People often ask me, “Where’s NN/g based?” They’re always surprised when I respond, “Nowhere, really.” Ourteamis completely remote, and we’re scattered across the United States. And we’ve worked this way every year of the company’s21 years’ history.

Challenges of Remote UX Work

Working remotely is a challenge for any team, but it can be especially difficult in the field of UX. If you’re a manager or owner considering remote UX work (or an employee looking to convince your boss) here are some specific challenges and recommendations, based on our successful 100%-remote structure.

Ideation and Collaboration

UX design often requires collaboration togenerate ideas. In-person ideation workshops are much easier than the remote equivalent. When ideation participants are in the same room together, they have a shared context — it’s easy to see what they’re sketching on a sheet of paper and what sticky notes they’re posting on the walls. Also, when people can see each other face to face, the flow of information and emotion is easier to assess. If you’ve ever been on a conference call and rolled your eyes at a coworker, or awkwardly started talking at the same time as someone else, you’ll know the difference.

In a previous role at a different company, we had chronic problems with ineffective remote meetings — often, one or two people would dominate the conversation, while the rest would lurk without contributing.

A simple fix can avoid some of those issues:分享网络摄像头视频以及尽可能多的音频. Just by being able to see the other people in the meeting, you’ll:

  • 鼓励同情和粘合
  • Be able to see when someone is about to speak
  • 评估肢体语言和表达,以更好地察觉你的同事的情绪

You’ll likely get more engagement from participants if they’re on video as well: it’s obvious when someone has mentally checked out of the meeting or is busy sending unrelated emails.

在NN / G,我们经常使用多种工具来实现平滑的远程IDEATION车间。例如,我们可能会使用Zoom或GotoMeet分享网络摄像头effifs和Audio,而我们使用像Google文档,Miro或壁画等协作产品在视觉上分享想法。

This screenshot shows the results of a remote affinity-diagramming exercise. In a video-conferencing meeting we used Miro, a whiteboard application, to cluster the findings from our Life Online research project and generate ideas for future articles and projects.

We tailor the tools to fit the needs of a particular meeting. For example, creating ajourney map remotely可能需要不同的数字产品而不是一个想象的车间。

Other remote teams have found success by using document cameras: each person in the meeting shares her video and audio streams, as well as her document camera that captures what she’s writing or drawing.

Research

Just because you work remotely, itdoesn’t mean you have to conduct all of your researchremotely. As much as possible, we conduct可用性测试,field studies,focus groups, andinterviewsin person. Often, we travel to where participants live. (In fact, not having an office encourages us to run studies in a broader range of locations.)

However, because we’re distributed across the United States, we usually have someone who lives near the population we want to study. For example, I live in Raleigh, North Carolina. If we have a client based in Charlotte, I can easily and cheaply travel there to study the target users.

开发新的人才

Remote work is a huge advantage for recruiting talent.If you accept remote workers, you can hire people from all over the country, with no restrictions on their location. You have a virtually unlimited talent pool, because you aren’t limited to the circle of people in your area. And being able to work from their current location is a big benefit for any UX professional who doesn’t want to live in a traditional UX-hub city like San Francisco or New York City.

但开发新的UX人才也是遥远工作的重大挑战。新的UX专业人士经常通过密切阴影或与更有经验的同事一起学习。许多人认为,新的UX员工不应该偏远:他们会感到与组织断开连接,可能不满意,可能不会像对待人那样快速发展UX技能。

That’s a challenge to remote work. We’ve found a few useful solutions:

  • Mentorship:除了新员工的正式管理人员外,他们还分配了“导师” - 无论在加入之前,他们以前的职业经历是多少。导师是一个专门的同事,新员工可以与他们有任何问题(物流,人力资源,ux相关,个人等)。鼓励导师经常与他们的指导一起检查,以确保他们调整好并与他们的同事有关。
  • Shadowing:在他们的第一个月中,新员工被分配给他们的各种项目的同事。可以远程发生(例如,与客户端,远程IDEATION会话,远程可用性测试)或亲自(通常在研究 - 研究旅行中)发生。
  • 礼品和赃物:When people join the company, their manager usually sends a delicious, high-calorie welcome gift (I got a box of cookies). They might also receiveNN / g赃物, like a t-shirt, coffee mug, or stickers.

New hires also benefit from the team-building efforts we make to bring together everyone in the company as much as possible.

Team Building

When you don’t see your coworkers every day, it’s easy to slip into feeling disconnected from them.

We’ve found that having a company Slack workspace alleviates this feeling. In addition to having project- and topic-specific channels, we also have:

  • #nng-pets: For sharing photos of our animal office mates
  • #the-office-today:For sharing photos of where you happen to be working that day (a coffee shop, out on your deck, by a pool, etc.)
  • #feedback: For requesting quick input on anything you’re currently working on (an idea, a graphic, or an excerpt of writing)

Because we often travel for ourconferences, we do get to see our coworkers in person every month or so, at least for a few days. In that time, we conducta few meetings in persongo out to dinneror a fun activity (comedy show, concert, etc.). Once a year, we also have a company retreat where everyone gets together in person for a few days to develop a new skill (for example, public speaking or visual design).

Evaluating Employees

您可能熟悉对遥控工作的共同异议:“如果我的员工是偏远的,我将如何判断他们的表现?”答案是:以同样的方式亲自判断他们的表现。

I find that this concern is often rooted in a lack of trust in employees to do their work. It can stem from a fear that unless a manager can actually see the employees working, they won’t. NN/gevaluates employees based on their output and impact, which can be determined just as well remotely as in person.

Choose the Right Structure for Your Team

NN/g is an unusual organization: we’re a small training and consulting company. Our approach isn’t the only way to do remote UX work, but it’s certainly worked well for us.

If your situation is different (for example, if you have an in-house product team in a large corporation) our exact approach may not work as well for you. Instead, your team may benefit from a hybrid model, where some employees are remote and some are in person, or employees may have to split their time between remote and in-person work.

If you do adopt a hybrid approach though, I highly recommend enforcing anequal communication rule— if one person in a meeting is remote,大家in the meeting should join remotely, even if some are actually in the same building. This might seem counter-intuitive, but it ensures that you won’t end up with that one remote person being talked over and left out.