What Can Product Companies Learn from the Shift to Remote and Hybrid Work?

October 27, 2021

According to a recent survey from Gartner, 82% of company leaders plan to allow their employees to work remotely following the pandemic, including 47% who said they would let them go fully remote. With figures that high, the writing on the wall is clear: the world of work is changing.

But what does this radical shift to remote and hybrid work spell for product development? And how does applying a Product Thinking approach help turn the current uncertainty into opportunity? In this article, we break down a few of the ways ambitious product companies can benefit from this brave new world.

1. Accelerated Product Development

One of the benefits of remote work is that you can hire your employees from virtually anywhere around the world—with the sole focus of hiring the right people who will help you build better products. And with a workforce distributed across multiple time zones, product managers can theoretically put continuous, 24-hour development in play: as the New York team shuts down, it passes the baton to Bangalore or Shenzhen. That means you can effectively double the speed at which you develop products—outpacing competitors in the process.

2. Improved Tech Savvy

Let’s be honest: there’s a learning curve to managing hybrid workforces—especially if they’re distributed internationally across multiple locations and “asynchronously” across multiple time zones. Fortunately, we now have an increasingly sophisticated suite of technology solutions to help teams bridge the gap, from communications tools like Slack and Zoom to project management software like Asana and even collaborative design platforms like Figma and Miro. By embracing these tools rather than sticking to old in-person methods, companies can better manage the new world of remote and hybrid work and level up their tech skills in the process—a core competency for any ambitious product company.

3. Reduced Costs

The shift to remote work means you get to downsize the expensive square footage you lease—but that’s not all. It also enables you to source affordable talent from virtually anywhere in the world (see point #1). Savvy product managers can work with HR professionals and staffing teams to hire the best talent per function (engineering, research, design, product strategy/management) at the most competitive global rates. 

There are more cost savers too. According to Global Workplace Analytics, businesses lose roughly $600 billion a year to workplace distractions. 

4. Talent Attraction and Retention

According to a recent FlexJobs survey, 65% of respondents want to work remotely full-time after the pandemic, while 31% would like at least a hybrid arrangement. So when it comes to hiring—and keeping—the best talent, offering a remote or hybrid model is the way to go.

5. Staff Up or Down As Needed

We’re not talking about hiring and firing full-time employees willy-nilly—we’re talking about building a complementary network of contractors to hire as your needs ebb and flow. Complementing your core team with a stable of freelancers and part-time workers is a great way to reduce overstaffing redundancies and “bench time” while keeping team utilization high.

6. Widen Your Talent Pool

We touched on hiring the best global talent in the context of reducing costs (#3), but improving your talent baseline is about more than just savings. As employers struggle through the present labour shortage, it’s a huge relief to recruiters to know they can look beyond city and even national boundaries to find the right person for the job.

This point goes beyond geographies, too. By embracing remote work, you open the doors to new parents, seniors, people with disabilities, etc.—people who either aren’t willing or able to commute in person, yet who want to work part- or full-time provided the opportunity. That opportunity can come from you.

7. Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Remote work means less commuting. Sun Microsystems’ Open Work Program, which permitted 24,000 U.S. employees to work from home, prevented the release of 32,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the environment that year.

8. 24-Hour Customer Service

Coming full circle, one day it could be possible to have a workforce spanning multiple time zones, which doesn’t just allow you to develop and refine products more quickly, it also allows you to provide always-on service to your customers, improving response times and customer satisfaction. The move to more remote working models is only in its infancy, but as we begin to imagine future possibilities like this one could meaningfully impact the product development process. 

Conclusion

For product companies hoping to take advantage of hybrid working models long term, there are no shortage of opportunities to gain a competitive edge. From round-the-clock product development to improved digital savvy company-wide, the new world of work is ripe for the taking.

How do you plan to evolve your product development systems, processes and outputs in the wake of the new remote work paradigm? Get in touch and let us know your thoughts.

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