This week’s Product Talk addresses a topic every single company in the world had to reckon with in 2020; working in distributed teams. With a full career of experience working remotely, Cassiopeia CEO Shiran Yaroslavsky shares invaluable insights on how to excel in our new remote office environments. In her own words:

“With the shift to remote work, there is a gap that is created. At Cassiopeia, we help product leaders close that gap by providing them visibility into team dynamics, helping them to stop issues in a timely manner.”

“When I’m talking to leaders these days, they all describe the same thing. When the shift to remote work happens, managers are working with a smaller data set. You don’t have all the small data points you used to have in the office, like seeing the way people engage with whom they’re drinking coffee with or simply people smiling during the day.” 

Tips for building distributed teams from inception

Now that we’re a year into the pandemic, companies can no longer operate as if there will be a quick return to the pre-covid norms. That means it’s time to develop new norms, ones that work across all verticals in business. Naturally, the first step is hiring and building the best team for the job. Shiran shares how product leaders can ensure successful remote onboarding.

“Hiring remote employees is extremely challenging. Here are three tips that I find really helpful. First, is to make sure that you hire very good communicators, to be a good communicator is really important, especially when working with distributed teams.”

“Second, use a buddy system when you are onboarding employees remotely. And I can share something from our data. Data from the last six months show that remote employees are between 50-70% less active in public slack channels, and participate in 30-40% less meetings. It’s definitely harder in the beginning and the first few months are all about the small details. You have all these small questions, technical questions, and it’s not comfortable to just ping your boss on slack every time you have one. A buddy system can really help new employees with all these small questions.

Tips for product managers joining remote teams

Of course, it’s not just management that has to adjust to the new virtual offices. Approaching the topic from both angles, Shiran dives into how product managers can succeed when joining a new remote team.

“Be very intentional about the different stakeholders. As a product manager, when you are onboarded, you need to recognize who the main stakeholders are that you need to be in touch with. You need to build those relationships to be successful.”

“When we work in offices, you get to engage very spontaneously. Those small engagements really help do the job as product managers. Operating remotely, however, we don’t have that so we need to be much more intentional about how we build our relationships with stakeholders. My recommendation; be very mindful about it. Set up more one on one meetings with development managers, or check-in at lunchtime together.”

On building company culture remotely

Once you have the team built and running, the big question remains; how do you replicate office culture? To be fair, an exact remake is impossible, but Shiran says there are still ways to ignite excitement around the job and align team members on company visions.

“First, you need to over-communicate all the time. Remote product teams work synchronously but we’re not in the same space, sometimes not even the same time zone. So, just write more, say more, that way everyone can be more in line.”

“My second thought is really about one of the most crucial roles of product leader. You have to get people excited about the product, the vision, and their corporate purpose. And be creative. Write it in an email or slack message, but also announce it at department meetings. Take a few minutes to speak about a new feature, send a cool short video or recording with a really great subject line. When working in distributed teams you have to find those creative ways to communicate what you’re doing and to get people excited about it.”

About the host
Patrick Blute Transfix, Director of Brand and Sustainability

I am the Director of Brand & Sustainability for Transfix, a leading transportation solutions provider, combining tech and a best-in-class carrier network to reshape the future of freight. I am also a host for Product Talk helping bring product leaders together to answer the question: "What makes a great product?"

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