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4 Tips for Effective Remote Design: Successfully Collaborating with Virtual Teams [On-Demand Webinar]

| January 15, 2016
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The first time I was able to check my work email from home I was sure my life was about to change forever.

If I could get my email, that meant I could probably access my team’s shared files and software too, and that meant never having to go suffer through my daily commute to the office again.

Things didn’t quite work out that way, but remote work is on the rise, and with it comes a unique set of challenges. In our recent webinar, Jim Kalbach shares his insights on remote work as well as some tips on collaborating effectively with distributed teams.

Here are our top four takeaways from the webinar:

1. Remote work doesn’t mean being far away

When you think of a remote worker, you probably imagine someone working from home or from an office in another location. But studies have shown that communication levels decrease enough after just 250 feet of distance, that workers may as well be outside the office. That means anyone working outside that 250-foot radius is essentially working with you remotely.

2. Get the right tools

When you’re working with remote teams, your workspace changes from a desk and whiteboard to digital tools. Collaborating on design requires a lot of visual and verbal interaction. Since you won’t be able to get up and walk to the desk of a colleague, you’ll need a tool that will quickly and easily enable you to initiate that same conversation digitally. Here are a few tips Jim recommends when considering your digital toolbox with your team:

  • Agree on a communication stack (chat, file sharing, etc.)
  • Make sure you have good audio
  • Use multiple devices
  • Prototype and test online
  • Use a virtual whiteboard

3. Establish your remote process

Many teams make the mistake of assuming that the process for working in a shared location simply translates in-kind to those of remote locations. The truth is, remote work is different, and the process for conducting that work needs to be different as well if you want to be effective.

When you’re planning meetings, frame your process around the digital tools you’ll be using. Instead of booking a conference room, make sure your entire team has access to the meeting on the web.

Additionally, because you won’t have the benefit of in-person interaction, certain activities may be more productive if they’re completed prior to the meeting while others will be most effective on the fly. Here’s what Jim suggests for establishing a smooth process:

  • Work asynchronously – Assign tasks independently to team members prior to meetings to help maintain momentum and keep the team on task.
  • Effective real-time meetings – Timebox activities to keep the meeting flowing and on time, and take advantage of your team’s access to other resources and ability to digitize on the fly.

4. It’s all about your team

You may be striving to achieve a specific result, but it’s your team that will get you there. This is especially important with remote teams because you don’t physically have them around you every day in the office.

It’s likely that you’ll have a variety of different types of remote workers on your team, which means you’ll need to consider each as you plan and execute your process. Here’s what Jim suggests:

  • Meet in person initially if possible – This will help everyone get to know one another and get a sense for personalities before beginning a project.
  • Share designs digitally with the team daily – Showing design progress on a daily basis will help keep the project moving forward while informing the entire team of the progress.
  • Schedule regular stand-up meetings and reviews – Quick “stand-up” meetings on a regular basis will give everyone the chance to provide quick updates, ask for help, and share ideas. These are great to schedule in-between longer, more formal design reviews.
  • Go “all-remote” for meetings – Encourage everyone to join the meeting as if they were a remote worker. This means even individuals that are co-located should still join individually from their desks, so that everyone is sharing a similar experience, and has all the same tools and resources at hand.

Working with a remote team on designs may sound challenging, but with just a little planning you can be just as effective (maybe even more) as you were with your in-office team. For more of Jim’s great advice, check out the full on-demand webinar here!