Episode 103 | December 04, 2023

Fostering human connection for hybrid and remote design teams

In this week’s Insights Unlocked, Alex Mullans, a product lead at Figma, provides insights and strategies on maintaining a human connection for remote design teams.

Fostering human connection for hybrid and remote design teams

As the digital landscape reshapes the way design teams operate, maintaining a human connection in the realm of hybrid and remote work has become a key factor toward fostering creativity and collaboration.

“Because Zoom can feel very transactional. It’s like, ‘OK, we have 30 minutes, we have an agenda,” said Alex Mullans, product lead, extensibility, at Figma. “How do we remember that we're not just 300 pixels or whatever is the Zoom box?”

In this week’s Insights Unlocked, Alex provides insightful perspectives and strategies on the topic in his conversation with Liz Miller, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research.

As technology reshapes the way we work, design teams are often dispersed, challenging the traditional dynamics of brainstorming and collaboration. Alex emphasizes the need to transcend physical barriers, ensuring the ideation process remains vibrant and effective. 

In the past, he said, during an in-person stand up or in the break room, colleagues would share what they’d done the past weekend, or what show they were currently binging on. 

Alex said at Figma, they make room in their weekly team meetings to facilitate that human connection, using the first 5 minutes to catch up on each other’s lives outside of work, whether that’s riding a zipline or testing new smoothie recipes. 

And, of course, they use FigJam, Figma’s online collaborative whiteboard. “In the digital world I have a video of this because, of course, I’m a millennial at heart. And you can put that in the Figjam,” he said. “It is a nice little way to remember what you did outside of work.”

As these virtual workspaces nurture that human connection and collaboration for a remote team, a designer or researcher should consider bringing into the space others from cross-functional teams. Invite an engineer or product leader to drop in and watch a customer highlight reel, either silently taking notes or actively participating.   

This is important as more and more organizations are looking for ways to shift left; that is to seek customer insights earlier in the product development process. “How do we deliver products faster than ever before?,” Alex said. “And more importantly, I think, how do we get feedback faster than ever before?” 

It's about creating that space where ideas can flow regardless of physical locations, Alex said. 

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