Maximize Productivity of Remote Teams

Given the unknown and exponential spread of COVID-19, it is crucial to plan and communicate policies in the eventual shift to remote working practices. Preparing for the shift can have a massive impact on team performance. However, given the industry we work in, it is not impossible. To help, AIGA Jax has put together a few guidelines for designers and design managers to consider.

  • How do you communicate expectations?
  • How do you implement technology in order to function effectively?
  • How do you maintain a culture of collaboration?
  • How do you prevent losses in productivity, accountability, and quality?

Have a Policy and Keep it Simple

First, if you don’t already have some form of flexible work policy, there is no better time to create one. If time is not on your side or you are worrisome of the long-term ramifications of a work-from-home (WFH) policy, consider drafting a temporary policy that can be terminated or re-written once this is all behind us. Marketing software company Hubspot has a wonderful WFH template you can start with or adapt. While each policy will be unique, be sure the policy explains eligibility, equipment considerations, approval processes, and continuity in existing HR policies. 

An Effective Home-Work Environment

Expecting to have an effective work experience at home is rarely the case, especially if it is not routine. Preparation in technology support and environment are important. Consider the following;

  • Ensure remote employees have laptop computers and relatively fast internet. If they don’t, employers should consider providing a computer and offer a temporary stipend to cover home internet fees. 
  • While email works for more formal communication, you will need instant-messaging services like Slack and collaborative document formats like Google Docs for faster, more effective remote work. Also consider services like Sneek.
  • Consider testing communication technologies in advance of executing a remote shift. Consider running tests on video conferencing, messaging, and VPN with individuals to iron out any issues to ensure a smooth transition.
  • Train managers and employees on best practices for using remote communication technologies. Project planning in a remote-based culture requires a tool such as Trello, Asana, Basecamp,, etc., to keep everyone aligned on what’s happening and what’s expected of them.
  • Make a check-list to ensure WFH environments are safe. Consider things like ergonomic chairs, good natural light, no hazards, etc.

Work From Home Guidelines

With a policy and tools in place, now consider clearly defined guidelines for those working from home. These should include the following: 

  • Expectations for attending virtual team/client meetings
  • Reiterate the core hours required to be available
  • For agile or team-based work, consider maintaining regular morning stand-ups using video conferencing. 
  • Remind designers to be mindful of their work hours, including taking appropriate breaks—avoid working overtime.
  • Over-communicate with your team members, your manager, clients, and stakeholders.

The Human Factor

Guidelines and tools are the easy part. Where remote work can succeed or fail depending upon individual and team behavior. Consider the following as a shift to remote is a culture change.

  • Check-in early and often with each other. If there is no direct collaborator or daily manager contact, consider a remote work-buddy system.
  • Train managers on how to lead virtually. Lead by example. Over-communicate and be available.
  • Recognize and be empathetic that some people have other roles in life, like being a parent or caretaker. This can become strained in the event daycare or schools close.
  • Find ways to be expressive and human even when constrained by digital tools. Appropriate use of emojis and animated gifs can go a long way. 😉 

It’s Good for Business

Going remote during a situation like the Coronavirus can help ensure economic security by allowing a business to continue to function. More importantly, this shift places health and safety as a priority for the business, not just for employees and customers, but for their families and the community it operates within.  For employees ineligible to work from home, it’s important to review your existing sick leave policy. The CDC has put together a list of recommendations for employers specifically around the Coronavirus. It also includes accommodating employees who may need to stay home to care and monitor a sick family member. 

Additional Resources:

Nobl Academy – Going Remote Overnight
Wired – How to Work From Home Without Losing Your Mind
New York Times – How to Work from Home With Children

Basis for This Information

Please note that board members of AIGA Jacksonville are not trained medical professionals. The basis for these guidelines comes from the CDC and the World Health Organization. For more up to date information, visit the CDC website Caronavirus Task Force. You can also view specific policies and current information about Coronavirus on WHO’s website. We advise our design community to regularly check these websites for any updates on current situation reports, travel advice, etc. Specific to the design industry, we have also researched the policies and guidelines of multiple companies who have offices domestically and abroad. We use this research to gather any additional context, tips, and insights deemed helpful. 

By aigajacksonville
Published March 12, 2020