ready for their return.

Make sure the technology is primed and updated. Make sure everything is in working order – even if it is a lunchroom fridge. Make it so returning to the office is a return to normal, not a burden.

Incentivize the Team to Work Together

If people want more freedom this summer – one way, everyone can potentially get it is to work together. Want to leave at noon on Friday, everyone has to do their part. Want an extra day off during the long weekend, as long as everything for (insert project/deadline/goal) is in by the Friday before you can have the whole next Friday off.

The overall goal this summer is to have a safe, happy, and productive team that respects your project management skills and wants to stay with the company. It is probably impossible to make everyone’s dreams come true, but at least if you are working with everyone to reach team goals so they can enjoy their individual ones, you should have success during – what is going to be a unique summer.