Product teams deliver value through collaborating to solve problems. Even if a remote-first approach isn’t the primary goal, for most high-performance product teams, some combination of co-located and remote team members is the future.
We’ve mostly gotten comfortable with working remotely, but many remote product teams’ strategies lack in at least one area of collaboration. Here are seven practical tips to make remote work work for your product team.
7 collaboration tips for remote product teams
1. Select the right remote tech tools
Synchronizing conversations and productivity progress is critical to remote work. And email is the worst channel for effective communication for almost everything outside of general announcements that can be digested at the reader’s pace.
Building a robust tech stack no longer requires expensive hardware and bandwidth. Connect with all product teammates (and even cross-collaborate with other teams you work closely with) to understand how they are most productive personally. Based on what you learn, spend time selecting the tools that belong in your tech stack to allow team members to thrive. Whether you decide on Basecamp, Google Slides, Figma, Apptentive, Sketch, Dropbox, Zoom, or myriad other tools, there are plenty of ways to keep your remote tech stack lightweight and effective.
2. Create a shareable research hub
Take a page out of the Gap Inc. consumer insights team’s book and create a large research hub to share data across departments. When you’re no longer working in close proximity to other departments—or even people—you need to find new ways to share information with large groups of people at once.
Creating a research hub or one central place to put all of your consumer insights and customer data will make this easier for everyone to collaborate and put customer needs first.
3. Adopt routines and rituals
“Routine” means something different to every product management team. Daily standups, weekly demos, monthly all-hands meetings, quarterly in-person retreats, or annual team summits—these are all forms of ritual and routine that help keep remote teams on track and connected to their goals and to each other.
Whatever your cadence, ritualizing gathering together is essential and shows that collaborating is a priority. When enacting a new routine, ensure you set attendance and participation expectations ahead of time so everyone is adequately prepared and the time together is valuable.
4. Rely on visuals
When working remotely and entirely online, it can be difficult to explain complex concepts through Zoom or Slack. Whiteboards are super popular in offices for a reason; sometimes we just need to draw things out for them to make sense. Keep this in mind when talking with your team and leadership remotely.
Would you have shown what you’re presenting in a visual way if you were all in a boardroom together? If the answer is yes, you’ll need to develop creative solutions for replicating visuals online. Some programs will let you sketch live while screen sharing on Zoom, or maybe purchase a large whiteboard for your home office. Whatever you come up with, try to remember that some people are visual learners and really need visual aids to understand and retain complex systems or concepts.
5. “See” each other regularly
Video is a useful substitute for in-person collaboration. And we don’t just mean video conferencing—video fatigue is real and not every meeting requires two-way cameras. Lean on recorded visual explanations, drawings, and flows in order to make your message more personal, even when it’s asynchronously created.
At Apptentive, we like to use the Zoom app to record audio and video in order to share visual explanations even when they aren’t tied to meetings. We can also easily pull transcriptions when necessary. This method adds attention to detail, clarity, and signals our dedication to ensuring our teams are on the same page.
6. Over communicate
In order to really thrive while working remotely, you need to be an excellent communicator. In many instances, this means learning how to effectively over communicate.
When there are so many digital channels (and distractions), it can be easy for people to be sidetracked, ignore you, forget things, etc. Flex your project management skills and send meeting recaps, clearly outline action items, give project status updates, and ask questions. With remote work, there’s no such thing as touching base too frequently.
7. Celebrate wins
When we don’t celebrate, we can’t exhale, step back, and prepare for our next big climb. This is made more challenging without team happy hours and events to set dedicated time aside to pause and be together. When you and your team are all working remotely, find ways to come together online in a non-working capacity to celebrate successes.
Get a super high response rate on a new in-app survey? Increase mobile customer NPS? Get more people signed up for your mobile loyalty program than you anticipated for the last quarter? These are all things you should be celebrating! Regardless of your KPIs, there’s always a reason to give thanks and show your team gratitude. This boosts morale which then boosts productivity. It’s a win-win!
Remote work can be an obstacle to progress, but it can also be a massive opportunity for hiring world-class talent, increasing productivity through autonomy, improving employee happiness, and evolving company culture. Approach it the right way so your remote product teams can have a chance at fulfillment and success.