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Project Management for Remote Teams: The Best Project Management Tools & Tips

Remote work isn’t rocket science. It just requires the proper project management apps and tools.

People love to give advice. And when the whole world seemed to go remote in 2020, the advice of how to best work remotely started to flood in.

Some advice was sound. Other advice was downright harmful.

There are threads all over Reddit, Twitter, and at least a dozen established Facebook groups with countless experts in remote work—”experts” who have barely been doing it for a year.

While not all the tips for how to effectively manage people and projects remotely are bad, some will certainly send you into a time and energy-wasting spiral. Advice like:

  • Schedule more meetings than you think you need.
  • You need an app for projects, client management, and communication—oh and definitely one to manage email!
  • Make sure everyone on your team replies and is active in all chats to increase engagement.
  • Schedule mandatory socialization meetings and plan ice-breakers to build your remote company culture.

And the most laughable suggestion:

  • Meet daily and get an exact list of everything your employees did the day before.

Remote work isn’t as complicated as it’s made to seem. At Basecamp, we’ve been doing it successfully (and simply) for over 20 years. Our founders even wrote a book on the subject (and that was before COVID).

If your remote or hybrid work needs a little, well, work, here are some suggestions to get your team headed in the right direction.

Project Management for Remote Teams v. In-Person

Work is projects, and projects are different in-person v. remote. There are beneficial elements to projects that come naturally in-person - elements you must work at to replicate with remote teams.

The first is commonly discussed when it comes to building a remote company culture, but it also applies to project management: water cooler talk. It’s the casual discussion, gossip, and general bonding that happens in between work activities in a physical office. While it’s good for employee relationship building, it’s also highly effective for project collaboration.

While chatting away, someone might mention what they’re currently working on, which is overheard by someone also contributing to the project. That person joins the conversation, and soon, there’s a natural discussion about concepts, angles, and implementation that just leveled up the output for that project.

This element is often missing in remote work.

This project collaboration has to be facilitated. And you, as the project manager, need to create the space for that to occur. Given that everyone may have different remote or hybrid work schedules from one another, you’ll need some tools to recreate this experience.

Remote Project Management Tools & Software

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t want to have several types of software to run your remote team. The opposite is actually true - more isn’t better when it comes to software.

You do need something, though. Something has to keep your team moving in the same direction on the same deadline. But most tools touted as “breakthroughs” for remote work are nothing more than glorified distractions.

How can you tell which software is worthwhile and which is going to do more harm than good? Here’s what to look for in a remote project management software solution:

Individual Project Creation

You don’t want to run projects from a tool that only allows for individual tasks. That’s a nightmare of overdue items and missed deadlines waiting to happen.

You’ll want a place where you can separate work into specific projects to help keep your team aligned. Everything for that project should live inside its own section, no crossover. This way, only the work necessary for that project will be talked about, assigned, commented on, and shared. Everyone remains focused while inside the project.

Thankfully, most project management software (including Basecamp) offers this setup, allowing you to keep projects contained, and organize them as you wish on your own personal dashboard.

Account dashboard inside Basecamp to showcase using specific projects when managing remote teams.
Account dashboard inside Basecamp to showcase using specific projects when managing remote teams.

To-Do Lists or Kanban Boards for Project Management

Inside your projects, you want a way to create action-items, assign them to an owner, and schedule due dates. They should also be organized in a way that allows your team to spend more time focused on the work, and less time figuring out what to work on

A couple of options for organization are: individual lists, categories, or a card table/kanban board style layout.

The benefits of these really depend on your industry and how your team best operates. Kanban boards are visually appealing and can be useful for processes with varying steps, like content creation, video editing, or social media management. But to-do lists allow you to group types of work, which is convenient when working with various departments or more complex initiatives.

Comparing the carb table/kanban board style structure to the to-do list format inside Basecamp's project management app.
Comparing the carb table/kanban board style structure to the to-do list format inside Basecamp's project management app.


Of course, if you’re working remotely, you need a space to communicate with your team. What you want to look for, especially when project managing remote teams, is something with various locations of communication.

The last thing you want is to be talking about a specific to-do in an email that gets lost in an overflowing inbox.

These are a couple of the types of communication you’ll want:

  • Direct messages
  • Project messages
  • Individual to-dos and tasks
  • Virtual meetings

Try to only utilize a single software for communication, too, even with your clients. The more screens someone needs to have open, the more distracted they’ll become and the less work will be done. Some software has all of this in one, while others will require you to pair or bundle a third party app with their project management software.

Whatever you choose, keep it simple.

Project Management Calendars and/or Syncing

If you already operate largely out of a calendar app like Google or iCloud, finding a software with syncing capabilities will streamline your workload. If not, then at least look for a software that allows you to visualize your workload over a longer period of time, ideally a month.

Ultimately, this aids in your team’s ability to plan, including when the best times to collaborate on any given action item is.

Here are a couple examples of what this looks like in a project management software:

Example of viewing a schedule of action-items in a calendar layout with the option to sync to your calendar.
Example of viewing a schedule of action-items in a calendar layout with the option to sync to your calendar.

View or Access Management

Your entire organization doesn’t need access to every project on your company’s account. They only need to see and operate out of the ones they’re a part of. Look for this feature when choosing your remote team software.

If you work directly with clients, you can go a step further and choose a software that will loop your clients directly into their respective projects, which will cut down on client communication.

File Upload & Sharing

Projects have deliverables. And those deliverables need a place to live. Prioritize a software that allows you to easily upload and share these features, both within individual to-dos as well as a dedicated section in each project for deliverables.

Example of keeping all files and uploads in a single location within a project to keep remote teams organized.
Example of keeping all files and uploads in a single location within a project to keep remote teams organized.


When you can’t do 100% of work inside your project management software, the next best option is integrating the third party access from inside the project.

For example, you might need to access a CRM to complete the project if you’re on the sales team. But what you don’t want is to force your team to memorize every additional software or app needed to complete a project. Find a tool that will integrate what you need seamlessly.

Integration options and examples from Basecamp project management software.
Integration options and examples from Basecamp project management software.

Remote Project Management Made Easy

All of the tools and software in the world won’t help if you don’t understand how to manage a remote team. Here are a few guidelines to follow to make your remote team projects more effective and efficient:

1. Create a System

Rules can always be broken, but they exist for a reason. “Systems” is just a fancy word that stands for the “rules of operation” inside a business. It’s a guide for how you do repeated activities.

Not all types of projects have to be done the same way with the same systems, but you should have some sort of structure you use to ideate, create, and build projects. Frameworks help keep your team organized as well as ensuring no vital steps are missed no matter who’s managing the project.

These systems can look like:

  • To-do list templates for specific projects (like hiring, onboarding, or content creation)
  • Project templates with predetermined deadlines
  • Linked documents or files for contracts or necessary data

2. Build Realistic Timelines

There might not be anything wrong with your ability to project manage your remote team other than you think more can be accomplished in a given timeline than is realistic. The goals you set for deadlines greatly impact your team’s ability to actually hit them.

If the timeline is too short, the stress of hitting it will leach creativity from the process. If it’s too long, dilly-dallying can take hold and stunt positive momentum.

The best thing you can do to help your remote team is talk to them and understand the depths of what they do. Don’t assume that you know what goes into a job (especially if you’ve never done it yourself).

3. Collaborate First, Communicate After

Collaboration and communication aren’t the same. The prep work and ideation of projects should be done together so the entire team is able to contribute to the construction of action items and deadlines.

Communication comes after, when you need to ask questions, get feedback, and update each other on the overall progress of the initiative. For this reason, focus on collaborating at the front end of the project, and communicating while the project is in progress.

4. Listen to Your Team & Iterate

If you’ve done your job and opened lines of collaboration and communication, your team should have no problem sharing feedback about a project’s processes. It’s your job to hear them and update how you do things accordingly.

Obviously, not every single employee’s preferred method of doing things can be taken into consideration, but focus on the themes. Are more people struggling with a phase of QA? Is there a need for additional meetings because information is unclear? Do they struggle with the proposed timelines too much?

Hear them out, and step in where necessary and make changes to remove any roadblocks they’re facing.

Managing projects for a remote team can be easy if you know the biggest hangups. These tips and tools will guide you, but remember that every organization is different and requires unique management. Keep your mind open, listen to your team, and iterate when you need to.

And if you’re searching for that all-in-one remote project management solution, look no further than the all new Basecamp. It has everything you need (and nothing you don’t), allowing you and your teams to run any number of projects remotely without missing a beat. Best of all, you can give it a try for free for 30 days. No credit card or commitment required. Get started today in just 30 seconds by filling out the form below:

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In addition to our books and blogs, we write articles filled with practical
advice on project management, remote work, honest marketing,
building a business, and making work a little less crazy.

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