Product teams in the age of New Work

Guest contribution by | 04.09.2023

Reconciling private situations and professional duties in product teams

The brave new world of work offers a number of advantages for desk jockeys and laptop heroes. We save ourselves the commute to work, have more time for the household on the side and it is also much easier to reconcile work with family and hobbies. But can the cooperation in a product team that is jointly responsible for the development and marketing of their product also succeed from the home or mobile office? What challenges does the remote working world and the New Work concept bring?

As a product manager, project manager or executive, you depend on interpersonal exchange. But the spatial and often temporal separation means that informal conversations at the coffee machine, at lunch and (after the meeting) in the hallway are no longer possible.

Product managers in particular work with different people inside and outside their own organisations. Many business trips are not always possible in terms of time or finances, and some are not necessary. From this perspective, the possibilities of digital collaboration are a real benefit.

In addition, more and more younger people from Generation Z are entering the labour market. For them, just as for the somewhat older Generation Y, work-life balance and the pursuit of personal dreams and goals play a special role. Corresponding opportunities to work independently of time and place are almost a hygiene factor for them when choosing an employer.

New work and digital collaboration are now part of the normal working day for product teams. Since this brings not only opportunities but also challenges for everyone in the team, I would like to raise awareness of some of them in this article and provide a few impulses for dealing with them.

What opportunities does digitalisation offer for product teams?

Product teams work creatively. Ideally, product managers spend a lot of time in the market with customers and users. In this way, they gain new insights into their product market. This information must be processed and analysed in depth. This process requires focus and concentration. Inspiration and ideas for further development or the next marketing campaign for the product rarely arise in a musty meeting room. As a rule, this happens in creative phases of relaxation. Developers and designers also solve complex problems that require interaction and exchange as well as quiet phases of reflection and letting thoughts wander. Sometimes a walk through the city or a jog through the park helps to clear the mind for creative flow. Thanks to the possibilities of New Work, product teams can organise their working hours flexibly and give free rein to their productivity.

I have already mentioned the importance of work-life balance. Product teams in particular experience times when they are under a lot of pressure. There are deadlines, launch dates or stressful trade fair times when the team does not look at the time clock to deliver on time. There should be opportunities to compensate for these times. Flexibility in the job is not a one-way street and an important basic principle of New Work.

Parents also want flexibility in the organisation of their working hours in order to be able to combine their family life with work in the team and on the product. Orientation towards the result instead of forced presence in the office enables parents and carers to reconcile their care and gainful employment.

Thanks to digital tools and platforms, collaboration within the team and with external partners around the world is simplified. Workshops and the exchange of knowledge and ideas can also take place without a physical presence. This makes the work of product managers, project managers and executives much more efficient and effective.

What challenges do product teams face when working together regardless of location and time?

First of all, all team members have to familiarise themselves with the digital tools and platforms and develop their (communication) skills accordingly in order to be able to work together effectively. In location- and time-independent collaboration, communication and interaction with the team is different from face-to-face collaboration. Product managers, project leaders and executives should make sure that the team dynamic is maintained despite the physical distance.

New Work eliminates a large part of the important informal conversations. This is where team members learn about things that are not going well at the moment, about conflicts that are better resolved quickly, about projects with synergy effects or simply about personal matters from their colleagues. Physical presence and visibility create mutual trust and thus the basis for open and transparent communication. This means that product managers, project leaders and executives must learn to lead their teams virtually and to motivate them, even if not all of them are physically present. Clear, common objectives and regular feedback are particularly important here.

This also applies to the induction and onboarding of new team members, which is made more difficult by remote working. Personal exchange and learning from experienced colleagues is no longer possible. Especially for young and inexperienced team members, this could lead to frustration.

Speaking of frustration: the loneliness in the home office and non-fixed working hours can also quickly have negative effects. There is the threat of overwork if clear boundaries are no longer drawn between job and private life. It is important to organise oneself well and develop one’s own routines in order to maintain a balance here.

How can these difficulties of New Work be overcome?

To ensure that the feeling of togetherness in the product team is not lost, small team-building measures are helpful. Games, check-ins or short online LEGO Serious Play workshops help to connect the team, to get to know each other and to build trust among each other. The latter even uses LEGO bricks as a haptic element, thus combining the online and offline worlds. In a short virtual workshop, common points of view and ideas can be clarified and a deeper understanding of each other can be developed. Not to mention that it makes for a change in everyday life and is fun for the whole product team.

Creating proximity is indeed an important factor. To this end, a few simple rules should be introduced and adhered to, especially in online meetings. For example, by switching on the camera without a virtual background and thus allowing a glimpse into the personal environment, a certain closeness and familiarity can be created among the team members and the exchange can also be promoted about personal topics. This overcomes the distance of the virtual space.

Team members should also acquire the appropriate tool and method knowledge to facilitate online meetings in a targeted and efficient manner. A professional moderator should structure the process, show all team members a common thread in the meeting and focus on the interaction within the team. In this way, teamwork can be strengthened and productivity in the meeting increased.

Both product managers and project managers are leaders without authority. The principles of New Leadership have always applied here. It has never been about authority, but always about personal responsibility and motivation. In this job, it is important to motivate other people, to gain their trust and to inspire them.


New Work enables flexibility, promotes creativity, personal responsibility and innovation. Collaborative techniques and work at eye level strengthen team dynamics. New Work also contributes to a good work-life balance and makes organisations attractive employers. In short: New Work is an opportunity for more successful, future-oriented and satisfied product teams. Organisations should be more daring to seize this opportunity.



Bernadette von Wittern founded the PRODUCT LOUNGE in Munich in 2021, a community for training and further education for product managers. We have often recommended her events, where experts are happy to share their know-how.

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Bernadette von Wittern
Bernadette von Wittern

Bernadette von Wittern is a trainer and expert in product management. She accompanies and supports product teams in efficiently launching better products with real added value and benefits for people and the environment.

She worked for many years in various functions in marketing and product management in medical technology. For some time now, she has been passing on her knowledge and experience to other product managers to help them advance in their personal and professional development.

She is a trained business and online trainer as well as a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facilitator and brings a wealth of methods and approaches to her formats.