Remote Collaboration in Product Design

Remote working has reshaped product design. As the Head of Product Design at a remote-first SAAS company, I’ve seen firsthand the ups and downs of remote collaboration. Despite some challenges, the benefits are clear, and I wouldn’t want to go back to a traditional office setup.

Remote collaboration broadens our horizons. With colleagues from Honolulu to Ho Chi Minh, every team conversation is a mix of different cultural ideas and working styles. This diversity helps us create products that appeal to people worldwide.

Of course transitioning to a remote setup isn’t without its issues. Less face-to-face interaction can sometimes make personal connections harder to build. Individuals can feel isolated from the team or wider company. Collaborative interactions can feel painfully slow. It’s sometimes difficult to close the loop in design conversations.

Here are some of my suggestions on how to tackle these issues, and how to generally make remote collaboration work well in a product design team:

Opt for Async Communication

Choose asynchronous communication whenever you can. It cuts down on interruptions and lets everyone work at their own pace.

When you send messages, keep them short and to the point but clear. Remember, it’s not about writing essays.

And don’t just stick to text; mix it up with audio or video messages. For more detailed discussions, a video with screen sharing can do wonders. Save emails for formal communication or meeting logistics.

Have Fun as a Team

Set aside some time for fun team activities. It could be a virtual scavenger hunt, a game session, or a social (no work talk!) team catchup. These light-hearted moments help build a stronger bond among team members, increasing trust and making work more enjoyable.

Go Beyond Text Feedback

When sharing or reviewing designs, don’t just leave comments in Figma or send over files. Record a short video clip where you share your screen and walk through your feedback. It creates a personal touch, adds context, and clarifies things for the recipient.

Be Mindful of Time Zones

Respect people’s time zones when scheduling meetings. But also be willing to accommodate an early or late evening meeting once in a while, if it helps the team. And take that time back later. The beauty of remote work is its flexibility — so be flexible on your own terms, making collaboration smoother and more enjoyable.

Keep Communication Open

A culture where everyone is heard is essential. Regular check-ins, constructive feedback, and open discussions create a trustful and respectful environment.

Don’t Forget the Human Touch

Even in a digital world, celebrating team wins, understanding individual challenges, and respecting personal time are important.

Stay Curious

A culture of exploration and learning keeps teamwork fresh and exciting.

Find the Right Balance

Remote work is flexible, but having a structured approach to projects helps channel creativity towards achieving meaningful results.

In the end, remote collaboration is still a new and evolving practice. Many companies are just scratching the surface of what’s possible when teams collaborate across borders.

Embrace that change, explore the possibilities, and use remote collaboration to your advantage.