Remote work and collaboration in Horizon 2020

In this article you'll find tips & tricks on successfully organizing and managing a Horizon 2020 project with participants from around the world. It focuses on the questions of how to sync working styles and communicate efficiently in a remote work environment, while maintaining good physical and mental health.

Written by EMDESK

EU research projects like Horizon 2020 (H2020) offer the unique challenge of collaborating with teams and project members across the globe. Successful Horizon 2020 project management and remote collaboration requires implementing good systems and habits. Here are some tips and tricks to help you succeed.

1. Sync working styles

Define the working style of yourself, your team, and your organization. Get the other members of your H2020 or collaborative project to do the same. This will allow you to establish strategies that work for everyone. Ask yourself:

  • How do you prefer to communicate, and which tools do you use the most? e.g. phone, chat, video calls, etc.
  • How do people in your organization communicate with people inside the organization? How do they share documents?
  • How do people in your organisation communicate with people outside your organization and what tools do they use? How are documents shared?
  • Are there specific do not disturb or “busy” times in the day or week for yourself, your team, or your organization? What are they and how can you be contacted without being disturbed during these hours?
  • What were the most successful ways you collaborated on H2020 or co-funded projects in the past?

Defining and sharing the work style and tools you’re currently using will allow you to understand your own needs and those of other participants. Knowing which tools members and organizations use will allow you to see if they work for the needs of your EU research project or not.

Getting everyone to share information and communicate using the same tools, in a similar matter is key to avoiding miscommunications, informational delays, and decreasing the amount of time needed for project management and administration.

Instead of endless email cycles, difficult to find document versions, and impossible to read threads, project management software allows team members to link and share information in real time. EMDESK’s project management software offers a single solution for participants and organizations to collaborate, share, plan and discuss with integrated communication features.

EMDEK’s single document repository with varying levels or access rights, group email options, and control over notifications allow members to stay informed on what’s important to them. EMDESK’s customization allows for organizations using multiple platforms to easily switch to a single project management solution platform.

2. Make sure everyone has the hardware, software, and access they need to succeed

Small issues like someone not having the right program or access to documents can cause significant delays and waste valuable meeting time. Check that everyone:

  • Has a stable internet connection; wifi and if possible is using an ethernet cable.
  • Has a USB headset that’s been tested and works.
  • Has a modern computer running the latest version of Edge, Firefox, Google Chrome, or Safari.
  • Knows their login details for the project management software and other resources you’ll be using.
  • Has access to all of the programs and documents they need to start working right away.
  • Isn’t using software that’s not GDPR compliant like Zoom, Skype, Google docs, etc.

Using a project management software solution is one of the best ways you can ensure that your team is all using the same, modern collaboration tools. It’s vital that any project management software be completely compliant with GDPR standards. US based communication and project management solutions are not compliant with GDPR and can put your project at risk. EMDESK was developed in and is based out of Germany. Its servers and security are completely GDPR compliant; allowing you to concentrate on your H2020 project instead of worrying about data protection. It also has full customer support to help your H2020 collaborators to answer any questions about passwords, access, web browser, etc.

3. Say everything without saying too much at a time it can be heard

Plan which people or groups in your H2020 project need to be informed to eliminate resending essential data and avoid over informing people performing minor tasks in that area.

  • Ask yourself what’s the shortest and clearest way to communicate what you want to people who may not all speak the same language.
  • Respect time zone differences. Try to schedule your communications at a time that will reach the largest number of people during their regular working hours.
  • Share your schedule with everyone and ask others to do the same to allow for effortless syncing.

Share everything with select members, groups, or the public in a few clicks with EMDESK’s intuitive communication tools. Event planning allows the right people to sync on key issues while looking at real-time progress. EMDESK allows you to pool and organize collaborators with similar roles, responsibilities, and information needs; allowing you to share information quickly and easily with the people who want to hear it.

4. Plan realistically and efficiently

It can be difficult to find time to get everything done. Start each day by taking 15 minutes to look at your schedule and ask yourself: “Is this reasonable or achievable?” Many of us tend to be quite optimistic, but not realistic when planning our schedules. Planning too optimistically puts stress not only on yourself but the other members of your H2020 project.

  • What will happen if you don’t have enough time to complete each task?
  • Accept that you cannot create or make time, you can only work within the time you have.
  • Set structures that allow for H2020 collaborators to reanalyze their tasks and the time they actually take vs. what was planned. Schedule regular check-ins where this information can be shared and time for restructuring and replanning if necessary.

EMDESK allows you to get an overview and in depth analysis of progress on all areas of the project as it's happening; allowing you to schedule quick check-ins throughout the day to make sure you’re planning realistically and communicate any changes that need to be made immediately. Real-time data allows you to make intelligent decisions about which tasks should actually take priority.

5. Schedule communication and breaks

No one can complete an H2020 project alone. Communication and building confidence in the project are key to its success.

  • Are you as available as possible for other members?
  • Add to your planner time to sync with other people in your project throughout the day.
  • Breaks are important, so why not schedule a 10 minute virtual coffee break with a few other project members to get to know them better and improve morale.

Intuitive, built-in communication features like commenting allow members of your Horizon 2020 research project to start discussions, and share links and files in an easy to follow manner. Varying access rights and definable groups allows you to share information with or send emails based on relevance; be it everyone or select teams make EMDESK an ideal solution for your H2020 project management software.

Mental & physical health in an H2020 remote work environment

EU research projects and Horizon 2020 projects involve a good deal of remote work with an international consortium spread out over many different countries and time zones. Working remotely comes with a lot of benefits, but it also has its downsides. Common issues facing remote workers are anxiety, depression, loneliness, and back, neck, and shoulder pain. We’ve put together some helpful advice on how you can maintain good physical and mental health while doing remote work.

1. Create a work routine

    With looming deadlines and people in different time zones it can be tempting to work on your EU funded project every moment you have free time. This kind of work is unsustainable and can quickly lead to burnout.

    Even if your work changes from week to week or even day to day, take time at the start of your week and at the beginning of each day to plan what you’ll do when. The more regular your schedule and work routine are, the better you’ll be able to plan and make significant accomplishments. Not only will this help your mental health, but it’ll allow the other members of your team and project to know when you’re available.

    One of the benefits of working with a singular European project management tool like EMDESK is that you can visualise, report, and analyse in real-time. This increased efficiency of having communication, reporting, analytics, and budgeting all in one place will allow you to set a schedule that works for yourself and keeps the lines of communication open with the other people in your consortium.

    2. Stop working and say no

      When your day is done, and your schedule says it’s done, stop. Allow yourself a certain amount of overtime per week and stick to it. You’ll accomplish more for your collaborative project by coming in with a fresh mind the next day, rather than pushing yourself into overdrive. Working all the time can lead to burnout, depression, and loneliness.

      Horizon 2020 projects can have consortiums with people from around the globe and different time zones. While it’s not always possible to come up with a good time that works for everyone to meet, set reasonable standards of availability and politely decline meetings that aren’t absolutely necessary outside of these hours.

      EMDESK’s built-in communication tools help members of your consortium eliminate the stress of checking for communications in multiple locations and being notified about irrelevant tasks. The groups feature of EMDESK allows you to communicate and share with only the people necessary, regardless of their location.

      3. Get up, move, and remember to drink water

        Make getting up a part of your schedule. Set timers if necessary and every hour get up and take a small break from your screen and your desk. Stand up and stretch, walk to the kitchen and get some water. If you have a phone call that doesn’t require you to be at your computer, leave it. Grab a notebook, pen, your planner and walk while you talk.

        How much water did you have this week? Most people don’t get enough, and your brain and body need it to keep yourself physically and mentally fit. Get an app or write it in your schedule to make sure you get your eight cups per day.

        Small amounts of daily exercise and getting enough liquids can have a major impact on your overall physical and mental health. Here’s a list of our favorite YouTube to get you in shape and prevent neck and back pain at your workstation:

        4. Make time to socialize

        As social creatures, humans need social interaction. This need doesn’t go away just because deadlines are looming. It’s vital to your overall mental health that you have enough social interaction that’s not always about work. Set five minutes before or after meetings to chat and have conversations with your fellow collaborators. Small talk will turn into real talk over time and the connections you make on this project can lead to considerations for future collaborations on H2020 projects.

        Schedule a virtual coffee time for 15 minutes once a week so people can get to know each other a bit better and share a few laughs. By doing this regularly, people will stop being awkward and be more willing to talk.

        Take lunch or a break with friends or colleagues whenever possible to lift your spirits so you can come back to your EU projects with a fresh perspective.

        5. Let a cloud based project management tool like EMDESK make remote collaboration effortless so your team can focus on their research.

        One of the biggest stress factors for people managing Horizon 2020 projects is keeping track of upcoming deadlines and small details like who’s working on what and where people are in regards to meeting these deadlines. It can also be stressful to keep track of communications and documentation when these are spread out over multiple systems. EMDESK features relieve this stress by allowing you to track and see all upcoming deadlines and the progress that’s been made at a glance. Save time and relieve stress by having a central hub for communication, storing and sharing information, reporting and consumption, and schedule management, such as due dates and responsibilities with EMDESK. Stop making team members search for the correct version of documents and being endlessly notified with irrelevant emails. By consolidating your project into a single cloud based tool that operates in real-time with varying access rights and notification settings, you’ll be able to keep everyone up-to-date with the best information on only what’s relevant to them.

        This article is written by Stefan Detschew, Chief Technology Officer at EMDESK.

        Recorded webinar: Efficient remote management in Horizon 2020

        In this special one-hour webinar on the occasion of the current Covid19 crisis we give valuable hands on tips for efficient remote project management in EU funded projects, incl. H2020.

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