Working remotely: a UX challenge

I have been working remotely and with remote teams for a while. This is not a new subject but is becoming a recurrent one. For 15 months, I’ve experienced working and studying remotely and onsite. Some reflections on the subject.

Communication and focus

Working remotely helps to achieve a results-only work environment, where people can do their jobs whenever their suit them. The goal is to do the job, to receive the job done. This approach is feasible when the tasks are per si unique, without dependency.

In a group work, with teams spread across different cities and time zones, work could be a challenge. Modern internet technology takes a more present role in developing projects. Instant messaging, video conferencing and file sharing for collaboration.

“Individual freedom is important if you want to encourage risk taking and experimentation — if you want people to use their good judgment rather than being tightly bound by rigid rules, procedures and bureaucracy.” — (Gray, 2012)

Challenges

Virtual teams are expanding, and professionals face more and more the influence of cross-cultural factors that represents a continuous realignment of managing models and organization settings.

Awareness of the challenges, all team members should focus on communication and team dynamics to avoid making assumptions is crucial for success. The communication and how it flows affect the outcome.

Partially distributed teams needs to overcome different obstacles from team placed onsite, such different time zones, multiple off-days in each country and timetables. Each team dynamic could be unique if one element or part of the team is distributed. This mode of operation is a standard issue with international companies or with offset teams.

Face-to-face meetings can happen, also, but when they do, it is because they are needed. A meeting just as an excuse to sit everyone around a table can be unproductive.

Other of the challenges of remote workers is burndown. Quickly a team member can work more than the hours needed or distribute poorly the weight between the days. Different time zones could expose more working hours to some.

Life-work balance

When working independently is important to keep on task. Taking ownership of my time is another key factor, so setting clear rules about distraction improve productivity. It is not enough to keep ourselves on task. We should define a schedule and tend to have a calendar organized because attention dispersion from others and situations can be a constant.

Managing projects is a constant challenge. Our perception of stress can depend on circumstances and experiences we should be able to detect high levels of stress and tiredness. For me, some types of stress can be stimulating and invigorating, helping me to action; others can be draining and incapacitating, enhancing frustration and anxiety (Popova, 2015).

Conclusions

We are faster, but we are not infallible. In my experience, from all the work environments that I’ve worked and my time during Hyper Island, working from home or a chosen place can boost quality. Centered people work best.

How we sit, how we eat, how we work, the light exposure, the noise can affect our work. Planning time to adversities and non-controllable things, like planes being delayed or sickness is crucial. It is important to balance stress levels, trying to be efficient and focusing on the right decision at the right time. Realize to ourselves and others why we feel overwhelmed, helps to make better decisions.

In a remote situation, the first thing that should be enforced is continuous communication, from all parties, avoiding micro-managing. Establishing an agreement between project team members, defining barriers and ways to work sets the grounds for team development and good work.


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References
. 37 Signals (2014). Remote. California: Crown Business, Penguin Random House
. Gray, D. (2012). The Connected Company. Pp 209–221. California: O’Reilly Media Inc.
. Popova. M (2015). The Science of Stress and How Our Emotions Affect Our Susceptibility to Burnout and Disease, Brain Pickings [Online] Available at: http://www.brainpickings.org/2015/07/20/esther-sternberg-balance-within-stress-emotion/

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