The Ultimate Guide to Managing Remote Teams For First-Time Product Owners

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Almost half of the population in the UK worked from home in some capacity during the pandemic, and many are continuing this trend. Statistics show that 36 percent of the adults are still working from home, at least part of the time. 

The change in the working practice means that we can see the business world expand. Businesses no longer have to be content with hiring employees who can travel to their location. They can hire the best people even if that entails broadening horizons and venturing into the remote market.

However, it can be challenging if you’re the new product owner and outsourcing an offshore team for the first time. You may feel how to deal with this situation. How can you be sure your team is completing their tasks? How do you fulfill your responsibilities and motivate your remote team members?

Although it is preferable to establish clear remote-work policies, in times of crisis, this level of preparation may not be feasible. Fortunately, there are specific researches managers can take to improve the engagement and productivity of their remote team.


Issues product owners face when managing a remote team

Some of the worries and potential issues you may face when managing a remote team are as follows:

  • Managers worry that employees won’t work efficiently 
  • Unable to motivate a dispersed team
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of team cohesiveness
  • Barriers to effective communication
  • Hard to  measure productivity levels
  • Difficulty establishing a company culture

How can you effectively manage your remote team?

As a product owner, you will act as a liaison between various parts of a business. You can collaborate closely with Scrum teams and communicate with business stakeholders, keeping all areas of the project informed on the development of any product by maintaining product management documents. development of any product.

Although managing an offshore agile team can be challenging as you can’t see what your team is doing. However, don’t let your concerns trick you into thinking remote teams cannot be as efficient as your in-house team. Succeeding with a remote team is simply about adapting your management style and techniques accordingly. Here are some of the inexpensive things that product managers can do to ease the transition for those who opt to work from home.

Set up a communication plan

The primary reason why it is hard to manage a dedicated development team is a lack of communication. Communication is hampered when people are not present in the same place. To avoid this is important to find which communication ways your remote workers prefer. Some of them may prefer calling landline phone service providers, while others prefer to text via messaging apps.  Additionally, time differences and potential language barriers also act as a matter of concern during remote working. But it doesn’t have to be with the right plan in place.

Setting up a plan for your communications is the key. It should cover:

  • what the team needs to communicate
  • how it is going to be communicated
  • who requires the information
  • when the information is needed
  • what happens if there is a communication breakdown

With a CTO cheatsheet handy, every team member will know their responsibilities. It will enable them to communicate quickly in a better way.  

Selecting the correct communication, and giving a clear distribution of work is vital. Remember, you do not need to have a video meeting or phone call whenever something needs to be communicated. Instant messenger or slack is ideal for quick updates.

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Respect cultural differences

The way people work in the UK is different from other parts of Europe and the rest of the world. You cannot expect everyone to adopt the same working style.  As a product owner, it is essential to respect cultural differences. These differences may seem minor on the surface but can make a large difference to a fully remote team working together and trusting each other. 

It is also essential to ensure that public holidays and religious observances are respected. It can be frustrating when some countries have holidays in different time zones, but you need to plan the situation so that no one feels guilty or pressured into missing their holidays in their home country.

Read Also: Hiring Remote Developers For Your SaaS Development


Find a way to track productivity without micro-managing 

Tracking productivity can be challenging when managing a remote team, and an in-house team because you cannot watch over someone’s shoulder.

You need updates on what your team is working on and where the work has progressed. You can use time tracker software to keep track of the progress and productivity of your team. Nevertheless, you don’t want to be overbearing, micromanage, or give the impression that you do not trust your team. 

Therefore, it is essential to set clear instructions and create a friendly environment. It will help your team members to connect with you in case they’re struggling with a deadline or have fallen behind on a task.

Also, make sure you have a solution in place to track the progress of the project. People should be able to collaborate with ease and provide you with regular updates. The benefit of a daily meeting is that it shows each member of a project team the overall progress of the work.

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Keep everything backed up

Imagine the scene- you’re furiously typing, you’ve various spreadsheets open, Skype is in full swing, your Scrum software is running, and suddenly your computer dies. 

If you’re lucky, your system will start working after some time. You may have only lost a couple of working hours. Or you may lose a few days of work if you have not backed up your data.

Keep momentum going 

One of the biggest challenges is keeping the momentum going on any task or project. Without face-to-face interaction, it is difficult to create an uplifting and inspiring atmosphere. 

Creating interactions between the remote teams is essential. Connect with each remote team member to clarify your objectives and expectations. It helps to prevent social isolation while making everyone feel part of the team, regardless of the location. Managers need to acknowledge stress, listen to employees’ anxieties and concerns, and empathize with their struggles.

Not only communicate with your remote team to find the status of the project but also ask about their work-related and other problems. A personal touch will enable you to connect with your team easily. Besides, set realistic expectations and make sure your team is equipped with the best tools. Additionally, you can provide your remote team with online coaching sessions that will allow them to improve their performance and advance their professional development.

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Key takeaways

  • Strong communication will help you win half the battle
  • Respect cultural differences and understand even tiny things matter
  • Track productivity in an effective and seamless manner
  • Try to keep momentum levels high
  • Keep back up of all of your data

Managing your remote development team doesn’t mean a headache.

As a product owner, you are responsible for the project’s outcome. While the pathway to managing a remote development team may be a little different, the outcome is the same. Your core principles are consistent, i.e., clear expectations, communication, and team cohesiveness. You simply need to adapt and overcome these challenges. Let us know in the comments your tips for managing your remote employees.

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Topics : Remote Teams, remote developers

Paul Naybour

Written by Paul Naybour

Paul Naybour is the Business Development Director for Parallel Project Training. He is a well-known speaker on the Association for Project Management (APM) Network in the UK and a regular contributor to the APM blog. He is also one of the voices behind the popular series of APM podcasts. He has contributed insightful thought leadership articles to a range of publications for more than 10 years.

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