The Hybrid PM Playbook: The Great PM Debate

Hey there! You’re reading Chapter 4 of The Hybrid Product Management Playbook: The Great PM Debate. Check out the rest of the playbook right here:

The Hybrid PM Playbook: Introduction
The Hybrid PM Playbook: Thoughts for People
The Hybrid PM Playbook: Tips for Leaders
The Hybrid PM Playbook: Insights for Tomorrow
The Hybrid PM Playbook: The Great PM Debate

To round off our month of discussing all things hybrid Product Management, we invited product leaders with different perspectives to hold a debate over on Clubhouse.

Moderated by Nicolas Lin, Senior Product Manager at PayPal. Joined by Stephanie Neill, VP of Product at Amazon, Nakul Gupta, Product Leader at Coinbase, and Makram Mansour, Product Lead at LinkedIn.

The Hybrid Debate Team

Nicolas: Let’s dive into whatever you guys have learned regarding pros and cons of the remote working model.

Stephanie: Some pros that jumped to mind would definitely be that you’re no longer spending time on the commute. Having the comfort of your own home and having just more time to be present at work.Some of the cons…you know, we no longer have in-person connection, so celebrations or recognition in general is just so much harder. The lack of hallway conversations actually is probably the biggest negative impact. It takes so much longer to share context, to get up to speed, to [maintain] comradery, which used to be super easy. You know, you do an over the water cooler or whatever.

So those are the things that jumped out. Oh, and then another major con that I would call out is that now our days are just wall to wall meetings and zoom fatigue. It is a real thing and it affects us physically and mentally. It just feels like we can’t get enough time with each other. So it’s like static throughout the day and that affects us.

Nakul: I think one of the biggest pros is that you can spend time on things that you couldn’t when you were so heads down and office based. So I started actually writing more on my Substack, Cryptechie.

I think the other pro is that you just value connections a lot more now, versus what you did earlier, because you took them for granted. So now you actually do take special time out to meet people in the city otherwise, you know, we’ll just end up meeting in an office. 

In terms of cons I would say, for me, the biggest one continues to be missing those water cooler conversations and knowing people that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Makram: In addition to all the great pros you mentioned, vacation and the summer can be really awesome without compromising on your work. Before, we would take two weeks vacation. If we want to stretch it three, four weeks, you’re really pushing it. But now you can really take advantage. This summer, fortunately I have a lake house and it was really awesome because I could work remotely, finish my work and in the evening go and swim in the lake. So spending the time with the family, enjoying your summer while still keeping up with your work.

Nicolas: Next question will actually tie to the focus of what we want to discuss today. Can you guys share three things that you see coming from your companies that really effectively address the remote work challenge that we have now?

Makul: This has been phenomenal, the way we’ve helped our employees, especially like most of them have not known each other. They all onboarded separately. So the first thing I would say is events. I’m actually going to a pasta making class today, we had a magician at an event a couple of months back. So I think just getting all those events and things that can bind people together in a way as much as possible.

Makram: The first few months of COVID was a really amazing learning experience. And we have learned at LinkedIn to get the inputs from real time employees in terms of how they’re feeling, what are the issues they’re facing. It was really amazing then how we quickly adapted.

At the start, work fatigue was hitting everybody. Everybody in a wakes up, starts their work and them Zooom Zoom Zoom like crazy. And then we’re not having proper lunch breaks, and all of that. So quickly, what the company did was send out a calendar to everyone with time blocked out. We were saying to people, lunch is lunch so try not to work through it, and take rest stops, have fun, and know that you’re not working right now. 

And then we started trying to take advantage of online events to really keep that relationship building happening. We realized that, Hey, we’re not having these relationships. We’re just meeting for work, work, work. And so being conscious again and communicating with eachother…and when new team members joined, we made sure to celebrate, to talk about what’s not on their LinkedIn profile, making sure to have that time available, being conscious of that.

Stephanie: It sounds like a lot of the same strategies and tactics have been deployed across our companies. We have a survey, which we do twice a year, but our office started to supplement that, especially at the beginning of the pandemic where they would send out surveys asking ‘how are you feeling, what’s your wellbeing? How are you getting by and what would be your preference on how to work?’

So they were really doing a lot of research, and then trying to hear and understand. As a result, we have a Twitch wide 12-2:00 PM time block where you can’t have group meetings. You can obviously easily get to another person one-to-one if that’s your choice, but you were not allowed to have group meetings.

Within my specific team, we actually like will shame people if we start to see group invites during that time. We tried to normalize the fact that like, that really is a block. And then also something that we experimented with a bit, and it was super popular, every other Friday is a no meeting day. So that people can just get some actual heads down time. Because in functions like product management, you’re just always talking to people. So that’s been a terrific help.

Twitch also sends out packages, which is just the most touching and wonderful thing. It’s the most wonderful surprise, and it really just kind of makes your whole month when you receive one, Like last summer it was spices and a cookbook, like a teach-yourself cookbook. It was pretty impressive. And then other times it’s like plants that you can grow and homemade cookies. There’s just something special about just being like, wow, what’s this in the mail?

And then there’s also a social calendar. To Nakul’s point about various classes, I know we have like multiple times a week, like yoga sessions that you can do remotely, and various other classes. And then lastly, we also have these things called guilds, which are groups for people of like-minded experience. So we have like the Women+ guild, we have the LGBTQ+ guild, we have the Black guild, and others. Each of those have their own strategies, support, and activities.

Final thoughts: The Future of Hybrid Product Management

So now we’ve come to the end of our Hybrid PM Playbook. We’ve learned so much from our community and our top Product Leaders about the challenges and benefits of hybrid, and it’s certainly been a journey!

The future of hybrid, at the end of the day, isn’t for the average Product Manager to decide. It’s also not for the HR Manager to decide, nor is it up to the CEO. It’s not even up to the biggest names in the tech industry. Hybrid work isn’t a ‘this or that’ situation. We’ve seen that it’s built up of a thousand tiny decisions, details, and considerations. And that means that the future of Hybrid Product Management belongs to everyone taking part in it.

The key to building this future in the right way is to make careful decisions based on the right things. For the Product world, that means building the right thing, in the right time, in the right way, and enjoying the journey on the way there.

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