Designing remotely

March 30th 2016

So what I often recommend people do is ask their boss for a single afternoon a month where they can work from home. Take the first Thursday afternoon of the month. You leave at lunch and work the rest of the day at home. Prove that the sky isn’t falling. Prove that you can get your work done without physical supervision or proximity to your co-workers. Better yet, show you get even more done at home than you do at the office.

People ask me a lot about remote work, having previously spent two years at Buffer (a company well-known for its work-anywhere policy). I'm fortunate to have seen both sides of the remote work lifestyle from a designer's perspective.

Moving from Buffer to Facebook meant trading full-time remote for an office culture - it's been an eye-opening transition. There's a lot more to be unpacked on the subject (especially how remote work impacts design teams), but that's for another time.

One thing I want to call out, however, is Facebook's generous design culture that encourages a (much-needed) no-meeting-Wednesday tradition. This means that most of the design team works from home to split the week in half. For the past eight months, Wednesdays have served as heads-down time for asset creation and pixel pushing while the rest of my week tends to be spent in strategy/alignment mode with various teams across the org.

This feels like a healthier balance to an all-or-nothing attitude towards remote culture, and one I'd encourage companies to try. If your leadership is hesitant about remote work (for designers), try to push for an experimental one-day-per-week split; see how it goes and how it feels (the sourced article above will help with this). To me this balance has helped to capture the best of both worlds and has resulted in better-designed artifacts and faster project sequencing.

There's no doubt in my mind that I'll try full-time remote work again someday - but for now it feels so good to be in a workplace that lets you build the relationships and skills that could only come from an office environment without neglecting the practicalities (and productivity benefits) of a 20% remote workweek.

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