Back in December 2019, our team moved to being fully remote. Initially, this decision was made as a temporary measure–our lease was up, and we hadn't found a space that we liked enough to commit to for our new office. Since we already have a flexible work from home policy, we discussed the situation as a team and ultimately decided we could all work remotely until we found a new office. It's now about 3 months later, and it's not looking like we're moving into a new office any time soon. Coronavirus has completely turned the business world upside down, with many companies that typically require their full workforce to head into an office every day–even when the majority of their work is done over email, Slack, and SaaS–to pack everything up and spontaneously become remote-only teams. It’s an uncertain time, and companies are having to adapt to new methods of collaboration, new ways of communicating with customers, and sometimes even pivoting to new business models. There are tons of articles out there with tips for how to go remote, so we won't go into that here. Instead, here's what Suits & Sandals has experienced (the good and the bad) in our transition to fully remote.
Technology doesn't replace a good team, but it does make their jobs easier
For years, we've been working on consistently tweaking and improving our workflow and the documentation strategies. We've been finding ways to automate time consuming tasks, utilizing APIs to integrate our business tools–such as connecting our project collaboration software, Teamwork, with Google Sheets to develop a custom operations management dashboard–and other creative tech solutions to help free up time to work on other important tasks. This strategy of evaluating our process, and finding ways to improve it through technology has been something that has revolutionized our internal efficiency. It's also been something we're able to help our clients implement for their own teams. And now that we're dealing with COVID-19, our team is in the fortunate position to have a tried and tested workflow to help us get work done as efficiently as possible. Even small tricks like using keyboard shortcuts can add up to serious time savings. These strategies are ones that can and should be implemented by just about any team, regardless of whether or not you're in an office.
Remote collaboration needs creative tech solutions
Collaboration is a key part of our work. Things like UX design and branding used to mean our team would huddle around a computer screen and/or white board, pointing to design elements or drawing things to visually explain an idea. When you're not in the same room, this can lead to miscommunication or difficulty in explaining a point. To combat this, we've gotten creative about how we use technology to keep the human elements of gesturing and visualization as close to the process as possible.
Our design tool of choice, Figma, allows for realtime collaboration–meaning we can pull up a design and critique it by moving things around, pointing with cursors to specific elements, and leaving notes for later with their commenting feature. We pull up Google Docs and Sheets for keeping notes, tracking changes, and collaborating on strategy. We've also started using iPads to allow for easier whiteboarding sessions than would be possible by trying to draw with your mouse.
When we were in our office, most of our team members used two or three monitors to allow for having lots of space to keep multiple windows and browser tabs open. At any given time we'll have multiple websites, our Teamwork Chat, email, Google Drive, and probably 10 other tools open. Keeping all of those windows organized can be a challenge, so many of us use an app called Spectacle that allows you to resize and reposition Chrome browser windows automatically.
Now that our team works from home, not all of us have room for multiple screens. Spectacle has become even more useful in keeping screen real estate organized. And in general, when you have to deal with the whole world turning upside down beneath your feet, having great organization–which is something that's always important–becomes essential. Productivity hacks are your best friend...but they certainly aren't a crutch.