Flexible Work: 4 Tips for Design Leaders To Foster A Culture Where Teams Thrive

With our last couple years of distributed work experimentation, I’ve been prototyping different ways to build high-performance teams, communicate, and collaborate. I’ve been inspired by companies that have a digital-first mindset, use software tools to gain maximum leverage, and thoughtfully design in-person events. Here I’m sharing some of the approaches that have had the biggest impact.

Consolidate the amount of places to find information, and consider building a handbook. Instead of building a spiderweb of locations for people to hunt things down, document in one place and keep directing everyone to that artifact as the source of truth. Record meetings and document detailed notes, create decision logs, aggregate action items, develop self-serve dashboards. Define what tools to use for what, and encourage transparency and clear writing.

Having one source of truth and expectations around tooling eliminates confusion around where to find information, how decisions are made, and reduces meeting FOMO because people can catch up when it’s convenient for them.

Build teams with time zone overlap to enable better connection during working hours. Establish core collaboration hours and encourage team members to work async outside of them, allowing space for deep work.

Getting deliberate about your location strategy takes more time than some of these other tips, but it’s so worth it. Not having to stretch over time zones without overlap will increase team velocity and inclusion.

Use collaborative docs to work through solutions together. Use meetings sparingly, not as a first response. Batch process emails and Slack messages during specific daily time blocks. Schedule messages to arrive during appropriate working hours based on time zone. Don’t expect immediate responses.

This tip takes discipline and yields amazing results for both you and your teams. You’ll be surprised how much faster teams drive results with this approach, and it creates an environment where everyone can contribute.

Plan face-to-face time for training, workshops, offsites, summits, tech/design talks, and onboarding. Understand the key employee journeys and plan time together that create positive halo moments.

These approaches enable flexibility for teams, considered maker time for deep work, and an environment where team members get the best out of themselves and their teams. Interested in hearing from leaders who currently using these or for those that start, let me know how it’s going!

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Rachel Kobetz

I love shaping product cultures that connect people and make technology more human. SVP + Global Head of Design at Expedia Group. Prev. BofA, Amazon, + Samsung