Most of the tech companies including Google, Amazon and Facebook have extended their work from home policy for the remainder of 2020.
We all know that product managers are responsible for the success of the entire project which means meeting with multiple stakeholders from engineering, legal, business teams, and marketing. There are numerous meetings for setting strategy, roadmap, and feature definitions. There are also a lot of one on one’s chats and impromptu meetings where I would sit with the engineering lead, other product managers or the marketing head for discussing some issues or brainstorming ideas.
As a PM, I really miss these impromptu meetings or hallway conversations the most. How do you work around this issue and be effective with working from home?
Strategy 1: Keep you daily routine
The number one strategy is to keep up with your daily routine and not change your schedule dramatically. Practice effective meetings to get the most out of your meetings. Read my blog on the nine tips to conduct effective meetings to know more. Enable video conferencing, in your meetings, at least for the first few times to get people comfortable about virtual face to face meetings.
Strategy 2: Active communication
Be very active on your slack channels and be prompt in responding to any questions or issues right away, For example, let’s say that one of the Q&A leads has an issue where he needs to create a set of tests for a new feature. He sends a slack message in your product group asking for product flow and overview. In earlier work from office instance, you could just pull both the QA lead and the architect for a quick coffee meeting and do a quick overview of the features.
In these WFH times, I would be more proactive. I would not just message the architect or the lead developer and connect them with the QA lead. Instead, I would schedule a quick meeting for the architect to walkthrough the product feature and also invite other stakeholders (as optional invitees) to the meeting.
Strategy 3: Maintain good relationship with your team
As a PM, having a good relationship with different stakeholders is very critical. In the office environment, it’s easy to maintain friendly working relationships with casual chats, coffee meetings, and hallway conversations.
The hard part of working remotely is maintaining these relationships. There is a big possibility that you meet with stakeholders only for critical meetings and the casual chats get cut off. It’s critical that you establish and maintain these are relationships by scheduling regular 1:1 not just to talk about work but also to catch up with the team on a personal basis.
I usually post some jokes on the slack channel or start a meeting with some personal topics such as the remodeling work I am doing on weekends or meeting the disasters I had. These topics help create a relaxed atmosphere before the start of meetings.
Another interesting idea is to have virtual happy hours as another way for the teams to connect and create camaraderie. You can also block the calendar from 3 pm to 5 pm on Fridays to schedule a virtual happy hour for your team.
Strategy 4: Recognize the team for good work
As a product manager, you have to recognize people for their good work. Recognition is more critical during remote working times. I am prompt in sending a recognition email, giving them a gift card, or use any other approved form of recognition and I do that more than usual. This is my way to ensure that the team feels valued for the work they are doing now.
Also, be less critical or judgmental opinions and be more empathetic during these hard times. There are several people struggling with juggling work, and taking care of kids at the same time. Real empathy goes a long way in creating a great team.
Strategy 5: Take care of your mental and physical health
As a PM you’re already stretched thin managing multiple tasks and stakeholders and working from home complicates your whole schedule. Take a conscientious effort to take care of your health. Ensure that you are eating right and create a workout schedule. Use meditation apps such as headspace to maintain your mental health. Also, ensure that you have strict boundaries between work and home and balance those schedules.
Remote working is hard but adopting the strategies listed here should help alleviate some of the pain and also help you be more productive.