April 8, 2020
Document important information in a public place.
Remote group collaboration can be tough, and sometimes key info gets lost in DMs, private channels, email chains, and quick phone calls. Make sure you’re documenting critical decisions and sharing them in public channels. To ensure knowledge doesn’t get buried, use the pin feature in Slack, or document process in shared documents like Google Docs. (If you’re shared on a doc and asked to contribute, make sure you take the time to digest the info and contribute to the conversation!)
Additionally, digital stand-ups can be a really effective tool in starting your remote day. Aligning on the day’s priorities with your team in a public place not only helps you and your immediate team understand your priorities, but it can be an effective way to get alignment with your collaborators and other members of the org!
Trivia: Did you know Slack stands for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge”? 🚀
Facilitate your meetings effectively.
Remote meetings challenge us to speak up over others. This can lead to some tough situations where meetings end without all voices being heard. If you create a meeting, make sure you facilitate and call on people to contribute. (Pro tip: this works in person as well!)
If you have trouble keeping things on track, challenge yourself to come to every meeting with a clear agenda. When things get off course, gently remind the team of the meeting’s purpose and guide everyone back to the current topic. Don’t move on from that topic until everyone has had a chance to contribute.
Need an agenda template for meetings? Use Paper!
Use Slack like a pro.
Slack had a ton of awesome integrations: Hangouts, Calendar, Dropbox, and more. (To start a hangout with an individual or group, just use the command /hangout in your DM or channel!) Since every team is different, I won’t explain all of my favorite Slack workflows, but feel free to explore Slack Apps for more integrations and slash commands.
Allow for deep work.
Deep work is defined as: “Professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”
Instant communication is awesome, but in a remote setting, it can have the same effect as walking up to your colleague and tapping them on the shoulder. This pulls them away from their current task and can focus their energy on something that could be answered at another time, or by other members of the team.
If you have a question for someone that isn’t immediate, consider using a public channel vs. a DM.
Tip: If you need focus time, snooze notifications or use a Slack status.
Communicate feedback appropriately.
It’s oddly easy to get used to the quick transactional communication style that tools like Slack and Email are great at facilitating. While they allow us to move quickly and efficiently through knowledge sharing communications, they are not the best way to have emotional or tough conversations.
Choose your tools wisely when working remotely. If you need to have a tough conversation, consider hopping on a phone call or a hangout. (Pro tip: if you choose a hangout, use video! There is nothing worse then getting tough feedback while staring at a blank stared avatar of your manager.)
If you’re giving positive feedback, consider using emojis! 🚀 The opportunity for emotions to get lost goes both ways. Use these tools to your advantage to make sure your feedback is felt the way you intend.
Build culture remotely.
One thing that is often lost in remote work sessions are the small culture building actions we take on a day to day basis. We forget to share what movie we watched the night before, or the new restaurant we ate at over the weekend.
These types of conversations and activities are critical for our teams to feel like they are in a community of individuals who they can trust and relate to. Utilize channels like #random to continue building the empathetic culture we have built in person.
Take care of yourself!
More than anything, take care of yourself! Cabin fever is the real deal. Here are some quick things you can do to stay sane.
Get dressed every day. We all love wearing sweatpants, but your environment has a great deal to do with prepping your brain for different types of scenarios! Signal to yourself that it’s time to work by maintaining your daily routine for getting prepped for work.
Take a walk. If you’re feeling low on energy consider taking a walk. There are studies that say taking walks can boost creativity and problem-solving. Also, the weather seems to be nice. 🙂
Talk to people with your voice. It’s easy to go a full day without speaking to someone. If you find opportunities to speak to someone one-on-one with your voice it might be helpful to keep your energy levels up. (This is especially true for extroverts!)
I originally wrote this for the team at Buffy when we first went remote, but thought it would be helpful for others. Feel free to share and add your own tips and tricks.
March 26, 2020
A year ago, I launched a small side project called PUSH. It was a weekly fitness newsletter that gathered the best gear, advice, and tech news. At the time, I was overwhelmed by the amount of fitness content online and felt that the majority of it was attached to pushing products vs. helping people. I felt I could help people navigate the world of wellness more thoughtfully.
I was also tired of the culture that surrounded fitness. At the time, mindfulness was starting to emerge as a larger trend and “wellness” as a practice was largely attached to products like fitness teas and Whole30 books.
There’s nothing wrong with this stuff, it just didn’t speak to me. I felt like there was a missing link between culture, technology, and wellness. Brands like District Vision were connecting wellness to fashion. Tools like Strong and Headspace were connected wellness to technology. Nobody was facilitating connecting them all.
I’ve decided to relaunch PUSH as my coaching practice. At the moment, I am beta testing my client experience and content experience. Feel free to sign up for the newsletter or follow us on Instagram. There will be more to come and I’m excited to share more with you as I learn and grow.
March 25, 2020
I am two and half weeks into my COVID-19 quarantine and have noticed an interesting phenomenon in my day-to-day experience. I feel like I’m doing less and getting more done.
I feel like I’m communicating more effectively with my collaborators, and my days seem to have more time for deep work. I am knocking more tasks off of my to-do list than normal and have been able to make progress on things that I had been putting off for weeks.
A lot of this has been accomplished by automating information sharing. In person conversations have turned into Dropbox Paper doc share-outs. Meetings have turned into digital stand-ups. Critiques are more fluid as the design process becomes more transparent to accommodate remote work.
It’s only a couple of weeks in, and there are definitely some kinks to work out, but I’m excited to see the progress we have made and hope it sticks.
March 8, 2020
As our current public health situation becomes more threatening, there have been a lot of conversations around people being forced to take part in remote work. As someone who has worked remotely in the past, I have experienced the ups and downs of being a remote worker. After thinking of some of the issues I had experienced, I wanted to know who was implementing the processes required for successful remote work the right way.
Emily Campbell responded with her thoughts on Invision and used a term I had never considered. “Remote-friendly” was a concept that I had never encountered, but I feel it perfectly described the remote situations I had been in previously.
Having worked for companies that had a very defined and personalized in-person culture as a remote worker, I have found that remote-friendly is often friendly for the business but not the worker. Remote workers can become floating heads in Google Hangouts, and have to use deep work time to establish a “presence” in virtual spaces that are otherwise established effortlessly for in-person workers.
Remote-friendly can be isolating. It can establish you as a satellite employee as opposed to the core member of a team. In doing so, it can deeply affect the way you view yourself as a critical part of the business. The need to constantly be “seen” takes energy away from creative tasks and places a unique burden on the remote worker. The business rarely feel obligated to take extra efforts to relieve this burden, as it’s often seen as the worker’s choice to be remote.
If you’re considering establishing a remote culture, I would consider Emily’s words. Are you ready to take on the responsibility of being remote-friendly? To do it effectively, you might want your north star to be “remote-centered.”
February 25, 2020
I’ve been reading and enjoying Deep Work by Cal Newport this week. The concept of deep work is easy to understand for the creative community. Protected time for flow state seems to be a critical process component for high-quality craftsmanship.
The more I sat with this concept I began to question the idea that deep work is something that can be adopted by everyone. In theory, isn’t some shallow work required to keep things moving? As an example, we have to do the work to create complex systems for creating artifacts (deep work) and use those systems to quickly iterate on solutions. (Potentially shallow work.)
It’s common to see designers disengaged when working on seemingly shallow tasks: mocking up a templated email, designing a flow for an obviously simple user task, etc. Tasks obviously critical to the business.
The flaw in my thinking is that while these tasks are seemingly simple in nature, the ability to craft them in a way that retains a high-level quality requires intense focus on the detailed parts of the creative process.
In short: I don’t believe that shallow design exists. Only unfocused design.
February 24, 2020
Shifting Design at Start-Ups
As we enter a new era of start-up culture, I’ve started to think about the shift in how we grow as designers in start-up environments.
As a designer, I have always valued working with other designers who could help me grow in areas of design that interested me. I have always pursued gaps in my skillset and tried to focus on going deep on subjects that appeared valuable in the context of where the industry was heading.
As managers, I feel it’s our job to do the same for the designers we work with. We must establish relationships with everyone on our teams that allow us to be honest about our weaknesses. Together, we can support each other through growth that helps us bridge gaps in our understanding and helps us break through to new levels in our careers.
Having worked at big tech companies with a healthy amount of funding, I have noticed a trend where design teams create systems for growth through passion projects and conceptual design work. Often, the output of these projects doesn’t align with the needs of the business but presents the designer with an opportunity to try new things and push the boundaries.
These projects are valuable to the designer. It’s important to take opportunities to try new things and learn by doing. However, what cost does this present to the business? As we enter a new chapter of VC funded start-up life, it’s hard to justify design teams that aren’t extremely focused on creating design work that not only ships but contributes directly to the success of the business. As designers at start-ups, we might need to redefine what “good” design looks like.