Since 2012, ribot has been working remotely, both with the internal team and clients around the world. For the past 6 years, the design team has been evolving its remote-first practices to work better together. We currently collaborate across Brighton, Guadalajara, London, and Luxembourg. This way of working has transformed ribot and now more companies are choosing to adopt a similar strategy every day.
Here is our 2018 remote work recipe (covering values, routines and tools):
Trust — Start with trust!
If you are sceptical about someone’s dedication or work ethic, remote work will not succeed. At ribot, we got everyone on board by performing monthly experiments. First, we started with a 1 day-a-week remote allowance for the whole team. Then we flipped it to 1-day-a-week in the studio and 4 days remote. Eventually, anyone could work remotely full-time from anywhere.
Progress — Measure the quality of the work output instead of time spent.
Creative work happens in a variety of ways, shapes and sizes. Plan out the week together and attempt to estimate what can be achieved realistically. This way, team members can own tasks and are responsible for meeting deadlines, no matter how they choose to divide up their daily routine.
Communication — Balance responsiveness vs focus time.
If team members have questions and reach out via text chat, it’s great to receive a quick reply if possible, but it is equally important to allow people not to have to check their messages every couple of minutes, as it deteriorates focus and flow of the creative work. Find the right balance that works for the team!
Time-zones — Use time-zones to your advantage.
Find the best overlap between time-zonestimezones and spend some quality time on communicating the work plan, priorities and blockers. If work is well documented, with a unified toolset and design system, tasks can be passed on between designers. Working in shifts can be super efficient!
Socialise — Bring coffee-break conversations online.
Remote work doesn’t have to feel lonely. It is harder to have one remote person working with a group in a physical space than an equal split or a fully remote team. The trick is to have more social conversations happen online instead of offline. This way remote team members feel less left out and can contribute to social gatherings in an online space. At ribot we have dedicated chat rooms for social chat and an all-hands wrap-up meeting on Fridays.
Monday-Friday: Design Stand-Ups
Designers get together for 30-45 minutes each day to demo work, get feedback and talk about upcoming tasks and blockers.
Monday AM: ribot Dejeuner
At ribot, we traditionally have a communal Monday morning breakfast together where we talk about our weekend activities, and briefly chat about the work-week ahead. We continued this ritual online, where anyone who is available or in a similar time-zone can dial-in and have a casual 30 minute chat before we start our work.
Monday AM: Client Catch-Up
We catch up with the client and run through a summary of design work completed, in progress and upcoming. The client can feedback on the work and change the priority of what is being worked on if needed.
Monday PM: Design Feedback and Process Session
Designers get together to discuss the highlights, lowlights, and actions of the previous week (See Friday’s Design Feedback Form for more detail), then we discuss design process pain points and optimisations. Topics can range from updating our design system, Sketch libraries, documentation, tools, plugins, to communication in general.
Friday PM: Design Feedback Form
Our homemade Google Form is sent out as an automated reminder via Slack to our #design room. Here designers document their highlights, lowlights, completed and upcoming actions each week. Answers are then sent to a spreadsheet which designers go through together on Monday to celebrate successes and support pain points of individual people.
Friday PM: riCap
At the end of the week, the company gets together and goes through a status update of each client project:, what has been achieved in the week, highlight upcoming company events, happenings, whereabouts of team members and a show and tell section at the end with visual examples, pictures and works from team members. We then break for the weekend!
Sprints and Workshops: Client Catch-Ups
Remote work has great benefits, but so do face-to-face meetings. We onboard our clients by meeting them in person for the first time. This way we can get to know each other and learn how best to work together in a physical space first. We might start with a full week design sprint at a project kick-off and then have quarterly workshops that last between 1–3 days depending on the work that needs to be done.
ribot Days and Events: Team Catch-Ups
We meet some team members in person for client workshops but the team also get together for internal hack days, where we explore a certain concept or idea all together in the same space and come up with deliverables at the end that we demo to each other. It’s a great way to catch up and meet new team members that have joined the company remotely. We also have regular events where the team get together for activities and meals and spend quality time with each other outside the regular work context.
We use Abstract to store Sketch files for each client projects. This way, designers can seamlessly collaborate together, access the latest files and can easily version control their work.
Sketch is our primary design tool for UX and UI work. We also prototype rough flows and use Sketch Cloud to demo prototypes internally and to clients. With Sketch Libraries, it’s becoming even easier to maintain consistency between designers working on one project together.
When it comes to high- fidelity prototyping, we most often use Principle to create custom interactions and animations. It’s been great to showcase rich vision prototypes and document transitions for developer handovers.
Trello acts as a central hub where we link to design deliverables. Each project has its own board, columns and cards that define the work. Here we keep track of tasks, attach links to designs and prototypes to review when ready and then share the deliverables with the client after internal reviews.
Slack helps us communicate outside of standup times. This way team members can catch up on updates when they are ready to receive them. We recommend turning off most notifications on Slack and other communication tools to to reduce interruptions and maximise focus time!
Attached to our calendar events we dial into Hangout rooms for stand-ups and internal meetings. We often use screen-sharing to showcase our work-in-progress, discuss ideas and challenges. Then we wrap up with actions at the end to us help focus for the days ahead.
Post-its and Whiteboards are great in physical spaces but if not everyone can’t be in the same room. Realtime Board helps to capture data in an online environment and share ideas live with remote participants. We use similar a setup to Google Ventures’ remote design sprints even on location.
It takes time to get remote work right as a team and for individuals working from their own space. The key, I believe, is to start with strong values, try out different routines and tools, keep the ones that work well and try something new for the pain points that are remaining. Eventually, people will settle into a calm, happy and productive remote work environment that is ultimately more fulfilling and efficient than sitting in traffic, commuting everyday to a noisy office.
We hope you find the above useful. What have been some of your remote work successes and challenges? We would love to hear from you!