“At times like this, it’s very important to be open to any possibilities caused by COVID-19 outbreak so we can have proper preparation both mentally and in terms of technicalities in working from home.” -Zaki Fitria, COO & Designer at Hubton Indonesia
What you are about to read is a collective summary of individual conference calls between me and the designer team at Hubton Indonesia. The conversations took place after about two months of us working from home. I miss them so much.
We at Hubton are used to working with clients in different countries. In fact, most of our clients are abroad. Our designers also had remote working experiences in the past, which makes this practically not new to us. As a company, we also have the ultimate vision of having a work-life balance beyond living life after we go back home from the office. It’s fair to say that we are heading towards that direction, but we are doing it slowly and surely.
As you may have guessed and experienced, the global pandemic happened quite suddenly and none of us in the world are fully prepared. This also applies to us and where we are at when it comes to being fully ready to work remotely from our own homes.
Just to paint a clearer picture about what we have in store, our designers have the following resources running for our graphic design and UI design works:
- Cloud file organization system;
- Full online work management system;
- Sufficient Adobe Creative Cloud plan for the whole designer team; and
- Figma, which we will touch on later on a different post.
The New Challenges
The above list might tell you that our designers are doing fine. And that is correct, we are more than grateful to have all these resources working for us. However, there are some new challenges that we face in the current work-from-home situation.
Fully Virtual Communication
With our designers mostly being very visual people, communication becomes very difficult when everything suddenly has to be in a form of accurate, descriptive words. This really impacted the overall collaboration in our design process. While the working itself might not change, the communication to make sure everyone is on the same page require more time and effort when we work far away from each other every day.
Our Expectation of Ourselves
It has been proven time and time again that Hubton family members achieve significant happiness from being productive more than other things. We set very high bars in our work both as a team and as an individual.
This is one of those things that can a double-sided sword for us if we are not careful. Yes, being driven by high expectations on ourselves is good for achieving great work, but this drive can also be responsible for self-inflicted stress.
Lack of “Physical Support” from Our People and Environment
Picture yourself as someone who has to go to the office or studio to go to work. You start your morning waking up in your bedroom environment, physically get yourself ready and transport to your workplace, and meet people with whom you work together for the day. We no longer have that at the moment—maybe like you, too.
“Commuting becomes my way of transitioning from a relaxed state of mind to become ready to do my creative work as a designer.” -Ghilman, Designer at Hubton Indonesia
In addition to that, as designers work for our different clients and constantly have to switch between different projects throughout the day. Although challenging, this process is usually easier for our designers since they get to have small talks. The closest analogy for these small talks is that refreshing lower-back stretch in the middle of working at our office desk.
How We Go About Facing the Challenges
The quote at the beginning of this article was a moment of realization, at least personally for me, that being open and accepting is a key step before we move forward with our work during a crisis. Once we are able to embrace the fact that we are facing a new normal and expect little step backs, facing remote work hurdles will not be as excruciating.
From my discussions with our designers, I gathered some tips that might be useful for designers or creative workers in general that are used to collaborating with a team, but currently can’t.
The New Way of Communication
As basic as it might sound like, communication really is key in any kind of teamwork. What follows are some of the things that work for us to better communicate with each other.
- Accept—be aware that you need to put more effort into your communication and make peace with it.
- Draft—prepare what you are going to communicate with your team. Some of us write down pointers and some make a quick mindmap; just do whatever can help you deliver your messages better before actually delivering them.
- Clarify—make sure all team members do their part of classification in the communication. Ask questions, repeat the key points, and double-check your understanding.
Understanding the Bigger Picture
Our designers can easily do this in our studio; even a quick look of our fellow designer’s screen does a lot in identifying where we are at as a team. It is important to translate this into your design collaboration work from home.
Since we started working from home, we mainly use Monday to help us manage our work. Supplementally, we use the many tools from G Suite like spreadsheets. The main goal here is for all of us to understand the bigger picture of our projects and where everyone and everything is at the moment.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but thorough planning is what makes everything eventually work. If you lead a team, you might want to put emphasis on your planning more. It would also be useful to consider factors that are affected by remote working. As a team player, try to share your personal work plan to help each other coordinate easier.
Learning from it All
Remote working is not something entirely new for our designer, but doing it strictly from home is. Our designers face new challenges in collaborating, but we are slowly getting a hold of everything together.