I’ve just finished reading the new 37 Signals book “Remote: Office Not Required” (what a great read) and thought I’d share my experience and some of the tools I’ve been using for working remote over the past seven years.
I live about 2 hours from the nearest city (Boston) on Cape Cod which is sandspit that jets out to the Atlantic. Our internet connection is slower than most areas and one cable company has a monopoly on the area (that’s another post). I live here because my family is close, the natural landscape is the best in the country, and it’s a really great place to find that balance of work and life we all are writing blog posts on in 2014.
For the past seven years I have been working with startups all over the place; San Francisco, London, Argentina, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Boston, New York City….the list goes on and on. In that time I’ve figured out some great tools to make working remotely a win win for both the client and myself.
I try to make myself available at set hours that work well with the client’s timezone. So when I’m working with someone in San Francisco I will move my office hours to start at about 11:00 my time. That way we overlap by at least six hours. I will make sure I am available on skype, email and any other tool we are using during those hours.
I have used most of the project management tools out there but there are two that I prefer working with; Basecamp and MiniGroup. If the organization has a large team working on the project, than I like to use Basecamp – it’s just the best tool available to get the job done. If it is a small project and I’m working one on one with the client, I prefer to use MiniGroup. It’s a really nice project managment solution that has an intuitive UI/UX and clients take to it really easily. Having a place to post your files, communicate and get feedback on design is critical.
Presentation of Work
Email and posting on project management sites really isn’t the way to present a design concept or a complex UX solution. You need to find a way to have a discussion and that is where screensharing comes into play. I’ve used Skype before but it’s buggy, lately I’ve been working with JoinMe – it’s a great little application and seems to have worked out the bugs that Skype has yet to. There are also times when you want to show off a design feature without holding a meeting – the perfect software for that is Screeny. I can do a screencast and talk about my designs and post it for anyone in the organization to take a look at at their convenience.
Calls, Email and Day to Day
I like to use Skype as a way to sort of “hang out” during the day with people on the dev team or anyone that needs to immediately get in touch with me. I’ve also been testing out HipChat as a way to get a team talking online. 37 Signals also has a great product called Campfire. Any sort of email client is fine but I like the UI/UX of Postbox.
99% of the projects I work on the dev team is using DropBox to sync and share files. It’s just a great application and does the job very well. Sometimes I’ll share files quickly on my project management system but for archiving it is always up on Dropbox.
Home Office vs Physical Office vs Co-Working
I’ve had a home office, a co-working space and a physical office. I have to put my vote on having your own physical office, it is the best environment for working. I like to have my whiteboard setup and lots of uninterrupted time to work on complex UI/UX issues. The co-working space is a great idea but it turns into more of the traditional office environment with lots of distractions very easily. The home office can and does work but you have to very diligent about blocking yourself away from anything else in the house and treating it like a real office. If you can swing your own office, it is the best way to go.
I’m on twitter for work purposes during the day to keep up with what is new in my industry. I’ll also venture into Boston from time to time for a technology talk or conference if I feel the need to get face to face with the design community. If I start really feeling cabin fever, than coffee shops or the library can be a great place to get out to. I try to fill my time outside of work with social events and pursuing my hobbies.
Remote has worked really well for me over the past seven years and it has never been mentioned to me that “it would be great if you were here in the office to discuss this” by a client. I do think this is the wave of the future and work and I’m glad to have the experience and the toolset to make it happen now.
I’m currently looking to join a product team as a UI/UX Designer in a remote full time position, read more here