It’s been interesting to see people that have never worked remotely be thrust into remote work all of a sudden because of the current health situation. I’ve been remote since 2016 and I can say, for sure, that it is not the same as working in-person. However, with some trial and error, we’ve found success, not only for me, a partner in the agency, in building a system that has helped our team collaborate with other designers, developers, clients, and friends from all over the world.
Here are some of the tools our design studio uses to stay on top of our shit, even when we are not always in the same room.
Slack, DUH! I know you’re all saying “Oh wow. These geniuses use Slack. How novel!” We are ground breakers, after all. We’ve been using Slack since it first became a thing and it took us a while to build up a system and good habits that allow for successful collaboration. Here are a few of the things we do, which has helped us stay organized.
We have one dedicated channel for checking in. We are not militant about updates for every little thing but we do make a point of saying “Good Morning!” every day and to shoot the shit a bit. Going to be a few mins late? Drop in a quick message in #checkin and you’re all good. Going out to lunch or running an errand? Just let everyone know how long you will be and give a heads up when you’re back.
Beyond #checkin, we have stand-up phone calls two or sometimes three times a week. This doesn’t just allow us to hear each other’s voice but it helps us get through our check-in much faster.
All projects get assigned a name that begins with “p-”, which helps with channel organization. Only things pertinent to that specific project are discussed in that channel, allowing for multiple conversations to go on at once.
All internal channels begin with “workhorse-”. Just like the project channels, this allows for conversations about ordering toilet paper (#workhorse-studio-mgt) to go on at the same time as discussing new productivity or design tools (#workhorse-tools)
We’ve tried out other conferencing systems and we’ve had the most success with Zoom. No conference call platform is perfect but Zoom gives us good controls, integrates well with our email and calendar system, and is reliable.
I’ve mentioned this tool before but I will mention it again. Krisp is a desktop noise-canceling app that helps mute background noise on your calls. It works like magic and it’s clutch for working from my house where I have many loud children and animals.
As most of you know, cloud storage is crucial to remote collaboration, which Dropbox allows us to do pretty seamlessly. You can sync files directly to your computer, so that you don’t have to upload and download constantly, making it easier to keep track of the most up to date versions, much like having a server. And most docs can be directly marked-up via the web version so there is a central place to keep track of comments. This is especially helpful when we send work for client review.
Paper by Dropbox helps us collaborate on written work. We’ve used Google Docs but for many of our collaborations, Google Docs has been overkill. Paper is realtime, simple, and it looks nice plus it’s already part of Dropbox, which we already use. Our one complaint is that you can’t save your Paper docs directly to project folders in Dropbox. It’d be helpful if the programs were more integrated.
Figma has been a game changer. We started using Figma for web projects, but have also started to use it for some side projects that are not strictly web. We had been using Sketch, which is not that different from Figma, but with the real-time collaboration, the ease of sharing and getting stakeholder feedback, and built-in prototyping, the program has replaced at least two other tools we were using.
We’re always looking for new tools, so give us a shout out with your favorite productivity tools for working remotely. And as always, stay safe out there!