Since the pandemic hit, remote work has become a new norm. Although remote work offers few great benefits, it has its own challenges as well. Especially, if you are a design professional, or managing a design team remotely.
When all designers are in one place, it is easy to have discussions and get things moving. But when they work remotely, it creates a barrier and builds up frustration due to repeated calls. Also, managers can’t get a clear idea about how the work is being done and several things are pushed back.
To solve these challenges, we bring you the best practices to collaborate and work from a remote setting. Let’s get started.
Before we share the best practices of working remotely, we shall look at some of the most common challenges faced by professionals across the globe.
What challenges does remote work pose?
A survey conducted on 323 participants, 62% of which were designers, revealed that working from home or remotely leads to increased stress. Not only that, it brings certain key problems.
1. Brainstorming, ideation and iterations become less productive
Lack of physical proximity creates hurdles in brainstorming, generating solutions and design optimizations. When designers are working together, in the same office, it is possible to get over to a colleague’s desk and exchange thoughts.
Now, it has translated into long strings of chats and calls, building up more frustration and stress. Certainly, communicating your ideas verbally is more effective than typing long paragraphs.
2. Less clarity about one’s performance
When a person is not able to see what others are working on and how much progress they have made, he/she will always doubt her performance.
Lack of visual feedback and reference causes to raise questions about how much work is enough and what exactly is good enough. This results in reduced confidence, and thus, less productivity.
3. Delayed feedback results in extra hours
Feedback is almost instant in cases where colleagues are working together, in an office or a design studio. But the same procedure can be delayed, even for hours.
Sometimes, they might have other urgent queries to respond to while sometimes have other non-work issues that require urgent attention.
Whatever the reason be, delayed feedback puts even more pressure on the designer, as he/she might have to log in extra hours if the deadline is close enough.
4. Reduced focus leads to less efficiency
Unlike an office, working from home is certainly, not completely free from distractions. Crying babies, kids running around, bustling hawkers, loud noises from the neighbourhood, unexpected guests showing up etc. cause you to lose your focus.
We all can agree that without focus, no task can be completed successfully. This will send incorrect signals that a person is not efficient.
These are a few of the commonly observed and documented problems while working remotely. But this does not mean that you should abandon remote work and only work from the office. In the next section, we will share our secrets of how we manage remote work successfully.
Best Practices for Remote Collaboration
From our experience, we have devised actionable practices that we don’t only preach but have implemented at Octet Design Studio and saw positive results.
Let’s look at them one by one.
1. Establish clear KPIs for performance
Without a proper goal, it is not possible to walk on the right path. Similarly, the team is unaware of what is expected of them, it won’t be possible to get the desired results.
So it is important to set key performance indicators or commonly known as KPIs for every team member. These KPIs should be in line with business objectives and past performance.
Introducing clear KPIs for remote teams serves two key purposes:
- They provide clearly defined goalposts for remote team members to work towards; and
- They’re an effective way to evaluate processes and track progress.
KPIs help keep remote workers focused and motivated by communicating as clearly as possible what the task at hand is and what remote employees should be working towards and prioritizing.
2. Set up a daily scrum routine
The best way to kickstart your day is to have a scrum routine. The daily scrum is a 15-minute time-boxed event for the design and development team to synchronize activities and create a plan for the next 24 hours.
Running daily scrum meetings bring in the following benefits:
- Improved communications
- Identification of impediments
- Quick decision-making
- Reduces/eliminates the need for other meetings
During the daily scrum, each member of the team should briefly answer the following questions:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- Are there any impediments in the way?
Each participant in this scrum meeting should be listening to each other and remain present through the entirety of the meeting.
Oftentimes, members of the team will identify opportunities to work together during the day based on observations of the daily scrum.
3. Use a single platform for communication
It is highly recommended that you should prefer only a single platform to exchange files, messages and calls and video conferencing.
Because, if you use more than one platform such as WhatsApp for chats and Google meet for video conferencing, it becomes difficult for the users to remember on which platform a particular message was shared.
There are several business communication tools available. Some of the best are:
- Slack (Free + Paid)
- Microsoft Teams (Free)
- Google Chat (Free)
4. Use a dedicated project management tool
Many organizations still manage their projects on spreadsheets. It may get the job done, but it isn’t an ideal way to do project management.
This is because spreadsheets have some serious limitations. They aren’t designed to store files, annotations, conversations, and related information that are essential parts of project communication and collaboration.
Also, spreadsheets require an advanced proficiency to utilize functions like setting up macros, which everyone may not have.
On the other hand, project management software is easy to use, have a straightforward interface with basic functionalities that even a non-tech savvy person can use.
There are both free and paid tools available, a few of which we recommend to use:
5. Make all files shareable on the cloud
Even though it may seem obvious in the current scenario, some professionals prefer to work on files stored on a local system.
This makes collaboration inflexible and creates information overload due to many too and fro file exchanges. Also, if the files are heavy it will take time to upload as well as download. Not to mention, it will require more storage space as well.
Creating and working on cloud documents is an extremely beneficial way to ensure team collaboration as the members can see the changes in real-time.
Another important thing to consider is that you should always name and organize the files properly. This helps not only you but other team members to find the desired documents quickly, without wasting much time.
6. Prefer verbal over written feedback
Unless it is very brief feedback, always prefer to use verbal means i.e. audio or video call to communicate your views clearly.
Explaining something in detail is equally time-consuming both for the writer as well as the reader; not to mention tiring too.
Communicating verbally, especially through video calls increases trust and strengthens team relationships. It has both social and psychological benefits as you get to see other team members and feel connected.
7. Set healthy boundaries
One of the most frequent complaints raised by remote teams is that it blurs the lines between personal and work life.
The best way to ensure optimum work-life balance while working remotely is to adhere to work timings. Unless absolutely necessary, don’t set meetings beyond office hours, and complete all activity checks well before logging out.
After working hours, you should engage in self-care activities such as rest, physical exercise or meditation, reading books, watching movies, playing with your kids or pets, family conversations, etc.
We have shared how UX designers can maintain good mental health to ensure work-life balance in our article.
Sometimes, you can drive conversations with your team members about family life or personal interests outside work. This ensures a healthy and productive environment and keeps the team members motivated throughout the week.
Now that you are familiar with how to make the most out of remote work, it is time to apply these practices in your organization. You will be amazed at the results. Not only you will witness increased productivity, but the team will be more happy, enthusiastic and will exceed the set expectations.
If you are just starting out and are in the process of creating a UX team, read our article on how to build a high performing team and lead effectively.
Share your thoughts in the comments below if you are already following these practices and have witnessed the positive results.
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