The Struggles Of Remote Work For Product Management In 2020

There is a new world, where more and more remote work is being offered to efficient and experienced personnel. The big question is – Can product management be done remotely in 2020?

COVID-19 has forced many organizations to resume work online and remotely. But product management requires visual monitoring and supervision; is it possible to take the same remotely?

The answer is yes. There are various struggles and challenges attached to remote work on product management, and the managers are suffering immensely due to the global turmoil, but there is no way out as of now.

So, it is recommended for the product managers to make the most of it. And thus, a product manager must identify and work on challenges that affect their productivity.

Challenges In Remote Product Management

Creating a remote product team is not a challenge. All you need is to hire experienced employees from all over the world.


It’s sensible to tap into the pool of global talent, as engineers are savvy enough to work on the available tools and don’t need to belong to the same place. Managing these teams, though, is a bigger challenge.

Product managers may face several issues while managing a product team like:

1. Mutual Lack Of Trust, Unrealistic Expectations, And Underperforming Programs

The product manager’s job is to convince everyone and maintain a level of trust among the team members.

Managers would need to align themselves with the customer service team, product development product designers, marketing and sales team, and the company’s management.

IT workloads have increased by 37%, and despite employees giving their best at work, product managers may still feel it is not good enough. High expectations and unrealistic targets make matters worse.

Employees find it difficult to maintain an equilibrium between scope, cost, and time of the task given.

2. Align Stakeholders And Assessment Of Team Fits And Qualifications

Defragmenting collaboration is a major issue. When the product manager has not met their team in person, it becomes difficult to analyze the workforce’s skillset.

Capabilities, communication skills, product knowledge, and basic attitude and confidence cannot be judged over video conferences.

So, to align stakeholders according to caliber may be a difficult task for the product manager.

3. Varying Time Zones

The team members cannot meet in person due to varying time zones. When working in a collaborative environment on site, it helps in formal and informal meetings, casual breaks.

But digital conferencing can jilt the conversation. There could be technical issues to hamper communication further. The entire process may lead to wastage of time and effort from the team.

For example, there are 6 varying time zones in the US alone. It becomes difficult to begin and quit work, arrange meetings, and virtually connect with the entire team according to various time zones.

4. Mood Swings Of The Leaders

Lockdown has pressurized the best of managers, and a sight issue can overwhelm the boss, inviting an over-the-top reaction that can ruin an employee’s whole productive day.

When you are not meeting in person, it becomes difficult to explain your position. Sometimes, agitation and anxiety due to certain failures take over, bringing the worst out of managers.

5. Maintaining Team Morale 

There is no close bond maintained between the leader and their team or even among team members. This could be due to distance and disengagement.

People with lower emotional quotient will have more trouble dealing with workplace issues and suffer hugely; in such cases, demotivation and low morale tend to seep in easily.

Video calls, non-verbal cues, and messages are not of much help, and every employee has their own little island.

6. Sluggish Productivity

While working in a live environment, employees can have team meetings and consult with each other or their managers for a quick question, but the same can cause a much longer time to resolve in remote teams.

The radio silence is quite demoralizing and can hamper productivity. Product management slows down, and it isn’t easy to work collaboratively.

7. Insufficient Knowledge Transfers

A comprehensive understanding of the product is beneficial for a team member’s productive working. For example, an architect needs to learn about the design before starting, although that’s a different arena.

Unfortunately, in a remote product team, this comprehensive sharing of knowledge is unavailable, as so many interactions with various departments of the same firm are not possible.

8. Process Blindness

When the manager is not present physically, the process that is followed or the distractions the employee goes through are not visible to the product manager.

There is no way that the manager can expedite the process or get the most out of the employee. They cannot monitor or supervise the process; all they get is the result.

9. Communication Breakdowns

There could be several technical issues arising in a virtual meeting that disrupt the working of the team.

Communication interruptions instill frustration and agitation in other team members. It also leads to casual behavior towards these meetings, and the employees don’t take such gatherings seriously.

10. Hiring The Right Employees

Many people are very good at completing work when being supervised by the product manager, but they lack the competency of working individually.

Some employees cannot maintain the necessary discipline, quality of work, technical ability, and work ethics. One person’s ineffectiveness can erode the morale of the entire team, and the product can suffer.

Solutions Offered To Successfully Implement Remote Product Management

The challenges of remote product management are many, but there is always a resolution to these roadblocks. Here are some handy tips for a product management team to follow:

  • Follow the CALM rule:
  1. C -Communicate effectively
  2. A – Anticipate and tackle problems accordingly
  3. L – Levity and humor to diffuse difficult behavior
  4. M – Manage toxic behavior and product operations
  • Use a suite of effective digital communication skills.
  • Share as much information as possible and make team collaboration effective.
  • Consider upskilling with a product owner certification for more ways to handle the new normal.
  • Centralize the team’s knowledge base and keep it updated.
  • Be proactive, self-regulating, willing to over-communicate, easy-going, and capable of apt decision making and problem-solving.

In Closing

It is predicted that a few years down the line, 73% of the entire workforce will be working remotely, including product management.

The good news is that companies that offer remote work opportunities also have a 25% less employee turnover ratio.

Life does not stop because of a pandemic; better techniques and updated technology can make the effective working of product management and industrial operations possible.


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